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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: groove

Monday YouTube Fix: James Brown Live in Bologna, Italy

Andrew Hitz

In the fall of 1993, during my freshman year at Northwestern University, my friend Matt Kerste asked me if I wanted to head downtown to see James Brown at the UIC Pavilion.  I couldn't believe there were any tickets available but he said it wasn't quite sold out so we hopped in the car.


Ticket stub to James Brown & His Review at the UIC Pavilion - Wednesday November, 24, 1993

Before leaving Evanston we swung by Rose Records (many of you probably don't even know what a record store is!) and asked the man at the Ticketmaster machine for a pair of tickets.  This was about three hours before showtime.  To our amazement, a pair of seats in row J on the floor popped out of the machine.  Not bad for a crowd of over 6,000!

Matt and I stuck out on that floor like sore thumbs (Matt is also over 6 feet tall and has bright red hair) but man did we get down! That was a baptism by fire to groove like I could never have imagined.  His band was beyond tight.  The music I heard that night immediately affected all aspects of my tuba playing.  It was a magical night!

This clip is almost a full hour long! It is from a concert in Bologna, Italy in 1971.  This band is beyond words.  You can zone out on any single player and be amazed.  Only a musician like James Brown could assemble a lineup like this:

James Brown: vocals, organ
Bobby Byrd: MC, vocals, organ
Darryl "Hasaan" Jamison: trumpet
Clayton "Chicken" Gunnells: trumpet
Fred Wesley: trombone
St. Clair Pinckney: tenor saxophone
Phelps "Catfish" Collins: lead guitar
Hearlon "Cheese" Martin: rhythm guitar
William "Bootsy" Collins: bass guitar
John "Jabo" Starks: drums
Don Juan "Tiger" Martin: drums

The bass player, Bootsy Collins, is one of the best musicians to ever make their living in the bass clef.  He is a treat to listen to.  Everything about his playing, articulation, groove, note length, seems just perfect to my ears.  This clip is why YouTube was invented.


Sight-Reading: Shifting Priorities

Andrew Hitz

It has been my experience that many musicians and especially students focus on the wrong things when sight-reading a piece of music.  The main focus for many, whether intentional or not, is hitting the right notes.  But from a purely technical standpoint there is another aspect of the music which is significantly more important than note accuracy and that is the rhythms. If I could choose to sight-read a piece of music with a musician who either plays all of the right pitches or nails all of the rhythms I would choose the latter every single time.  A player who sight-reads with great groove and rhythmic confidence will make everyone around them feel more confident.

When I have a student who struggles with groove when sight-reading, whether stopping repeatedly or adding/taking away beats, I have them try something which almost always works.  I have them read the exact same etude a second time and play the entire piece on a middle F.  Invariably a player who couldn't get past the second line without stopping can sight-read the entire piece down with almost perfect rhythm and groove.  This proves that the player was too focused on playing the right notes and not enough on the groove.

Never sacrifice the groove of a piece for note accuracy even when sight-reading.