Jazz Surge leader Chuck Owen is one of the world’s most prolific big band arrangers and composers, and for many years I have been lucky enough to have performed and recorded with his ensemble. His 2017 release, Whispers On The Wind, was nominated for four Grammy Awards. “Into the Blue” from that album features a straight eighth-note feel, mainly in six with a few bars of seven thrown in.

practice pad lesson drum set with blue backgroundIt seems tricky when you first look at it, but it starts lightly at a moderate tempo (quarter-note equals 132 bpm). I found that if I just kept time and focused mainly on the bass figures, I could loosely play around the figures and add dynamics and colors. My inspirations for this style of playing are Bob Moses, Airto, Tony Williams, Mel Lewis, and Jack DeJohnette.


Ex. 1 illustrates eight bars of how the chart was written (on the recording, it starts at 0:22).

Ex. 2 is the same eight bars with a composite of approaches on which I base my playing for this piece.

I played the 6/4 bars in straight-eighths, with a little double-time skip beat thrown in on beat 6 in the first bar (seen in Ex. 2). Sometimes I would double the bass drum and snare drum; other times I’d keep it looser and play snare drum accents (for example, the & of 6 in the third bar). Another approach I used was playing the band accents on the cymbal with the right hand, while accenting the bass drum and filling on the snare with the left hand (the figures in the fourth bar). I divided the 6/4 bars into two 3/4 bars, and the 7/4 bar into a bar of 4 and a bar of 3, which made the figures much easier to read and to play around.

Danny Gottlieb has performed with Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, and Gil Evans, and is currently the drummer with Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. He has won four Grammy Awards and is a professor of jazz studies at the University Of North Florida in Jacksonville.