Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Action Photos !

photo courtesy of Tracy Kolenchuk

And this one is of me playing with John Patitucci:

And no, I don't play my ride cymbal like that, completely angled like Al Foster. The camera just caught me mid-crash pretending to be Brian Blade...

Sunday, September 27, 2009


People often ask me where "swing" comes from...
Well, I'm pretty sure that these guys had something to do with it !

Unfortunately, people today (jazz musicians in particular) often overlook the fact that jazz music was born out of playing for dancers and that the relationship between the music and entertainment/vaudeville was a very strong one. The beat that we call "swing" came from playing for dancers.

The vocabulary that early drummer's such as Chick Webb, Papa Jo Jones, etc. all developed and used had a direct relationship to the language and techniques used by their tap dancing counterparts. It's really no surprise that Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and Jo Jones were also very competent tap dancers in their own right.

There is an important recording of Papa Jo Jones called "The Drums" in which he discusses AND demonstrates the great tap dancers that influenced his playing.

I also once attended a clinic with jazz drummer Clayton Cameron (who's performed with Tony Bennett) and he demonstrated, in detail, the different styles of tap dancing and how he could imitate that with the brushes.

Some pretty slick moves in that first clip with Sammy Davis Jr. and the other "Legends of Tap" (from the movie "Tap" - not a very good movie, but this scene imo makes it worth it!). I could only imagine what it would be like to have their jazz drumming counterparts all the same room at that age, dueling it out and trading licks like that !

I also like it how they put Gregory Hines in his place : )
Hines was basically the "Tony Williams" of tap dancing !

Challenge !

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What am I listening to these days? September 2009

Here's some albums that have been making the playlist around the house these days:

Ed Thigpen
"Out of the Storm"
Ed Thigpen - drums

Buddy Rich Sextet
"Blues Caravan"
Buddy Rich - drums
Mike Mainieri - vibraphone

Bobby Hutcherson
"Stick Up"
Billy Higgins- drums
Bobby Hutcherson - vibraphone

Kevin Hays
"7th Sense"
Brian Blade - drums
Steve Nelson - vibraphone

Art Taylor
"A.T.'s Delight"
Art Taylor - drums

Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock and Roy Hargrove
"Directions in Music - Live at Massy Hall"
Brian Blade - drums

Jerry Gonzalez and The Fort Apache Band
"Rhumba Para Monk"
Steve Berrios - drums and percussion

Karl Berger
Ed Blackwell - drums
Karl Berger - vibraphone

Mongo Santamaria
Mongo Santamaria - percussion

Friday, September 18, 2009

Some Tony Williams...

Here's an incredible drum solo from Tony Williams.

There's not much footage of "early" Tony soloing (let alone on an extended solo) so this is quite the find !

Hey, if anyone comes across footage of the Miles Davis Quintet (with Tony Williams) playing on the Steve Allen Show, can you please forward the link to me ?

This was one of Wayne Shorter's first gigs with the band. Specifically, I'm looking for the footage of them playing "No Blues" (also known as "Pfrancing"). Tony plays a short but mean solo over the form on that one too.

Terry Clarke showed me a video of that once but haven't been able to track it down since !

A Love Supreme - Video Footage !

I had no idea that this existed...

Bob McLaren, Al McLean and jazz tenor players around the world are going to flip when they see this !!!

Caravan Drum Patterns

My good friend and music educator Nick Fanner asked me about which drum patterns I like to use when playing the Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol tune "Caravan" and that I would recommend teaching to beginner/intermediate jazz drummers.

There have been many versions and approaches to this piece over the years, but here are some very basic patterns and a couple of variations which are relatively easy to learn and sound/feel reasonably authentic.

These patterns were all inspired from drummers I've heard over the years such as Art Blakey, John Riley, Stanton Moore, Shannon Powell and Peter Erskine.

Of course you can experiment with the left hand playing different combinations of drums and crosstick patterns among other variations.

There are also more specific foot patterns for these kind of grooves, but if you don't over emphasize the quarter note bass drum/hi-hat patterns that I've written out, they work fine.

Maybe not so authentic, but they work !

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wynton Marsalis & The Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra

Last night took me to the Banff Centre for the Arts where I attended a concert featuring Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Having heard them in both Montreal and Toronto, this is the third time I've seen this group and it was definitely the best performance I've seen of them yet.

Performing to a capacity crowd, the orchestra played pieces drawn mostly from the classic "Blue Note" era (i.e. pieces by Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Thelonius Monk, Lou Donaldson) with all the arrangements penned by members of the orchestra itself.

Last year in Toronto I was a little disappointed with the arranging in that the focus was heavily more focused on the soloists rather than the ensemble. However, last night the balance seemed more even and featured not only great soloists but tight ensemble playing and more extensive writing.

A few notable things that stood out:

- McGill alumni Paul Nedzela filling in for Joe Temperly on Baritone Saxophone. Way to go Paul !

- James Zollar, whom I remembered from my days in New York following around the Matt Wilson "Educational" Quartet, was astounding on his muted trumpet feature on Duke Ellington's "Portrait of Mahalia Jackson" (from Ellingtons "New Orleans Suite")

- Ted Nash's tongue-in-cheek arrangement of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"

- Wynton's own arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Ugly Beauty" was a crafty feature for the saxophone section

- The rhythm section was rock solid and of course drummer Ali Jackson Jr. - you are my hero !

I should also take this opportunity to say what a delight it was to hear the band so perfectly sound-wise. The sound engineers did a fantastic job of managing the sound. In my experience this is very rare. Most of the time, sound engineers don't have a clue what they are doing when it comes to jazz music. But the crew at the Banff Centre did an excellent job of amplifying what was needed without the need to over amplify anything or replace the acoustics of the band with unneeded micing.

Well done !

Ali Jackson Jr. - Swingin' !

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Toronto jazz pianist and Star Trek aficionado Gerry Shatford sent me this great link that has some footage of the jazz percussion ensemble M'Boom.

It's a television spot from a little known music variety show called SOUL! in which the program featured predominately African-American performers.

Here's the link to the footage:


Sorry - I wasn't able to embed this one...

Max Roach founded this innovative percussion ensemble in 1970 as a means to combine traditional concert percussion instruments with world percussion and a distinct "jazz" sensibility.

I purchased the M'Boom album "M'Boom: Live at S.O.B.'s" when I was a teenager and not only dug their unique approach but also the tympani players soloing on "Blue Monk" and the musician who played musical Saw (!)

For more music from this amazing ensemble, check this out:


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Table Tennis = The Secret to Jazz ?


Don't forget that Wayne Shorter wrote a tune called "PING PONG" on this album:

And if you feel the need to catch New York's finest jazz talent while playing a game of table tennis or another type of parlour game, don't forget this joint:


I could be on to something here...


"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress your self with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. 
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

- Found in St. Pauls Church, Baltimore 1692

Friday, September 4, 2009

Learn Your Rudiments !

During some research I conducted for one of my DMA Jazz pedagogy seminars last year at the University of Toronto, I came across a disturbing article entitled "The Anti-Rudiment Man". I won't reprint the article or call out the author by name here, but I was angered that this supposed "professional" jazz drummer (who clearly isn't) decided to focus on downplaying the importance of drummers learning the basic snare drum rudiments and the role that these patterns have played in developing the language of jazz drumming.

You would never tell a pianist or horn player to abandon the study of scales and learning the rudiments for a drummer, no matter what style, is no different. The rudiments, like scales for a horn player, are the building blocks which everything we play as drummers are based. It's up to a drummer to apply them in a musical fashion, but none-the-less you can't ignore them. And all the great jazz drummers - from Baby Dodds, Chick Webb, Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke to Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette, etc. have all studied and used the rudiments in their playing in some capacity.

So having said this and for your reference, here are the standard 40 PAS (Percussive Arts Society) Rudiments:


And here they are organized thanks to the kind folks at Vic Firth. By the way, I've been enjoying your latest line of pepper shakers Mr. Firth !


Ahhhh yes, enjoy freshly ground pepper on your meal while practicing these patterns:


Additionally, the legendary Boston teacher Alan Dawson (who taught Tony Williams among dozens of other world-class drummers) arranged the rudiments and some variations into a sort of drum set "etude" he liked to call the Rudimental Ritual.

Dawson had his students practice the "Ritual" with a samba bass drum and hihat pattern. Once his students mastered the routine with sticks, he would also have them play it through with brushes. Takes awhile. Trust me...

Here it is for your reference:


Check out the audio files on this site of Dawson demonstrating his creation.

If the rudiments were good enough for Alan Dawson and Tony Williams - I'm sure the rest of us can work on them !

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tyshawn Sorey on playing "Free" music...

Up-and-coming New York jazz drummer and composer Tyshawn Sorey was recently interviewed in Modern Drummer magazine. Tyshawn is a musical force and everyone in jazz circles will soon be talking about him (if they aren't already!).

I thought I would include a portion of his interview which I found particularly inspiring. In this day of jazz-related dialogue, argument and commentary in regards to playing "free" vs. "straight-ahead", etc. I think that Sorey puts things in a very thoughtful perspective.

MD: What's your approach to free music ?

Tyshawn: Well, I like to believe that I play free all the time. [laughs] In other words, I don't consider myself an avant-gardist, jazz purist, or any kind of stylist. I guess I'd call myself a traditionalist - not in the way we think of what a traditionalist is, but there is a tradition in all of the great masters we study that makes them great masters. I mean, they were "free" players also - free in the way they expressed themselves whenever, with whomever. Freedom for me is having enough resources in your drumming that you can do anything you want to do, coupled with discipline and the willingness to bring the best out of the other musicians you play with. Listen to Louis Armstrong recordings, and then to the stuff that Kenny Clarke and Max Roach did with Charlie Parker, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown - I mean, to me that shit is just as free as what we call avant-garde. I don't think there is any qualitative difference there, in terms of how free they play themselves. So I would like to think I can have this kind of freedom, where I can be as creative as I can be and be able to play with anybody, in any style. And it comes from within yourself, and from discipline. It's like what Elvin Jones once said: "If you don't know what discipline is, then you don't know freedom either."

[from "Tyshawn Sorey", story by IIya Stemkovsky, Modern Drummer - September 2009]

That's deep !

Here's a great clip of Tyshawn being interviewed at Drummer World in New York and him talking about his role as a drummer/composer: