- the followers
The term Second Line is a New Orleans expression with more than one meaning to it. Originally it pointed towards the followers of a funeral parade. Retuming from the graveside ceremony, New Orleans brass bands would play happy, up beat music. The melodies and rhythms they played were so infectiously joyful that the street crowds, gathered from everywhere, coudn't help but join in the celebration and follow that band. Such is no wonder, for you see, it is absolutely great to dance to Second Line music. If you have not yet experienced this sensation, jump to >New Orleans Brass Bands< for your first dance lesson.
- the music
Eventually, roughly af ter World War II, "Second Line" became an indicator for the happy New Orleans music itself. Either jazz or R&B, as long as it had that New Orleans sence of rhythm, it was recognized as Second Line music. For although Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Dejan's Olympia Brass Band, Fats Domino, Dr. John, The Meters, The Neville Bros., Harry Connick, Jr. and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band represent a kaleidoscope of styles, they are all connected by the one element: The Rhythm. That loose, strolling, syncopated feel instantly identifies New Orleans Traditional Brass Band music, Early Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Funk, Southern Rock, Mardi Gras Indian music, Modern Brass Band music and many more. New Orleans rhythm was never just a trendy beat or a snappy pattern, connected to a certain style or decade. The Crescent City conceived and developed nothing less
than its own rhythm language.
- the 20st century
The history of Second Line rhythm is ritch and long, spanning over a hundred years. Based on the 2/4 street beats of early 2Oth century brass bands, the rhythms blended with clave syncopation, developed into jazz, branched out into R&B and funk and, along the way, injected the grooving of rock and raIl, Motown, James Brown, fusion and new brass funk. And during all those years they inspired the subsequent generations of drummers, who grew up strolling and dancing to their rhythms in the street.
ORIGINS OF SECOND LINE DRUMMING
- brass music
Second Line drumming was first conceived by the bass and snare drummers of the city's legendary early brass bands. In the last decades of the 19th century the style of brass music was widely popular throughout the US. Bands in New Orleans, however, did not sound like the others. The black New Orleans brass bands had a compact orchestral sound, with varied melodic-rhythmical interplay. Their drummers were, not just "time keepers" for the wind instruments but revealed a more self-conscious and percussive way of playing - an approach unheard of by white drummers outside of The City. The development of this new rhythm concept parallelled the initiation of a new and potential rhythm vehicle: the drum set.
- set of drums
When your modern drum set was still an assembled set of drums, back in the
1890's, it consisted of no more than a bass drum, a snare drum and one or two cymbals with an additional woodblock and Chinese tom-tom. With the passing decades the drum set has grown to huge proportions with numerous tom-toms and waving fields of cymbals. The technique of handling the sticks bas altered and the music styles have multiplated. Nevertheless the most essential drum groove after one hundred years is still: the three-layerd pattern of
. downbeats on the low bass drum
. answered by accented back beats on the high snare drum
. both connected by the intertwining metal cymbal.
This pattern has such a natural logic to it, we tend to forget that some time, some people came up with its formula.
- rhythmic DNA
During the initial period of the new drum set, or trap set as it was called, bass drums, snare drums and cymbals were common instruments in American- European orchestras and much used by the glorious brass bands marching everywhere. Although the military brass band style in general supported the new drum set with its basic instrumentation (bass-snare-cymbals) and playing techniques (press rolls, rudiments), the greatest musical affect on how to apply these drums & cymbals came from the performing of one particular type of marching band: the black brass bands in New Orleans. When those Crescent City street drummers sat down behind their prototype drum kits, they converted their parade-style rhythms to the drum set. By doing so they provided us with the rhythmic "key" for that all time basic downbeat-backbeat pattern on bass, snare and cymbal - the rhythmic DNA to all the various 20th century drum styles. One can say that the main root of drum set playing is to be found in New Orleans Second Line drumming.