Thursday, December 22, 2011

Elvin Jones with Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman and Gene Perla

Santa Claus came early this year! I was trying to take an extended break from blogging to attend to some other "doctoral" activities in my life these days, but someone posted this amazing clip on the Facebook and it was too good to pass up and not share with you all. Merry xmas!

Here's the seminal band of Elvin Jones with Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman and Gene Perla from a French television broadcast:

This band and, in particular, the album "Live at the Lighthouse" was very influential music to me as a student during the mid 90s in Montreal. I had a band with tenor players Al McLean and Sean Craig with Paul Shrofel on piano and Sage Reynolds on bass called "The Jazz Assault" (!) in which we attempted to perform all the music from that particular album and pay tribute to that great band. It was a great experience and any sense or feeling of musical hesitation was strictly forbidden! This was easily one of the most intense bands I've ever played in. In fact, after one of our performances at the Upstairs Jazz club one of our teachers (who shall remain nameless) remarked: "I feel like I've been raped by eighth-notes!" At the time we wore that as a badge of pride but now, I'm not so sure...haha.

So I'll be watching this clip a few times over the next few weeks....and if you are looking for some related Elvin Jones vocabulary to practice on the drums, head over to Ted Warren's blog Trap'd for a nice lesson on some classic Elvin triplet phrases.

Thanks again for stopping by and see you all in the New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The YQR Jazz All-Stars

The YQR Creative Arts Association Presents:

"A Jazzy Holiday Gathering"

Featuring Jeff McLeod & The YQR Jazz All-Stars


Jeff McLeod - Piano
Andy King - Trumpet
Donny Kennedy - Alto Saxophone
Kelly Jefferson - Tenor Saxophone
Joel Kerr - Bass
Jonathan McCaslin - Drums

Wednesday, December 28th 2011


Appearing at:

The Exchange
2431 8th Avenue
Regina, Saskatchewan

Tickets $20/$10 students (available at the door)

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Seasons greetings everybody!

Well it's been busy around these parts these days with the holidays fast approaching and the usual flurry of Christmas gigs with very talented musicians. Plus we've had some serious snow here in Calgary over the past few days so I've had to dust off my shovel and get back into that routine.

However, still time to share some interesting things that have come across my desk here at Four on The Floor lately:

-Thanks to Jay Hoggard who hipped me to these awesome Tony Williams drum solos via the Facebook:

I think of Tony now every time I play my newly refinished Premier drum set that I recently had redone in that classic TW Yellow finish. Hey, why not?

So here's the story on that. A couple of months ago I sent Rene Audette of Billy Blast Drums some Gretsch Catalina Maple toms (that I found used on Kijiji) and my 20" Premier XPK bass drum that came from the first drum set that I bought with my own money as a kid 20 years ago (!) That Premier kit has been my work horse kit since the early 90s and I've played hundreds of gigs on it from coast to coast in every style imaginable. I still have the toms as well but they were rewrapped in a slick red sparkle wrap by Ed Peck over at EPEK Percussion a couple of years ago.

Rene did an exceptional job of removing the existing finish on the Gretsch toms and the wrap from the Premier bass drum. He does great work for a great price and I highly recommend him if you are looking for any work to be done on your existing drums or for some reasonably priced custom drums.

I took these photos with my iPhone so unfortunately they don't do the finish of the drums much justice but you get the idea:

You'll notice that there are Premier badges on the toms. Yes, I cheated and put Premier badges on Gretsch toms. I just decided to do that for continuities sake. I think they look pretty good.

Here's a before and after comparison photo of the bass drum shell:

And here are the shells after I took them out of the box once they arrived in the mail:

They look a bit more "blonde" than they do yellow in these photos (!) but as you can see, Tony clearly approves : )

-I've really been digging the many videos on Allen Herman's youtube.com channel lately: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChicWebb?feature=watch

I was first introduced to Allen's fine drumming from his participation in Billy's Martin excellent drumumentary "Life on Drums" (Allen was Billy's first drum teacher). Allen demonstrates some great examples of snare drumming in his videos with lots of information and concepts passed on from his teacher, Joe Morello.

