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"Chameleon" is a jazz standard composed by Herbie Hancock (in collaboration with Bennie Maupin, Paul Jackson and Harvey Mason) and first appeared on the Head Hunters album (1973) with a run time of 15'44". Numerous artists have covered and recorded the tune, and Hancock himself has performed "Chameleon" live in a variety of interpretations. One thing that remains constant is no matter who performs or records the tune, the foundation always comes from the bass-line and funky beats.

First, a drum transcription of the basic groove as played by Harvey Mason on the original recording. The use of sixteenth-notes, whether implied via ghost-strokes or actually played (see notation), as well as the displaced backbeat (sixteeth-note befoe beat 2), gives "Chameleon" it's 'funk' feel. Notice how Mason refrains from copying the bass-line exactly by leaving out the AND of 2; only the bass-line plays that. His basic groove approach really opens up the feel and leaves plenty of space for building the tune (e.g. embellishments). Groovin' baby!

The second notation is from a live performance of Terri Lyne Carrington performing "Chameleon" with Herbie Hancock some twenty-five years after the original recording. Carrington takes the groove further out by not only adding more sixteenth-notes overall, but also displaces 'beat one' with the Kick drum. This 'push' with the Kick drum and displaced backbeat in the Snare makes the tune especially funky.

Lining these two grooves up, we can see how the basic feel can be maintained while expanding and embellishing the groove.

Mike Clark is another drummer that has a nice approach to playing "Chameleon" with Herbie Hancock. Clark adds his sixteenth-notes between the HiHat and Snare drum (ghost-strokes) while maintaining outlining the bass-line whith the Kick drum.

Chameleon - drum grooves


Bart Elliott

Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee. His 40 years in the music industry, over 100 albums to his credit, as well as his understanding of contemporary and classical music, makes him a complete and skilled master musician. A highly sought after drummer and percussionist, both live and in the studio, Bart is widely known as a top music educator, visual artist, consultant and gifted teacher, appearing as a guest artist and clinician throughout the USA and abroad.

Bart Elliott is the founder and sole proprietor of DrummerCafe.com — established in December 1996.

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