Harry Connick Jr. turns the beat around

I spent ten years of my life touring the UK and later the Far East, Australasia, the US and Canada giving ABRSM jazz workshops for teachers, kids and adults. In the process, I spent a lot of time thinking about swing, how to teach and assess it and why clapping on 2 and 4 seems to come so much more naturally to some than others.

It doesn't matter if you are young or old, gay or straight, black or white. Some people have the musical experience to clap instinctively on 2 and 4, and some don't. There was one memorable workshop in the UK village of Wootton Bassett in the mid-'90s, to a group of almost all white 40-75 year old West Country middle class people. All could clap on 2 and 4, fast and slow, swing and straight 8s, stamp (stomp, am I speaking to Americans or Brits?!) on 1 and 3 as well, and subdivide in 16ths in small groups too.  Conversely, I remember gospel choirs, and workshops in South London high schools with black south London teens who listened to RnB and hip-hop all day, where everyone still clapped on 1 and 3, with that leaden quality.  My conclusion is that musical skills do not related to ethnicity. The '2 and 4' thing can be learnt and once people get it, their musical experience becomes so much more satisfying that they never go back.

Harry Connick Jr's musicianly contributions to this year's American idol are so refreshing and honest that last week I was inspired to listen to a couple of his Youtube clips. This is fantastic playing and singing, which got me up in the morning a few days ago with a definite spring in my step.

But then, I was completely delighted by the ingenious way he adds an extra beat at the start of his solo here (around 40 seconds in).

The audience enjoys the groove, but claps (with enthusiasm, be it said!) on 1 and 3. Once their pulse is settled, he finds a practical solution, spontaneously adds a beat, and moves the '1' so they are on 2 and 4, so he can play his solo comfortably.

My respect for him as a musician, problem solver and non-lip-synching Idol judge just went up several notches. He is the real deal!



Charles BealeComment