In answer to a Rifftides reader’s request, pianist Alan Broadbent expanded here last month on a concept that he mentioned in an earlier comment. The reader wanted to know what Broadbent (pictured below, left) meant by, “a swinging eighth note.” Here is part of his answer.
The pushing and pulling of a musical phrase over a steady beat by a soloist, the tension and release of a phrase, is what creates a profound feeling of swing. This is not what singers call “back phrasing”, which is a forced and conscious affect to try and produce the same thing. This is actually an engagement between the soloist’s inner feeling for the time and the time itself. Unlike classical, fusion and pop music, which is just the beat, the jazz musician/soloist is creating a magnetic force between his “pole” and the beat’s “pole.” Lennie Tristano believed this to be a “life force” inherent in human existence. His axiom was, “Jazz is not a style, it is a feeling.”
For demonstrations by six musicians of Tristano’s generation, we turn to alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt, trombonist J.J. Johnson, trumpeter Howard McGhee, pianist Walter Bishop Jr., bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Kenny Clarke. Filmed in Germany in 1965, they play Charlie Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes,”
To see all of Alan Broadbent’s guest essay, which includes video of young Louis Armstrong swinging eighth notes, go here.
Have a good weekend.