Part of the Ethan Iverson -Billy Hart interview:
BH: ....... Interesting. I’ll keep that in mind.
So now we got patterns, concepts, of course, that cause – I was gonna say “imply,” but I’m going to go so far as to say “cause” – a texture. But it also causes changes of mood. Psychologically. There’s a color to the bass drum that alters your mood. It offers a certain kind of psychological depth.
So now, the question of studying it is, when, and how, and for what reason, does it first go from 2/4 to 4/4? And I’m still investigating that.
You know, you ask a lot of people, and they say, “Well, Pops Foster, Walter Page, boom boom boom.” But I asked Buster Williams one time, and he said, “I think the bass player got it from the drums.” I had never considered that! So anyway, I’m still investigating.
EI: You were saying that, early on, you weren’t feathering yet –
BH: – even though, from the very beginning, cats tried to get me to do it –
EI: -so tell me a little bit about that, because I think this is so common, that a beginning jazz drummer has sort of heard about feathering, but doesn’t want to do it because he doesn’t think it really exists.
BH: Well, that system, or that mood, exists, it’s just from what angle they want to interpret it. So the dude who doesn’t do that, I’ll say, “Well look, man, play me a rock beat.” And he’ll play the shit out of the bass drum. And I’ll say, “So why did you do that then, and not when you play jazz?”
I’ll say, “Play that same rock beat without playing the bass drum.” And I’ll say, “So that’s what’s missing when you play here.”
EI: Didn’t you talk about this with Milt Hinton?
BH: Yeah. When I played with Milt Hinton, Eddie Jones (the guy that was with Count Basie) and George Duvivier, I immediately attempted some stumbling, fragmented approach to doing it. [chuckles] It’s like going to a country and at least attempting to speak their language. They applauded me for that attempt, and encouraged me. So that’s what happened with those three: “Ah-ha! Very good. That really feels good. Thank you. You’re the guy that I’m going to recommend.”
And when Illinois Jacquet heard it, he said, “Boy… ain’t but a few of you bad motherfuckers left!”
BH: Just from feathering the bass drum.
EI: It’s beautiful to hear that duo with Sonny Rollins and Philly Joe Jones, because you can really hear the feathering. When a whole band is playing on a record it’s not always easy to hear it.
BH: In the early days of the recording industry, the bass drum would knock the needle off. So they would actually make certain drummers not play the bass drum. And when I say certain drummers, I mean certain white drummers, because those are the guys who were making the records.
It wasn’t until Gene Krupa insisted that they at least allowed him to do it. He wanted to get that sound! And then from there, Buddy Rich was so great that they allowed him to do it on record. But basically, it was like enriched bread – they didn’t want the whole wheat.
So, anyway, the feathering of the bass drum, it creates that depth, that mood. It affects people psychologically immediately. When you think about Elvin Jones, you think about that depth. When you think about Art Blakey, he has that depth, that bass drum depth. And of course, there are subtle versions of it, depending on how smooth the texture is: is it cotton, is it silk, and so on.
EI: When you hear the masters feathering the bass drum, do you hear an implied clavé?
BH: Well, yeah! Because if you just do that [taps quarter notes] like a metronome, that’s cold, that’s like a straight line, that’s death.J