Let The Drummer Take A Ride

Stella and two small snowmen
Stella checks out small snowmen on a 60 degree January day.

Coltrane’s drummer, Elvin Jones, is quoted as saying, “Usually the material we played was new to us in the studio. We would only do second takes for technical reasons, not because of the musical content”. And the only time he was given charts was for the “Africa Brass” album that John and Eric Dolphy arranged and scored. So all this amazing music was a first take. And Miles is quoted as saying, “There are no mistakes”. Easy for him to say.

I’ve been listening to “Africa Brass, The Complete Sessions” as I paint and I am completely taken by the alternate take of “Africa”. There are three takes of this song in this package so there must have been some technical problems and I am thankful for that. The bass playing is so strong it comes off as a lead instrument. The horn arrangements are unlike anything in jazz. Of course, Coltrane is superb. And Elvin Jones takes his sweet time developing his solo section. His playing is beautiful. He never loses sight of Coltrane’s melody and only heightens the impact when it returns.

I’m thinking about this first take approach as I make mistake after mistake with my paintings. I have been trying to roll with my mistakes, correct them and use them to develop my painting. I’m seeing how valuable my mistakes are. I know that I have to paint the parts with the melody or theme in mind and not lose sight of it.

In the early eighties when drum solos were way uncool someone slipped a note to our band, Personal Effects, that read, “Let the drummer take a ride”. Even if I could talk a good game, the proof is in the pudding.

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