Part 3: Sly and the Family Stone’s “In Time”

Welcome to the third installment of this series on interpreting funk grooves within a swing setting. This concept can be helpful for players looking for a new sound and feel when accompanying other musicians. The converted funk rhythms can also provide a more direct and purposeful approach, partly due to the groove-oriented nature of each pattern. In addition, they provide a special flow to the pulse that’s both spatial and funky. Thinking about rhythm and style in this manner can help any musician become more flexible and adaptable.

In the previous two installments of this series we explored swing interpretations of Clyde Stubblefield’s groove on James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and David Garibaldi’s classic pattern from Tower of Power’s “Soul Vaccination.” This month’s lesson features variations inspired by legendary drummer Andy Newmark’s work on the piece “In Time” from Sly and the Family Stone’s 1973 album, Fresh.

Let’s start with the foundational pattern Newmark plays. Take note of the deceptive syncopation played on the snare drum, bass drum, and open hi-hat and how each sound interacts with the bass, guitar, and organ. Andy’s grooves and fills throughout the track have a lilt and swing to them. And his sound and approach reflect the contrasts found within the music itself.

As you practice, focus on your dynamic balance and consistency between your hands and feet. Practice this rhythm slowly at first with a drum machine or metronome, and be patient with your development. Here’s the main pattern.

The first variation utilizes a concept called augmentation, in which the original rhythm is restated with a lengthened value to each note’s duration. With this technique applied, the one-measure pattern becomes a two-measure, 8th-note phrase that we’ll apply to the ride cymbal.

Exercise 3 illustrates the augmented two-measure phrase interpreted with a swung 8th-note feel. This example also augments the two 16th notes on beat 3 of the first measure and converts them to 8th-note triplet partials.

Exercise 4 applies a three-over-four ride rhythm on top of the previous kick and snare pattern.

Exercise 5 applies an offbeat ostinato voiced on the hi-hat pedal.

Exercise 6 employs the augmented snare rhythm and alternates the voicing between the snare and bass on each beat.

Exercise 7 takes the augmented snare rhythm and alternates the voicing between the bass drum and hi-hat. I’ve also added a Roy Haynes–style comping ostinato on the snare.

Next try reordering the previous example by playing the second bar followed by the first.

Exercise 9 displaces Exercise 3 by starting the phrase on beat 4 of the second measure of the original example.

Finally, reorder Exercise 9 by playing the second bar followed by the first.

These examples demonstrate only a few variations on this timeless groove. I encourage you to use your imagination, be creative, and try coming up with your own variations based on the original pattern. In time, you’ll be able to add some heavy funk to your swing feel. See you next time!

Steve Fidyk leads the Parlour Project quartet, featuring his original compositions and arrangements. He is a member of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia under the direction of Terell Stafford, and a former member of the Army Blues Big Band of Washington, DC. He is also an artist in residence at Temple University and the University of the Arts.