It’s been over two months since my last post here. I’m not one for the food blogging approach to writing where 1/8 of the article is an actual recipe and the other (much larger portion) winds and swirls into a verbose dialogue about what the author did that day. So I’m just going to get straight down to business as usual.
Coming today is 6/4 groove from the man himself, Richard Spaven. This guy has got some serious pocket, like those back pockets on those hip (you know you had a pair) JNCO jeans from the 90s. Except cut a hole out of the bottom and stitch another one to it. Then you might be starting to get a sense of how deep Richard’s sense of groove is.
Here’s the video clip that spawned this post:
Here is the transcription(and a download link below) with a few extra goodies added. I’ll get to measures 2-4 in a minute.
Measure 1 is Spaven’s actual groove, not accounting for the slight variants. There’s definitely a single conceptual thread running alongside the vocal line, and I believe this is it. This groove definitely pulls from an Afro-Cuban rhythm called the Bembe but with a few extra 8th notes added.
The triple pulse(12/8) section shares a lot of rhythmic identity with Spaven’s groove. If you were to play only the notes on the bell, the ostinato shift from downbeat to upbeat is signature to the Bembe and is fairly common motif of Afro-Cuban rhythmic stacking where the ostinato usually sits on top of its hemiola counterpart. Richard doesn’t enter that territorial change from triple pulse to duple pulse, but it’s totally possible in context with this groove.
As for measure 2,3 & 4, these are simple displacements of the original idea. Getting the most out of what you know is a very powerful concept. You’ve heard the idiom, getting the best bang for your buck. This is kind of like that. The displacement principle works on those subtle levels in which shifting the heavy accents to other parts of the measure creates an entirely new rhythmic climate at the cost of learning no new licks, dynamics or accents. Technically this Spaven lick yields 8 different variants, but you get the picture!