“Bop Boy” is a 12-bar blues composed by Bob Mintzer. In the video linked above, it is performed by The John Riley Quartet: John Riley (drums), Brad Walker (tenor saxophone), Mike Esneault (piano), and Bill Grimes (bass).
One of the traditions of jazz music is call and response, and one of the ways this is realized in performance is through trading, which is when two or more members of a band solo back and forth. Often, this will be between the melodic instruments and the drummer, but it could be between any instruments. In this performance, the musicians are trading 12 bars at a time, between the sax, drums, and piano. The song has a 12-bar form, so it makes sense why the musicians decide to trade twelves. First, the saxophone player solos for 12 bars, then everyone drops out while the drummer solos. Next, the piano player solos for 12 bars, then the drummer again. This pattern repeats until John Riley cues (with a head nod) that the melody of the song is about to come back.
I transcribed all of John Riley’s solos during this trading section. He uses traditional bop vocabulary, but he also incorporates some modern vocabulary, including groupings of five, seven, etc. On the second excerpt from the transcription, John uses some of this vocabulary, but with traditional vocabulary in between. The traditional vocabulary helps to connect the phrasing in a clear and musical way. Here, John uses groupings of seven between the snare drum and floor tom, and repeats it. He uses this grouping at the beginning of each four-measure phrase, but ends each phrase with more traditional vocabulary. For example, in the second solo passage, note that each stroke that is directly before a “stick on stick” sound is a dead stroke into the snare, so that the stick can easily be hit.
Observing the trading in this video, it is obvious that the musicians are listening to each other while trading. They musically answer each other’s questions, and sometimes imitate each other. It is also important to use my transcription as a visual guide to what is happening musically. Listen to the music to hear the subtleties and the phrasing that transcription cannot represent.
Michael Mester lives in Philadelphia. He has a bachelor’s degree in Commercial Music from Kutztown University and is currently completing his masters in Jazz Studies at Temple University. Michael works as a freelance musician and as a drum teacher. He has studied with John Riley, Ari Hoenig, and Paul Gallello, and is currently studying with Justin Faulkner. Contact Michael at [email protected], or connect through Instagram @mistermikeymester_drums.
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