Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten Four on The Floor Moments of 2010

Everybody on the blogosphere seems to be coming up with their own top ten lists for whatever they fancy for 2010. The guys at NPR's A Blog Supreme went all out and inspired me to come up with my own list. Check out their picks here.

So here's my top ten list of my various highlights from the past year and in no particular order.

(cue drum roll...)

Top Ten Four on The Floor Moments of 2010

1) Hanging with Patrick Boyle, Greg Sinibaldi, Peter Apfelbaum, Dafnis Prieto, Uri Caine and Phil Dwyer (and all the other participants!) at the inaugural TD Jazz & Creative Residency held at the Banff Centre last winter. I spent four great weeks up at the Banff Centre with the first two playing with these fine musicians and the second half spent locked in a practice room playing the vibraphone...

2) My beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders battled adversity and made it to the Grey Cup for the second year in a row only to lose the big one AGAIN to the Montreal Alouettes. At least they could count to 12 this time. Next year...But at least we beat Calgary again!!! Eat it Burris...

3) Here's my favorite YouTube.com clips of the year:

*Sorry, the post of the actress portraying Helen Keller falling off the stage wouldn't embed:


4) Best gig of the year: the Renee Rosnes Quartet at Vancouver's premier Jazz club, The Cellar. Easily one of the best hits I've seen lately with Rosnes on piano joined by Steve Nelson on vibraphone, Peter Washington on bass and the masterful Lewis Nash on drums, this was a fine display of contemporary straight ahead Jazz at its best.

You can get a taste of the same band from their hit at the Village Vanguard here.

5) PASIC 2010 did not disappoint for the second year in a row. Again, I came away from this conference inspired, motivated and full of new percussive things to practice and to think about. Matt Wilson's drum set clinic on "allowing" the music to happen and how to bring out the best of those around you was my pick for the best clinic of the conference. Zildjian also had many fine new cymbals on display to try and pine over...so many cymbals, so little time.

6) Most memorable new album of 2010:

I've really been enjoying Mark McLean's debut album "Playground" quite a bit these days since it's release this past summer.

Kelly Jefferson's latest release "Next Exit" (that features a similar lineup) is also worth a serious listen.

7) Best show(s) from the nightly Small's live video feed: A four way tie!

-Ari Hoenig Duo & harpist Edmar Castaneda

-Ari Hoenig Trio with Chris Potter & Joel Frahm on dueling saxophones

-Tim Ries Quintet with Tim Ries & Chris Potter on saxophones, Hungarian pianist Kalman Olah, John Patitucci on bass and Billy Drummond on drums

-Omer Avital Quintet featuring Omer Avital on bass, Jason Lindner on piano, Joel Frahm on tenor saxophone, Avishai Cohen on trumpet and Johnathan Blake on drums

8) My favorite new Jazz/drumming/Jazz drumming DVD's of the year:

-Billy Martin's Life on Drums

-Tommy Igoe's Great Hands for a Lifetime: The Lifetime Warmup

-Icons Among Us: Jazz in The Present Tense

9) Food:

-Best Pizza: Western Pizza (Grant Road location) - Regina, SK (sorry Tilden & Ted...the truth hurts, don't it?)

-Best Burger: The Rex Jazz Club (Toronto, ON) *special mention: Broken City (Calgary, AB)

-Best Beer: *A tie between any cold Big Rock product served after a long day of teaching at the Prarirelands Summer Jazz Workshop and Bushwakkers Brew Pub (both in Regina, SK)

-Best Thai: Bangkoknoi (Calgary, AB)

-Best Weekend Brunch: AKA Wine Bar & Bistro (Calgary, AB)

-Best Breakfast/Lunch/Supper Buffet: Vistas Dining Room, The Banff Centre (Banff, AB)

-Best Italian: Il Cerreto (Tuscany, Italia)

10) Best clip of 2010 forwarded to me from Toronto Jazz drummer Bob McLaren:

I'd like to leave you all with an inspiring quote from drummer/educator Jim Blackley (Canada's Alan Dawson) taken from my previous post:

"Artistry is not an accident. Artistry is not built on ignorance. Artistry is built on wisdom..."

Thanks again for visiting Four on The Floor and for your continued support.

Drive safe and see you all in 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Interview with Jim Blackley

I came across this excellent interview with Canadian drum educator Jim Blackley via Allan Cox's website (originally published in Modern Drummer magazine). Cox is a fine drummer in his own right from the UK and has produced a very fine play-a-long CD entitled "Meet The Bass Player" that you can find here. During my time studying with Terry Clarke in Toronto, Terry gave a me a copy of this recording (he got it from Jim) and insisted that I spend time playing along to the extremely slow tempos included on it (as well as the fast ones - the whole CD is quite a worthwhile workout!) Terry was also a student of Jim Blackley's as have been many of Canada's leading Jazz drummers. Blackley has undoubtedly had an important influence on Jazz drumming in Canada and his methods and books are really worth checking out. You can learn more about Jim Blackley here.

An Interview with Jim Blackley

Interview by T. Bruce Wittet - Modern Drummer magazine, March 1984.

Interviewing Jim Blackley was a treat…. The talk was smooth, ample and of considerable substance. Most of all, it had heart, which is very important to Jim. He simply refuses to do half a job…. He has traversed continents and musical boundaries, he has sacrificed willingly the material amenities – all in a journey toward a life of honour, proportion, balance and excellence. I left his house clear headed and relaxed, notwithstanding having held off on cigarettes and coffee for several hours…. I’d had my first lesson with Jim Blackley.

