Saturday, November 13, 2010

PASIC 2010 - Day 4

Hello everyone! Today was another marathon showcase of fine musicians here in Indianapolis.
I'm a bit exhausted but have managed to fit in pretty much everything I wanted to see at this year's exceptional conference (with apologies to James Strain and his Red Norvo project. I'm sorry I missed that one...next time!)

Here's another dispatch from the front with a summary all the great stuff that I checked out today:

-I started the morning off with a session featuring Swiss Basel snare drumming expert Lee Caron & the AmeriClique Swiss Basel snare drumming ensemble. I've always been curious about the early roots of rudimental snare drumming and the origin of the "Swiss" rudiments. Apparently the Swiss mercenary army had a great deal to do with this as they spread their techniques and styles across Europe over the course of several centuries and conflicts. Very impressive playing and explanations throughout.

-Drum set artist and educator David Stanoch shared his thoughts and exercises regarding developing a good sense of time and his approaches to developing a good feel. His explanations, too, were very concise and well articulated and gave me plenty of ideas of things to practice with the metronome in the days to come. His Max Roach "transparency" exercise was also a good one and a reminder that I need to work on that again (Chris McCann showed that me years ago in Montreal). He also played great and that wasn't a small feat considering he had none other than the legendary Bernard "Pretty" Purdie sitting in the front row!

-Jamal Mohamed presented an excellent session on performance techniques for the Doumbek. He demonstrated some very common and practical patterns and played his butt off in a duet with a wind player who played a variety of interesting Middle Eastern reed instruments (and a digeridoo as well). We are very fortunate to have such a diverse collection of artists to share their passion and deep knowledge at these conferences.

-Vibraphonist Stefon Harris began his masterclass with a brilliant free improvised solo and then proceed to give a great session on a harmonic improvisation concept that doesn't require the strict use of scales to develop melodic ideas over chord changes. His approach instead involved the use of resolving to upper structure triads over a given chord change and he explored the "feelings" of certain chord tones, dissonances within a chord and their resolutions. I'm going to check this out more in the weeks to come. Harris, I think, is truly one of the modern day masters of contemporary Jazz music.

-The U.S. Army "Old Guard" Fife & Drum Corps gave an exceptional performance and history of the unit dating back to the American Revolutionary War (including being dressed in period uniforms). And these guys could really play! Their technique and ensemble playing was incredible (not too mention powerful) and even more impressive when considering the size of the sticks they used and the stick heights they needed to execute their patterns on such big drums, tuned lower and using calf skin heads. Real "old school" rudimental snare drumming and it sounded great. Something I'd like to hear more of these days.

-Afro-Cuban coordination whiz Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez played the last session of the day to a full house and played great while demonstrating his affinity for Afro-Cuban music over various clave rhythms played with his feet. His independence skills are really second to none and I appreciated his authentic phrasing and Cuban feel. It was also a very informative clinic with Hernandez demonstrating the duality of the 3-2 rumba clave and how it coexists in both 4/4 and 12/8. Furthermore, he demonstrated a few helpful exercises that help realize that duality. More to practice indeed...

-I visited the Dream Cymbal company's booth today in the expo hall. Their selection included many very nice hand hammered cymbals on display and they are not expensive at all. These cymbals are definitely worth considering if you are looking for some nice hand hammered cymbals but spending on a budget. Jazz drummers in particular should take note.

-The conference concluded with a performance from vibraphonist Stefon Harris and his band Blackout. Great overall vibe and ensemble playing and they really stretched on their program of original compositions (although I think they played a bit of Gershwin's "Gone" from Porgy & Bess at some point or was I just imagining things?) Drummer Justin Brown kept things together from behind the drums (I really dug the second deeper, looser snare drum he had in the regular floor tom position with his floor tom off to the right - a bit of Chris Dave influence perhaps?). Stefon Harris is an absolute monster on the vibraphone and a creative force. I really dug it (although I clearly sat in the wrong section. I was right in front of a speaker....and now I'm paying for it!) A great way to end the conference!

Alright that's it for PASIC 2010. I'm done!

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