Monday, November 30, 2009

Ralph Peterson Jr.

I've been a long time admirer of the powerhouse drumming of Ralph Peterson Jr. A disciple of Art Blakey and currently a professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Peterson has been a force in jazz since the 1980s (leading such groups as his "Fo'Tet") and represents an aggressive and no-holds-barred approach to jazz drumming.

I was particularly intrigued by the first clip below. In this solo, notice Peterson's extensive use of "rudimental" snare drum vocabulary. In fact, I think he's just playing a snare and bass drum shared with a couple of cymbals. He really explores rhythm using a limited amount of sound sources very well and swings hard !

As a teacher, I understand that he has his students study the Alan Dawson "Rudimental Ritual" exercise religiously and I think that it comes across quite beautifully in his playing here:

As you'll notice, Peterson hits the drums quite hard and with a lot force but still manages to get a great sound out of the drums - this is hard and requires a lot finesse ! I was reminded of another great jazz drummer, "Philly Joe Jones", who was also a real student of snare drumming and of applying the rudiments to the drum set. In fact, "Philly" was renowned for his use of the Charlie Wilcoxin book "Rudimental Swing Solos for the Modern Drummer". Pay attention to the motion of Jones' snare drum playing on this clip of him playing with Bill Evans and Marc Johnson:

Anyways, the lesson I get from watching Peterson and Jones play like this is the motion of their strokes. Generally I try to keep my hands closer to the snare drum, but when you want to play out and get a bigger sound from your instrument, I think these two examples show how to do it. Nice and loose with a big motion and, consequently, a big fat sound coming out of the drum.

Quite the Impact !

Here are a few more clips of Ralph Peterson Jr. doing his thing:

(of course showing off his beautiful Bosphorus cymbals !!!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

More Christian McBride...

This time with the young lion Ulysses Owens on drums on the up-tempo flag waver "Cherokee":

Nice uptempo playing and trading back-and-forth between McBride & Owens on that one !

Here's another nice clip of Ulysses demonstrating his great chops:


Oh yes, before I forget:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christian McBride & Inside Straight w/ Carl Allen

I've been digging McBride's latest album as a leader and was happy to come across a great live, swingin' set of music captured on streaming video featuring Christian McBride and his current band "Inside Straight" courtesy of the kind folks at NPR and the Village Vanguard:


This band features a very talented and very AWESOME young vibraphonist by the name of Warren Wolfe and a long-time favorite of mine, Carl Allen on drums.

I was fortunate to study a bit with Carl several years ago in New York. Capturing a deep sense of swing throughout everything we do as drummers was a constant theme during my lessons with Carl and these youtube.com vignettes capture that very clearly. Here's some clips of Carl doing his thing:

Carl Allen with Christian McBride and "Inside Straight":

The "New York Jazz All-Stars" live at the Newport Jazz Festival:

(Dig Mulgrew Miller on piano - WHOA !!)

Some slick brush work in trio with Benny Green and Ben Wolfe:

Here's another trio of Carl playing with Hank Jones and George Mraz:

And here's Carl endorsing some drum heads (and playing great !)

You can learn more about Carl Allen at his website: www.carlallen.com

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Get your groove on with Jim Payne

During my PASIC travels two weeks ago in Indianapolis, I was overwhelmed with the amount of new instruments, products, cymbals, drums, books and DVD's that were all being featured in the exhibit area. Too many nice Zildjian K. Constantinople cymbals to choose from !

One book that did catch my eye was New York drummer Jim Payne's latest book entitled "Advanced Funk Drumming".

Some great clips from the book & DVD on a page at www.drummerworld.com devoted to drummer Jim Payne:


A groovy sample from youtube.com:

Honestly, I forgot to pick this one up during PASIC (!) but I will eventually. Jim's got a great method and collection of grooves here and will impress anyone who's interested in the history and method of contemporary funk drumming.

And course you can see from these web clips that he grooves his butt off too !