Jim is something of a curiosity to many musicians. Billed the “Swinging Scot” during one of his spells in New York, he is well respected by the upper circle of Toronto drummers, many of whom make return visits for chats, repairs and inspiration. While Jim’s system arises from the best of Scottish and American drumming traditions, it is a true method for any instrument. Never before, perhaps, has music been stressed so much at the expense of technique. Jim believes that if you know music – really know music – and can hear it at any tempo and grasp it’s inner logic, you will discover surprising technique. And nobody leaves Blackley’s once a month sessions with any doubt about what it takes to make music….

But don’t rush to buy a ticket to Toronto, Jim’s home. There is a waiting list. It all seems to work out nicely though. Jim is helping others turn craft into art, and he spends his time enriching his musical and spiritual being. Although you’ll seldom see Jim perform in public, let me assure you, the man can play!

Q: Someone once told me that there are certain patterns that you can learn, but never really pull off authentically…. You can practise them and play them, but they never actually become part of you. Do you feel that one can learn to master a style, or is that facility innate?

JB: I think that environment is one of the most important things in development. Music is a language and has to be learned…. If you’ve never heard Spanish spoken, then you’re not going to learn to speak Spanish. If you want to be a jazz drummer and have never heard jazz being played, then you’re just not going to learn to play jazz. You have to expose yourself to the jazz language. The first thing any musician should be taught is the art of listening. It’s excellent if everything starts off in a natural way and you grow up in a home where parents are playing music morning to night, like my kids are. My oldest son Keith is the only one who is a professional drummer, but my other sons Brian and Scott are also excellent musicians.

I don’t approach teaching from the learning of rudiments. Not that there isn’t any value to rudiments, but the important thing you must give the student is direction about understanding structure, listening to chord changes, listening to the bass line, how to play the time and punctuate the phrases – these are the things that the musical player must learn. It has nothing to do with playing the rudiments. I could direct students into being outstanding jazz drummers without ever teaching one rudiment, yet I could cover everything that’s being played in jazz, because everything develops from playing TIME. My whole concept is based on approaching everything from the TIME. All rhythms and figures are first developed as cymbal patterns. Students learn to hear the musical line, played over chord changes, the bass, and the melody line. And then, they learn how to take that single musical line and explore the total drumset…. They are playing musical lines, not rudiments!

The first two things students of jazz have to learn are the 12 bar blues and the 32 bar chorus. Those two things cover a large portion of jazz composition. Listening to singers in order to learn lyrics is another important aspect. When you learn all the tunes through the lyrics, you develop a natural foundation for the form, not an intellectual one. When you’re playing and singing the song, you may not intellectually know where you are, but you just feel where you are. I’m a believer in learning all the bebop heads, and learning to sing them, because if you can’t sing the head from beginning to end, it’s impossible to accent properly.

When students come to study with me, I’ll sit them behind the drums, play a very basic 12 bar blues record, and ask them to play some time. Next, I’ll play something with a 32 bar form and ask them to play to that. Then I will ask if they know where they are in the music? All of them will say “Oh yeah, I hear it….” And I’ll say “Fine”. Then I’ll drop the needle at random on the record and ask them to tell me which bar of the tune they’re on. Eight out of ten cannot tell where they are, they can hear the beginning and the turn around, but they can’t tell whether they’re on the fifth, ninth or eleventh bar. The Jamey Aebersold instruction records have been an invaluable aid for the students because they were designed for professional development. The student gets the opportunity to clearly hear the bass and chord changes.

I can truthfully say that there are very few students who have come to me who don’t have the potential to be first class players. I’m not saying that everyone has it, but everyone has it at different levels. We must be very, very careful at the beginning about assessing the potential of any student. People who have not been exposed to any listening at all are not going to respond when you sit them down behind a set of drums to play with a jazz track. You have to educate their listening habits while you’re fostering their technical habits. If I find that a student is developing a very high technical and musical proficiency, but is not performing, I’ll stop the lessons until that student goes out and does some playing. It’s disastrous for a student to pursue years and years of study without any musical outlet. I know numerous teachers who tell the students to wait four or five years until they get all of their chops together before they go out and play. My philosophy is the opposite: I want the students out playing from the very first lesson. Even if they can only play quarter notes on the cymbal, I want them out playing from the beginning. I tell them that, if they get a call to play while they’re practising, they should throw the books in the garbage, and go out and play!

Q: Do you find that kids who have grown up listening to rock music have a hard time relating to jazz?

JB: I don’t find anything negative about the kids who have grown up playing rock music, I find that it has been an excellent stepping stone for introducing young players to jazz. It gives them the opportunity to perform with other human beings, and that’s what it’s all about. We should be thankful for rock music introducing young people to performance.

Let’s be very frank about it: The artistry needed to be a top flight jazz player overshadows the musicality needed to be a rock player. On the other hand, to me, the most important things to be captured in any aspect of playing are the feeling and the groove. If you can’t get the groove, you may as well stay at home and phone it in. It’s sad, but the majority of drummers just don’t swing. It’s not that they’re not capable of swinging, it’s that they don’t understand the elements of swinging. It’s not too intangible to discuss. There’s been so much nonsense through the years about how you either have it or you don’t, and that no one can teach you to swing. That’s absolute nonsense! Swinging is not an accident, there are definite ingredients in swinging that have to be understood.

