That Natural Rhythm



Back in the 80's, when Drum machines were becoming popular (we actually thought they sounded like drums!), some of the fancier ones had options to “humanize” the machines. A couple of them called this feature the “shuffle” button, because we supposedly “knew” that real blues drummers didn't keep perfect time, but were somehow more interesting because of this imperfection.....well.....color me puzzled! I played with Kenny Johnson (James Cotton, Steve Miller, Kenny Neal drummer), one of the greatest of all time, and I'd swear on a stack of Modern Drummer Magazines that he kept PERFECT TIME!!! If you set a metronome to match his pulse, then walked far enough away that you could no longer hear him...then walked back into the room, he and the metronome would still be exactly what are they talking about?

I think what was actually being described (and poorly imitated) were varying ACCENTS during the “shuffle”. I just saw an article by a Berklee prof where he described a 4 beat measure as being like the word “alligator” (a 3 beat was “crocodile”). For those of you who aren't musical pros, a shuffle beat in Blues is like “alligator” with a strong accent on “gat” and a sort of strong accent on “All”....they blues drummer would vary the intensity of the accent (as fast as Kenny's hands were, he would wait until the last possible millisecond to deliver a mighty blow on the accented beat, alternating seeming unconcern with sudden focused intensity....projecting a classic Blues attitude in the process)'s Kenny: . When playing a slow blues, the drummer plays 6/8 (or maybe 12/8) still with varied accents and a sharp snare pop on the 4th beat of the 6, sometimes described “6/8 on the cymbal, 4/4 on the snare”....think “croc-croc-o-DILE-croc-croc, croc-croc-o- DILE- croc-'s that: ….note that, after Kenny's death, the drum chair was passed to another monster player Bryan Morris.....can't find one of him really going wild, but here's a sample of the Blues with the energy really pumped up:

I'm having so much fun with these clips, I've forgotten my point, but don't care!'s Kenny Johnson doing same song:

Just for fun, let's finish with our own Joe Fitzpatrick playing a “New Orleans street beat” which is a march syncopated until it fits into African-American form.....that's what plays when you come to the wildcat site!


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