There is also lots of great information and further lessons on Jim's website at:



Oh yes, today's a big day in RIDER NATION as my beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders take on the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL Western Final (being hosted in Regina, Saskatchewan)


Thursday, November 19, 2009

What am I listening to these days? November 2009

I've been on the road quite a bit over the past two months, so lots of time to check out interesting music during my travels.

Here's some music that's been making the rounds on my iPod and otherwise lately:

"The Hobbit" - J.R.R. Tolkien
BBC Radio dramatization
Bilbo Baggins - drums
Gandalf the Grey - vibraphone

Matt Wilson & Lee Konitz
"Solos: The Jazz Sessions" DVD
Matt Wilson - drums

Joe Lovano
"US Five"
Francisco Mela - drums
Otis Brown III - drums

Tommy Flanagan
"Sea Changes"
Lewis Nash - drums

Ralph Bowen
"Soul Proprietor"
Brian Blade - drums

Mike Murley & Dave Liebman Quartet
CBC Radio Broadcast
Live @ The Rex, January 2008
Ian Froman - drums

Sonny Clark
"Sonny Clark Trio"
Philly Joe Jones - drums

Terry Clarke
"It's About Time"
Terry Clarke - drums

Stan Getz
"At Storyville - Vol. 1 & 2"
Tiny Kahn - drums

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sonny Rollins on the Relevance of Jazz

Some thoughtful and inspiring words from the Saxophone Colossus himself, Sonny Rollins from an interview with Jason Crane at www.jazzsession.com via Peter Hum at the Ottawa Citizen (nice find Peter!)

“I think that the relevance of jazz depends on what you think jazz is. For instance, if you think that jazz is a piano trio playing in a small nightclub — they’re good musicians, maybe have a girl singer — and you come in and there are people smoking and sitting at tables … if that is your conception of jazz then of course jazz is not relevant, because that refers to a time and place. Jazz is something which is much bigger. Jazz has to do with freedom of expression. So is jazz still relevant? Of course, because there are always people trying to express themselves in music. I think of jazz as having the big umbrella, so that a lot of styles of music that have merged over the years all fall under the umbrella of jazz. The act of trying to create something musically and spontaneously is something that is a part of life. It’s like the weather — it’s always there. Jazz as something that fits into a narrow little remembrance, no, that kind of jazz is not relevant. But jazz is as relevant today as the yearning for people to be free. That’s how relevant jazz is.”

- Sonny Rollins in conversation with Jason Crane

*Check out Crane's excellent website that features many, many interviews with the Masters.

Ian Froman Vic Firth Drum Lessons

Some very informative footage of Ian Froman demonstrating his approach to contemporary jazz timekeeping on the drum set courtesy of www.vicfirth.com

Ian, originally from Ottawa, is a very accomplished drummer and teacher who teaches at the Berklee College of Music and has performed with the likes of Dave Liebman, Metalwood, Jake Langley and Mike Murley among many others.

I had the pleasure of seeing Ian play quite a bit during my time in Toronto. Sometimes, it almost seemed like he was living in Toronto as he was around so much !

There is a CBC recording floating around the web of Froman playing drums Mike Murley, Dave Liebman and Jim Vivian at the Rex Hotel & Jazz Club recorded during the 2008 IAJE Conference in Toronto (or was it an IAJE funeral ???).

Check that out if you can find it !

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yoron Israel

Last week at the PASIC 2009 conference in Indianapolis, amongst the many, many amazing concerts and master classes that I was fortunate to attend, I was lucky to catch a long-time favorite drummer of mine perform - Yoron Israel.

Yoron is a great jazz drummer and teaches at the Berklee College of Music. I took a few lessons with Yoron while spending some time in Boston performing with the stage production "Barrage" back in 2004.

The first time I heard Yoron play was actually at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in 1996 with Joe Lovano's Quartet. He had just released his double album "Quartets" (another keeper that features drummers Billy Hart and Lewis Nash) and was touring and performing music from that album. From the first notes of Lovano's "Fort Worth", Israel's drumming left a significant impression on me as a drummer.

