Eric McDowell

John Riley

Do You Like It?: Headroom and Jazz Drumming

* Eric McDowell *
Listening to Sonny Clark’s “Cool Struttin’” not long ago, I asked my musician friend how to know if Jackie McClean’s solo (or any saxophone solo) was good or not. He drew a slow breath—deciding how far back toward the basics of theory he’d have to meet me?—and said, “Well, do you like it?” He didn’t elaborate. When I tried to answer his question, I realized I couldn’t. Yes, I’d wanted to like jazz, wanted to be “into it” and to know how to talk about it even. But for some reason I’d passed over that simplest, most obvious and essential approach: I hadn’t been listening, not really. What I mean is, I had put the cart before the horse, wanting to know what I should like without considering what I did like.

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