Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ali Jackson Jr. Interview

Here's an interview with one of my personal favorite jazz drummers these days and the current holder of the drum chair with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Wynton Marsalis Quintet - Ali Jackson Jr.:

While Ali is known for his work with Wynton and the LCJO, he plays many different bags and can go any direction he chooses. Here's some footage of Ali Jackson swinging hard with Kurt Rosenwinkel - a gig mostly associated with drummers such as Jeff Ballard, etc.:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lewis Nash on Brushes

More inspiring brush lessons today with one of my favorites, the impeccable Lewis Nash on drums:

Yes, rhythm is indeed his business !

And of course, as a bonus, here's another clip of one of the "founding fathers" of brushwork, Mr. Taste himself, the great Ed Thigpen showing how it's done:

Alright already, my head is getting dizzy from all this serious swing !

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ignacio Berroa Interview

Here, Master latin Jazz drummer Ignacio Berroa talks about his drumming experience, influences and more:

Courtesy of the fine folks at Bosphorus cymbals.

Also, another nice interview and some footage here from Ignacio Berroa's band playing at the Jazz Standard courtesy of the Vic Firth website:


I've blogged about Berroa's drumming before, but he is really a drummer worth checking out. I highly recommend his album "Codes" which made waves only a few years ago:

Ignacio Berroa first came over from Cuba to play with Dizzy Gillespie's band in 1980. At the time, Gillespie exclaimed that Berroa was: “The only Latin drummer in the world, in the history of American music that intimately knows both worlds; his native Afro-Cuban music as well as Jazz…”

Things have certainly changed nowadays (drummers Francisco Mela and Dafnis Prieto come to mind) but Berroa was truly a pioneer in latin Jazz drumming during the late 70s and early 80s and is still playing really great these days. I admire the fact that he can play ride cymbal with such a dynamic sense of swing and then switch to clave-based rhythms (and then mix the two!) with such authority.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fly On The Wall...

Someone was smart and caught Jeff Ballard with his trio 'Fly' (with Mark Turner and Larry Grenadier) at a recent gig at the Jazz Standard in New York City:

Great playing Jeff !

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Charlie Haden & Keith Jarrett Duet

Oh yes...

Max Roach Interviewed By Amiri Baraka & M'Boom Meets The World Saxophone Quartet

Here, Max Roach and writer Amiri Baraka talk about music and politics:

Incidentally, a recent performance of Max Roach's percussion ensemble (sans Max) with the World Saxophone Quartet has recently showed up on youtube.com from a recent gig at Birdland:

Max Roach !

Monday, February 22, 2010

Han Bennink Plays It All

Behold one of the greatest improvisors of our time, Han Bennink:

I recently spent four weeks at the Banff Centre and Han's legacy is quite rich here. I believe Han was on faculty during the Banff International Jazz Workshop in 2006 and 2007. Last week, one of the resident faculty teachers at the Banff Centre, Henk Guittart, had all the resident artists watch a documentary on the life and music of Han Bennink. I've been a fan of Bennink's drumming since I was a teenager (!) but watching this documentary was a nice reminder about one of the world's most dynamic and imaginative improvisors.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Lighter Side of Duffy Jackson

Some really nice piano trio playing here from drummer Duffy Jackson, a drummer I had only previously known for his great big band drumming and a guy who I had only considered in the tradition of such great drummers as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Sam Woodyard, Sonny Payne, Sonny Payne and Butch Miles. I've always enjoyed listening to Duffy drive a big band but these following a clips are a beautiful testament to his overall musicality and a real lesson for all of us:

Compare those with these following clips, showing Duffy in action DRIVING the Count Basie Big Band and showing NO mercy !!!

Incidentally, Duffy's father, the late Chubby Jackson, was a great bassist who played with the Woody Herman Big Band back in the late 1940s and played with the little known (and favorite of mine), the great Tiny Kahn on drums. Apparently, (according to several jazz scholars and Terry Gibbs!) Tiny Kahn was the real composer of the bebop standard "Donna Lee" (not Bird or even Miles, as some have conjectured).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ben Riley with Thelonious Monk

A beautiful solo here today, from drummer Ben Riley here with Thelonious Monk circa. 1965 from a concert recorded in London by the BBC:

Ben Riley will always have a special place in my heart. During my very first trip to New York City in the fall of 1999 (a trek by train from Montreal to see Elvin Jones play a week at the Blue Note) my good friend, tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, showed me around the Big Apple and took me to the Village Vanguard. The band playing that night was the group Sphere featuring Kenny Barron, Gary Bartz, Buster Williams and.....Ben Riley on drums. The group played all Monk compositions and I'll never forget the great music that evening. I remember how Riley started the set with a drum solo and that he was, at first, playing so quietly that I could see his hands moving before I could hear any drums being hit.
Thanks for the introduction Ferg !

