Across the Barline and Beyond (another Jimmy Raney book preview.. Still workin’ on it!)
One of things that I must repeatedly emphasize about Jimmy Raney is his unique improvisational abilities as it relates to rhythm, and in particular his mastery of the more subtle and beautiful asymmetrical rhythm. It’s mind boggling how his monumental achievements in this area could’ve gone so largely unnoticed.
In this blog’s example, 5/4 and 6/4 are used in combination, which is definitely more complex(!), but Jimmy Raney handled such things with ease. The example is a phrase from Jimmy’s mind blowing solo on “Anthropology” from Live In Tokyo recorded in 1976. It occurs on the last 8 bar section (25-32) of the first solo chorus. This particular phrase seeims fairly simple on the surface but it really opens up pandora’s box if you really look into it:
Taken in parts this part of the phrase clearly implies 6/4. The first starts on the 2nd beat of the bar and the second on 4th beat of the next measure. A third iteration of the phrase (if it were to occur) would start on the 2nd beat of the next bar. It’s important to deal with each phrase from attack point to attack point. In other words, silence is also part of the count.
Interestingly enough however, the very beginning of the phrase starts with a phrase 5/4, then proceeds with one phrase in 6/4 and then (what I interpret) as an implied phrase of 6/4. If the 3rd phrase is interpreted as 5/4, then you still would have the interesting 5/4 6/4 5/4 combination (5+6+5=16beats=4); that would divide the 8 measures in half with the first measure (29) of the next 4 bars as a bar of silence.
The phrase in bar 30 to my ears has an implication of 6/4 given both it’s length and shape. The ascending portion of the phrase is 2 beats and the descending portion is 4beats. My interpretation of meter has to do with direction. If there is a change in direction I hear a metrical implication. In the book, Jimmy talks about how certain types of accent are built into the grouping and phrase direction. So for example an 8th note scale built with 3 notes in sequence (e.g. 123, 234 etc) or arpeggios going up 3 notes and down 3notes (e.g. 135,642 etc) implies 3/8 meter. The last note (Db) I consider the downbeat of the next implied 6/4 phrase that completes the entire phrase and brings you to the next chorus.
In strict analysis some may debate my grouping and interpretation of silence. However the big picture is the division of the 8 measures into 2 units. To my ears, I hear the 3rd phrase as “spilling over” and finishing through measure 29. If that’s the case, then the 8 measure phrase is divided asymmetrically into 5 + 3. In the original manuscript, Jimmy provides an example that does this very thing, 5+3. So this type of phrasing is clearly something that he has assimulated and uses consciously. In eighth note counts what this means is 20/8 followed by 12/8. Where the 20/8= 5+6+6+3 (or perhaps 11+9) and the 12/8 as 6+6. Even if you don’t buy this, the first grouping: a 5/4 6/4 5/4 grouping is clearly not your garden variety rhythmic approach!