Alternate Title: 2 and 4, people!
Jazz and popular music of today owes a huge debt to Africa where the driving steady rhythm, swing, and accenting beats 2 and 4 come from. Most audiences in the US don’t know this, and don’t feel that kind of beat. Because of this, audiences frequently end up clapping on beats 1 and 3, as they’re doing in the clip below. Harry Connick Jr. knows better, and he also knows how to turn the beat around so he can help the audience clap on 2 and 4 (that happens around the :39 mark in the video below). His drummer is happy about it and gives a double-fist pump right after Connick makes the switch. Notice how much more hip the sound is!
Harry Connick Jr. is a consummate performer, a guy who knows what it means to respect tradition and practice your ass off. He grew up in New Orleans and began playing piano at age 3. His parents also owned a record store, which probably helped his listening practice. He also had many teachers, including Ellis Marsalis, and spent a lot of time at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Check it out again. The clip below starts just before the switch so you can hear the difference:
If you’re not familiar with jazz or listening for the almighty beat, check it out. Change from 1 and 3 to 2 and 4 and feel how much more hip the music sounds. Another master of this technique is another New Orleans musician, and my favorite singer-songwriter, the great Chris Smither. In the turnaround of his excellent tune, The Devil’s Real, he turns the beat around on purpose and it’s a great effect. You can hear it a couple times in the short clip available at that link. It’s also harder than it sounds to actually do. Try it in your practice session. (PS: Smither’s album Live as I’ll Ever Be is one my all-time favorite albums in any category. Highly recommended.)
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