Friday, February 19, 2010

Even More Drum & Bass...

Another excellent drum & bass pairing today, this time featuring Greg Hutchinson on the drums and Omer Avital on bass:

Nice to see Omer play again. I have many fond memories of catching him playing at Small's during my time in New York City years ago - usually a very, very, very late night set after I finished catching a show at the Village Vanguard down the street.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rhythm Section 101

The act of playing in a rhythm section and accompanying a soloist as a cohesive unit is an art in itself. These cats really set the bar for how it's done. Miles knew that and that's why he hired them !

From a concert recorded in 1960 in Germany, check out the impeccable rhythm team of:

Jimmy Cobb - Drums

Paul Chambers - Bass

Wynton Kelly - Piano

(...and some tenor player)

And on this clip Oscar Peterson sits it on piano and Stan Getz joins Coltrane on Thelonious Monk's "Hackensack":

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rhythm as Melody

A few clips here of drummer Jeff Hamilton demonstrating his melodic approach to playing the drums:

Drummer Alvin Atkinson talked about playing like this at length a few weeks ago at a workshop I attended in Calgary. Alvin stressed the importance of young drummers learning the melodies of the tunes they are playing and doing EVERYTHING necessary to replicate that on the drum set.

Alvin really impressed everyone with his ability to change the pitch of his drums by pressing his elbow into the head, thus changing the tension of the drum head. By no means is this the only way to play melodically on the drums, but this technique really works when done well and with finesse.

Art Blakey was renowned for this drum "trick" and Max Roach would frequently have a pitch-bending, tympani-floor tom (activated with a pedal) included in his set-up during the 70s that would also replicate the same effect.

I'll now add that to my long list of things to practice !

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jake Hanna 1931 - 2010

One of the unsung heroes of Jazz drumming passed away recently, the tasteful and ever swinging Jake Hanna.

Hanna's resume reads like a who's who of great Jazz artists and I first heard Hanna's great drumming on the Oscar Peterson album "Oscar Peterson In Russia" (Leader Post sports/jazz columnist Rob Vanstone knows ALL about this album!)

Along with Oscar Peterson and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass this is one of my favorite Oscar Peterson records and all of the musicians are in fine form on this one.

During my studies with Toronto Jazz drummer Terry Clarke, I once asked him to describe and talk about his approach to big band drumming (Clarke was THE main drummer with Rob McConnell's Boss Brass and the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra for many years). I surprised to hear from Terry that his main influence, in terms of big band drumming, came from studying and listening to Jake Hanna with the Woody Herman big band. We would spend quite a bit of time listening to albums of the Woody Herman band, with Terry pointing out the many interesting things that Hanna did to drive the band and swing the music as hard as he did. I thought that was interesting stylistic connection there between Jake Hanna and Terry Clarke.

Here's some clips of Jake Hanna driving the Woody Herman Big Band circa. 1964:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Old & New Dreams

Some very rare footage today of one of my favorite groups of all-time, Old & New Dreams, featuring the great drummer Edward Blackwell on the tune "Happy House":

I'll always have a special place for Ed Blackwell as he was one of the first jazz drummers that I checked out during my teens. I remember checking out an LP copy of Don Cherry's album "El Corazon" from the Regina Public Library during the early 1990s. The album features Cherry and Blackwell playing duets and I was impressed with how Blackwell combined the bebop drumming of Max Roach with the parade beats of New Orleans and the exotic rhythms of West Africa. There are some great solos on this album with Ed Blackwell playing a log drum !

During my later studies at McGill University, my drum teacher Chris McCann (who had been a student of Blackwell's) would teach me quite a bit about Ed Blackwell's unique approach to the drums. I also gained a deeper appreciation for the band Old & New Dreams and this provided me a great introduction to the music of Ornette Coleman.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Don Thompson on Vibraphone (among many other instruments)

Canadian jazz icon Don Thompson is an absolute force, being a master on no less than three instruments: Piano, Bass and Vibraphone (he's actually a very good drummer and a heck of a composer/composer/arranger too!)

I was fortunate to do some playing with Don while I lived in Toronto as he lived in my neighborhood. Don and I played in the Tom Van Seters Quartet and I was always blown away by his energetic and momentous rhythmic feel he generated on the vibes. From what I understand, back in his early Vancouver days, Don was highly influenced by West Coast vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. I think Don Thompson is an absolute genius on any instrument he chooses to play, but for some reason his vibraphone playing really moves me the most.

Featured in another great episode of Daniel Berman's Solos: The Jazz Sessions, here Thompson shows what he does best:

And here is a clip of Don Thompson guesting on vibraphone with the Joe Sullivan Big Band in Montreal:

Dig the great swinging, drumming from Montreal's Dave Laing on drums and Andre White on piano.

I recall Don getting quite excited when I told him I was learning to play the vibraphone.

"Playing the vibes is easy if you play already play the piano." Don explained to me, "You know, Phil Dwyer sounds like Bobby Hutcherson when he plays around on the vibes."

"Well Don, I don't really play the piano" I replied
(well I do play "arrangers" piano anyways)

"Oh, well then maybe playing the vibraphone won't be so easy..."

Haha....well, I'm still trying Don !

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dennis Mackrel Swings

Some great swinging trio drumming here from the very versatile jazz drummer Dennis Mackrel:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Max Roach Documentary

From Brazilian television, a great documentary about Max Roach featuring some rare footage:

Also, here's a nice article from jazz.com where drummer Nasheet Waits talks about his favorite, essential Max Roach recordings:


Incidentally, I think Nasheet was once a drum tech for M'Boom, Max's percussion ensemble that his father, Freddie Waits, used to play in. Nice work if you can get it !

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Matt Wilson & Lee Konitz

Some great footage here of Matt Wilson performing with Lee Konitz. It's always inspiring to hear musicians play together that have that special bond.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nasheet Waits & Eric McPherson

Okay, if it's not enough to have ONE bad ass drummer in a band, this group has TWO !!! Check out Nasheet Waits and Eric MacPherson go at it with saxophonist Abraham Burton. Often when two drummers hit the stage, egos collide and the "Weapons of Mass Percussion" ensue. But these guys really pull it off nicely. Inspiring stuff. Any drummers out there want to play some duets with me ?

Thanks to fellow Banff TD jazzer & alto saxophonist Curtis MacDonald who turned me to these cats.

Monday, February 8, 2010

When Mulgrew Speaks...


Hearing Mulgrew speak like this really motivates me to practice.....and go out and buy an orange jacket.

Courtesy of Bret Primack, The "Jazz Video Guy".

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Weeks In Banff

And....we're back !

Well, it's been a long time off here at Four on The Floor as I've been quite busy attending the inaugural TD Jazz & Creative Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Banff, Alberta for the past few weeks.

I was fortunate to be chosen along with 12 other emerging jazz artists to attend a two-week residency at the Banff Centre (sponsored by TD bank) spending time writing new music, collaborating with the other resident artists and learning from a world-class faculty of artists that included:

Dafnis Prieto (drums)

Peter Apfelbaum (saxophone)

Uri Caine (piano)

Phil Dwyer (saxophone)

For those of you not aware of the amazing opportunities afforded to artists and musicians at the Banff Centre (and jazz artists specifically), you can check that out here:


I'm enjoying a couple days off at home in Calgary before I head back to the Banff Centre until the end of the month where I plan to get alot of work done on the vibraphone and on my dissertation. It's been an intense two weeks !

The level of musicianship amongst the participants was extremely high. The musicians came from all over Canada, the U.S. and Europe and here's a list of the outstanding artists who participated:

Patrick Boyle - trumpet

Greg Sinibaldi - saxophone

Jon McCaslin (me) - drums

David Ryshpan - piano and melodica

Curtis MacDonald - saxophone

Chris Jennings - bass

The Amanda Tosoff Quartet (from Vancouver/Toronto):

Amanda Tosoff - piano

Evan Artzen - saxophone

Sean Cronin - bass

Morgan Childs - drums

The Park X Trio (From Montreal):

Mark Nelson - drums

Gabriel Vinuela-Pelletier - piano

Alexandre Lefaivre - bass

The workshop basically consisted of two pre-existing ensembles (these were REAL bands - groups that have played together tons, recorded and gone on the road. They even had their tunes memorized. WOW - not something you see all that often. Very impressive...

Also, a few other high profile jazz artists were also lurking around working towards their own residencies and contributed to the immense amount of creativity that was abundant around the Music & Sound building for the past few weeks. Those artists included:

Christine Jensen (saxophone)

Joel Miller (saxophone)

Ellen Rowe (piano)

David Occhipinti (guitar)

Christine and Joel both presented recitals of their music and impressed all with their ingenuity.

A few of my own personal highlights of the past two weeks' activities included:

- Performing with Peter Apfelbaum's "Banff Hieroglyphics" ensemble. This was a large ensemble that basically included everybody in the workshop ! (very much "Hugh Fraser'ish", I thought!) We played several tunes down in The Club, to conclude the Sunday evening jazz concert where all the groups played for a very enthusiastic (and patient) audience. We performed David Ryshpan's arrangement of Ornette Coleman's "School Work", two of Apfelbaum's pieces (wow - where is this guy coming from ? When you hear his music, it's like he's got the whole wide world going on in there!) and I was honored to have my arrangement of Don Cherry's classic anthem "Mopti" performed to finish off the evening. Thanks to Peter I now how many different ways to think about playing in seven.

- Dafnis Prieto shared his unique approach to fusing traditional folkloric Afro-Cuban rhythms with modern Jazz improvisation. I truly think that in the future Dafnis will be recognized as one of the BIG innovators of this music and someone who took the drums to another level. His coordination and independence skills are ridiculous !!!

- Indian sitar player Kartik Seshadri gave a series of masterclasses on North Indian music. He is a great teacher and very effectively explained (to a group of classical and Jazz musicians) many basic rhythmic, melodic and harmonic principles central to North Indian music. I also hung out with Kartik and Dafnis while they jammed on a few improtu ragas. After that, I could have sworn that nearby Mount Rundle shifted a few centimeters !!! Those were some heavy grooves...

- Peter Apfelbaum shared some insightful stories about his experiences working with Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Karl Berger. He is one genuine spirit and I sure hope more people are exposed to Peter's music (and Peter the person) in the future.

- It was very inspiring to hear my fellow drummer's Morgan Childs and Mark Nelson play on a daily basis. These guys are playing great and check them out in Toronto and Montreal whenever you get the chance.

- My main workshop/rehearsal/performing group was with trumpeter Patrick Boyle and Seattle saxophonist Greg Sinibaldi. Patrick was constantly on his phone during his stay here (haha) so we named our trio "The Jazz Text Messengers". Very clever I must say....This group was really a highlight for me as we explored a format and approach to improvising that I had long been interested in but not dedicated serious time to. This was a chance to do a lot of "Free playing" (I actually prefer Jim Lewis's term "Open playing" myself). Patrick is forever searching for new formats and arrangements to improvise within and Greg contributed some wild textures with his EWI and effects pedals. For one late night session I assembled every gong I could find in the percussion studio (there were many!) and incorporated them into our improvisations. Our final performance at the Beatniq Jazz Club in Calgary was easily the highlight of my two weeks playing with these cats.

- Uri Caine inspired me with his deep knowledge of ALL music ! His experience with 20th Century composers such as Bartok, Webern, Berg and Shoenberg was humbling - and then of course he could turn around, swing like mad on the piano and talk about his days hanging with Philly Joe Jones and Mickey Roker. His discography is quite remarkable and the guy has released a new album almost every year since 1993 !!! He was also very generous with his time, music and information. In fact, I'd say all the faculty members saw things that way. This really made me realize the spirit and idea of mentorship and how they learned to play music and how this music is passed on to future generations and all those who want to learn about it. Schools are important.....but that is just one part of the puzzle and only one stop in a musician's journey. We really have to hang with people who have already been there and done it before.

- Phil Dwyer and I got along great from the first note we played together and managed to play quite a bit during his time here. The guy plays every note with drive and energy. He's a real drummer's tenor player !

All in all, this was a great time and I consider myself lucky to have been included in this workshop. If I can think of other things that changed my life here over the past two weeks, I'll add them in as I think of them !