First of all, there are far too many drummers playing jazz who are not playing with a jazz feeling – they’re playing with an eighth note feeling, instead of off the triplet. The triplet feel is basic to jazz performance, and the perfect example of that is Elvin Jones. His playing is rooted in the blues. From the first time I heard him, I found his playing so basically simple and so beautiful. The problem is that very few people know how to listen to Elvin Jones. His whole playing is centred off the anticipation of beats 1 and 3. Listen carefully, and you’ll discover this. When you can hear that in his playing, it makes it so simple.

Very soon I will be publishing a book which will explain the essence of jazz drumming through the years (the now acclaimed “Essence of Jazz Drumming”). It will be a whole study of jazz time and jazz rhythm to show how musical lines are developed, and how all the figures come from the time. Any young player interested in playing jazz should investigate the triplet very, very thoroughly, because therein lies the essence of jazz time. One of the biggest faults I hear with many jazz drummers in their playing of the ride cymbal is their accenting of the cymbal on beats 2 and 4. The feeling should be one of 4/4, because the main duty in playing the ride cymbal in this manner is to complement the bass line – the 1,2,3 and 4 of the bar should have equal stress. The hi-hat will stress the 2 and 4 as much as necessary.

Forward motion comes from the quarter notes being played with an even pulsation. The minute you start leaning on 2 and 4, as most books instruct you to do, it will sound like someone walking with a wooden leg. Already I can hear someone saying “Elvin Jones doesn’t play with a feeling of four….”

Ah, Elvin Jones doesn’t play his CYMBAL off that particular concept, but if you listen closely to the embellishments that Elvin does around his cymbal rhythm, you will find that creates a feeling of four and gives it forward momentum. His cymbal, which plays off the anticipation, gives it that feeling of going back, and that’s why Elvin’s time has that wonderful laid back feeling…. The message you get from Elvin depends on which part of his line you are hearing.

One of the most confusing things that we can encounter is a transcription of a drum performance because, when put down on paper, it gives a completely false impression of what’s being played. What you see is a single line, not the totality of what’s being played.

A most difficult aspect of playing is to play a straight ride beat devoid of any accents or variations. Some horn players like the time behind them to be very straight and simple. If you have not developed the control to handle this type of playing it can be very embarrassing. Mastery of this concept will give your playing a solid foundation from which to grow, although this is certainly only one approach to playing time. Jake Hanna is an excellent example to listen to. As I mention often, you have to listen to the right people, and one of them has to be Tony Williams. Tony definitely brought his own sound to the instrument, coupled with outstanding musicality. When it comes to big band playing, I feel that Mel Lewis is one of the top exponents. His ability to play the musical line knocks me out. He understands the difference between the horizontal and the vertical, and hears and responds to consonance and dissonance…. A very musical drummer indeed.

Q: Do you feel that for the time to feel good, it has to be metronomically perfect?

JB: When we are involved in musical performance, there is such a thing as emotional rushing or dragging. This is musically acceptable as long as it’s something that the band feels and does collectively. When only one member is doing it, it becomes a “tug of war”. But if it is stemming from the whole concept of the music and the emotion that’s coming through the music, then it’s beautiful. You’ll find that with some of the great players, ballads will tend to get slower – within reason, of course. When you’re playing a moderate or bright tempo, there is nothing wrong with the time moving up slightly. But when you find performances where they practically double the tempo by the end of the tune, then I don’t consider that musical at all, that’s really just a lack of control.

Q: Do you ever recommend the use of a metronome?

JB: Of course….. I’ve never met anybody yet who couldn’t benefit from the intelligent use of a metronome. But don’t become a slave to it. The metronome should be used to check out your time. What you will find is that you have three or four tempos that you feel very comfortable and natural with. What the metronome is good for is making you play through the other tempos – the “blind” tempos, as I call them – to make yourself persevere and master tempos from one end of the metronome to the other. The hardest thing is playing slow…. The essence of my teaching is built on that premise. I never talk to a student about playing fast. The slower you can learn to play, the happier you’ll make me. You will never be able to play slow enough to satisfy me. The essence is in the space between the notes. Once you can hear the space with confidence you can start to do unbelievable things from within that space, and the up tempos become very easy to play. Naturally, you have to practise playing fast as well, but the emphasis is on playing as slow as possible. Usually, quarter note equals 40 is where I have my students practise their material. We build it up from there. To me, the whole conception and feeling for space comes from the art of playing slow.

Q: What led you to write your book “Syncopated Rolls”?

JB: Back in about 1959, Charles Mingus came to Vancouver. From the first moment, I was fully aware of what was going on in that band, and what Dannie Richmond was doing. Dannie and I struck up a beautiful friendship, and I invited him to my home. When he came over, I played him some solo pipe band drumming records that were made in the 40’s, and after Dannie heard them he said “I don’t care what you call that, man, that’s jazz!” I then proceeded to show him some of the ideas and concepts I had developed for drum set. When I finished playing he threw his arms around me and said “You’re the first white drummer I’ve met in my life who plays black!” His enthusiasm for my concepts resulted in my writing Syncopated Rolls. You know, it’s interesting to see the way things go, for it seems that many players are just beginning to realize the depth of musical material in these books. It goes way beyond what the title suggests. The new two-volume edition seems to be hitting the right spot’.

Q: What are your personal goals as a player, a teacher and a person?