Yoron has produced an excellent and well-articulated DVD entitled "Creative Jazz Improvisation for Drum Set" and features concise and practical approaches to being creative and playing musical drum solos.

A few sample clips can be found on-line:

And here's a great Second-Line version of Thelonious Monk's "Bright Mississippi" with Dr. Lonnie Smith:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with Albert "Tootie" Heath...

Check out a great interview with jazz drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath at pianist Ethan Iverson's blog !!!


If you dig further, you'll also find another great interview with drummer Billy Hart that Ethan did a few years ago. Lots of great information there.

Thanks Ethan !

(nice playing in London at Ronnie Scott's last month btw)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

PASIC 2009 - Day 4

Good god I'm almost to the point of exhaustion here but today was another tour-de-force at PASIC 2009. I'm sad that it has come to an end and I had a great time but I'm not sure my body can take much more of this !

Today was another action packed day featuring many of the world's top percussionists.

Here's the roll call of the highlights of my day:

- Legendary big band drummer Ed Shaughnessy gave a morning session on basic timekeeping and ride cymbal techniques. Ed also related some personal anecdotes about his early days playing on 52nd street during the late 40s and his relationship with Buddy Rich. Ed is truly one of the last from a quickly disappearing generation of jazz drummers. One of the "Last of the Mohicans", so-to-speak, so I'm glad to hear him play and talk.

- Victor Rendon, Memo Acevedo and friends gave a high-energy and super groovy performance/masterclass regarding some specific Afro-Latin grooves including the mozambique, cumbia and bembe rhythms. I really appreciated the contextualization and explanations given about these rhythms. These guys obviously know their stuff. I've known Memo since my trip to Cuba to 2006 and he is a great soul. Memo is the man !

Thanks also to Marco at Vic Firth for the free LP egg shakers that were distributed before the show. Man, with a room full of drummers that could have been a recipe for trouble... : )

- Skip Hadden, Berklee professor and author of one of my favorite drum instructional books, "Broken Straight-Eighth Playing", gave an insightful clinic about the history and development of the jazz fusion movement of the late 60s and 70s.

- James Campbell presented an incredibly organized and articulate session about basic fundamental snare drum technique and stressed that we should be teaching young drummers to think more about the motion and sounds we are making just as much as the sticking and rhythmic patterns we play. He is a very good teacher !

- Wandering through the exhibit hall my friend, Jonathan Eng, and I stopped by the General Washington snare drum booth. We spent time talking and getting an in-depth history lesson with rudimental snare drum expert George P. Carroll. WOW !!! This guy knows everything there is to know about civil war/american revolutionary war rudimental rope tension snare drumming. We even played a bit on some of his beautiful drums (that he makes). Boy those things were loud....although I can see why (makes sense if you were competing with artillery on a battlefield!).

- I spent some time at the Sabian cymbal booth and tried out the new Jack DeJohnette "Three point" ride cymbals that they had on display. Nice cymbals and an interesting concept. Quite a departure from Jack's previous lines of cymbals he had developed with Sabian in the last 20 years. But I actually dig these sounds more than the previous ones and I think they are more similar in concept to his cymbal sound of the 70s when he played Paiste cymbals (not nearly as dry?) Of course Jack could play a tin can and an ashtray and make them sound good !!!

- Cynthia Yeh, the new principal percussionist with the Chicago Symphony, gave a great session on making the most music out of orchestral excerpts and really putting a thoughtful and personal touch to phrasing those passages. An incredibly gifted and musical person. Quite a departure from my field of study - but I learned something. Each note counts and you can pack alot into one stroke !

- I attended a drum set panel discussion entitled "Using Technology in the Teaching Studio". Artists including Dom Famularo, Tommy Igoe, Benny Greb and Kim Plainfield (among others) offered an insightful discussion about using DVD's and recording technology to assist in motivating and informing students. The future is now !

- Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band "Live from New York" were featured on Saturday's closing concert with percussionist
Rolando Morales-Matos. This was a no-holds-barred set and the band put it into fifth-gear from the first note. It was REALLY loud ! Rolando was outstanding on congas, timbales, some alien looking steel pan type of drum (from Switzerland apparently?) and, despite the fact that his instrument was literally self-destructing on stage while he played, his vibraphone features were very creative, full of high energy and sounded great. I would love to hear this cat when his vibes aren't falling apart ! This guy smokes !!!

And now the final installment of....


Saturday, November 14th - 2009

Well, today's FOUR ON THE FLOOR MVP AWARD is a bit of a no-brainer and goes to one of my all-time favorite jazz drummers - Jack DeJohnette !

Jack performed a non-stop improvised drum "concerto" for about 45 minutes in front of a capacity crowd this afternoon. I was lucky to be stage centre in about the 5th row. He didn't say much before he started, just a few thank you's and that he would "open himself up to the cosmic continuum" for inspiration.

Here's a short clip of Jack doing his thing:

His solo began with a series of mallet crashes on his hi-hats and used the microphone he had been speaking on to amplify the overtones of his cymbals while they resonated. And they sang !!! I swear he was getting chords out of his cymbals....Continuing to the drums, Jack explored the melodic elements of his sizeable drum set, eventually settling into a motif that recalled John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". Eventually, after continuing for several minutes he paused and stated that he was going to play his tribute to the great drummers of Motown. And Jack proceed to groove in the most beautiful groovy back beat way that Jack does. He explored various tempos and textures on the drums during his statement - fast broken swing, loose funky grooves and melodic passages on the tomtoms. His sense of phrasing and rhythmic architecture was amazing. The way he connects sections and flows from one idea to the next was very moving. His new Sabian cymbals sounded fantastic.

I was in heaven.

Now I just need to get some sleep....

Friday, November 13, 2009

PASIC 2009 - Day 3

Well today was yet another marathon of great drums, percussion and music at PASIC 2009 here in Indianapolis, Indiana.

It's getting very difficult to choose what to see.
There is too much good stuff to choose from !!!

(but I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing....)

Here are my latest dispatches from the front lines:

- Steve Fidyk, drummer with the U.S. Army Jazz Band, gave a great clinic on the benefits and process of transcribing and learning beats and vocabulary from the Masters - something every drummer should engage themselves in. By demonstrating the transcription process in real time with help from the audience, Steve had everyone listen and learn from such drummers as Tony Williams, Art Blakey, Joe Morello, Ringo Starr and Harvey Mason.

- Diane Downs and the Louisville Leopards Percussionists were an absolute ball to listen to. The ensemble consists of 40 or so students all between the ages of 7 and 12 !!! The results were outstanding and an inspiring concert of little people playing their hearts out. I really dug the tambourine second-line in the back row of the stage during the ensembles rendition of the Jackson Five's hit tune "ABC".

Here's a video clip of the Leopards performing at an IAJE concert from a few years ago to give you an idea of what they do:

- New York drum set artist Tobias Ralph demonstrated a contemporary and advanced approach to modern drum set groove playing. Lots of chops and an interesting approach to over-the-barline figures.

- Jazz Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard performed in a duet with Berklee professor and drummer Yoron Israel. Lots of great playing here from both Jay and Yoron. Hoggard is clearly steeped in the tradition, offered beautiful original compositions and I really enjoyed the seldom heard instrumental texture and combination of just the drums & vibraphone duet instrumentation.
(reminds of the Karl Berger/Ed Blackwell duet recording I have heard)

- John Wooton offered a great concert on steel drums. This is an instrument I'm interested in but have yet to have any exposure to. I always knew of John as a drum corps guy from his days with the Phantom Regiment, so I was impressed to see another side to his musicianship (which was outstanding !)

-Japanese drummer and Yamaha, Remo, Zildjian and Vic Firth artist Akira Jimbo (well, were reminded weren't we ? ;-) was over the top with his ridiculous chops and play-alongs to triggered melodies and grooves.

