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Monday, July 23, 2012

Chicago and thoughts percussive. by Jerry W. Henry


While in Chicago, I had the opportunity to enjoy a live performance by Paris la Nuit, a French/American Jazz band at Katerina’s on West Irving Park. This French gypsy music was performed to perfection that put smiles on the faces of the sold-out crowd. Katerina’s is not a big place and our table was almost in the drummer’s lap.

As I watched that wonderful performance I thought of how percussion is achieved in most jazz bands. Percussion can be as simple as two pieces of flat metal being struck to form a bell like sound in India to our more popular percussion instruments that include the drum, piano and xylophone.

In my opinion percussion adds variety and a rural charm to music.  Percussionists may also be called upon to play other instruments that may not be percussive in nature. They play such an assortment of instruments generating so many different types of melodies. It could be argued that they are usually the most skilled in the music industry.

To my way of thinking, percussive instruments are the heart of a musical performance. Instruments such as the xylophones are a pleasure to listen to.  Xylophones sound like tinkling fountains in beautiful gardens. Which brings out the romantic side in us.

With jazz, the high hats and the ride cymbals are easily associated in our minds. No rock band today is complete without a drum kit and several other percussive instruments. Pink Floyd is a perfect example of the use of percussive instruments in rock music. Even armies march to the sound of drum.

The piano is a percussive instrument as well, with its long history of varied artists. Through their diversity, percussion instruments are the backbone of every musical ensemble. I am always amazed at the players that are brilliant and multi faceted people who can take up and play different instruments at will.  As with Paris la Nuit, an ensemble with full percussion is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to hear. They are the finishing touch on a great sound.

I would bet that you have never heard music without some sort of percussion accompaniment.

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