JB: Being a top musician is no big deal. Being a true human being is a very, very big deal. That’s what it’s all about. The more true human beings we become, the more that quality will emanate from our music. There’s no such thing as gaining spirituality from the music. The spirituality comes from within as we develop the qualities of God and surrender to that power. The thing is, I’m not someone who just sits here teaching. I only teach one student a day, and I only take one student one day each month. I could have hundreds of students if I wanted, but I’m not interested in making money. I’m interested in helping to contribute, through God’s grace, to another human being’s life. If I do my duty to God properly, then I’ll do my duty to every human being I encounter. If I can bring something to someone else’s life, then that’s really good.

Now don’t misunderstand. I spend hours every day playing and practising. I’ll never be satisfied with my playing! I was down in my basement the other night for three hours practising something I was trying to get. I made a comment in my book that developing time to a state of perfection and feeling is like polishing the heart to a state of spotless purity… It’s an endless endeavour.

My students are not just people who come here and pay me a few dollars. No. They are very important people in my life. They contribute so much to my development. I learn so much from every student who comes here – not only about music, but about life. It’s like a family relationship with all of the students I’ve had over the years.

We get together as a group three or four times a week to play. It isn’t a tea party, we play! They work their buts off. We don’t just play dance music, we play jazz. A lot of what I hear is well played, but there is no improvising. There are no chances being taken, and that’s not what jazz is all about. If you’re going to improvise you cannot be right all the time. Miles Davis is one of the classic examples. He turns what people would call wrong into a musical gem. That’s the thing that I’ve always liked about Elvin’s playing: There’s that raw jungle type of sound and feeling. There’s a roughness to it, but although there’s a roughness, let me say that Elvin has one of the finest touches of any drummer playing. People talk about Elvin playing loud, but he’s one of the most sensitive and delicate drummers I’ve ever heard in my life. Listen to some of the ballads he plays – that lovely loping feeling he gets from those slow blues things he did with John Coltrane. He’s been playing the same things for the past 20 years, but every time he plays them he makes them sound as if he’s inventing and creating them at that particular moment. He has such a brilliant and fluid way of using his drumset that is always sounds fresh. Now that is artistry!

Improvising is the ability to take a two-bar motif and play it through a composition and have no one know. Or being able to take simple ideas and turn them inside out, upside down, move them around, and make a total composition from a simple two-bar phrase. That’s what Max Roach was a master of…. He could develop a whole composition from a two-bar phrase. When you’re talking about top players it’s nonsensical to pit one against the other. If you cannot go out and listen to Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, Jake Hanna, Philly Joe Jones, Mel Lewis, Terry Clarke, Keith Blackley, Shelly Manne or Dannie Richmond and enjoy them for what they are, then you’re not interested in music. You’re going for some other reason….

In every type of music there is a groove. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing country, funk, rock, Viennese waltzes, or polkas, there’s a groove. The thing is to find out what really creates the groove. That’s the thing that must be investigated, and that’s what’s not being investigated enough. To be sure, there are various ways to generate the time, and the swing within the time, but it seems to me that swinging is being confused with excitement, and excitement is being confused with getting excited. The aim is to become a musically exciting and swinging performer, irrespective of the idiom.

Artistry is not an accident. Artistry is not built on ignorance. Artistry is built on wisdom....

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Matt Wilson Christmas

Keeping up with the Christmas spirit, here's some footage of drummer extraordinaire Matt Wilson with his Christmas Tree-O project. If you haven't picked up a copy of this fine holiday album, do it! It's a fun recording to listen to and contains very entertaining Jazz interpretations of classic holiday songs that feature Wilson's creative approach and unique sense of musical humor.

Here's a recent appearance of Matt Wilson & Co. at NPR's Tiny Desk concert series:

I love the xmas sweaters!

And here, more extensive footage from a concert featuring Matt Wilson with his trio getting in the Christmas spirit:

Those nice Craviotto drums sound GREAT too...

From everyone here at Four on The Floor......Have a safe and merry Christmas. Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Martha Graham on Practicing

"I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes a shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God. Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of a vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired."

-Martha Graham on practicing from "I Am a Dancer"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Higgins with Jackie McLean & Tete Montoliu

I'd like to thank Wayne Escoffery for hipping me to this clip via Facebook:

There's something about Billy Higgin's cymbal beat....so bouncy and joyful. I could listen to that beat for days on end and never get tired of it. And that ever present smile on his face pretty much sums it all up!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Butler Did It...

During one of my lessons in Toronto years ago, Terry Clarke once referred to Frank Butler as "The West Coast Philly Joe Jones". While I'm not terribly familiar with Butler's drumming lately I've really enjoyed his playing on a Curtis Counce album recommended to me by bassist Kieran Overs entitled "Carl's Blues". Check out the solo drum track entitled "The Butler Did It".

Butler also appeared on the West Coast sessions found on the Miles Davis album "Seven Steps to Heaven" (also featuring pianist Victor Feldman on those tracks with Butler). Of course the other half of the album featured Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock but the outakes are available on a box set released by Columbia and you can hear Frank Butler and Victor Feldman playing different versions the same tunes that were eventually recorded with Tony Williams on drums and Hancock on piano.

It's really quite revealing and interesting to compare the different versions & different rhythm sections, especially with Frank Butler taking a more traditional bop approach to tunes like Seven Steps to Heaven and Joshua then comparing that to Tony's unique, unconventional (at the time anyways) and, of course, ground breaking approach.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peter Erskine - MD Sound Supplement

When I was a kid Modern Drummer magazine used to occasionally include these sound supplements with their magazine that were basically these small floppy vinyl records that demonstrated some ideas, concepts or exercises found in the accompanying issue. They were great and I had several including ones that featured highlights from the book Afro-Cuban Rhythm for Drumset and another that featured a massive drum duet featuring Steve Smith and Gary Chester (?)