- Vibraphonist Dick Sisto with his quartet featuring Ed Soph on drums was a great contemporary jazz set featured on the late-night series at the Westin. I had a hard time trying to figure out who to watch more - Ed or Dick - they are both such masters on their instruments, and both instruments that I'm trying to master myself !!!

And now....


Thursday, November 14th - 2009

Todays FOUR ON THE FLOOR PASIC 2009 MVP AWARD goes to a session I chanced upon. Neither the session nor the artist were even mentioned in the general program (a late addition perhaps?). However, I did notice his name in the schedule-at-a-glance and decided to check him out.

Well, I'm glad I did !!!

The session featured Abbos Kosimov from Uzbekistan - a master frame drummer from Central Asia. He demonstrated basic strokes and time signature patterns for each of his frame drums and then proceed to bring the house down with his extended solos. His sound and technique was beautiful. This may be the best session I've seen so far this year at PASIC and I'm glad that the audience reacted with such enthusiasm and several standing applauses. This guy is a monster but clearly a down-to-earth and humble individual.

Now I just need to find out what his instruments are called !!!


A poster to my blog has kindly informed me that this instrument he plays is called the Doyra and you can find out more about this artist at his website:


Thursday, November 12, 2009

PASIC 2009 - Day 2

Well folks, lots to report after day two at my inaugural PASIC festival here in Indianapolis.

Here are the highlights of my day:

- Maria Martinez gave a great clinic this morning on applying rudimental flam exercises on the drum set and using them in a Latin/Brazilian context. Some little kid got up to work with Maria and he smoked !!! I'm sure he'll be presenting at next years PASIC...

- The Spectrum Trio, a great ensemble of young percussionists from Wisconsin, performed original arrangements inspired from the African diaspora and such other groups as Africa West and Talking Drums.

- Bob Breithaupt and Garwood Whaley offered an informative and business orientated panel discussion on how to pursue a career as a percussionist.

- A back-to-basics clinic on applications of the rudiments on the drum set from Berklee professor Sergio Bellotti. He sure likes those "40 Essential Rudiments" posters that Vic Firth is giving away.... : ) Very entertaining and informative.

- I enjoyed playing and testing out the K Constantinople ride cymbals that Zildjian had on display at their booth in the exhibition hall. In particular, the Kenny Washington prototypes were really nice and I hope to hear more artist collaboration cymbals like this in the future. The KW's had a great sound and were surprisingly bright compared to what I had expected. Quite a noticeable difference and contrast from the other K Con's that I've played/owned/heard. Too many nice cymbals to choose from. I had to restrain myself from buying another one !

- Drum set artists Zoro and Daniel Glass offered a very informative and entertaining clinic about the early roots of rock'n roll and early R&B music. These guys grooved their butts off !!! Certainly a theme of "the past is the future" resonated throughout. I especially enjoyed the drum duet. Daniel Glass sounds like a modern, groovy Gene Krupa and Zoro laid it down and, even as he soloed, still respected the groove and expressed himself with a great sound, deep pocket and musicality. Thank you for this you guys !

- The evening concert featuring the Ju Percussion Group from Taiwan was outstanding. The program featured their Taiwanese/Chinese roots and I was overall very impressed with their musicality, especially on the marimba/mallets pieces. I also enjoyed their repetoire. It was very nice to hear some beautiful melodies played by an entertaining group of musicians who were clearly enjoying themselves. This group also wins the prize for the best printed program of the conference. Great presentation ! Who's your publicist ???

- Some smokin' Salsa and Afro-Cuban grooves at the late night set featuring the Lalo Davila and Friends Salsa Band at the Westin this evening. However, what's up with the $7 dollar beers ???

And now....


