Thursday, March 21, 2019

Feet First!

A simple, little exercise today that I call "Feet First!"

The general idea is that you play a quiet, sustained buzz, double or single stroke roll on the snare drum with your hands along with a steady stream of eighth-notes between the bass drum and hi-hat with your feet.

Use the first page of Stick Control to orchestrate these eighth-notes with your feet as follows:

R = Bass Drum

L = Hi-Hat (either as an open "splash" sound or as a tight, closed "chick" sound)

The point of this exercise is to lead things rhythmically with your feet. All to often as drum set players our feet take a backseat to what we are doing with our hands. This is intended to be a simple way to get you thinking about leading with your feet (or from the "bottom up").

I would practice this playing whatever snare drum roll you choose around a piano or mezzoforte dynamic level while the feet should be a solid forte.

Thank you Ted Warren for the inspiration for this one!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Up Close with Ralph Peterson Jr.

A couple of wonderful, up-close and very informative clips of Ralph Peterson Jr. drumming to check out today:

And here's another one, featuring some really great brushwork:

Dig how Peterson isn't afraid to really PLAY the brushes and dig into the drums.

I also really appreciate the fact that Ralph isn't afraid to play a larger set-up, with a reasonably large compliment of drums and cymbals. I've been trying to add more cymbal colours to my regular set-up lately but it requires a heavier hardware bag or an extra trip to the car for the extra stands (!) I've also personally never really been into a two-tom up top tom tom set-up as I find that it messes with my ride cymbal positioning too much (although, I really did try for a period of time!) I will, however, add an extra, larger floor tom to my set-up from time to time (something along the lines of what Bill Stewart frequently does...)

Also, in case you haven't, be sure to check out Peterson's excellent Jazz drumming instructional DVD over at JazzHeaven.com

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jason Brown & Max Roach's Hollywood Meazzi Drum Kit on Wheels

I thought this was pretty cool. Here's Jason Brown performing a little tribute to Max Roach on Max Roach's very own unique set of Hollywood Meazzi drums (on wheels no less....perhaps to facilitate a quick exit?):

I might consider finding a set of these myself if I can figure out how to install a motor...

Monday, March 11, 2019

Conversations with Louis Hayes

Another great interview from the nice folks over at NYU Steinhardt, this time with legend Louis Hayes:

And in case you need reminding:

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

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Eric Binder "10 Snare Drum Etudes for Improvisation, Vol.1"

Without a doubt we all need to spend time working on our rudiments and snare drum technique. As I always stress to students in lessons and in workshops, the snare drum rudiments represent an important foundation for what we do as drummers. However, assembling these patterns into practical and meaningful musical phrases can be a stumbling block for many. Books like Anthony Cirone's "Portraits in Rhythm", Charlie Wilcoxin's "Modern Rudimental Swing Solos and methods from the likes of Alan Dawson go a long way to address this. However, given the solutions that already exist, further resources are always welcome as well.

Fortunately for us, Eric Binder is releasing a new book of snare drum etudes (the first of many, from the looks of it) and he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his recent book. Check it out!

Eric Binder - The Four on the Floor Interview
"10 Snare Drum Etudes for Improvisation, Vol.1"
March 2019

1) Tell us all about your book! What is it all about and what are the goals of your text?

This is a snare drum etude book that uses rudimental jazz vocabulary to create snare drum solos meant to begin students on their journey to gaining greater facility necessary to improvise in a jazz setting. This is the first book of the series so it is approachable for any drummer. In the later volumes, there will be more dense jazz vocabulary in the style of Philly Joe, Art Blakey, and many others.

2) What was the motivation and inspiration for putting together this method?

My motivation for this book was mainly my students and conversations I’ve had with other teachers. One of the most common things I get asked is, “I learned my rudiments, now what do I do with them?” My first response is always directing them to records, but so few students really LISTEN and actually take away what’s going on. In my etude book, I give students phrases using common rudiments. As you will see when playing these etudes, much of the rudimental ideas are just common jazz vocabulary reminiscent of Elvin Jones, Baby Dodds, Roy Haynes and others.

3) How does your book differ from other snare drum method books currently on the market? What makes it unique?

My “go to” snare books are Modern Rudimental Swing Solos (Wilcoxon) and Portraits in Rhythm (Cirone). I also use Smitty’s Rudimental Ritual. While these books are absolutely incredible and invaluable, most students seem unable to connect the material to improvising on the drum set. I feel that my approach to writing these etudes and the ways I direct students to play them make my method different.

4) How do you recommend students and teachers approach working through your materials?