Anyways, those were great resources and it's too bad that MD doesn't do the same thing with CDs these days. Although, I guess now with the internet and everything that idea is somewhat obsolete! (although I often see other magazines including CDs)

Here's one of those early MD sound supplements that features Peter Erskine demonstrating his various approaches to playing the hihat:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jeff Hamilton & His Bosphorus Cymbals

The "Hammer" gives us an inside look at his signature cymbals, up close and personal:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bill Stewart

More Bill Stewart today, again this time with guitarist John Scofield & bassist Steve Swallow:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Conrad Plays Mingus

He's not a drummer nor a vibraphonist, but I find his playing very entertaining and he does know a thing or two about Afro-Cuban music:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eric McPherson - United

Here's a nice one of pianist Luis Perdomo and his trio playing Wayne Shorter's classic composition "United" featuring Eric McPherson on drums:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Second Balcony Jump with Art Taylor

Some swingin' bebop with two of the master's Dexter Gordon and Art Taylor:

In this clip you can see Taylor playing in his "crouch" position that he talks about in one of my earlier posts. Not the greatest posture, but who can argue with a SWING like that?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Not much to report today, but here's a few things that caught my attention that I'd like to share with you:

-We attended a concert last weekend in Calgary featuring Canadian alto saxophonist P.J. Perry, pianist Bill Mays, bassist Neil Swainson and Terry Clarke on drums (no slouches in this ensemble!) The band played a nice program of swinging "Xmas Jazz" music to a near capacity crowd at Riverside Church. Terry's brush solo on the Gigi Gryce composition "Salute to the Bandbox" was phenomenal (although not quite a Christmas tune, still a great piece that brought back a few memories as I used to play that one with Montreal alto saxophonist Donny Kennedy back in our McGill days!) Special props to local Jazz enthusiast Henry Beaumont who produced this concert.

-A few drum magazines you should check out this month: Modern Drummer has a great feature on educator Michael Carvin and Drumhead Magazine features an extensive and in depth interview with John Riley. Both are very informative and motivating articles. Did you know that John Riley had been offered the gig with Frank Zappa ? I certainly didn't...

-Here's a clip of Ignacio Berroa from last month's PASIC 2010.

Man, what a great time!

You can check out more of Ignacio's PASIC 2010 session here:


-Albums I'm listening to these days:

John Coltrane "My Favorite Things: Coltrane at Newport" - Elvin Jones/Roy Haynes - Drums

Chad Eby "Broken Shadows" - Jason Marsalis - Drums

Stefon Harris & Blackout "Evolution" - Terreon Gully - Drums, Stefon Harris - Vibraphone

Dave Liebman/Mike Murley Quartet "Day & Night" - Ian Froman - Drums

Kenny Barron "What If?" - Victor Lewis - Drums

Miles Davis "Cookin'" - Philly Joe Jones - Drums

Barry Harris "At The Jazz Workshop" - Louis Hayes - Drums

And finally a few great clips that feature some great playing from some great drummers to get us inspired to take on the week ahead:

-Here's Joe Farnsworth with bassist John Webber and Eddie Henderson on trumpet:

Jeff "Tain" Watts unleashing...

And here's Ted "Tain" Warren unleashing with Ralph Bowen from a recent hit at the Rex in Toronto:

(sorry Ted - I "borrowed" this one from his blog post over at Trap'd today....but it's just so darn good!)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Branford on Improvising

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis (wearing some smart yellow camouflage to blend in with the background) speaks very candidly about his thoughts on the process of improvisation and the important role of vocabulary:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Some Hand Patterns To Practice

Here's few snare drum exercises I've been messing around with on the practice pad and during my daily warm up. These patterns are inspired by some of the things I've been working on from Joe Morello's seminal book Master Studies and Tommy Igoes latest DVD Great Hands For A Lifetime as well as some snare drum solos that I've seen Buddy Rich play on video recordings.

-Play these patterns as 8th notes.

-Accent the first and last note of each grouping.

1) Groups of 5



2) Groups of 6



3) Groups of 7



4) Groups of 8



Hand-to-Hand Variations

1) Groups of 5


2) Groups of 6


3) Groups of 7


4) Groups of 8


Friday, December 10, 2010

Review - Billy Martin's Life on Drums

I received a copy of Billy Martin's latest DVD Billy Martin's Life on Drums in the mail a few weeks ago, throughly enjoyed watching it several times now and have decided to attempt a humble review.

Billy Martin is a very unique and creative drummer that I've enjoyed for some time and who is probably best known for his work with the acclaimed trio Medeski, Martin and Wood.

The DVD is sort of an instructional drum DVD, but not really (!) as it doesn't resemble any other drum DVD in any classic sense. Instead the whole production is beautifully shot and produced more like a contemporary documentary that features a dialogue between Martin and his first drum teacher Allen Herman with several solo performances featuring Martin and Herman interspersed throughout. There are also several percussion ensemble pieces featured as well. But don't get wrong, there is a ton of great and useful information here presented in a unique manner.

