Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Wednesday, June 7th at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring New York jazz drummer Peter Retzlaff.
Peter Retzlaff is a New York City-based drummer. In his formative years, Peter studied with many influential teachers/performers such as Bob Breithaupt, David Garibaldi, Ed Soph, Jim Chapin, Gary Chaffee, John Riley, Kenny Washington, and Billy Hart. As a performer, Peter is equally at home in jazz, rock, funk, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, odd meter, and New Orleans drumming styles. Peter has played with Kenny Werner, Greg Osby, Diane Schuur, Ray Vega, Maynard Ferguson, Pete McCann, Kim Bock, Loren Stillman, The BMI Big Band, The Jamie Begian Big Band, Steeplechase recording artists Flow, Matt Savage, Bo Diddley, Neil Diamond, The Drifters, The Coasters, Gloria Gaynor, American Idol finalists Melinda Doolittle, Jordan Sparks, and Constantine Maroulis, and contemporary bassist and singer Adeline Michele.
As an educator, Peter teaches private lessons in jazz, rock, funk-RnB, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Caribbean drumming styles. In addition, he teaches reading, chart interpretation, brushes, soloing, rudiments and snare drum technique (fundamental concepts, Moeller and push pull).
Peter is the author of two books, Turn It Up and Lay It Down: Baby Steps to Giant Steps (Hudson Music) and Contemporary Jazz Styles for Drums (Carl Fischer). Peter received a B.A. in Jazz and Commercial Music and a B.A. in Business Administration from Capital University. He also received a M.M. in Jazz Studies from the Manhattan School of Music.
The recipient of three National Endowment for the Arts Grants, Peter is a clinician for Sabian Cymbals, Canopus Drums, Innovative Percussion, Remo, and Prologix Percussion.
Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Thursday, June 1st at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring New York jazz drummer Alvester Garnett.
Alvester Garnett is an American jazz drummer who, among many other productions, has appeared on Great Performances on PBS in a tribute to Kurt Weill. Garnett has played with Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, Regina Carter, Clark Terry, Pharoah Sanders, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Teddy Edwards, James Carter, Cyrus Chestnut, Charenee Wade, Lou Donaldson, Benny Golson, Al Grey, Rodney Jones, and Sherman Irby, and others.
German-born New York jazz drummer Jochen Rueckert was kind enough to answer a few questions about his recent release With Best Intentions featuring Mark Turner on tenor saxophone, Nils Wogram on trombone, Joris Roelofs on bass clarinet and Doug Weiss on bass.
I just released my 6th (jazz) album as a leader. It's called "With best Intentions" and features a quintet with tenor saxophone giant Mark Turner, Swiss/German trombonist Nils Wogram, Dutch bass clarinetist Joris Roelofs and NYC bass mainstay Doug Weiss. It's available at: https://jochenrueckert.bandcamp.com/album/with-best-intentions
2) How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen?
Well I have been trying to get Mark Turner and Nils Wogram together for a long time; they have been the two main pillars of my musical life - Mark has been playing in my quartet for over a decade and I have been playing in Nils's bands since 1994 or so! Mark is my favourite living tenor player and Nils is pretty much the only trombone player that doesn't do any of the stuff that makes people hate the trombone so much. I wrote almost all the songs specifically for this band, except for two quite old ones that I resurrected for this. It was pretty hard gauging if this little run of concerts in Europe and the recording were going to happen during the pandemic or not, so when it was finally confirmed I found myself a few tunes short so I dug through some old stuff. Kind of nice - in a nostalgic kind of way - to play some older unfinished stuff - like sleeping with the high school girlfriend you only got to first base with back then - at your 10 year class reunion, but in a nice hotel you paid for with money you made playing drums which she thought was just a hobby back then.
3) What inspired you to pursue the vibe and instrumentation that you did?
