Recorded one year later and on the same record label as Part 3’s “Rescue Me”, “Wade In The Water” shows White in a jazz context with piano trio (piano, bass and drums) plus horn section. This was White’s first outing with Ramsey Lewis, who at the time was famous for recording instrumental versions of hit songs in a gospel jazz setting, most notably his cover of Dobie Gray’s “The ‘In’ Crowd”. Both songs feature the same boogaloo type groove that was popular during the 1960s, where American R&B, jazz and soul was being fused with Cuban rhythms to create a driving danceable beat.
This is a great example of a straight boogaloo feel that is only subtly different to the typical R&B groove found on “Rescue Me” but with some Cuban flavour. Here White plays a cross stick on the snare borrowed from the sound of the clave, and accents the quarter-note on the hi-hat, and later ride cymbal, much like the sound of the cha-cha bell pattern. He also plays some funky accents on the toms once he switches to the ride, this time emulating the sound of the congas. I’ve made a “beat sheet” notating the variations so you can study exactly how these are added during the “Play x” sections of the chart.
Notice how White’s fills also borrow from the sound of the Cuban rhythm section. The accented snare drum rim shots on beat 4 of measures 52, 68, 84, and 92 all replicate the sound of the timbales. These rim shots are moved to the ”and” of 4 in measures 72 and 76 with a crash cymbal for added explosion.
My favourite feature of White’s drumming on this song is the way he frames the excellent horn arrangement. To show how he does this I’ve created a drum chart more in line with what you see when playing with a big band; here the key is to chart the important band figures so the drummer can “set up” the cues and phrase with the band. I’ve also made a transcription of his playing in these sections to accompany the drum chart. I recommend you play through the transcription and compare with the chart to get the feel of how subtly and musically he plays each section.
Look at how he incorporates the rhythms of the cues by crashing the ride cymbal with bass drum whilst maintaining a strong groove feel, most noticeably in measure 93 to 102. The sixteenth note fill into measure 97 has a great impact at this point and sets up the climax of the song. This is some really great drumming.
By going back to some of White’s earlier work I think it is clear to see how he was influenced by jazz and world rhythms to create the unique sound of Earth, Wind & Fire, and it’s also been a lesson on how to play musically for the song. There isn’t anything “technically” difficult about any of the drumming on these songs, however paradoxically it isn’t at all easy to play like that.
Next month I will be looking at the drumming of Count Basie’s drummer, the great Sonny Payne. Until then, happy practicing.