Wednesday, July 1, 2020

OH DRUM CANADA! (rhythms for a nation) VOL.1

I’ve been working on this project for over a month now and I am excited to finally share this with you all.

This past Spring I was inspired by Kendrick Scott’s YouTube compilation video featuring 38 jazz drummers, all interpreting Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence”, and by Joe Farnsworth’s ongoing series, celebrating many jazz drumming legends.

A month ago I invited Canadian jazz drummers from across the country (and many ex-pats currently living abroad) to contribute 60 second video excerpts of them playing the drums.

“Do your thing!” I asked…

Starting today, and every Wednesday for the next month or so, I will be sharing these videos of Canada’s jazz drummers.

What you’ll see in the video below is a collection of the musicians who graciously replied to my invitation.

So in the spirit of our nation’s birthday, I offer this rhythmic celebration featuring Canadian jazz drummers from coast-to-coast (and then some…)

This week’s episode features the creative and percussive talents of Ian Froman, Michel Lambert, Mark Kelso, Joel Haynes, Jackson Haynes, Efa Etoroma Jr., ValĂ©rie Lacombe, Jamie Cooper, Nick Fraser, Terry Clarke, Alan Dowling and a special “Oh Canada” sing-a-long courtesy of Barry Elmes.

*Make sure to listen to the very end to hear Dan McCarthy’s beautiful solo vibraphone rendition of our national anthem and a special message from Jim Blackley*

Thank you to everyone who took the time to make this happen.

Thank you for taking the time to watch this and please tune in for next week's episode.

Keep swingin’ and please enjoy OH DRUM CANADA!


Jon McCaslin

Calgary, AB

Monday, June 29, 2020

Philly's Ride and Mel's Swish

Thanks to the nice people over at Zildjian and the Memphis Drum Shop, here's John Riley and Paul Francis talking about and demonstrating a ride cymbal owned and played by Philly Joe Jones:

And here's John and Paul featuring Mel Lewis' iconic Swish cymbal:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rudy Royston PaNOptic

Drummer/composer Rudy Royston has just released his newest album PaNOptic on Greenleaf Music featuring a program of solo drum improvisations. I was really impressed and inspired by the imagination and creativity that Royston displays in this music. 

Check it out on his Bandcamp page here.

I first heard Rudy play with Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstasy project at the Village Vanguard around 2011 or 2012 (?) and immediately became a fan of his drumming. I highly recommend his other albums 303, Flatbed Buggy and The Rise of Orion as well. 

Check out his page at Greenleaf Music to learn more about this accomplished and dynamic artist.

Rudy was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his new music:

Rudy Royston PaNOptic - Four on the Floor Interview June 2020

1) Tell us about your latest recording!

PaNOptic, is a solo drum record consisting of 23 tracks of music that resulted from a three hour session of free flowing music I tried to surrender to the freedom of just playing music, playing what I felt at the time, whatever flowed from my conscience during this session. I found myself being inspired by poems, music legends, scenes, memories, exploring the quiet, darkness of my mind while beams of inspirations would shine through. It really is a comprehensive view of the music that was at the forefront of my thinking and creative process during that period. When I listened later I found there was a few arching themes through the music: scenes, tributes, sacred, pop. 

I didn’t want to just be playing drums and drum solos on the record. I wanted music complete with harmony and melody and emotion as well as rhythm. I wanted to play complete ideas, tell stories, paint pictures, express moods, explore feelings. I mean, exploring rhythm, textures and colors and even stories, these are things we can normally relate to the drum kit. But, to think of the drums as complete and comprehensive an instrument as piano or guitar, we don’t often think about drums in this light.

2) What inspired you to pursue an album of solo drum music?

I’ve always wanted to record a solo drum record. Ronald Shannon Jackson’s solo record, “Puttin on Dog,” was what inspired me mostly to make this record. At the time of this recording I was listening to so many different styles and genres of music, and I was exploring different approaches to my playing. I remember I was trying to capture an authentic, organic sound: trying to play the feeling of the moment, to illustrate an image in as unplanned and unforeseen a way as possible…just create the sonic expression straight away, however I could express it. I wanted to capture that adventure on record. I was listening to RSJ and the adventure of a solo drum record that was only using drums and cymbals…no loops or samples or overdubs, not even about grooving in the usual sense of the role was intriguing to me. I didn’t want any gadgets or gizmos on the heads. There is nothing wrong with these things, I just wanted the challenge and freedom of no help, and conveying a message on just drums and cymbals…and voice.

3) What are the musical challenges of programming an entire album of drum solos?

I don’t think of this as an album of drum solos. For me, it is a record of expression. I never felt like I was soloing; there was never a moment when it was my turn to shine: I was too into the pursuit of the feeling or emotion or image of the tune. It’s just music, on the drums. That was a challenge: expressing the “music” I was playing and not the drumming. This is connected to the larger challenge: style and pacing. The last thing I wanted was a barrage of continuous drum bashing. There had to be texture changes, style changes, tempo and volume variety. The elements were there since I was actually playing tunes and not soloing, but hoping they would work as an overall flow over the course of the record was a concern. I think it came out well: some tunes are dense with drums, some thin, some loud, some very soft, some fast, some slow. It is a good flowing record.

4) Was there a particular message you were trying to convey to the listener?

The message is just to enjoy the stories and feeling and emotions this music can evoke in you. Drums can be intimidating for some, and it might take a moment to adjust to the sound of solo drums. But, my message was forget that you are listening to solo drums, just enjoy the music, enjoy how it makes you feel or what it makes you see and think about. If you can listen this record like you would any other non-solo-drum record you like, I’m happy.

5) Who are your influences with regards to your overall style of writing and playing?

I think Ron Miles is my main influence for writing music and playing. There are so many others when it comes to writing; at times some more than others. That is the great part about bing a sideman, sometimes the people who I am playing with are giving me compositional inspiration. Playing?…Elvin Jones, Jack Dejohnette, Art Blakey, Paul Motion, Tain, Greg Hutchinson…some of the younger guys, Marcus Gilmore, Corey Fonville, so many more.

6) What are you practicing/studying/listening to/researching these days?

These days I am listening to more soundtracks and television show, theme music—probably because my attention has been drawn to television music since I have been quarantined and watching more television.

7) What other current and future projects do you have on the go at the moment?

I can never tell what I am doing in the beginning of a project: I can’t decipher in what direction I am going to go. I am taking advantage of this quarantine time to write a little. I know there is a project in the making, just not sure how it will manifest itself just yet. I would love to play with a vibist at some point, but the “blues” of Flatbed Buggy is still in my soul for now, I think. Either look for another Flatbed Buggy record or something with vibes and harmonica…in that sonic atmosphere.

8) How do the drums and your overall approach to rhythm factor into your compositions and concept?

Sometimes I compose music from the drums, not often. When I do write from the drums, it is usually from a place of feeling out the shape of the tune. How grooves or textures undulate from one part of the song to the next…where to build and where to release. I will start with something on the drums and begin to sing and search for the rest of the tune…then to the keyboard to write it down.

In my approach to rhythm, I like rhythms that are simply stated but open to much interpretation. There are tunes that are written with more precise rhythms and—depending on the composer’s wants—for me that often puts me in a tight space a bit because there can be such rhythmic complexity that there is no room for embellishment without creating a feeling of chaos. I try to write music that gives space for rhythmic interaction. Besides the melody of tunes, and the occasional rhythmic interaction, I don’t tend to write precise grooves for parts much. I like to leave rhythmic interpretations to the particular musician who is playing the part. I may give a reference rhythm, but it is only a suggestion.  

9) What drummers (or other musicians) do you consider as influences?

Man…everything and everyone I like….many folks, from Prince to Dolly Parton to Coltrane to Mahalia Jackson to Nirvana to Cameo to Chicago to Jay-Z, Lady Gaga….everything I hear and like is an influence.

10) What advice do you have for younger, aspiring jazz drummers?

Get humble, stay humble; practice often; remember playing music is about the music, whether soloing or in a group; play without fear; always try to play something you can’t; laugh at/with yourself every time you play; play for passion of music, not success: the former will bring the latter; don’t worry; play for love.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Playing with Brushes!

Thanks to Rob Wallis and Hudson Music, here is Adam Nussbaum, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Smith playing and talking brushes:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Zildjian LIVE!: Marcus Gilmore

In case you missed it, here's Marcus Gilmore from his recent Zildjian LIVE! session:

And while we're here, check out this recent collaboration between Gilmore and Zakir Hussain:

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Monday Morning Paradiddle - June 2020

And...we're back.

Thank you all for checking in and here is this month's collection of jazz drumming related considerations for you to enjoy and learn from.

- CBC Radio's Ideas offers this fascinating episode on the neuroscience of rhythm and the role it plays in our daily lives

- Ulysses Owens Jr. wrote this motivating article Pandemic Entrepreneurship for Jazz Musicians in JazzTimes Magazine

- Chicago's Chad Taylor interviewed by Jason Crane over at The Jazz Session

- Gerry Gibbs in Modern Drummer Magazine, featuring his new and very cool YouTube Channel.

Dig this!

- Mike Clark on Tony Williams from Not So Modern Drummer Magazine

- Todd Bishop over at Cruiseship Drummer has been busy these days. In particular he's painstakingly compiled a huge archive of creative practice loops to play-a-long with. Check these out here.

These are really clever and can offer an interesting element to your practice routine if you are working on a particular groove or feel. I showed these to Adam Nussbaum the other day and he lost his mind!

Here's a good one if you might be inclined to work on your slow tempos:

- Jerry Granelli featured in Jazz Profiles, speaking about his days playing with Mose Allison and Vince Guaraldi

- Canadian free jazz drummer Larry Dubin is a new name to me. Check out this 1979 CCMC performance.

- The 80/20 Drummer offers this episode on his practical approach to playing the brushes:

- Steve Fidyk interviewed by Discussions in Percussion

- Cellar Live's Cory Weeds interviews Jason Tiemann

- Francisco Mela's tribute to the late Jimmy Cobb:

- Jerome Jennings offers these two inspiring performances:

- Ralph Peterson Jr. interviewed by Occhi Magazine:

- Brazilian jazz drummer Duduka Da Fonseca interviewed by Drummer Nation:

...and another episode from Drummer Nation, this time featuring the great Bill Goodwin:

- Jazzkeller Frankfurt interviews Adam Nussbaum:


- Neon Jazz offers two recent interviews with Allison Miller:

...and Jim Black!

- Drummer Kevin Dorn shares this elastic band bass drum pedal hack, taught to him by Jake Hanna:

Has anyone tried this???

- Here's some great footage of Jeff Hamilton with the Woody Herman band featuring tenor saxophonists Joe Lovano and Frank Tiberi on a burning arrangement of Giant Steps:

- A couple of great clips featuring Art Taylor...

 ...with Dexter Gordon circa. 1963:

...and with Dizzy Gillepie and Johnny Griffin playing "A Night in Tunisia" circa. 1971:

Thanks to Mike Melito and Andrew Dickeson for sharing these via the Facebook.

- And....last, but certainly not least, here is the great ROY HAYNES with Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and Christian McBride featuring one of the most epic drum solos you'll ever see:


- What am I listening to these days?

Harrison2 "Trouts in Swimwear" - Harrison Vetro (drums)

Elvin Jones Trio "Skyscrapers, Vols.1-4" - Elvin Jones (drums)

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers "The Freedom Rider" - Art Blakey (drums)

Rudy Royston "PaNOptic" - Rudy Royston (drums)

Ted Warren/Mike Murley/Rich Brown "Broadview" - Ted Warren (drums)

Sam Jones "The Bassist" - Keith Copeland (drums)

Duke Jordan "Flight to Denmark" - Ed Thigpen (drums)

Mark Eisenman Trio "Sweet & Lovely" - Jimmy Cobb (drums)

Nick Ayoub "The Montreal Scene" - Emile "Cisco" Normand (drums)

- And today's Final Word goes to Sonny Rollins with these two pieces from The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Kelly Jefferson also recently shared this great piece of wisdom via his Facebook page:

“It’s not about your music - it’s about what makes your music your music. You’ve got to have a feeling like that. You have to have a reason for your music. Have something besides the technical. Make it for something. Make it for kindness, make it for peace, whatever it is. You know what I mean?”

- Sonny Rollins

As always, when the Masters speak...we listen.