Monday, November 12, 2018


Toronto Jazz drummer Ethan Ardelli recently visited Calgary with his band this past weekend and I attended his performance & clinic at Long & McQuade on Saturday afternoon.

Ardelli is a fine drummer/composer and in explaining one of his own original compositions, he pointed to the influence of Cuban drummer Jose Luis Quintana (also know as "Changuito"), with whom Ardelli had also studied Afro-Cuban drumming with. He recommended that everyone check out Changuito's incredible drumming on the YouTube for further examples. I was actually reminded of Billy Hart saying the same thing (!) back at a Jazz workshop that I attended in Lake Placid, NY circa. 1998.

In fact, these two following instructional videos are exactly what Hart referred to (although at the time obviously there was no YouTube!) Anyways, get comfortable and check these two resources out, straight from source....

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Jason Marsalis: Snare Drum Improvisations

A very musical and cleverly improvised solo piece from Jason Marsalis today, this time using ONLY a snare drum (with the snares turned OFF incidentally). Check out all the colours and hip grooves that he gets from the instrument:

This also brings to mind some similar solo snare drum improvisations that I've seen from the likes of Han Bennink and Ted Warren. I also heard Evelyn Glennie play a piece for solo suspended cymbal about a year ago at a concert in Calgary, AB. These are all amazing examples that we should follow in our quest to be musically inventive Jazz drummers.

Now imagine if one were to approach ALL the components of the drum set in the same way, exploring all the different colours, textures and rhythmic possibilities that we can get out of ONE instrument. Hmmm....

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Man, this Fall has really been flying by lately but I've been fortunate to have been on the go recently with clinics, private students, and a steady stream of gigs with the Saskatoon Jazz Orchestra and, most recently, former CBC Jazz radio host Tim Tamashiro and his new show "When You're Smiling". Anyways, still lots of interesting things to share with you all these days and here's what we've got in store for you in this month's instalment of The Monday Morning Paradiddle. Enjoy!

- Thanks to Four on the Floor correspondent Tim Mah for passing along this feature on Chicago's Makaya McCraven from Rolling Stones magazine: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/makaya-mccraven-universal-beings-interview-746144/?fbclid=IwAR2ZGoVfA3mvHmCk7H838iEIDmVJB1oZS1F941SUPLKpHo2w_9vjYoac0Ew

- An older Modern Drummer feature on Canadian Jazz legend Terry Clarke:

- WBGO's Nate Chinen on new music from five different notable drummer/composers:

- Lenny White interviews Jeff "Tain" Watts over at his podcast iyouwee: http://iyouwee.com

- Here's Rudy Royston on his latest offering "Flatbed Buggy":

- Billy Hart recently visited Western Michigan University. Read all about it here:

- A article on Joey Baron from Downbeat magazine:

- Mike Clark interviewed by Modern Drummer magazine:

- Here's the trailer for the new upcoming Paul Motian documentary!

MotianInMotion_Alternate_Trailer_ from Michael Patrick Kelly on Vimeo.

- A pair of tributes from Hudson Music, originally used for Zildjian's 375th Anniversary concert in 1998 featuring Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Louie Bellson and Roy Haynes!

- Dan Weiss doing his thing in an urban basketball court:

- Thanks again to Tim Mah for sending along this TEDx talk which is certainly worthy of taking a good look at in this day and age:

- A Neon Jazz interview with Kobie Watkins on the heel of his recent release "Movement":

- When people talk about Philly Joe Jones, this particular track often enters into the conversation (and for good reason!):

- Finally, check out this groovy clip of Geoff Clapp in the studio from awhile back:

I've been taking FaceTime lessons with Geoff lately and he is a great teacher and I highly recommend connecting with him. Contact him via Facebook and schedule an on-line lesson asap. You won't regret it!

- What am I listening to these days?

Time Warp "There and Back" - Barry Elmes (drums)

John Wadham "Drums and Friends" - John Wadham (drums)

Willies Jones III "Groundwork" - Willie Jones III (drums), Warren Wolf (vibraphone)

Donny McCaslin "Give and Go" - Gene Jackson (drums)

Peter Beets "New York Trio" - Willie Jones III (drums)

Bud Powell "Portrait of Thelonious" - Kenny Clarke (drums)

Lee Morgan "The Procrastinator" Billy Higgins (drums)

- And today's Final Word goes to pianist and Jazz Messenger Benny Green who, lucky for us, often shares some great gems of wisdom via his Facebook page:

"Preparation" by Benny Green

"If anyone asked me then and if anyone asks me now, why I moved to New York City in 1982, it was always to become a Jazz Messenger.

There was no texting, no email nor social media in 1982. You’d get your ass to the club where the people you wanted to play with were performing, and you'd be dressed reasonably appropriately for that particular band. You'd have listened and played along with some of their records and you'd know some of their arrangements.

You’d be present-minded and not pretend to yourself that one lone recording of a musician from 27 years prior is a reasonable indicator of their current repertoire. You'd consider your instrument's essential vital characteristics as pertained to the aesthetics of the musicians you were about to hear in-person - and keeping it real, who you were hoping to sit in with and eventually be hired to perform and record with.

You’d want to feel like you could bring something to the plate in terms of authenticity with the older players, and contemporary fire and freshness with your peers.

You’d want to know some history, you’d want to know some American popular songs and some instrumental Jazz standards, to be able to play the blues, to be able to play a ballad, and to have endurance with up-tempos.

You’d want to be able to play well for singers, you'd need to be able to play in the appropriate style for swing, for pre-bop, for bebop, for hard bop, for The Jazz Messengers, for Miles and for Coltrane, for soul and funk, bossa novas and sambas (Phoebe's that is).

I've been blessed to have a career playing 99% of the time in 4/4.

You'd better swing your tail off, have that “spark”, or else - hey it’s NYC, nothing personal and thanks for shopping with us.

If you were a young cat, carried yourself with some dignity and humility and were well-dressed, Art would see you coming around, look you in the eyes and get a very accurate read on you - Art Blakey could see your soul and he'd be looking to assess your mettle.

If Art noticed that some of the cats, the more the better, were hanging and talking in a serious way with you on the breaks, then it was a simple matter of being there constantly and waiting for your chance to one night late on the 2nd set, perhaps be invited to step onto Art’s bandstand." 

- Benny Green via Facebook, October 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Chris Smith - The Drum Hang Vol. 2

Another batch of GREAT Jazz drumming lessons from New York's Chris Smith (who's also currently performing with the Birdland Big Band and the likes of Dick Oatts and Garry Dial). There is LOTS of practical and well-informed information here so take note and learn something from someone who really knows what they are talking about!

Thanks again Chris and keep 'em coming!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Hutch @ Bimhuis

A bunch of really good ones today featuring Gregory Hutchinson on drums with Peter and Marius Beets (on piano and bass, respectively) from a trio hit at Bimhuis Amsterdam:

I've always enjoyed listening to Hutch and videos like these are a nice reminder to dig deeper into my  own Wilcoxin snare drum studies and to retake a healthy dose of Philly Joe Jones...

And if you dig these, make sure to check out Hutch's excellent series of instructional lessons over at Open Studio Network: https://www.openstudionetwork.com/project/fjd-overview/

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Mike Downes "Root Structure"

It's not often that I feature non-drummers here on Four on the Four but I'm always willing to make exceptions for the likes of Toronto bassist Mike Downes. I first met Mike when I was still in high school back in the mid 90s and to this day I consider him to be one of the world's great Jazz bassists and he is one of the hardest working people I know. He is a consummate musician, a wonderful person and an example for us all to follow. Downes and his all-star band from Toronto (including Larnell Lewis on drums!) will be performing in Calgary on November 8th (sorry folks...this exclusive concert is already sold out!). On the eve of this highly anticipated performance and on the heels of his second (!) Juno award for his recent album "Root Structure", Mike was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about himself and his music.

Mike Downes - The Four on the Floor Interview October 2018

1) Tell us about your latest recording!

My latest recording is called “Root Structure.” It won the 2018 JUNO for Jazz Album of the Year: Solo and is a follow up to our 2014 JUNO winning album “Ripple Effect.” It features 2016 JUNO winner Robi Botos, two-time Grammy winner Larnell Lewis (with Snarky Puppy), JUNO winner/nominee Ted Quinlan and myself. 

2) How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen?

From my liner notes: “In music and life, I’ve always been interested in what lies beneath the surface: the underlying structures that hold everything together, the strength that resides deep down. The music in this recording was composed and performed in this spirit.”

In a more tangible sense, I had recorded music for an 11-piece group (“In the Current”) and I distilled many of the musical colours and structural ideas from that large ensemble to expand the possibilities of the quartet. The musicians are some of my favourite musicians in the world. We have been playing together in many different contexts, and the musical chemistry is magical.

3) What inspired you to pursue the vibe and instrumentation that you did?

I wanted to have the intimacy of a quartet, yet use different guitar/keyboard, etc. timbres to expand the sonic palette of the quartet. I have often recorded with horns, but I was hearing something else for this recording.

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

All of my compositions have an emotional space that they occupy, and I try to make musical choices that bring that emotional space directly and powerfully to the listener. I don’t expect any two listeners to react the same way to the music, but I do hope it stirs something inside them that inspires them to dig deeper in their own lives.

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

A few that come to mind are Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, Brad Mehldau, Wayne Shorter and Pat Metheny.

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

I’m listening to a lot of symphonic music. I’m writing more music for my 11-piece band, so I’m listening to Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer and other composers/arrangers. As far as practicing, I’m so busy that I’m mostly practicing music that I have to perform or record! When I get a chance, I’ve been working on independence exercises as well.

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

I have a bunch of projects on the go. I produced an album that will be released this month with Ron Davis entitled “SympRONica UpFront” for jazz group and string quartet, I am co-producing a Joni Mitchell project with Yvette Tollar, I’m writing arrangements for a show with Molly Johnson and orchestra, writing music for my next recording, and playing with a lot of great musicians.

8) How does the bass and your overall approach to rhythm factor into your compositions and concept?

I rarely write music on the bass, but I always treat the bass line as a secondary (or even primary) melody. In that respect, I am acutely aware of the top and bottom melodies in music. Rhythm always plays a huge part in my compositions and playing. Playing with rhythms brings me a lot of joy, so I’m sure that factors into my music in a big way.

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

I have far too many influences to name, but some of my favourite bassists include Ray Brown, Scott LaFaro, Oscar Pettiford, Israel Crosby, Paul McCartney and Edgar Meyer. Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown and Hampton Hawes come to mind as players who have had a big influence on my approach.

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

Stay passionate, stay curious, be comfortable with a vision that is farther ahead of where you are now and work hard.


Learn more about Mike Downes and his current activities over at his website: www.mikedownes.com