After four albums with guitar, tenor, and bass I wanted to try something with 3 horns and without a chordal instrument. I don't know how to write for trumpet - alto saxophone is a terrible instrument - so out of the question - and I hear my melodies more in the range of a tenor or the trombone so extending lower to the bass clarinet came naturally, especially after hearing Joris play a couple of years ago. Bass clarinet is like modern jazz fairy dust - you can sprinkle it on anything and it makes it sound better. Kind of dangerous!
I wanted to keep things kind of simple, something I often try and fail at but I think this time I actually got close, or as close as I probably can.
4) Who are your influences with regards to your style of writing and playing?
Playing - pretty much any jazz drummer known from their work in late 50s and 60's is a heavy influence then many drummers I listened to a lot during my "formative years" - the 90s : Tain, Brian Blade, Hutch and Bill Stewart.
Writing - oh boy. Duke Ellington, Wayne Shorter, Monk, Herbie Hancock, Gershwin, Bird, Bud Powell. Not that you could tell lol. Of course a lot of my peers - Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, some of Nils's writing; many of the people I play with....like Sam Yahel, Brian Charette, Sean Wayland kind of...Some less obvious folks that I steal ideas from are Olivier Messiaen, Deftones, Midlake, and other rock bands.
5) What are you practicing/studying/listening to/researching these days?
Researching: mostly how to make my son do his homework without crying and expanding his culinary palette beyond four items.
Listening: tons of electronic music, new stuff mostly, rediscovering lesser known gems from the 60s: Duke Pearson, Ahmad Jamal, Harold Land, Bobby Hutcherson etc. Some fringe things like Car bomb, I like this droney organ music by Kali Malone. I listen to whatever comes out these days, you know, by the jazz youngins, and I do go see a lot of music at the Village Vanguard, Smalls, Jazz Gallery etc. Last night I caught a glimpse of Billy Hart listening to Al Foster in Peter Bernsteins's band !
I don't have much time to practice these days - when I do it's mostly maintenance/upkeep and expanding on some odd groupings and polyrhythmic things I've been working on over the years.
6) What other current and future projects do you have on the go at the moment?
I play a lot with Fred Hersch and also piano trios with Henry Hey and Sam Yahel are back! I am doing less touring this year but am busy playing around NYC with many great musicians. I still program and perform electronic music under the alias "Wolff Parkinson White" https://wolffparkinsonwhite.bandcamp.com I have a tour with that in September. Not much jazz band leader things on the horizon, I've been a bit burnt by the booking process and am just now slowly digging out of the COVID hole. My quartet is still going though it's harder now as Mark has moved to California, Lage to Norway and travel has become very expensive.
7) How does the drums and your overall approach to rhythm factor into your compositions and concept?
Well after years of maybe overcompensating by writing things with many many chords I slowly have been pushing towards overall simplicity as I said before, though I still like to use little rhythmic devices like displacement (that song "Mark of the Beast" for example) or odd forms or meters, but much less than before. The older I get the more I realize swing is one of the main things that draws me to jazz so I have been putting a lot of emphasis on having material that swings. It's much harder to do than you'd think. It's very easy to get into iffy/cheesy territory and also easy to overachieve, leaving the band sounding uncomfortable.
8) What advice do you have for younger, aspiring jazz musicians and jazz drummers?
I hear many amazing young drummers here in NYC, I mean just tons of very great young musicians overall. I sometimes I wish I'd hear more swinging music played by the younger musicians; it is one of the hardest things to do - especially as a drummer- and in my opinion maybe eschewed by many for that reason. It is sort of the litmus test, I feel like many musicians won't think of a drummer as great until they hear them play something swinging, or at least something that feels good otherwise.
Beyond NYC my advice for young drummers would be to play along with more records, play with as many people and better or more experienced musicians you can, and really find out what it is you like about the music you like and study that intensely. I would also like to remind many folks that nobody has to be a jazz musician and that it's maybe not the most rewarding or respected or practical job of all times. Maybe you're better at something that would be more useful.
