Thursday, December 3, 2020

Joe Farnsworth on Playing Ballads with Brushes Part 2

Joe Farnsworth is back with more beautiful brushwork and ballad patterns, this time inspired by the likes of Louis Hayes, Vernel Fournier, Idris Muhammad, Roy Haynes and Jimmy Lovelace:

This video (and his previous one...) are SO important! Drummer's all too often take playing ballads for granted and just "stir the soup", get on with it and phone it in until the next (faster!) tune is counted off.

There is so much beauty in the subtleties and nuances that playing with brushes offers and, as Joe so eloquently demonstrates, playing a ballad is no different.

I don't think you'll find these patterns in a book, studying recordings will certainly help in terms of capturing the sound but since many of Masters are now gone, we are lucky to have someone share with us these brush patterns and choreography that he learned from the source (Adam Nussbaum and Steve Smith's The Art of Playing with Brushes is another good resource to check out too for that same reason).

Thanks Joe!

Oh yes, I almost forgot....this is a beautiful clip of Max Roach demonstrating his own ballad brushwork, from an Italian masterclass that recently appeared on the YouTube, all while singing the lyrics to the standard "I Love You":

Monday, November 30, 2020

The Four-Limbed Monster!

Max Roach once referred to the drum set as being the "Four-Limbed Monster", speaking to the coordination and independence skills required to play it (and yes, I realize that the animation above depicts a drumming octopus who definitely has more than four limbs!)

Anyways, I've got a long and evolving list of things I've been practicing since the pandemic hit last March and I thought I would share with you a concept that I've been having fun with lately.

One of the goals as a drummer should be, in my opinion, to achieve a certain sense of unity and balance between all parts of the drum set. This is often easier said than done!

These are a couple of comping exercises that I've been messing around with. These have helped me towards developing a deeper sense of time and a unified sense of 4-way coordination.

Play both of these examples with the standard ride cymbal beat:

Exercise #1

Exercise #2

Rhythmically, both of these phrases are a series of syncopated, poly-rhythmic eighth-note figures that create an over-the-bar-line loop. This is challenging enough on its own, playing these figures with just one limb against the ride cymbal beat (for what's it's worth, this eighth-note figure was inspired by some Alan Dawson concepts I came across. You should practice this too!) but my exercise splits the rhythm in a sequence between the snare, bass drum and hi-hat.

The order of the orchestration between the snare, bass drum and hi-hat isn't by accident either and intentionally by design. I won't spoil it for you so play through these two examples and see if you can figure out the logic of each pattern.

I've also found this to be a helpful way to incorporate the hi-hat into my comping phrases (i.e. Roy Haynes).

Play it slow.

Balance the limbs dynamically.

Use a metronome.

Relax and strive for a sense of flow.

Make it swing!

* If you have any questions please let me know!*

** If you might be interested in taking a lesson with me and learn about more exercises and concepts such as these and more, drop me a line and we'll connect!!**

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Cindy Blackman Santana

I was recently reading about Cindy Blackman Santana's latest album release "Give the Drummer Some!" in the pages of Jazz Times magazine this month. It seems like every November they like to feature drummers in particular and I think this is just fantastic (in fact, it's one of the very few magazines in print that I actually buy anymore. I can't even find a place to purchase a physical copy of Modern Drummer these days!)

Anyways, it was a great feature, I really look forward to hearing her new music and this also prompted me to dig around a bit and see what she's been up to these days.

The first time I heard Cindy play was actually in a short segment from a documentary about Art Blakey in which she was playing drums, subbing for Bu, in a rehearsal with the Jazz Messengers. While it was brief, it was swinging! Fast forward to the mid-90's when I first heard her band play at the Salle de Gesu in Montreal and I was completely blown away and unprepared for the power and energy that she played with. I've been a fan ever since!

Here's a few pieces featuring this wonderful musician:

- A recent interview and feature from PBS NewsHour:

- A solo feature from the 2020 DRUMEO Festival:

- And finally, I've really been digging this ongoing series of videos from the Drum Compilations YouTube channel (and will likely share more of these featuring other drummers in the future!) Here's Cindy's latest compilation:

Monday, November 23, 2020

Joe LaBarbera at Pro Drum Shop

Today's post features the great Joe LaBarbera, a fantastic drummer, overall musician, selfless teacher and a wonderful human being. This piece was filmed at the Professional Drum Shop in Hollywood, California:

I've really been digging the Pat LaBarbera/Kirk MacDonald album Trane of Thought lately, a tribute to the music of John Coltrane which features Joe on drums.

Pat and Kirk have been leading an annual birthday tribute to Coltrane at The Rex in Toronto for a long time now (20+ years?) Unfortunately it didn't happen this year for obvious reasons but I was happy to see that this project was finally documented when it was released last year.

I really appreciate the intensity with which Joe plays on this album, keeping the energy up and the engine fires stoked all without overplaying (in my experience, it's all too easy to get caught up in the energy in musical situations like this so you've got to be mindful to listen carefully and play the "long game" so to speak...) Joe's drumming on this album is a great lesson in musical accompaniment.

When Joe plays, it's all about the music, all the time!

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

FOLI (there is no movement without rhythm)

I shared this one several years ago (10 years ago in fact!) but I keep on returning to it and find it compelling and inspiring. This short film also comes up in conversation from time to time with several of my colleagues in the dance world so I figured I would share this once again.


 "Life has a rhythm, it's constantly moving.

The word for rhythm (used by the Malinke tribes) is FOLI. 

It is a word that encompasses so much more than drumming, dancing or sound. 

It's found in every part of daily life. 

In this film you not only hear and feel rhythm but you see it. 

It's an extraordinary blend of image and sound that 

feeds the senses and reminds us all how essential it is." 

- Thomas Roeber

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Monday, November 16, 2020

Terri Lyne Carrington

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Anyways, now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

As I was reviewing my monthly Monday Morning Paradiddle column from a few weeks ago, I was prompted to revisit Terri Lyne Carrington's incredible Grammy award-winning album Money Jungle: Provocation in Blue.

Here is a live performance of her Money Jungle project, interpreted by Carrington and her band (this music was originally recorded in 1962 featuring Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Charles Mingus):


As you'll recall, she also recently received the prestigious NEA Jazz Masters award and is the director of the Berklee College of Music Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

To say the least, Carrington is an important figure and a leader in jazz today!

This also led me to spend some time listening to her latest work with her project Social Science and, of course, discovered a ton of other great videos and such as well.

Here's a few articles to check out:

- An interview with Heather Bambrick from Jazz.FM91

- A Q&A from her recent residency last March at McGill University

- Earlier 2019 pieces from the New York Times and Downbeat Magazine

And here's a few other great, recent pieces: 

- Terri Lyne with pianist Danilo Perez from a recent collaboration, featuring students from the Berklee College of Music:


- An NPR Tiny Desk concert featuring her current band Social Science:


And here's a few older ones that I quite enjoyed and learned a great deal from: 

- Carrington's 2016 Tedx Talk entitled I am the Drums:


- My friend and tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer recorded with Terri Lyne a number of years ago and spoke very highly of this session in particular:


- And finally, a fun and informative piece from the nice folks over at the Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Company: