Saturday, October 30, 2010

Peter Erskine on Cymbals & Solos

Some very insightful wisdom from Peter Erskine here discussing his philosophies on using cymbals in a drum solo context:

I'm always impressed when I hear great drummers who play with a larger arsenal of cymbals in their set up and do so with the utmost musicality, taste and creativity. For the longest time I only used a simple three cymbal approach to my set-up (ride, crash/ride and hi-hats) but have recently been trying expand on that after seeing drummers like Peter Erskine, Terry Clarke, Carl Allen, Lewis Nash and Dafnis Prieto (among many others) who play with larger cymbal set ups so effectively. I really like the expanded colours and sense of orchestration they get from using more cymbals. Of course, this means lugging around more cymbal stands to the gig and it makes my cymbal bag that much more heavier (oh well...) but in the end I think it's worth it. There is a lot to be said for getting many sounds out of a smaller drum kit but sometimes it's nice to explore a larger drum set with multiple sound and cymbal options too.

I also appreciate Erskine's shout out to Shelly Manne in that last clip, a drummer we should all definitely check out...

Here's another excellent shot of Erskine from a recent drum clinic:

Great playing here and, as always, Mr. Erskine is all about the music (and on a nice set of DW drums too!)

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Friday.....with Max Roach

From Italy circa. 1977, the master speaks:

Not a bad piece of inspiration before the weekend starts !

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Odd" Paradiddle Variations

I came up with these useful sticking patterns after working on some Elvin Jones type of patterns found in John Riley's "Beyond Bop Drumming" method book.

"Odd" Paradiddles

-Take a single paradiddle like this RLRR and add one extra L at the end to create a five note pattern like this:


Play them several times in a row and accent 1) the first note and then 2) the first AND last note of each pattern:


-Starting on the left hand, it would look something like this:


-Play them on the snare drum and mess around playing the accents on the floor tom and mounted tom (or cymbals or whatever)

-Using that same concept of adding a note to the end of each paradiddle, do the same with a double paradiddle (this creates a 7 note pattern):



-Written here as a triple paradiddle (creating a 9 note pattern):



-And here is a paradiddlediddle approached the same way (also a 7 note pattern BUT this one switches hands each time):


Don't forget to work these patterns with the accents ! (as described above)

One more variation that incorporates using the bass drum:

- Again, add even one or two extra notes to the end of each of these variations but play them on the bass drum. When you add the bass drum with the accented pattern, you'll get a kind of Elvin Jones/Tony Williams sounding pattern.

Enjoy !

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Buddy Rich & Gene Krupa

From my friend Scott Prebys, here's Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa in action from the Sammy Davis Jr. show:

Sammy sure had the best seat in the house sitting between those two guys (and you can tell he's obviously enjoying himself too!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Billy Hart Cooks...

Move over Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay.....this is how it's done:

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

- Thanks to everyone who came out to hear my new band play and to those that sat in at the Broken City Jazz Jam Session on Saturday afternoon. I had a fabulous time playing with Ralf Buschmeyer on guitar and Derek Stoll on keyboards. Hope to do much more playing with these guys in the future. We've got plenty of tunes and ideas, now we just need a catchy name for the group !

- I must say, Calgary's Broken City has the most authentic tasting poutine I've found since moving to Western Canada from Quebec (this means a nice cut of fries, real cheese curds NOT just mozzarella and they really got the sauce right instead of just dumping regular gravy on top.) And yes, I should know...having flashbacks to my favorite haunt, Momma's Pizza on the corner of Sewell and Avenue Des Pins in my old 'hood in Montreal back in the day...

- I love this photo. It really says alot doesn't it ?

I love that drum throne that Joe Morello is sitting on. And what's with the old-style NHL goal lights between Brubeck and Morello ? Was somebody keeping score ?

- From Mike Tarrani's Facebook feed here's a great clip of vocalist Carmen McRae that I enjoyed watching this weekend:

Now just who is that swinging drummer?

- Here's a hip clip of Al Foster from a recent European tour, doing his thing:

I always love watching Al play and that massive chinese cymbal that sits high to his left. I heard him play at the Village Vanguard years ago and I don't think he touched that cymbal once the whole night !

- Make sure to check out the November issue of Downbeat magazine featuring Paul Motian on the cover. November is International Drum Month so many music magazines feature drums and drummers this month more than normal.

In particular, Peter Erksine wrote a GREAT woodshed column entitled "The Comping Game". Very insightful, motivating and this alone should send me to my practice room for the next few weeks with plenty to work on and think about. All drummers should practice this. Thank you Peter !

- I'm going to finish today's post with an inspiring quote found in the Downbeat interivew with Paul Motian:

"Listen to the music. Play what you hear, and if you don't hear it, then forget about it. Maintain the time inside of yourself. You don't have to play it. If it's inside you, it's already there. You don't have to play it all the time. It's in you, man. It's in your body. It's in your head. It's all over the place, man. You can't miss it."

- Paul Motian

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Softly As In A Morning Sunrise on Sunday...

A very tasteful rendition of the jam session favorite tune "Softly as In A Morning Sunrise" brought to us by Milt Jackson on vibraphone with the Modern Jazz Quartet:

Dig some very tasteful drumming from Connie Kay (definately not a drummer that's discussed very often...)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Brushes & Brass

Some pretty slick playing here from Clark Terry and Alvin Queen:

Alvin's not a drummer that I'm terribly familiar with but I think he's lived in Europe for a number of years and has released a number of nice recordings as a leader lately. From discussions with several older musicians during my time in Montreal, I'm led to believe that Queen spent some time on that scene as well many years ago.

I heard Alvin backing up Oscar Peterson at New York's Birdland in 2004 with a stellar band that included Peterson with Alvin Queen on drums, Ulf Wakenius on guitar and the legendary Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen on bass. Alvin swung very mightily that evening and started with a very hard swinging and groovy drum solo to begin the show while the band, one at a time, made their way from the dressing room to the stage. That was the only time I heard Oscar Peterson play live and it was certainly a show that checked off an entry on my jazz bucket list !

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cindy Blackman Meets Stefon Harris

A really fine band today featuring Buster Williams on bass with Mulgrew Miller on piano, Stefon Harris on vibraphone and Cindy Blackman on drums. Hard to go wrong with a lineup like that !

The influence of Tony Williams on Blackman's drumming is undeniable, however I think she sounds really great and she plays with a lot of passion and emotion. I had the opportunity to see her band at the Distillery Jazz Festival in Toronto in 2008 and was really impressed with the forward momentum and energy she brought to the bandstand (which included once Montreal bassist George Mitchell)

Here's another clip of Blackman doing her thing:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bobby Sanabria "La Clave - The Key"

Percussionist Bobby Sanabria is an incredible player and a real historian when it comes to Afro-Cuban music and the musical/rhythmic traditions that extend from the African diaspora. Check out his albums as leader as well that feature his New York big band. I'm always impressed by his playing, his teachings and the various articles he's written.

A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a bootleg recording of a masterclass that Bobby Sanabria gave at a PASIC convention. He talked at length about the history of Afro-Cuban music from it's roots in Africa to it's present form. He talked not only about the rhythms and the music but about the social conditions and the aspects of slavery that created the music as well. He was very articulate and, of course, played his ass off (sometimes singing too!) but what really blew me away is how during the entire clinic, even while he was talking and lecturing, he kept the clave rhythm going on a cowbell or woodblock with his feet the entire time FOR OVER AN HOUR !!! Now that's creative independence folks!

Fortunately we can get a taste of that in this video here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Alan Jones - The Jam

If you haven't heard of Portland's Alan Jones, check him out! A documentary about Jones, his life and his music recently popped up on youtube:

Check him out here BURNING a on big band version of John Coltrane's "Pursuance":

Yeah !

I also would highly recommend the album "Let Me Tell You About My Day" featuring some very fine playing from Alan Jones on drums with Phil Dwyer on saxophone and Rodney Whitaker on bass. Great playing from all on this date.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Online Lessons

I've had a few inquiries lately from people interested in studying with me online. I do teach from my home studio located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada however if that commute is too much for you I would be glad to arrange something with you and teach online via Skype. Please drop me a line if you are interested and we can discuss details.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Monday Morning Paradiddle (Featuring THE Jazz Messenger)

- Thanks to everyone who came and sat in at our jam session at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club last Thursday featuring myself on drums, Jim Brenan on tenor and Rubim DeToledo on bass. Take notice everyone: there is a great crop of young Jazz students coming up through the ranks here in Calgary !

- This coming Saturday I'm hosting the Broken City Jazz Jam from 3-6pm with my latest (and as of now unnamed!) project with Ralf Buschmeyer on guitar and Derek Stoll on keyboards. Please come on by, say hello and sit in on Calgary's longest running Jazz jam session. There's no cover, the beer is always cold and the food is pretty darn good too. I'd suggest either the wings, nachos or burgers & fries (although I still think that the Rex in Toronto still has the best Jazz burger in the land....) or if you get a late start to your day, the breakfast at Broken City is pretty happening too.

- I recently took in an informative drum clinic at Calgary's Long & McQuade location. Local drummer Gavin Sorochan talked about his professional experience, layed down some very slick fusion grooves and demonstrated Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual while incorporating the toms into the rudimental patterns (I need to practice this! It's very effective) all over a left foot clave pattern a la Horacio Hernandez (impressive!)

Here's a clip of Gavin doing his thing:

- I think I'm cheering for the most frustrating sports franchise in the world....On Sunday afternoon the Saskatchewan Roughriders were up 14-0 and then they let the Stampeders walk all over them....Good grief !

- My wife and I took in pianist Don Thompson and tenor saxophonist Phil Dwyer play an evening of duets at the Beatniq on Saturday evening in Calgary. These two masters demonstrated their affinity and kinship for each others playing on a program of classic standards, all of which were made famous by Frank Sinatra. This was another great show I was fortunate to witness. These two guys have a musical relationship going back almost thirty years and it shows! Make sure to catch them during their Canadian tour as their playing together is something not to be missed. Their sense of TIME is ridiculous!!!

- Check out Jazz drummer Ted Warren's great blog Trap'd. Ted is one of Canada's premier Jazz drummers and you'll be hard pressed to find someone who has spent as much time with his instrument as Ted has ! I've been a huge fan of Ted's drumming for years now and he's also a great teacher (currently teaching at Humber College in Toronto) and an exceptional composer with several albums of his own to his credit. Ted is currently working on a new book dealing with the brushes and he has kindly posted a few of his inventive patterns on his site. Check them out. More to practice indeed ! www.trapdted.blogspot.com

- I've really been digging practicing out of Joe Morello's technique book "Master Studies" lately. Lots of great exercises and information to be found in those pages. How did this elude me for so long???

Morello's also got a couple of very informative videos out there and those are highly recommended as well:

Man, his "effortless" technique makes it all look so easy...

A student of mine also recently lent me JoJo Mayer's DVD "Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer". I'm looking forward to checking this out, but I'm skeptical for some reason... : )

- Anyway, enough with the chops stuff and let's get the week off to a nice groovy, swinging start. Here's a segment from the Ken Burns documentary "Jazz" that features my hero Art Blakey on drums and his impact on the music:

Oh yes, if you are reading this post and you are a civic-minded Calgarian, don't forget to vote Naheed Nenshi for Mayor today!


Forever onwards!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Adam Nussbaum & Co.

A few nice clips that recently showed up featuring some fine drumming from Adam "Nut tree" Nussbaum and his stellar band with Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone, Oz Noy on guitar and Jay Anderson on bass:

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Dynamics are an important element for any serious drummer and musician to consider. However, some drummers think of dynamics in linear terms only, meaning that everything they play is played at only one dynamic level (whether that be forte or piano, etc.).

In some contexts perhaps that is fine but accents are a form of dynamics as well so it's very important to develop that technical skill in order to fully exploit the idea of dynamic expression on the drum set. Accents are, in essence, really just another level of dynamics which, when played correctly, give a rhythm or a groove much more depth and allow us as drummers to "speak" musically at a whole other level musically.

I'm paraphrasing here, but seem to recall an Ed Soph quote where he proclaimed:

"What's the difference between an average drummer and a great drummer?"

"The Answer? Accents!"

(ed. please correct me if I'm off base here...)

So here's a simple exercise that I came up with using the book Stick Control that's inspired by all the Joe Morello exercises I've been working on lately (specifically these days I've been checking out his book Master Studies and his two instructional DVDs):

"Stick Control Accent Exercise"

Play several bars of eighth notes on the right hand followed by the left hand

Using the sticking patterns found in the pages of Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone use the following system for each line:

When playing repeated eighth notes on the right hand:

R = accented note

L = unaccented note (but still with the right hand)

When playing the left hand as repeated eighth notes use the following system:

R = unaccented note (but still with the left hand)

L = accented note

So a single paradiddle (RLRR LRLL) would look like this, played with the right hand:

And played with the left hand, the same pattern (RLRR LRLL) would look like this:

For an extra challenge, play these lines as straight eighth notes AND as swung eighth notes as well to explore playing accents using a different rhythmic feel.

Try to maximize the difference in dynamic levels between the accents and the grace notes but do so in a relaxed manner. Don't overdue it !

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buddy Meets Sammy

The Buddy Rich/Sammy Davis Jr. album "The Sounds of 66" is one of my favorite big band albums and features Sammy Davis Jr. with the Buddy Rich big band on a live date from Los Vegas date in 1966 with all playing in very fine form indeed. Incidentally, aside from a few very virtuosic drum breaks and fills, Rich plays no solos on this date choosing instead to let Davis grab the spotlight (rare!)

I came across this footage featuring both Rich and Davis from a British talk show:

Now I never really considered Buddy Rich to be a "money" player....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Steve Gadd Busts A Move

I've blogged before about the important relationship between tap dancing and Jazz drumming. Well, in case you didn't believe me check this out!

Here's the greatest percussion ensemble in the world Nexus (featuring none other than my Uof T DMA committee member and all-around swell guy Russell Hartenberger on mallets) performing some ragtime pieces composed by xylophone virtuoso George Hamilton Green. Steve Gadd accompanies them with some swinging brushes and then steps out front to show off a few moves of his own:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lewis Nash with Renee Rosnes (Concert Review)

This past Friday and Saturday evenings I had the distinct pleasure of hearing the Renee Rosnes Quartet perform at the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, British Columbia. This was my first visit to this fine establishment and owner Cory Weeds has done an exceptional job at creating the perfect environment for both performers and patrons alike to play and listen to live Jazz music on Canada's West Coast. Along with Edmonton's Yardbird Suite this is truly one of Canada's premier Jazz clubs and Vancouverites should consider themselves very lucky to have it!

The band consisted of Vancouver ex-pat Renee Rosnes on piano, Steve Nelson on vibraphone, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Nash has long been a hero of mine since bassist Dave Watts first played me Joe Lovano's seminal double album "Quartets" released during the mid 1990s. I've been a big fan of Nash's drumming ever since through his extensive recorded work with many of the world's leading Jazz artists but unfortunately I have only had the occasion to hear him play live once. During one of my travels to New York City in 2000 I had the opportunity to hear him play with the "Grand Slam" band consisting of Nash on drums with Jim Hall on guitar, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone (and other assorted woodwind instruments) and George Mraz on double bass. I remember this gig well as I was expecting them to play an evening of standards (for some reason!) but instead was treated to them really stretch on a program of original music that was very loose and free in nature and took full advantage of Jim Hall's varied array of effects pedals. Inspiring stuff and Lewis Nash has always been one of my favorite contemporary Jazz drummers ever since.

So when I heard that Nash was playing two nights in Vancouver with Rosnes, Washington and Nelson I knew couldn't pass up this opportunity to hear this great band of musicians that I've long admired.

The music both evenings featured high-energy renditions of Rosnes's original compositions and other (to me anyways) lesser known tunes (but all brilliant none the less!). Some of the highlights for me included Rosnes fine tunes "Mirror Image", "Let The Wild Rumpus Begin", "Manhattan Rain" and "Iceland", Irving Berlin's "Suppertime", Duke Elllington's "Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool", a blues by McCoy Tyner (sorry I missed the title...) and some beautiful renditions of music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento.

The band played really great and really demonstrated their affinity for a contemporary, straight-ahead approach to Jazz music while at the same time truly playing in the moment without resorting to old cliches. I really identify with these musician's approach and their conception of contemporary Jazz playing so all-in-all it very much resonated within me.

I found pretty much everything I heard from this group to be inspiring on so many levels and, in particular, Lewis Nash's drumming was quite exceptional. His dynamic sense of swing combined with a HUGE dynamic palette (ranging from playing barely a whisper to an uncompromising tidal wave across the drums...) as well as a very creative and ingenious sense of orchestration of the drum set really did it for me. In particular the clarity of his ideas on drums, his acute articulation and a very definitive sense of phrasing really makes his drumming speak.

This band also recently completed a week-long hit at the Village Vanguard and fortunately for us NPR captured this great band live. Here's the streaming audio link:


And amazingly this Vanguard broadcast was also filmed (!) so here's the link to the video portion as well:


Truly an inspiring weekend of music and I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of this !

Now it's time for me to head back to the woodshed to try and put into action all this outstanding music I've just absorbed...

ed: Looks like someone snuck in some video footage of the Saturday evening show (it wasn't me!!!)


Hey I'm hosting the jam session this coming Thursday evening at Calgary's premier Jazz venue, the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club with Calgary Sax Titan Jim Brenan. Come by, say hello and sit in !


Friday, October 8, 2010

Billy Hart on Philly Joe Jones

From a recent masterclass, drummer Billy Hart talks about the important influence of Philly Joe Jones and specifically his influence on Elvin Jones:

Billy is a real encyclopedia when it comes to the history of Jazz drumming! I was very fortunate to study with him and attend his masterclasses at the now defunct Lake Placid Jazz Workshop during the summer of 1998. I'm still trying to figure out some of the stuff he showed us.

Anyhow, I think that student performing that Philly Joe Jones transcription for the class sounds great ! I dig how he really "pops" the accents of his lines. He's obviously done his homework. Btw- what solo is that anyways? (ed. Ted Warren has just informed me that this is in fact Philly's solo on "Lazy Bird". I should have known that!!! In fact, I think I even learned that solo a long time ago....Thanks Ted!)

Hey, I'm currently in Vancouver, British Columbia and will be checking out the Renee Rosnes Quartet featuring Renee Rosnes on piano, Steve Nelson on vibraphone, Peter Washington on bass and LEWIS NASH on drums (!) both tonight and tomorrow night at Vancouver's premier Jazz club, The Cellar. I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Full concert reviews coming in the days ahead...

Until then, happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone !

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Kim Thompson on Brushes

Just a brief clip today of Beyonce drumer Kim Thompson tearing it up with the brushes:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Billy Martin on Riddim

If you haven't yet, check out Billy Martin's great book "Riddim: Claves of African Origin". There is lots of practical information in this text and a truly unique method to teaching groove and coordination. His way of writing rhythms in an unconventional yet logical manner offers a fresh way to expand one's vocabulary on the drums.


y'a dig ?

Here's a clip of Martin discussing the development of his book and how it came about:

Looks like he's also got an interesting DVD coming out this month as well entitled "Life on Drums". I've already pre-ordered my copy and look forward to checking that soon out as well.

Here's a trailer from his new documentary:

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Monday Morning (Double) Paradiddle

- Was a busy weekend for me here in Calgary. I'm still trying to catch up with our house renovations that didn't get finished before I left for Italy a month ago. But the end is in sight !

- I had a great hit on Saturday subbing in for drummer Jonathan May at the Broken City with the Calgary based organ trio Sinistrio. I had a blast playing there funky and creative tunes. Those guys really know how to groove AND stretch. In many ways I think of Sinistrio as being like Calgary's version of the Medeski, Martin and Wood trio. I hope to have the opportunity to play with these great musicians again in the future.

- Here's an exciting upcoming gig I'm going to advertise today...I am playing with Bryan Vance and his Sax Coalition at the Ironwood Bar & Grill this coming Thursday evening. We'll be performing music from the infamous Super Sax band and a few other arrangements from members of the band (including two by yours truly).

I've really been enjoying studying this music, in particular checking out those old Super Sax recordings with none other than the super swinging Jake Hanna holding down the drum chair.

Don't miss this evening of some dizzy saxophone playing !

The Sax Coalition - Featuring the music of Charlie Parker and Super Sax

Thursday, October 7 - 8:00pm

The Ironwood Bar & Grill

Tickets $15

- Last Thursday I had the privilege of hearing pianist Amanda Tosoff's quartet from Toronto with Chris Gale on tenor, Sean Cronin on bass and Morgan Childs on drums. Outstanding playing from everyone. I really dig the Duke Ellington influence on Amanda's very tasteful piano playing. They are currently on an extensive tour of Canada so make sure to catch this band if you have the opportunity.

- I'm really looking forward to this upcoming weekend. I'll be traveling to Vancouver to hear pianist Renee Rosnes with her quartet consisting of Lewis Nash on drums, Steve Nelson on vibraphone and Peter Washington on bass play on both Friday and Saturday nights. I'm sure it will be cookin' at the Cellar this weekend ! Nash is always an exciting drummer to watch and listen too. I'm expecting a literal masterclass in the art of Jazz drumming those evenings.

- And finally, here's Miles Davis as you've never heard him before:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Phil Seaman

A few years ago I spent a great deal of time traveling to Penticton, British Columbia to visit my girlfriend (who's now my wife!). One summer while I was touring the Okanagan with saxophonist Taylor Cook I was fortunate to meet a wonderful older gentleman there named Bill who had immigrated from Britain years ago and who had spent his career playing drums in London's West End. We got along very well and talked at length about Joe Morello and other Jazz drumming related things.

Bill recommended that I check out the legendary British Jazz drummer Phil Seaman - a drummer who was an important part of London's Jazz community during the 60s along with other important UK players such as Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. He was also apparently a significant influence on Ginger Baker. He plays sort of like a British "Philly" Joe Jones (!) and although there's not a lot out there I did come across these two clips of him on youtube.com:

Someone has also put together this interesting website devoted to Phil Seaman's legacy:


Friday, October 1, 2010

Variations on Joe's "Killer" Exercise

While on the road over the last month I got a lot of inspiration from this clip of Joe Morello demonstrating a sticking exercise that one dedicated reader of this blog forwarded to me a few weeks ago:

I believe this is from one of Joe's instructional DVDs (which I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't checked out yet!) but it's basically the same thing as this page (from Morello's fine book "Master Studies", just a little bit different):

This is a great exercise to develop fluidity switching between your single, double and paradiddle strokes.

Now I came up with the following while playing my drum pad in the hills of Tuscany: play the same exercise in triplets !

Here's a couple of variations:

1) Variation #1



2) Variation #2 (this one is twice as long and changes up the sticking between the hands a bit)


A couple of things to consider:

- don't be afraid to accent the beginning of each paradiddle, especially the faster you play them

I found it interesting, in that video clip of Morello playing in particular, how he's not afraid to let the single, double and paradiddle strokes sound slightly differently from each other.

- try mixing up the order of each stick grouping

ie. play singles, doubles, paradiddles THEN doubles (and repeat)

Do this with the 4/4 version that Joe plays above as well.

Just remember though, exercises like this aren't music - they are just tools we use to make music. So don't get too caught up in the mechanics of it.

Personally, when I get home and can play my drums again after a long trip, I'm happy to forget about all the chops and drum pad stuff for awhile and practice quarter notes on my ride cymbal !