The DVD is divided into specific chapters that deal with: Soloing, Time, Tone, Phrasing, Chemistry, Visualizing, Free Playing, Rhythmic Harmony and Classical. The discussions between Martin and Herman are insightful and both are very articulate and speak from a wealth of experience and musical integrity. Between their candid discussions and performances this a great resource and there is a lot to be learned and gained from this DVD. Hopefully this DVD will inspire many to approach the drums in a creative way.

To me, part of what makes this DVD stand out from other drum DVDs is the exceptional production quality. It has the feel and vibe of something you would probably see at the Sundance Film Festival rather than the Modern Drummer Festival !

Some of the highlights for me include Billy Martin's brilliant solo playing, Allan Herman's performance of an Anthony Cirone snare drum solo from the book Portraits in Rhythm (time for me to dig that book out again!) and some very honest discussions about both Billy Martin and Allen Herman's teachers and mentors over the years. This DVD is bound to become a classic.

Here's a brief featurette that previews this DVD:

In Billy's own words:

"Life on Drums is about the art of drumming and percussion, and my concepts, methods, and philosophy of what is important. I’m trying to be as honest and sincere as I am about who I am and what I’m trying to say, and then demonstrate how these philosophies can be used. I want people to see this film and realize that, no matter what degree of technical skill they possess, they can be an artist.”
— Billy Martin

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nussbaum Up Close

Another series of up close clips today, this time featuring the drumming of Adam Nussbaum:

Similar to the footage of John Riley from a few days ago, notice Nussbaum's very fluid and graceful motion and the way in which he moves around the drums.

Poetry in motion...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Cymbal

Wow...let's hope that Zildjian tries to copy this one:

Here's a clip of Mel Lewis playing this exact cymbal on the Dinah Shore Show with Ben Webster and Gerry Mulligan:

I searched for some more information regarding this cymbal on the internet and came up with this interesting story and information via someone's post at cymbalholics.com. Apparently drummer Danny Gottlieb owned this fine cymbal of Mel's and had this to say about it:

"This is a cymbal that Mel told me about when I first met him in 69-70. He said it was his favorite cymbal of all time, and that he only (at that point) used it for special projects, as it was cracking...It's a 20 inch 50's A, with TWO chunks of metal cut out... from the left top and right top of the cymbal. The cuts are about 1 inch deep, and maybe 2 inches long, about 6 inches apart and were done to stop cracking. Mel said that the cymbal was ok before, but so much better with the cuts. I guess the "stress" points were taken out and it has an unbelievable low tone when you hit it on the side. There are two rivits, next to each other (copper), on the right side. And it is cracking again, under one of the cuts. I get nervous to carry it, let alone play it.

When you first hit the cymbal, it sounds really weird-dark, trashy, a little on the dead side, and it takes a minute to get used to it. But, when you play it for a while it (at least for me) becomes hypnotic, and it just has some magical high stick sound, and low growl sound with no middle range. It just seems to blend really well with acoustic instruments.

I have played it with my heavy, weird, nylon tip Hot Sticks, but it seems to sound the best with thin, wood tip sticks (Mel's model). I think Mel used this on all of the Terry Gibbs big band recordings, on Maynard Ferguson's The Blues Roar", Art Pepper plus 11, and some Thad and Mel recordings. The one DVD I know about where you can actually see Mel play the cymbal, is on a DCI drum solo collection, where Mel plays with Shorty Rogers. I have also seen it in pictures. There is a classic shot with Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton from a TV show with Gerry Mulligan (maybe even Buddy Rich) and you can see Mel in the house band in the back and the outline of the cymbal with the cuts.

I purchased it, along with some other cymbals, from Doris, shortly after Mel passed away. As I remembered him taking about that specific cymbal, I wanted it as he had mentioned it specifically to me, and I knew it was special to him. The only other cymbal in the bag with this one, was a 16 inch (I think 50's) K, and I have that one as well. It sounds like it was also used on Art Pepper plus 11, but I can't be sure.

I know Mel mentions it in his cover story with Rick Mattingly for Modern Drummer, and I think he says Buddy called this cymbal "one of the greatest in the world". Of course it was Mel's touch that made it sound so great. I took it to Zildjian a few years ago, to see if they could duplicate it, and I left it there for a few months. Joe (assistant to Paul Francis) took it on as a project and made some prototypes.The cymbals he made were not really close to the sound of the Mel cymbal, but they are great in their own way. I think he took Peter Erskine's 20 left side ride, thinned it down, and lathed it. He made some beautiful, thin, washy dark rides...but nothing like Mel's."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Up Close with John Riley

Somebody was very smart and placed a video camera behind drummer/educator John Riley performing here with pianist Erik Escobar and bassist Chico Wilcox on a couple of very nice original compositions:

John is, of course, a great player in addition to being a fine educator and author to many outstanding books and a DVD every drummer should own and study. As you can tell from this clip John has a great sound on the drums which I think is a result of his very smooth and graceful motion and hand technique he gets while playing and moving around the drums and cymbals. John is always a great drummer to listen to but I think his physical motion of playing the drums is impressive to watch and a real lesson in itself.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Monday Morning Paradiddle (A Few Thank You's)

I know we are well beyond both Canadian and American Thanksgiving's, but the words Thank You are important ones. The world would be a better place if we all used those words more often. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank a few people in today's post:

-I'd like to thank everyone who came out to my drum clinic at Long & McQuade in Calgary last week and I appreciated all the enthusiastic questions and interest in what I do. I focused my workshop on brush playing but this time, instead of demonstrating different specific patterns, I decided to focus on the importance of developing different types of strokes and fundamental sounds/movements we can get with the brushes. I also played several rudimental snare drum exercises and applied different brush stroke techniques to those routines as well. As I stressed in my clinic: Brush technique = patterns + concept/execution of sound. Thanks to Tyler Pickering over at L&M who's been putting together this series of drum clinics featuring local Calgary drummers.

-Thanks to Ted Warren over at his great blog Trap'd where he recently interviewed me for his new "Inside the Drummer's Studio" feature.

-Also special thanks to Peter Hum over at Jazzblog.ca where he featured myself, Ted and West Coast Jazz drummer/blogger Jesse Cahill in his feature "Canadian Drummers with Blogging Chops" (btw - including Peter, the four of us represent three generations of McGill graduates!)

-Thanks to saxophonist Jeff Coffin who stole the show at the Bela Fleck & The Flecktone's Christmas concert last Tuesday in Calgary. This is the first time I've heard this great band and they didn't disappoint at all. The entire show was amazing and the Tuvan throat singers from Siberia were really something special.

Here's a few clips of Jeff Coffin, an amazing musician that I'd like to hear more of (and play with!) in the future:

Jeff, by all accounts, gave an amazing masterclass at the University of Toronto a few years ago while I was studying there (unfortunately I had a gig or something that afternoon and missed it...) Jeff was in town playing at the Rex that week with guitarist Michael Occhipinti and I heard him interviewed on Joe Sealy's radio program on Jazz.fm. Jeff played a solo saxophone version of Body & Soul that, to this day, is one of the most brilliant musical things I've ever heard. Ever. I was driving my car at the time and even pulled over to the side of the road so I could pay attention properly and not get into an accident while listening. Yes - driving in Toronto...

-Thank you to Stuart McLean of CBC's Vinyl Cafe. My wife and I took in his concert on Friday evening and musical guests Matt Anderson and Jackie Richardson were outstanding. Stuart is an amazing storyteller and I wish I could play drum solos the way he tells stories...

-Hey, attention all Calgary Christmas Jazz fans. Be sure to check out saxophonist P.J. Perry with pianist Bill Mays, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke next Saturday evening. Local Jazz enthusiast Henry Beaumont has gone out of his way to promote and produce this show featuring Canada's finest. Support live Jazz in Calgary this holiday season. Don't be a Jazz grinch. Otherwise our holiday coordinator here at Four on The Floor will send you a big fat piece of coal...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A 5/4 Groove...

Just a fun little groove today in 5/4 that I came up with inspired by the drumming of Billy Martin & Ed Blackwell:

I initially heard a pattern and groove similar to this on CBC radio while driving to a gig the other day (I think the tune was being played just after the news!) I kept singing the beat to myself until I was able to sit behind a set drums and this is what I came up with.

It's a bit deceiving at first because the first three beats of each bar actually suggest/imply some sort of 12/8 groove. So even though the groove is in five it almost sounds/feels like it should be something else! I find the foot patterns keep everything grounded (basically two dotted quarter notes then a half note, alternating between the bass drum and hi-hat in two bar cycles.)

This groove is also fun if you play the right hand on a cowbell.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kendrick Scott on Drumming & Cymbals

Thanks to the kind people over at Zildjian Cymbals, drummer Kendrick Scott talks about his influences and cymbal choices:

I heard Kendrick's group "Oracle" perform the other evening via the Small's live video feed here. Kendrick is really a consummate musician and I really dig his creative compositions and a style of Jazz drumming that brings together a myriad of influences, grooves and textures. He's done some great stuff with Terence Blanchard (among many other Jazz greats) and he's one guy you'll want to keep your eye on in the years to come as both a sideman and as a leader.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Prometheus Unbound

Here's a complete version of Wayne Shorter's composition "Prometheus Unbound" as performed by his quartet with Brian Blade on drums, John Patituci on bass and Danilo Perez on piano featured with the NEC orchestra:

Prometheus Unbound from New England Conservatory on Vimeo.

I actually heard Wayne Shorter play this piece with his quartet in Toronto at Massey Hall in 2008. They performed a portion of this piece as their encore and Shorter dedicated this music to the memory of several Canadian soldiers who had recently died while serving in Afghanistan. I was bit surprised that Shorter was aware of such an event but impressed with his sincerity and the composition as a whole was very moving. A perfect way to finish a very memorable performance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Glenn Kotche's Monkey Chant

I've always been very impressed with Glenn Kotche's solo drum set compositions and arrangements, especially his interpretation of Steve Reich's "Clapping Music" for the drum set.

Here's a creative piece by Kotche called "The Monkey Chant":

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Cocktail Hour with Peter Erskine

I played around with one of these novelty drum sets at Steve's Music in Montreal on St. Antoine many, many years ago until the clerk (Lenny) told me to cool it (!).....otherwise I've have never had the opportunity to play a gig on one.

Peter sure makes them sound good here:

Has anyone else ever tried one of these of these vintage throwbacks ? (They sure look cool don't they?)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mr. A.T.

Just a few ones today of a drummer who, I think, should get a little more attention, Mr. Art Taylor:

Hey, if any Calgarians are reading this - please come on out to my drum clinic that I am presenting at Long & McQuade on Wednesday, December 1st at 6pm.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Art Blakey!

Let's get the weekend off to a good start with one of my old favorites, the master himself, the ever swinging Art Blakey:

Dig some impressive playing from Lee Morgan!