-Interested in some holiday cheer? Thanks to Carolyn Kellogg via Ted Giola via Peter Hum at jazzblog.ca here is Charles Mingus' favorite egg nog recipe: http://carolynkellogg.tumblr.com/post/13976963626/charles-mingus-eggnog-recipe

"Charles Mingus Egg Nog Recipe"

* Separate one egg for one person. Each person gets an egg.
* Two sugars for each egg, each person.
* One shot of rum, one shot of brandy per person.
* Put all the yolks into one big pan, with some milk.
* That’s where the 151 proof rum goes. Put it in gradually or it’ll burn the eggs,
* OK. The whites are separate and the cream is separate.
* In another pot— depending on how many people— put in one shot of each, rum and brandy.
(This is after you whip your whites and your cream.)
* Pour it over the top of the milk and yolks.
* One teaspoon of sugar. Brandy and rum.
* Actually you mix it all together.
* Yes, a lot of nutmeg. Fresh nutmeg. And stir it up.
* You don’t need ice cream unless you’ve got people coming and you need to keep it cold.
Vanilla ice cream. You can use eggnog. I use vanilla ice cream.
* Right, taste for flavor. Bourbon? I use Jamaica Rum in there. Jamaican Rums. Or I’ll put rye in it. Scotch. It depends.
See, it depends on how drunk I get while I’m tasting it!
-Charles Mingus

-Here's some footage of the great Al Foster to check out with Dave Holland on bass and Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone on Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A Train":

Love those Paistes!

-For all my bass playing friends out there who happen to read my blog, check this guy out !

-And finally, special thanks to John Riley who forwarded me the MOST amazing Buddy Rich bootleg site you will ever come across: http://www.mikejamesjazz.com/br_clips.html#unique_index

There are some serious gems in there including the infamous Buddy Rich "Look Ma, no hands!" double bass drum solos. The Sammy Kaye compilation of Buddy's introductions and monologues on the microphone from his short-lived nightclub "Buddy's Place" are worth it on there own!

I'm going to be taking a break from blogging here at Four On The Floor for the next while. After all, I need some time to shovel snow, make Egg Nog and and bake some festive cookies.

Thanks again for your continued support, drive safe everyone and see you in 2012!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Brian Blade with The Chick Corea Trio

I'm loving all these clandestine close-up drum videos that pop up on youtube.com from time to time. It's like sitting over your favorite drummer's shoulder to catch all their slick moves (although I'm not sure how those drummers feel about this!)

Here's Brian Blade in some swinging trio footage with Chick Corea on a Thelonious Monk composition:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Calgary Scene - Kodi Hutchinson

Today's Calgary Scene column features Kodi Hutchinson, one of Calgary's busiest bass players. Kodi was one of the first Calgary musicians that I played with after I had left the stage production of "Barrage" in 2006 and I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to play with him often in various rhythm sections over the years. Kodi is a very talented musician who always brings a wealth of experience to the bandstand.

1) Can you tell us about your musical background? How did you learn to play Jazz?

I think I started music like most kids. When I was in grade 3 growing up in Calgary, my parents started me in piano privately. At the time I was a pretty hyperactive child, and ended up not endearing myself to my piano teacher. She suggested to my parents that I find something that was more suited to me. It was a short lived start in music.

When I reached grade 6, I ended up at new elementary school which had an orchestra program. I saw the double bass in the corner, and thought, I have to play that! Unfortunately, even though I let the teacher know I wanted to play the bass, she said there was a taller boy in the class, and I would have to play cello. I wasn’t a big fan of the instrument. It had a terrible set-up, with the strings constantly cutting into my fingers. However, I carried the cello home and practiced as I was instructed. I do remember clearly my very first ever concert at the school on the cello. After all my practicing and dragging this strange object around all year, the concert was a study in stage fright! I was so nervous, I don’t think I played a single note! I just wiggled my fingers with everyone else, looking terrified around the crowd. I look back on that now with a smile, considering very little makes me nervous on stage any more. I definitely try and keep those early experiences in mind when I deal with students nowadays. I find it helps to remember what they might be going through when they pick up the instrument!