Thursday, November 12th - 2009

Today's outstanding group (in my humble opinion) was the University of North Texas Gamelan orchestra which hit the gig HARD at 9 am this morning. I was blown away with pretty much everything this group had to offer. The music was outstanding in all facets. I don't really know much about this style of music but this well rehearsed group clearly had their act together. I was blown away and have never seen anything quite like this before. Complex EVERYTHING and not a piece of written music in sight. Thank you ! I think it's time for me to check out some Indonesian Gamelan music....

....and get some sleep !

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

PASIC 2009 - Day 1

Greetings from Indiana !

(or as my colleague Patrick Boyle calls it: "The Home of David Letterman and David Baker" - hmmm...maybe those two should collaborate and come out with a list of the "Top Ten Ways to Learn How to Play Bebop" ? Just a random thought...)

I spent my first day at my first PASIC conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. I've been looking forward to this for many years now.

Today was sort of a prelude to the conference, known as "Focus Day". This year's theme is that of the "Global Economy" (hosted by Greg Beyer) and featured music from around the world presented in a contemporary, symbiotic and collaborative format. Many outstanding performances from percussionists all over the globe spanning various styles and instruments in a very forward thinking and thought provoking manner. So many envelopes were pushed in so many different ways today.

There was an incredible volume of great music presented today (no masterclasses, just concerts) and these are the ones that stood out to me:

- Fernado Rocha's performance of "Duo for Pandeiro and Laptop" (by Fernando Rocha and Joseph Malloch). Some beautiful contemporary pandeiro playing here with an effective use of delays and computer effects.

- Jordan Munson's performance on frame drum on "Those That I Do Not Hate". Great use of getting different sounds and textures out of one drum accompanying a stirring video installation.

- Beverly Johnston (of University of Toronto fame !) was outstanding on her marimba work on "Fertility Rites" by Christos Hatzis (damn - I should have taken his percussion composition class last year....oh well)

- "Mad Cow" written and performed by U of T graduate David Carlisle. Wow - what a great demonstration of how to integrate a quasi-drum set within a contemporary percussion approach. Some ridiculous coordination there !

- Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez performing music from "Song of The Bird King". A very musical combination of drum set, laptop computer, groovy cajon and some kind of beautiful Indonesian tuned gong bells. Music with a very poignant message.

- The University of Wisconsin/Madison Graduate Percussion Ensemble's performance of "Concerto for Darrabukka and Percussion Quartet". This was very well done and I particularly appreciated the lead soloist (a professor perhaps ?) who demonstrated his proficiency on the darrabukka with the utmost taste and musicality.

And now...


Wednesday, November 11th - 2009

Today's FOUR ON THE FLOOR PASIC MVP AWARD goes to Dan Weiss, a New York City contemporary jazz drummer who performed his innovative piece "Tintal Drumset Solo". Basically, Weiss is a studied tabla player as well as a monster jazz drummer and he took an entire traditional classical tabla solo and adapted it, literally, on the drum set (!)

Yikes - his control, phrasing, understanding and application of Indian tabla vocabulary was BRILLIANT !!! I can only imagine how long it must have taken him to get this together. I'm pretty sure that there is no one else doing what he does so well on this planet these days (I could be wrong - Trilok Gurtu perhaps?) Anyways, Dan is clearly a dedicated spirit when it comes to drumming and music. It really showed in his performance this afternoon. In the written concert notes, Weiss had the following to say:

"I strongly believe that I have a duty to be the best musician I can be in order to be the best person I can be. I practice very intensely to transform my being and in turn transform others. That is the best I can hope to be in this lifetime."

Some deep and inspiring thoughts from drummer Dan Weiss that clearly translates into deep music....it was very moving.

Here is some video footage of Dan performing his piece "Tintal Drumset Solo":

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Matt Wilson w/Dave Liebman & Ed Saindon

Some great footage today of two of my favorite musicians: drummer Matt Wilson and saxophonist Dave Liebman featured with vibraphonist Ed Saindon and his quartet from a concert recorded earlier this year.

