Thursday, June 14, 2007

Al Jackson, Where Have You Gone?

I just listened to all of Booker T & the MGs "Soul Men" album, 25 tracks, over an hour of music. Not once--not once--did the great Al Jackson do any cheesy hi-hat garbage. Drummers and other musicians will know what I'm talking about: opening the hi-hat on the upbeats, using two hands on the hi-hat, throwing in 16th notes during the beat. All he did was lay down an amazing, yet simple, groove, around which the whole song builds.
Jackson's drumming was a stark contrast to the performance I witnessed today. Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn, and Steve Cropper played an outdoor show today in Brooklyn backed by that master of soul drumming, Anton Fig (of Late Night with David Letterman fame). Now clearly, Fig is quite technically accomplished as a drummer and I would go so far as to say that he perhaps could emulate Jackson's style if he so desired. But he didn't. Instead of a faithful tribute to the subtlety and soul of Al Jackson, I was subjected instead to tasteless overplaying. It was bad enough that Fig overused the splash and china cymbals; when he started in with the double bass pedal I was apopolectic. The worse thing about is that Fig could have enhanced the music simply by playing less--it took more effort to ruin the songs than it would to just lay back and let the rest of the guys do their thing.
Technical ability is of obvious importance in music, but so is the ability to listen. I'm not sure what Fig listened to in order to prepare to play with Booker T, but it wasn't Al Jackson.

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