Junior high school began, and my family moved to a new neighbourhood right around the start of the school year. Because of the move, I showed up at my new school 3 days late for school. When I got to band later that week, I was handed a Euphonium. It was the only instrument nobody had chosen, and now it was all mine. Although I had never heard of the instrument, I took to it immediately, and ended up playing it all the way through to University. While I was in band, there was a double bass sitting in an instrument cupboard. I started trying to play it at lunch times. I remember teaching myself to play ‘Stand by me’ by ear. I’m still amazed I could play the bass. It was so badly set up I could get my entire forearm between the strings and the finger board. I had a great junior high band teacher named Bob George. He was an excitable man who loved what he did, and got all of his students excited about music. I would say he was probably the first person to get me thinking about being a musician, and he was a great teacher who I think put me on the right path!

One day in grade nine, Mr. George mentioned to the concert band that his electric bass player had quit jazz band. He asked if anyone in the band had any experience playing a string instrument. My hand shot up! “I would love to play bass”, I said! He said I would have to get lessons. “No Problem!” Was my response. To this day my mother remembers how much I bugged her to get lessons. She explained to me that she finally had to give in, because I had never been so committed to pestering her about anything so much in my life. She found me a great teacher who really made me work on technique. I was also slightly obsessive about the instrument, and played for hours every day. My family got used to not being allowed to go on holiday unless my bass was in the car with us.

For high school, my family had moved again, I moved to my sister’s high school, Western Canada High School. The school had a great band program run by a very intense band teacher named Mike Klazek. I played in every ensemble whether it was on Euphonium or bass. The school had great bass players, including my fellow classmate, Jeremy Coates, who is now an amazing 6-string electric bassist in Alberta. It was very competitive trying to get to play in the band with him. I would say Jeremy and I pushed each other as players during those years. I think I have counted 18 different professional musicians that came from my high school graduating class, including recent Emmy award winner Dave Pierce. I would say the great musicians at my school probably pushed me to be able to become a professional musician. Also during high school, I was probably playing between 4 to 6 hours a day. I was also going to jazz camps, and studying and playing with whoever I could. Every Friday after school, my music friends would head over to Jeremy’s house, and we would play jazz together from our Real Books. I was being exposed by my bass teacher John Hyde to players like Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius, Ron Carter and Paul Chambers. My mother was also great, buying me jazz albums from those artists because she knew how excited about music I was.

In grade 12, I started playing the upright bass. Finally I was playing the instrument that I was so excited about all the way back in grade six! To get my technique together, John sent me to see a bassist from the Calgary Philharmonic named Sheila Garrett. It was with her I started studying the mechanics of the instrument for the next 3 years.

Due to my late start on double bass, I wasn’t able to apply to music programs on the instrument. I went to the University of Calgary studying history and business. However, I played in every band I could in the school including the UofC Red Band. I also joined the Calgary Youth Orchestra. To this day, most of the music students I went to school with, think I have a music degree since I was around the faculty so much and playing in so many different groups. I actually graduated with a business degree, which is a surprise to most of them!

While in University, I went to lots of jazz jams, and would check out any jazz concert I could. I was that kid who would ask anyone who was coming through town for a lesson. Somehow, that put me in the radar of the people running the Banff Centre Jazz Programs. Every year they’d have a bassist who couldn’t make the program. I started getting invites to go there for the summer jazz program. That is where I really started learning jazz getting to study with great bassists like Don Thompson, Ray Drummond, Johannes Weidmuller, etc.. I have been in the jazz program there a number of times over the years. I have also travelled to play with Hugh Fraser’s Big Band workshops in Calgary, Banff, Edmonton, and Vancouver. It was a great education getting to play with world class musicians like Silde Hampton and Maria Schneider. I also spent 3 years as the house bassist at the Kaos Jazz and Blues club. I was playing with musicians travelling through Calgary on a regular basis, getting ‘schooled’.

Although that’s how I started to learn jazz, I’m still learning. I still grab lessons when I can, and check out as much new music as possible. I try to learn as well from the musicians I play with. Right now I’m on a Canada council study grant where I’m studying with a number of teachers in New York. I intend to try and keep learning about jazz my entire life. For me, the day I stop trying to learn is the day I should do something else with my life.

2) Who are your musical influences and why?

My main influences I think are my band teachers and other private teachers growing up. I had some great teachers including Sheila Garret, John Hyde, Ken Coffey, Dale James, and Hugh Fraser. All great musicians, and such giving teachers!

My first influences on upright bass would be Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers and Charlie Haden. I love how Ray Brown and Ron Carter create their walking bass lines, and the attack they put on their notes. As someone who came to double bass a bit later than most, I really like Paul Chambers ability to play such melodic bebop lines in a very confined range of the bass. As for Charlie Haden, his is a tone and sound that I have always strived for. His ability to play such simple phrases that are so melodic is amazing, as is his ability to play with time and play over the bar lines as a soloist. He is a study in beauty and minimalism.

As for electric bassists, I was a Jaco fan from the first time I heard him. I probably spent most of my High School and University years trying to transcribe his solos and grooves. I am also a big fan of John Pattitucci. He is an all-around great musician on both electric and upright bass. He really plays like a horn player as a soloist on both instruments.

My influences change as I get older, but those are the players I really first started checking out.

3) Name your top 5 favourite albums and how they have influenced you.

I’m sure like most musicians, my list of favourite albums changes over the years, so I thought I would put a list together of albums that influenced me most early on with some albums that I am really into right now in no particular order. I tried to keep the list to 5 albums, but it was so hard, I ended up with 7. Otherwise, I have recently been checking out artists like Gerald Clayton, Taylor Eigsti, Brad Mehldau, Maria Schneider, Aaron Parks, Christian McBride, Seamus Blake, Donny McCaslin, Matt Penman, Esperanza Spalding, and the SF Jazz Collective to name a few:

Quartet West – "Haunted Heart" (1992)

This was the first album I did a transcription for upright bass. The track was ‘Hello My Lovely’. It was my first real complete look at playing the melody, solo, and walking lines for an entire song on upright. I really love the simplicity of Charlie Haden’s solo and how wide and beautiful his tone is. He pushes and pulls the time in a way that really grabs your attention.

Charlie is the master of playing minimalist solos. He seems to play half as many notes as any other bassist, but in the end, they are always the ones you wish you would have played. All of Charlie’s albums are always so melodic, even when he is playing free. He has been a huge influence how I write music. I am a strong believer in finding beautiful melodies because of his writing and soloing style. Some other great albums featuring him are ‘Nocturne’, and ‘Beyond the Missouri Sky’.

Paul Chambers – "Bass on Top" (1957)

Paul Chambers is definitely one of my favourite bassists alongside Charlie Haden. His time feel is always so even, and his solos are very melodic, emulating horn phrasing. I really got into ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’ from this album. Recorded while Paul Chambers was at the height of his ability and notoriety, this track has it all. Paul is playing the intro and melody, then kicks into a great solo right out of the gate. After that, he creates some great swinging bass lines that really flow. For a long time I tried to emulate Paul’s time feel and bass line structure. He also showed to me, that a double bassist could be a main melodic instrument, if placed in the right setting.

Ron Carter – "Standard Bearers" (1978)

This was the very first album I ever owned of a double bassist as a leader. When I think of it, this very well might be my first jazz album I ever owned. I believe my mother bought it for me. She was very keen on trying to find music for me to listen to when I was starting jazz band in high school. The recording itself is not the best. It was recorded during the 1970’s explosion of double bassists using pick-ups, so the bass sounds a bit processed. Ron Carter plays melodies and solos on piccolo double bass, while Buster Williams plays walking bass on the tracks. There are lots of tuning issues and such on the album, but it had heart. As far as influence goes, I just was fascinated with the album and learned some of the melodies and walking lines on electric bass. It was my first time trying to read chord charts and lead sheets along with an album.

Unlike today when we have so much access to music, this was the first album I really got to explore. This was in large part due to the fact, that for quite awhile, it was the only recording I had to listen to in the pre-digital age. I spent hundreds of hours listening to these tracks. This album led me to Ron Carter’s work with other artists such as Miles Davis. That is where I started to listen to more seminal albums with Ron on them.

Jaco Pastorius – "Live in New York Vol. 2" (Released 1992)

This was my very first CD I ever owned. Once again given to me by my mother. She really had some great luck with finding music for me.

Although like most bassists, I spent a great deal of time transcribing music from Jaco’s self-titled album and his work with Weather Report, this album spoke to me more than the rest. It was interesting hearing Jaco in a live setting playing a mix of his music as well as very well known pop tunes of the day. It showed me another side of Jaco and made me think of what type of music was viable for jazz. Not just standards and originals. It is a fun album which has its ups and downs, but that is probably why it influenced me so much when I first heard it. I really enjoyed hearing great players live with blemishes and all. It made me realize how ‘human’ music can be, and still be great.

Chris Thiele – "Not All Who Wander Are" (2001)

I spent a number of years touring in Celtic, bluegrass and world music in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. From my travels and the musicians I got to work with, I started to discover the world of New Grass. These blue grass musicians blew me away with the amount of influences they were bringing into their music. New Grass showed me bassists like Edgar Meyer, Victor Wooten, and Byron House. Although I had met Edgar through my double bass teacher Shelia Garrett in University, it wasn’t until I was more immersed in that world that I started to truly discover his range as a musician. I was also a fan of the band Nickel Creek, so I bought a solo album by their front man, vocalist / mandolinist; Chris Thiele. This album has both Edgar Meyer and Byron House on it. Edgar is so amazing on tracks such as ‘From Sinai to Canaan’. His classical technique on the bow, mixed with his ability to solo and create beautiful moods and melodies, just makes this already great album amazing. This album really has influenced my playing in genres outside of the jazz idiom.

Avishai Cohen – "Gently Disturbed" (2008)

This album has been a huge influence as of late for me. I first heard Avishai in the late 1990’s with Chick Corea and then on his album ‘Adama’. He was fascinating to me even then. This album is an amazing display of what the bass can do within a compositional framework. Although a jazz album, it is classically influenced while utilizing modern grooves, and odd-meters. It is one of my favourite albums of all time. This album I think will show itself as a major influence in my writing over the next few years. I think I have listened to ‘The ever evolving etude’ more times than I can count. This album demonstrates what a true artist on the instrument can accomplish.

Oscar Peterson – "We Get Requests" (1964)

I attended a great workshop with bassist John Clayton when I was in University. He has the ability to play like any jazz bass player you care to name. This is due to the large amount of transcriptions he has done for bass. When the clinic was over, this was one of the albums he recommended. Although not an album for bass solos, Ray Brown’s walking lines make it worth the listen. This is an album that I keep going back to throughout my career.

4) What sort of things are you practicing or developing musically these days?

At the time I am writing this, I am on a Alberta Create Development Initiative (ACDI) Grant to study in New York. So I’m definitely in study mode musically right now.

I really wanted to find some teachers that would help me work on a range of things. Currently I am studying with Jay Anderson (Double Bass), Garry Dial (Theory), and more recently Chris Tarry (Electric Bass).

I am working with Jay on a better understanding of my movement, soloing, and lines on double bass. Right now I am really focusing on trying to work through making longer bass lines harmonically which are more melodic.

With Garry, he is really making me go back to basics for theory and helping me work through exercises that make theory more automatic in my hands. He teaches the Charlie Banacos method. It is really great for me as a bassist. It has been helping my ability to function on chords much more quickly, and to better understand harmony. I know it will help me both as a player and composer over time.

With Chris I am working on melodic techniques and electric bass issues. Chris has a very strong melodic approach and has great ways to explore that.

5) What interesting projects do you have on the go at the moment? (gigs, recordings, etc.)

Right now I am working quite a bit with drummer and band leader Karl Schwonik. I have been on 2 of his albums; ‘Visions from the farm’, and ‘1+4’ featuring Remi Bolduc (Both WCMA nominated). I have 2 tours scheduled with Karl for the upcoming winter. I also teach at his summer jazz camps for the Wetaskiwin Jazz Society each year. This coming summer we will be working with New York percussionist Rogerio Boccato at the camp. We will also be recording an album with Rogerio on it. Very exciting.

I am also recording a new trio album next year with my own group ‘The Hutchinson Andrew Trio’. It will be our third album, and we will be recording in New York. The album will feature a very special guest that I’ll keep under wraps for now, but we’re all very excited. Chris Andrew and I will be writing music for it over the next couple of months.

I am also excited to be a part of a concert featuring Maria Schneider this coming winter with the Calgary Jazz Orchestra. I just saw her live in New York, and I study with her bassist Jay. I played for her at the Banff Centre Jazz Workshop in 2007. This will be my second time playing for her. It should be great. I love every chance I get to work with world class musicians like Maria.

