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Rhythm In Every Guise

Frank Butler on Curtis Counce's "Landslide"

By Published: November 21, 2008

During an up-tempo take on Carl Perkins's tune, "Mia," Butler responds to everything that goes on around him. It can't be easy to work around the pianist's barbed, insistent chording, yet Butler does it with ease. Behind Sheldon's two chorus solo, snare drum accents snap, crackle, and pop at irregular intervals. He constantly changes the placement, dynamic level, and emphasis. Butler also executes a number of brief fills which are clever, propulsive, as well as varying in character and texture. A single hit to a tom-tom is completed by a few strokes to the snare. An explosion of wildly snapping snare whacks makes an impact and disappears into straight time. Quarter note triplet smacks to the snare sound like an insistent knock at the door.

"Sarah," a slow blues written by Sheldon, is the site of some of Butler's most creative work. In contrast to "Sonar," in which the bass drum plays off of the brushwork, during Perkins's solo just the steady whisper and sweep of Butler's brushes gently moves things along. Switching to sticks at the onset of Land's four chorus improvisation, the ride cymbal patiently delineates a steady pulse and eccentricities are integrated into the straightforward timekeeping. After the second bar of the solo, a brief closed roll resembles the hiss of an air brake. Several measures later a pair of snare hits sound like pistol shots. As Land's third chorus begins, the ride cymbal stays in place and, following Perkins's lead, Butler creates the illusion of double time by clapping the hi-hat on the "and" of each beat. On the last two bars he fashions a long phrase by spreading out remarks to the snare, tom-tom, and some rim knocks, briefly pausing after each parceled segment.

* The quote is from Lester Koenig's liner notes to Landslide.

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