I recently discovered Ed's music via the vicfirth website www.vicfirth.com. Ed Saindon is an incredible vibraphonist very much in the Gary Burton tradition of vibraphone playing and he is a very accomplished educator as well. I think he teaches at the Berklee College of Music. I've found his instructional video clips to be very helpful (being an aspiring vibraphonist myself !)

And of course it's always inspiring and motivating to hear Dave Liebman play - no matter with whom or in whatever context !

Drummer Matt Wilson is a good friend of mine and I was VERY fortunate to study with him in 2004 sponsored by a generous grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Our lessons were extensive and we spent quite a bit of time together. Matt was very generous with his time and knowledge and I'll forever be thankful for that experience.

In terms of our lessons, once we got through some technical drum stuff (which didn't take long - but I'm still working on his exercises five years later !) we spend a lot of time talking about making MUSIC on the drums and different ways to inspire the creative process on the drum set. I took home a lot of deep concepts and things to think about and practice. To this day I still go back to listen and learn from the recordings I made of his lessons. Still much to practice !!!

Matt is a bit of a celebrity these days appearing on the covers of the November issues of Downbeat AND Jazz Times magazines and with a featured column in Modern Drummer (!)

Way to go Matt !

Anyways, here are a few delightful clips of Matt doing his thing:

(dig those nice Craviatto drums he's playing on)

(a Craviatto or vintage Gretsch juicer perhaps ???)

Coming soon: updates from PASIC 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Claude Ranger Drum Exercises

Further to my previous post regarding Canadian jazz drummer Claude Ranger, here are some of his exercises that he passed on to his students. I got these from Bob McLaren in Toronto. If you ever have a chance to study with Bob, there is plenty more where these come from !

These particular exercises deal with left hand independence on the drumset from a melodic approach. These patterns, written out below, are meant to be played with the right hand playing the jazz ride cymbal pattern and left foot playing 2 & 4 on the hi-hat (or, alternatively, on all 4 beats).

Play the written figures with the left hand - voicing the rhythms accordingly:

Top space = tom tom
2nd space = snare drum
3rd space = floor tom
Bottom space = bass drum

You can practice the patterns in one, two or three bar cells - or play the whole page down as an etude.

To get that authentic "Claude" feel, I'd also suggest chain smoking while playing through these patterns !

I also received a nice e.mail from Canadian jazz author and former jazz critic for the Globe & Mail, Mark Miller. I've read all of Miller's great books written on the topics of Canadian jazz and he reminded me that he has written some excellent biographical material about the life of Claude Ranger in the following of his books:

Jazz in Canada: Fourteen Lives (1982)

Boogie, Pete & The Senator (1987)

An entry is included in The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada (2001)

All highly recommended.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Milt Jackson w/Kenny Clarke and more TAP

Today's post features a number of videos from my favorite jazz vibraphonist, Milt Jackson. The first clip below features an all-star band of Milt Jackson on vibes, John Lewis on piano, Ray Brown on bass and none other than Kenny Clarke himself on drums (!) performing Jackson's signature blues, "Bag's Groove".

There is not a lot of footage out there of "Klook" (the father of Bebop drumming) so I treasure it whenever I can !

The other two videos feature Milt Jackson on a couple of Duke Ellington pieces. I'm pretty sure that is the underrated Mickey Roker playing drums on both shots.



I got a lot of positive feedback on my previous post regarding tap dancing and jazz drumming so here's another follow up to that:

Lately I was going through a stack of old cassette tapes that I made about 20 years ago, taped from late night jazz programming on the CBC (this is before the internet and iTunes!). I found a favorite program I had recorded that featured the music and life of the great big band drummer Louie Bellson. One of those selections featured Bellson performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from around 1965 on a piece entitled "David Danced Before the Lord" which was performed as part of one of Ellington's Sacred Concerts ("liturgical" jazz music he wrote to be performed in church). The piece featured the great tap dancer Bunny Briggs with the orchestra. Ellington told drummer Louie Bellson:

"This is music to be played in church. I want you to be the thunder and lightning".

Years ago when I first listened to this piece, it left a great impression on me. Now, I am thrilled to discover that a live performance of this piece that includes Ellington, Bellson and Briggs (and Jon Hendricks on vocals!) has been posted on youtube.com.

Where do people find this stuff ? : )

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Barrage - Running Horses

Now here's a blast from the past !

Someone forwarded me a video I did with the violin stage show Barrage, which I toured with from 2004 -2006.

The piece is called "Running Horses" and was apparently an anthem originally used during the Chinese Communist Revolution during the late 40s. Of course I'm pretty sure that it didn't sound like this!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Buddy Rich in 1970

Today's post features the master himself Buddy Rich in a brilliant clip from around 1970. Rich is often criticized for his highly technical style and approach to the drums but Buddy has always has a place in my heart since he was one of the first jazz drummers that got me interested in jazz music and big band drumming when I was a kid.

I never met him or heard him play in person and of course he had a reputation of being a tough person to deal with....however this doesn't change the fact that Buddy was an amazing musician, played with the utmost sense of taste and swing. His technical prowess is always impressive but he really used those chops to make music on the drums, not a purely technical circus on the drum set.

People often forget that it was Buddy Rich on drums on the "Bird with Strings" sessions. No drum solos on that one !

So here's the clip:

Dig the part where he accidently smacks the microphone above the drum set. "Who put that there ?"

I've also really been digging the album "Blues Caravan" featuring the Buddy Rich Sextet (from the late 50s)

John Riley suggested that I check out this little known group that featured a young and amazing Mike Mainieri on vibraphone. This group apparently was put together to tour the Middle East on a US State Department tour. Some really nice playing on this album and we get to hear a small-group side of Buddy Rich that we don't often consider.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New Drums !

Well, Christmas has come early for me this year !

I drove to Regina yesterday and picked up my new set of drums which I had custom made for me by Ed Peck of Epek Percussion, based in Regina, Saskatchewan (Canada).

I've been shopping around for a new set of drums for a few years now and was pleasantly surprised and very impressed with Ed's work over the past couple years whenever I've found myself playing in Saskatchewan with a provided backline that included his drums.

As you can see below, these drums look GREAT. And, they sound just as good as they look !

I've been working with Ed for the past several months now to get every detail exactly the way I wanted. Basically, I was looking for a vintage Gretsch look and feel but with modern construction and an extra personal touch. Ed was very accommodating and his knowledge, skill, craftsmanship and attention to detail is superb.

I would highly recommend Ed's drums to anyone who is looking for that special kit.

Check out his work at www.epekpercussion.com

Here's a sneak peek at my new tubs:

Now all I'm missing is a big Saskatchewan Roughriders decal on the front bass drum head.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Greg Clayton - Montreal Jazz Guitar Guru

I received a nice comment the other day on my blog from Montreal jazz guitarist Greg Clayton who taught several of my improv classes during my undergraduate degree at McGill University (1995- 1999).

Greg is an unbelievable force in jazz guitar playing and a literal encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to jazz music. Years later, I always felt fortunate to play with Greg, usually subbing for drummer Andre White at the Mode a Vie restaurant in Old Montreal (also playing with John LaBelle on vocals and Alec Walkington on bass).

Fortunately for us, Greg has posted a number of videos of himself performing on youtube.com. These particular clips are from 1997 when Greg released a GREAT live album recorded at Boomers Cafe located in Pointe Claire. I was present for at least one of those nights and remember a fantastic swinging evening of music with Dave Young on bass and Jerry Fuller on drums joining Greg on guitar. This was, unfortunately, the only opportunity I had to see Jerry Fuller play live...

These particular videos also feature Alec Walkington (also another bass player I've always loved playing with) and Andre White, this time on drums (he's also an outstanding pianist for those who didn't know that). I've always been a huge fan of Andre's drumming. He swings hard and knows exactly what and how much to give a soloist. I've seen Andre play with a ton of artists over the years and he always seems to know how to make them sound good !

Here's the trio:

And beautiful solo rendition by Greg: