“Flashback” Drum Transcription — Simon Phillips with Hiromi

Posted on February 18, 2024


Today, we’re going to revisit Simon Phillip’s drumming on the Hiromi album Voice. Back in August, we talked about the album’s first tune, “Voice”, but today we’ll do the second track, “Flashback”. Much like last time, I’ve picked apart a drum solo that’s about halfway through the song, and then I close out the number. 

There isn’t as much time signature trickery as there was previously, but “Flashback” comes close. The track starts with a piano riff that sounds like it’s built around triplets in 4/4, but it’s actually better to count it in 6/8, since it morphs directly into this mixed meter ensemble thing:

I’m not sure what the best way to count it is. I’m tempted to keep an 8th note pulse with 5/8 and 6/8 (or perhaps even 10/8), but the first bar is basically the vamp that drives the drum solo, so for consistency, I used 5/4 since that’s the easiest way to count the solo. 

After the ensemble thing, next comes a movement that appears to alternate between 3/4 and 6/8. You could count the whole thing with just one meter or the other, but the way Simon plays the backbeats makes me think there’s a mix of both. Also, consider the piano part (specifically the left hand):

After an extended 3/4 jam, there’s an abrupt transition to a 4/4 swing feel at 3:18, with an ice–cold tempo change from 155 to around 205. This suggests a dotted 8th note metric modulation, although if you do the math, the resulting tempo would actually be 206.6̄ BPM. Decimal metronome markings are kind of suspect (not to mention if programming a click track with a repeating decimal is even possible), so I don’t know what the tempo is supposed to be. This section lasts until around the 5–minute mark, and then we go right back to a 3/4 groove at 155 BPM.

The next big movement of “Flashback” is the drum solo, starting up at 5:33. The solo is entirely in 5/4; as I said earlier, the backing vamp is more or less the first measure of the ensemble passage. Simon starts the solo with some spartan fills around toms, before some challenging 32nd notes mixed in with 16ths. I can’t say for sure what the sticking is here, as there are a few options you could use to maneuver around the toms. 

Next are some linear triplet fills and then some 16th–note diddle licks. There’s this interesting motif that starts as 16th notes before morphing into 16th note triplets:

Things really start to pick up with a puh–duh–duh style lick...

...which segues right into 16th–note triplet fills:

The 16th note triplets phrases start as four–note phrases (RLKK) and then six (RLRLKK). Interestingly, each triplet phrase starts on an 8th note off beat, first on the “&” after 4, and then the “&” after 1. 

After some brief grooving, Simon really whips the double kick, climaxing with another dotted 8th theme:

I close out the transcription of “Flashback” with Simon’s grooving in 6/8. He plays some quarter notes on the ride bell, blurring the line between 6/8 and 3/4, although the backbeat makes it clear it’s 6/8. 

Aside from the ride bell, Simon also keeps time on the China cymbal, which is played quite delicately. Simon often has a ride and china on his left side, so this section may have been played open–handed.

Speaking of the drum setup, differentiating between the toms on Simon’s massive kit was still a headache since he can use as many as eight toms (not counting octobans and gong drums). I tried my best, and it seems like for the most part, he’s sticking to the rack toms, but aside from the 10" tom (which sounds like a bongo), it was tough to know for sure which drum he was smacking.

I think “Flashback” has become my favorite tune off the Voice LP, but I’m looking forward to checking out the other albums Hiromi has done with this trio — they’ll probably be a goldmine for transcription ideas. But right now, no more transcribing... for a couple of weeks at least!

Download PDF.

“Flashback” on Songwhip.

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