The first thing for students to do is learn the material at the marked tempi. Some of these etudes can be quite challenging if you don’t have your hands together. I say it for this book, but I ALWAYS say it - PLAY WITH A METRONOME. Students should first play through with the click on all four beats, then just two and four, then one click per measure, and eventually one click every two bars. These etudes are best utilized when playing them with hi-hat on two and four and bass drum “feathering” all four beats. They really feel like a “solo” at that point.

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?

Putting together any major work whether it be a method book, composition, or thesis is a major undertaking. There are so many small steps that people do not realize, and each step must be precisely executed. Luckily, this past year I just completed my dissertation which prepared me for the task of writing this method. It is a learning process still and I have already begun work on other book projects.

To anyone looking to publish, I suggest reaching out to someone who has published before. Thankfully I had some wonderful insight from saxophonist Adam Larson. There are just so many idiosyncrasies about publishing a book.


To learn more about Eric's new book, visit his website or email him directly at ericbinderx@gmail.com

Monday, March 4, 2019

Roy Brooks

An informative interview from 1989 with Roy Brooks, a prolific Jazz drummer who performed and recorded with the likes of Horace Silver, Sonny Stitt, Yusef Lateef, Dexter Gordon, Barry Harris, Blue Mitchell and Max Roach's M'Boom:

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Billy Drummond on Brushes

A short one today but this is a highly significant example from Jazz great Billy Drummond, demonstrating how to play a ballad with the brushes, using the melody of the standard "Laura" as a musical vehicle:

Drummond's brush strokes are beautiful and he creates a nice big, full and flowing sound...but his method of using the melody while playing is a nice reminder that "if you can sing it...you can play it!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The New Drum Battle!

Oh! Looks like Kenny Washington and Joe Farnsworth are at it again!

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Welcome back and thanks for checking in for what is the very first Monday Morning Paradiddle column of 2019. Incidentally, this coming spring will represent the 10th anniversary of Four on the Floor. Holy smokes! We're still here! Anyways, as per usual, here's an assortment of interesting things to check out:

- Several great articles on the late, great Alvin Fielder (1935-2019) including:

  • A piece from NPR on Fielder and Joseph Jarman

- Dig this! An extensive audio interview with Kenny Clarke

As always, when the Masters speak, we listen!

- Ed Soph and Johnny Vidacovich both interviewed over at the Contraption Podcast

- Kate Gentile talks about her recent album release over at the Greenleaf Music podcast

- Ted Panken interviews Jeff Tain Watts with a "Before & After" listening session and another one from JazzTimes magazine

- Ralph Peterson Jr. interviewed by Neon Jazz:

- Pablo Held "investigates" Peter Erskine:

- A short, but quick AND spirited drum solo from Johnathan Blake:

- The Late Show's Joe Saylor with pianist Emmet Cohen:

- Lewis Nash reminds us all how to play a ballad (pay attention now everyone!):

- A very special thank you to Ted Warren, via his fine blog Trap'd, for finding this awesome, recent BBC documentary on the history of the drums, hosted by Stewart Copeland:

- And check out these cool George Way drums (and great drumming!) as played by Vancouver's Jesse Cahill:

- What am I listening to these days?

Terri Lyne Carrington "Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue" - Terri Lyne Carrington (drums)

Kirk MacDonald "The Atlantic Sessions" - Jerry Fuller (drums)

The Herbie Nichols Project "Strange City" - Matt Wilson (drums)

Kurt Rosenwinkel "Reflections" - Eric Harland (drums)

Dexter Gordon "Doin' Alright" - Al Harewood (drums)

- And today's Final Word goes to Anthony Tidd (via vibraphonist Joel Ross) over at the Facebook:

"Seven Steps to Solving Most Musicianship Issues"

If you are not good at something and, if you wish to improve, you should:

1) Identify said thing.

2) Admit that you are not good at said thing, and dispense with all ego.

3) Find somebody that is great at said thing.

4) If you can take lessons from this person or spend time around this person, do. If not, make a serious study of this person and the thing that you want to learn, using whatever means are at your disposal.

5) Practice incessantly.

6) Practice some more.

7) Repeat.

- Anthony Tidd, via Facebook (February 2019)

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Four on the Floor "Keep the Form!" Challenge

A simple conceptual exercise today, inspired by a lesson I took with Carl Allen many years ago and from Todd Bishop's recent blog post on playing music with "odd" forms. Check out his insightful commentary here.

Basically the above idea is an exercise that involves keeping the form while alternating between playing measures of Time and then improvising on the drums for a pre-determined number of bars. It's also an exercise in becoming comfortable with "odd" phrase lengths as well as shorter ones.

So here's the basic routine:

1) Choose a Time Signature (ie. 4/4, 3/4, 5/4, 12/8, etc.)

2) Pick a Style (Swing, Afro-Cuban, ECM, etc.)

3) Choose a Tempo (slower is always better!)

4) Play Time for the first section, then solo/improvise over the second half. Repeat. Then go on to the next one

5) The idea is that you are free to play whatever you want in each section BUT the form (ie. the number of measures in each section) and tempo must be clear and respected at all times

A few other variations:

- Trying changing the time signature every time you reach a new section

- Stick with one phrase length for the timekeeping sections but cycle through the lengths of the solo sections (ie. 8-8, 8-7, 8-6, 8-5, etc.)

- Mix up the order in which you play each section

- It is advisable to plan these routines out in advance and maybe even write them down such as I did for reference (ie. a road map!)

- Once you are comfortable with each phrase length and the transitions between them, challenge yourself to play over-the-barline phrases within each section.

- Be creative and have fun. Challenge yourself

Anyways, it's not rocket science but I find little games like this really help me break out of my usual vocabulary. Personally I find it can be a bit cold to play like this without any melodic reference or framework but it IS a good exercise in sharpening one's concentration skills and overall attention to phrasing (a tune like Victor Feldman's "Joshua", made famous by Miles Davis and his quintet, comes to mind...)

I also suggest recording yourself while practicing this, listening back afterwards for the clarity and definition of each section. Imagine that you are the saxophone player in the band, listening patiently to the drum solo and anxiously wondering when you need to come back in with the melody!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Impressions with Jack

This one was making the rounds of social media yesterday and I just had to share it. Here is a lesson in sustained musical accompaniment on the drums courtesy of Jack DeJohnette, backing up an all-star saxophone section featuring Michael Brecker, David Liebman, George Garzone and Joshua Redman, anchored by Geoff Keezer on piano and Christian McBride on bass (with a guest appearance by Dave Holland!) on the John Coltrane anthem "Impressions":

Amazingly Jack not only manages to keep a sustained energy and interest going through all those successive tenor solos, never once backing off, but then he takes an epic drum solo himself to cap everything off!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Pete Lockett: Indian Rhythms Applied to the Drumset

And...we're back.

I've been messing around with some interesting cross-rhythm excercises and the idea of poly-rhythmic "layering" lately (more on this later...) and this prompted me to revisit this excellent tutorial from percussionist and rhythm guru Pete Lockett. Take some time to check this one out as there is a lot of great and practical information to be found here:

Monday, February 4, 2019

Chris Smith - The Drum Hang Vol. 4 - Billy Higgins Solo Vocabulary & Feathering the Bass Drum!

I'm hitting the road shortly so I will be taking a break from blogging for awhile. However, in the meantime, be sure to check out these latest two instalments from Chris Smith over at The Drum Hang: an episode on Billy Higgins' solo vocabulary AND an excellent tutorial on the how's and why's of feathering the bass drum (perhaps one of the most misunderstood and underrated tools of Jazz timekeeping). These two segments are quite long each of themselves so plenty to dig into while I'm gone. Hope you learn something from these excellent videos. I sure have!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


Inspired by recent social media posts and drum videos from such drumming luminaries as Geoff Clapp, Chad Anderson, George Sluppick, Quincy Davis, Gavin Sorochan, Dan Weiss, Josh Jones, Ted Warren, Conor Guilfoyle, Todd Bishop, Chris Smith and many more...here's my humble contribution to the hive, a simple sticking pattern I came up with and some orchestrations around the drums. It's basically a variation on an old fashioned paradiddlediddle except with a extra note stuck on the end of each grouping, making it two seven-note patterns that alternate between each hand.

Here's what the basic sticking pattern looks like:

Rubim De Toledo and Carsten Rubeling both think it sounds like something Tain would play (I should be so lucky...but I'll take it!) In any event, hope you dig it.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sebastian Whittaker

I've been meaning to share these ones for a while now....some incredible playing from the late Sebastian Whittaker (also known as "Bash"...), a wonderful musician who had a deep impact on those around him, particularly in the Houston Jazz scene: www.houstonchronicle.com/entertainment/music/article/Houston-jazz-scene-loses-a-major-player-8352671.php

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Marcus Gilmore NUBE

Just a quick one today featuring Marcus Gilmore and some cool drumming on pianist David Virelles composition Nube (thanks to Four on the Floor correspondent Tim Mah for passing along this one!):

Monday, January 21, 2019

Chris Smith - The Drum Hang Vol. 3

Chris Smith keeps knocking it out of the park with his wonderfully informed and delivered series of Jazz drumming videos via The Drum Hang on the YouTube. Lots of great information here to check out and think about (I know I am!) Check out his website for written examples of some of these concepts as well at:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Mingus Mingus Mingus

I've been quite busy these days, playing full-time for Calgary's Decidedly Jazz Dancework's recent production of "Better Get Hit in Your Soul!", an amazing contemporary Jazz dance show featuring the music of legendary bassist Charles Mingus. The show runs until January 20th as part of One Yellow Rabbit's annual High Performance Rodeo festival www.hprodeo.ca/2019/better-get-hit. This production was originally mounted in 2013 but this time it is presented in a significantly larger venue (DJD's amazing new home on 12th ave SE!) and with a few updated tweaks. The show was created and choreographed by the amazing Kimberley Cooper, featuring live and recorded music by Charles Mingus, all under the musical direction of Edmonton bassist Rubim de Toledo (and featuring yours truly on drums!)

Playing with dancers is one of my favourite things to do and working with this company, in particular, is a real honour. Furthermore, I get to play the music of Charles Mingus on a nightly basis with a killer band! It's been a real experience for me so far to play this music on a regular basis and really get inside his notes. Furthermore, I feel that Cooper has done an exceptional job of capturing the essence of Mingus' spirit through her choreography. Come check it out and you'll see what I mean!

Here's a little teaser trailer of what you'll see, featuring the DJD dance company and band on Mingus' up-tempo axe chaser "Tonight at Noon":

To learn more about this unique show visit Decidedly Jazz Danceworks website: www.decidedlyjazz.com or via the High Performance Rodeo: www.hprodeo.ca/2019/better-get-hit

In the meantime, here's some of my favourite footage of Charles Mingus (and Dannie Richmond in particular) that I've been checking out lately for some motivation and inspiration:

Monday, January 7, 2019

Morgan Childs

Toronto's Morgan Childs will be swinging by Calgary's Buckingjam Palace later this month, performing with a great B3 Hammond organ trio on Saturday, January 26th. Learn more about this gig and this happening concert series here. He will also be appearing on the West Coast in the coming weeks with a variety of groups.

Morgan was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his recent activities:

Morgan Childs - The Four on the Floor Interview 
January 2019

1) Tell us about your latest recording and touring project!

I’m excited to be working with three exciting groups in January. I’ve put together a Vancouver-based quartet with Steve Kaldestad (tenor sax), John Stetch (piano), and AndrĂ© Lachance (bass) for a gig at Frankie’s in Vancouver on January 10th, then I have some dates on Vancouver Island where I have recruited some old friends; Dr. Patrick Boyle (trumpet), Ryan Oliver (tenor sax) and the phenomenal young multi-instrumentalist John Lee is going to play bass at Simon Holt in Nanaimo, at the Avalanche in Courtenay, and down at Pat’s House of Jazz in Crofton. After that’s done, I start a driving tour with a group I co-lead with Ben Bishop (guitar), and Jeff McLeod (Hammond organ). We are called the BMC Organ Trio. We play some classic organ jazz repertoire as well as writing original music for the group. We haven’t made a record yet, but that will be coming sometime in the future, for sure. That band is touring Alberta, Eastern BC and Saskatchewan, playing some of the great clubs out west like the Yardbird Suite and Bassment, in addition to our now-sold-out gig at Buckingjam Palace in Calgary.

2) How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen?

I think it’s important to make music with people who you admire. It’s nice to have a combination of some familiarity and some unknown factors; that creates energy and excitement on stage. In terms of the repertoire, I tend to think of sets of music to create a certain vibe for the listener. I want the experience of listening to my groups to be detailed and intriguing for the listener, and I want the musicians to feel like they are free to express themselves in THEIR way. That’s very important to me… to honour the contribution of the musicians by finding music that suits a certain facet of their musical voice. 

In the case of the organ trio, I have a pretty long history of playing with Hammond organ, and have a love for the instrument. I got to hear and play with the late great Bob Murphy quite a bit when I lived in Vancouver, as well as Chris Gestrin, Vanessa Rodrigues, Barbara Dennerlein and Bernie Senensky at various and ongoing points in my life. When Jeff and Ben moved to Toronto around the same time, we had already talked about forming a group and working up some repertoire so it was a natural fit. I admire the depth of knowledge and dedication they both have. 

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

My dad is a big Kenny Burrell fan, and Kenny made a whole pile of great organ records with Jimmy Smith in the 60s, so I grew up around some of that music. My dad also played bass in an RnB band when I was growing up, so he was super into the Stax sound in particular—very committed to playing a Fender P bass with flat wound strings like Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Booker T and the MGs was an early influence on me--playing along with those records and trying to sound like Al Jackson Jr! I got to see Booker T and Jimmy McGriff on a double bill when I was still in high school, with Leon “Ndugu” Chancler on drums—now that’ll make an impression! The great thing about the Hammond is that you can play some serious bebop on it like Jimmy Smith, or get really funky like Grant Green or the Sugarman 3. I love swinging hard and I also love playing funk, so I think playing organ jazz suits my musical personality. You can do anything you want!

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

Music is generally connected to a lot of positive emotions I think, positive memories, and often memories and feelings that people hold really close. It’s nice if it’s a positive, good feeling you can create for people. I find it really interesting that listening to music is a totally subjective experience, so you try to get into a space where you are expressing yourself honestly and to the best of your abilities, and hope that the people who are hearing it can have some meaningful association with what you’re doing.

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

For the BMC trio it’s definitely a lot of the classic organ records made by people like Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Grant Green, Jack McDuff, Lonnie Smith, George Benson, Melvin Rhyne, Wes Montgomery, etc. More generally speaking, I am influenced a lot by very swinging drummers. Jimmy Cobb, Lewis Nash, Jeff Watts, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Billy Higgins and Max Roach are some of my favourites.

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

Over the last few years I’ve taken some lessons with Kenny Washington, who has refined my understanding of the Wilcoxin book a great deal. I’ve usually got one or more of those solos on the go and continue to work at it and hone my abilities there. I’m eternally grateful for Kenny’s patience as a teacher, and how much he has demystified the purpose of those exercises for me. I keep a little notebook where I write out ideas, aiming for simplicity and clarity in my phrasing. Lately I’ve been revisiting a lot of Tony Williams and Billy Higgins albums. I listen quite a bit to these field recordings of the Ewe and Ashanti peoples of West Africa, which were collected by Mark Seidenfeld and released on John Zorn’s Avant label under the name “Drums of Death”. In that music, I hear some fundamental DNA of the polyrhythmic drum language that represents some of the more mystical aspects of jazz rhythm. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to create contrasting expressions of rhythmic power, within my own playing and also as a contrast to the other musicians I’m playing with. Billy Higgins has been on my mind a lot lately, the compelling force of his ride cymbal beat, and the world of polyrhythmic expression he inhabited so fully. How does one create something so compelling and powerful that exists in such a gentle way? I am attempting to think about music from these different angles that are analytical, but also sort of abstract.

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

The quartet that travelled to Lviv, Ukraine to play for Canada Day has become a unit under the co-leadership of Jake Koffman (as), and Nathan Hiltz (g), with Mark Godfrey on bass. We’ll be booking some gigs this spring and summer and releasing an EP. I know Amanda Tosoff is planning a follow up to her Juno-nominated “Words” album, and I’m excited to be a part of that. In May I’ll be travelling to England to play with Scottish saxophonist and clarinettist John Burgess. I have regular gigs around Toronto that are ongoing. Other than that, I’ll continue to make music with as many different musicians as I can!

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

Not very much, actually… that’s an interesting question. I don’t usually start compositions from a rhythmic concept. I’m usually trying to hear a melody first, and see where that leads my ear. I don’t usually write things to feature the drums, I think about what a set of music might need and write something to fit a mood.

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

I mentioned many of my favourite drummers earlier… speaking more broadly of music, I’d say Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock are two musicians whose influence I can pinpoint in my own playing and writing.

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

Train your ears to hear the tiny, fractional details that make the music what it is. If you find a certain sound compelling, investigate it fully and find out what makes it what it is. Take your time and be patient with yourself.

Learn more about Morgan Childs and his music here and then check out this clip of him in action at Toronto's Rex Hotel:

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Lewis Nash & Joe Lovano - Jazz Baltica 2005

Happy New Year! And what better way to start off 2019 than with some footage of one of my favourite contemporary tenor and drum pairings featuring the great Lewis Nash on drums and Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone (along with Hank Jones on piano and George Mraz on bass) from a burning 2005 performance at Jazz Baltica.

Those who know me know are well aware my appreciation for Joe Lovano. I think he's amazing!

I was lucky enough to work and play with Joe during the 1998 edition of the short-lived Lake Placid Jazz Workshop and that experience left a deep, life-long impression on me. One thing is for sure, Joe Lovano KNOWS the drums!

Here's quick post with Mr. Lovano sharing some thoughts on the composition process:

And another longer one, but a great insight into Joe's improvisational process:

Thanks again for all your support and looking forward to another year of blogging. Incidentally, 2019 will mark the 10th anniversary of Four on the Floor (!) so check back often and look for some special "anniversary" happenings around here (who knows, maybe we'll bake a cake or something...)