I asked Jeff a few questions about his method book and here's what he had to say:
1) Tell us all about your book! What is it all about and what are the goals of your text?
Well, the book is basically a musical language study on how to accompany a soloist in a straight ahead jazz situation. One can observe in the great jazz drummers certain characteristics that they all have in common, regardless of stylistic differences, they being 1. The ability to swing hard, 2. Make a soloist sound even more exciting than he may actually be, 3. Enrich the music by adding detailed rhythmic counterpoint. Of course, the truly great ones, not only did all of the above, but in a very unique, personal manner.
On the surface, there's no real mystery here, just listen to the greats and you'll eventually get it.....and I really do believe that, the only thing I'm trying to do with the book is save the student some time. I would have saved years, if I had this information available to me when I was coming up.
The basic premiss throughout is, "if you can hear it, you can (with practice) play it." The first thing we deal with in the book is how to get a walking feel with the traditional cymbal beat. This is done (as are all the exercises and challenges in the study) while singing a jazz standard. That way, the student is always conscious of the song form he's playing and never just "playing time".
Once a solid "walking feel" with the cymbal is established, we get into some basic comping figures.
Comping figures later are combined with what are referred to as "tension figures". Tension figures are what make the music more exciting and hopefully urge the soloist to play at a higher intensity. The book discusses how, where and why these type of figures are used and resolved extensively throughout the text.
Also presented is a method on how to be constantly varying the cymbal beat, while mixing it up with the rest of the kit, yet hearing everything that you're playing. This is done by hearing the drums as one big rhythm, rather than 3 or 4 separate ones.
Pacing is also discussed, that is, how to make each chorus more intense than the previous if desired.
At the end, is a method on how and what to listen for when listening to Jazz CD's and how it relates to the study material in the book.
2) What was the motivation and inspiration for putting together this method?
Well., I'd been accumulating this material for years and it was getting time to start sharing it. Also, in Spain, where I've been living for the last 30 years, the conservatories started to offer a jazz performance degree and I began fantasizing about what material I would use if I was offered the job in one of the centers. Ironically, 2 weeks after Hal Leonard agreed to publish the book, I got the job in the Valencia Conservatory as the jazz drum teacher.
3) How does your book differ from other jazz drumming method books currently on the market? What makes it unique?
Well, of course I haven't seen all the existing drum books out there, but one of the chief factors about what I suppose makes it different is that all the concepts and techniques in the book deal directly with song structure. This way the drums are approached like any other instrument would be. The idea of creating tensions and where and how to resolve them is something that I haven't seen in other drum books and also the method taught on how to vary the cymbal while playing the rest of the kit along with it I think is quite different.
4) How do you recommend students and teachers approach working through your materials?
First of all, make sure that you always work with a song structure. If it's a student with little jazz experience who doesn't know standards, sing a child's song, a nursery rhyme, a Christmas carol....anything, Also take seriously the guide in the back of the book on how and what to listen for when listening to the great drummers. It's important to hear it for yourself, don't just play things because the book says so! Remember, if you can hear it, you can play it. All the concepts and ideas in the book are doing are helping you to get to it sooner. Also very important, try to apply what you're learning as soon as possible. Get out there and play....playing with records is fine, but there's nothing like the real thing!
5) What are some of the challenges of putting together a drum method book? What advice do you have for anybody potentially interested in publishing their own book?
The real challenge for me was organizing the material in a logical didactic manner. I like to try the material out on my students to see how they handle it. I find them to be a more acurate barometer than myself.
Getting a book published is very similar to trying to get a record deal. You either send it out to the big companies and hope for a response or you try and put it out yourself. It's not easy and you have to be prepared for rejection, but if you really believe in it....go for it!
- Here's a few clips of Jeff discussing the art of Jazz ride cymbal playing: