Variant Timekeeping Patterns and Their Effects in Jazz Drumming

Matthew W. Butterfield



KEYWORDS: jazz drumming, comping, metric dissonance, polyrhythm, cross-rhythm, ride rhythm

ABSTRACT: In accompanying improvising soloists, jazz drummers must both maintain a steady pulse in conjunction with the bassist and generate intensity and excitement by means of irregular, improvised accompaniment patterns known as “comping.” Timekeeping and comping practices are generally conceived in opposition, with the former understood as “solid” and the latter as “liquid.” This essay shows how one modern jazz drummer employs variants of common timekeeping patterns in a more “liquid” way to generate motional energy through the strategic production of metric dissonance at key moments within a performance. In this way, timekeeping patterns may be understood not as extraneous to rhythmic intensification, but as integral to it.

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Received July 2010
Volume 16, Number 4, December 2010
Copyright © 2010 Society for Music Theory