The title of this piece is a cryptic warning that appears in the liner notes of Jon Christensen: Selected Recordings, a recent tribute CD on ECM’s Rarum series. Over the past thirty years, the Norwegian drummer has played drums and percussion on fully fifty-five releases from the esteemed German jazz label.
Jon elaborates on beats: “You could go to a jazz club Tuesday at 8:00 and play just one tap on the cymbal, then come back to the club exactly one week later and play one more cymbal hit. People would think the two events have nothing in common. But that is a beat.”
Well, that might not wash in Nashville, but it’s certainly worked its magic for a host of ECM artists. “If I’m playing with a band in 4/4 in a medium tempo,” Jon explains, “and I feel like loosening up a bit, I could go out of tempo or stop altogether”but I always know exactly where I am. I’m just not marking the 1 or setting up the bridge with a fill. I always try to avoid that. Instead, I try to play in waves.”
Although Christensen can play straight time with the best of ’em – always on a brutally heavy old Turkish K – he’d rather mix it up a little. You hear Jon’s diverse approaches on his ECM Rarum release, eloquent testimony to his status as a master of modern jazz drumming. Other Rarum honorees include Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny, Dave Holland, Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Frisell.
Last year Christensen turned sixty. This year he’s touring with a guitarist half his age, Jacob Young. Over the decades, Jon intimates, “I’ve always been hired to play like I play. I’ve been playing “Jon Christensen” all the way. Journalists began writing that I was this innovative drummer and that people from Japan and Europe had begun trying to play like me. Only then did I figure out, Hmmm, maybe I’ve done something different after all.”