Special thanks to Bret Primack "The Jazz Video Guy" for hooking me up with these ones.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Peter's "Apple" Groove

Last winter I spent several weeks out at the Banff Centre participating in the first ever TD Jazz & Creative Music Residency. I had the opportunity to work and play with a number of great musicians during my time there. The faculty was also outstanding and we had the chance to work with the likes of Dafnis Prieto, Peter Apfelbaum, Phil Dwyer and Uri Caine for two weeks.

Saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Peter Apfelbaum taught me this unique groove that he came up with that he used as the framework for one of his compositions that we played together as a large ensemble.

Basically it's a 7/8 backbeat type of groove phrased in three bar cycles. The bars of 7/8 are grouped as 2+2+3. Layered over-top of this groove (played between the bass drum and snare) is the hihat pattern which plays a continuous dotted quarter-note pattern with the right hand (!)

You can also think of this pattern as being one long pattern in 7 (subdivided as triplets) with the 7/8 beat layered underneath.

I've written this example with accents on all the downbeats (just to reference the pulse) but overall don't forget the left hand backbeat on the snare drum and to "ghost" the very last snare note to really make it funky.

Everyone was really scratching their heads when Peter first played this for us but once I got it, it really lends itself to a funky groove with a sideways kind of feeling to it. The dotted quarter note in the right hand really makes the rhythm of this beat "lean" forward...

Recently I've been exploring this pattern while playing the right hand hi-hat pattern on the bell of the ride cymbal while playing quarter notes with my left foot on the hi-hat (this will take two times through the whole three bar pattern in order to resolve itself properly).

Here's another variation that uses the idea of phrasing using the "big" 7. I've written this pattern as the last example but this time with a few more notes in the right hand so you end up with this variation:

So this one is basically a 7/4 swing pattern (phrased 4+3) with the same 7/8 pattern as before between the snare drum and bass drum layered underneath. This is kind of weird....maybe someday I'll find a situation to use it.

Anyways, I tried my best to notate all these using Sibelius. I apologize if it's a bit awkward to read as I can't seem to get the note groupings set exactly as I want them to be (it's certainly a bit awkward at first to play...)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Drum & Bass: Double Espresso

I love all the drum and bass duet combinations that pop up from time to time. Here's two of the masters in action on a tune called "Double Espresso": (I would suspect one would need all the caffeine one can find to keep up with these cats!)

One of my favorite things to do is to play duets with a great bass player - time, solos, trading, melodies...the whole package. I mean, if you have a happening drummer and bassist who can do it all, what else do you really need ? (lol...)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Theme For Ed Blackwell

A fine tribute to Ed Blackwell brought to us by Jesse Stewart, another fine Canadian drummer and percussionist based in Ottawa:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Drum & Bass: Steve Swallow & Bill Stewart

Special thanks to Tom McLaughlin who hipped me to this great footage of Steve and Bill playing in a masterclass somewhere in South America.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Monday Morning Paradiddle with Keith, Hutch & Pieces of Wood

-When I was in Indianapolis last week I picked up copy of Keith Copeland's great book. I had worked out of this unique approach to drum set coordination while I studied with Andre White at McGill University about ten years ago. I never owned a copy and basically had the libraries copy on permanent loan (!) I found it to be a very helpful and "meat and potatoes" approach to drum set playing and assumed that the book was out of print. So I was very happy to find it still available and bring a copy home with me. Check out this underrated book out if you get a chance.

Keith is a great drummer himself and taught extensively at the Banff Centre for the Arts during the early 90s. He also looks very sharp in a bowtie : )

-I also picked up a copy of John Metzger's comprehensive Jazz vibraphone book "The Art and Language of Jazz Vibes". Lots of work to do but I'm looking forward to working out of this great text. And of course after hearing Stefon Harris and Dave Samuels, there's no lack of inspiration either...

-Wandering the convention floor at PASIC was also a good opportunity to stock up on a few more DVDs to add to my collection. I grabbed a copy of Steve Jordan's DVD "The Groove Is Here" that features Steve's seriously indestructible backbeat:

-I forgot to mention that no trip to Indianapolis is complete without a visit to the Rhythm! Discovery Centre. Created by the Percussive Arts Society, this unique idea is a museum dedicated to all things drums, rhythm and percussion related. It's also a "hand on" experience and reminded of a real-life incarnation of Mickey Harts two great books "Planet Drum" and "Drumming On The Edge of Magic".

-Courtesy of trumpeter Patrick Boyle here's a clip of the percussion group Nexus performing Steve Reich's "Music For Pieces of Wood":


-A nice one here of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster getting their turn on "Daahoud" with Benny Golson:

-Here's a couple of clips of drummer Gregory Hutchinson doing his thing:

It's seeing things like this that inspire me to do what I do!

-I froze my butt off yesterday afternoon at McMahon Stadium in Calgary but my beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders prevailed 20-16 over the hometown Calgary Stampeders in the CFL Western Final.
We're going to the Grey Cup!
Long live the 13th Man!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ari Hoenig & Chris Potter Duet

Now this is serious! The dynamic duo of drummer Ari Hoenig and tenor saxophonist Chris Potter unleash in this duet clip:

Oh yes, and most importantly...


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Billy Cobham w/Horace Silver

Some very cool and unique footage today - drummer Billy Cobham as you've never seen or heard him before, performing here with Horace Silver's band from a long time ago (and with no double bass drums!):