Jochen Rueckert is a jazz drummer, composer, band leader, and Oxford Comma-enthusiast born in Germany in 1975, currently residing in New York City.
Besides a decade of touring with his own quartet with Mark Turner, Lage Lund, and Matt Penman, he is known for his work recent work in Melissa Aldana's and Fred Hersch's trios, the mid-2000 Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet, Nils Wogram's Root 70, 12 years of the Marc Copland trio, his electronic music programmed under the alias "Wolff Parkinson White", as well as his series of ebooks aptly titled "Read the Rueckert - travel observations and pictures of hotel rooms". Jochen's deliberate avoidance of formal music education, albeit initially for budgetary reasons, provides a great lack of erudite nonsense in his playing and writing. He's celebrating his 6th album as a leader, titled "With Best Intentions".
This is a blog about jazz, jazz drumming and all things unrelated. Thanks for stopping by!
A Bit About Me...
Jonathan McCaslin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. Jonathan began playing the drums at the age of nine. He progressed through the Regina Lions Junior Band and the music program at his high school, Campbell Collegiate, soon developing a passion for playing the drums and jazz. Ultimately, Jon's interest in music led him to enroll in the Jazz Studies program at McGill University, graduating with distinction in 1999.
While at McGill Jon had the opportunity to study with some of the finest jazz educators in the country including Gordon Foote, Kevin Dean, Jan Jarcyzk, Chris McCann, Andre White, Michel Lambert and Dave Laing. He also attended the prestigious summer jazz workshop presented by the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1997, where he performed with Canadian jazz greats Hugh Fraser, Don Thompson and Kenny Wheeler.
Jon has also been fortunate to have performed with many of Canada's jazz elite including Charlie Biddle, Brian Hurley, Louise Rose, Alaister Kay, Mart Kinny, Gary Guthman, Mike Rud, Hadley Caliman, Greg Clayton, Chase Sanborn, Andre White, Tilden Webb, John LaBelle, Kevin Dean, Dave Turner, Ralph Bowen, Don Thompson, Dionne Taylor, Jim Vivian, Kelly Jefferson, Ian McDougall, Brad Turner, Jim Brenan, The McGill Jazz Orchestra, Jeff Johnston, Lorraine Desmerais, Steve Amirault, Hugh Fraser, Chucho Valdes, Kieran Overs, The Altsys Jazz Orchestra, Pat LaBarbera, The Regina Symphony Orchestra and The Montreal Jazz Big Band.
In the spring of 2002 McCaslin completed his Master's in Jazz Studies at McGill University where he studied jazz drumming, improvisation and composition.
In January 2003 Jon released his debut CD, “McCallum’s Island”. Featuring his quintet, the CD contains an exciting collection of McCaslin’s original compositions, featuring himself and his band. The release of this CD was followed by a twenty-day tour of Western Canada, performing to enthusiastic, capacity audiences. During March of 2003 Jonathan was the recipient of a fellowship from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and attended the “Betty Carter Jazz Ahead” residency in Washington, D.C. Along with twenty other distinguished young jazz artists, McCaslin was featured with such jazz icons as Terence Blanchard, Carmen Lundy, Winard Harper, Curtis Fuller and John Clayton.
McCaslin’s quintet performed at the 2003 edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival and was nominated for the General Motors Grand Prix du Festival (awarded to the most outstanding Canadian group). From 2004 until 2006, Jon toured North America, Asia and Europe with the high-energy, critically acclaimed music production troupe “Barrage”. Featuring a cast of seven world-class fiddlers and a four-piece band, this dynamic show featured high-energy music and fiddle traditions from around the world set to upbeat choreography and movement.
In 2015, Dr. McCaslin received his Doctorate through the University of Toronto and completed his dissertation on the conceptualization of contemporary melodic jazz drumming. He is currently based in Calgary, Alberta where he maintains a busy performing and teaching schedule across Canada.