6) As a sideman you have played with a great variety of artists and genres over the years. Can you tell us about your experiences and some of the lessons you have learned from playing with these musicians?

Being located in Alberta has afforded me some great opportunities as a musician that I might not otherwise have had living in some other places. We have some great musicians travelling through that local musicians get to play with, as well as some great musicians living here.

Nearing the end of my time at University, I was made the house bassist at Calgary’s first jazz club KAOS. I spent 3 years playing with a number of great musicians coming through town. It was a great proving ground that really forced me to get aspects of my playing together, and exposed me to what musicians in different parts of the world were doing. It also gave me an idea of the expectations put on players to succeed at a higher level.

I have also been part of the Banff Centre for the Arts Jazz Programs numerous times. I would honestly say, Banff was the closest thing for me to going to music school. The format of the program is more intense than any music program I have had access to. It’s probably part of the reason that it is so popular amongst up and coming players in Jazz.

As far as specific artist lessons, there are a few that come to mind. The most important was being able to play with jazz great, Slide Hampton (trombone) for an entire week in 1998. It was part of a Hugh Fraser Big Band workshop in Edmonton. Slide at the time was 65 years old, and a recognized Jazz Master who had played in Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Every day we rehearsed new music with him and the big band. For the shows we would play a set up front of quartet music, then get into the big band sets.

Slide just played amazing each night. We were all in awe of him. But the funny thing was he just kept saying how he needed to go practice to keep up with us, and how blessed he was to get to play with us. He was so supportive. I was blown away. Here was one of the recognized greats on his instrument, and he needed to practice, and was honoured to play with us!? It struck me how music is about life-long learning, no matter how good you are. It also showed me the importance of being graceful to others in music and in life. I really strive to approach music and life like Slide does. I want to keep his attitude of trying to evolve as a musician in whatever way I can for my entire career. Music is about growth to me, both as a player, and as a person.

I also had a number of lessons playing in other Hugh Fraser workshops and bands. He really was a huge influence on me as a person and a musician. A number of times I have been on stage with artists in small groups alongside him such as PJ Perry, Don Thompson, and Julian Priester just to name a few. Many times they have called a song on stage at a concert that I didn’t know. As in the jazz tradition, they played the song anyway, and I had to adapt and play the song as best as I could. It really showed me how to keep my ears open, and play simply to make the music sound good. Hugh definitely taught me that in the end it’s just music. No-one gets hurt. I learned to be relaxed in stressful situations, and adapt quickly by listening.

In the end, the overall lessons I have learned are to keep a positive attitude about music, and towards people. Also, always keep moving forward and learning. Be adaptable, creative, humble, and flexible. And finally realize that what we do for a living is amazing.

Being a musician can be a struggle, but in the end, it’s the only thing I want to be!

7) Favourite place to eat in Calgary?

Such a fun question since I’m kind of a foodie! So many Choices. Right now I am a fan of the ‘Home Tasting Room’ in Calgary. A great open concept kitchen with a tasting menu. Bring your wallet and some friends!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

George Coleman 8tet with Billy Higgins

Listening to Billy Higgins play the drums and learning to appreciate his masterful sense of accompaniment is a must for any serious student of the instrument. He always seems to know exactly what to play and how to make whomever he plays with sound their very best. Plus, his joyful groove and ever present smile always seem to create the perfect environment on the bandstand for everyone else to play with. It's no wonder that he was in such high demand as a sideman over the years. His playing, to me, represents the true essence of being a Jazz drummer and I find tremendous inspiration whenever I hear him play.

Here's an example of Higgins' exceptional playing with tenor saxophonist George Coleman's octet:

After a few informative and inspiring recent emails exchanged between myself and my friend Chad Anderson, he pointed me in the direction of this recording of Higgins playing drums with John Coltrane to check out and muse over:

Chad told me how when he studied with Alvin Fielder back in the day that this was THE recording to check out and absorb, especially in terms of Billy's approach to his ride cymbal beat and how his snare and bass drum figures blended in with the cymbal so perfectly. Thanks Chad !

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peter Erskine Plays

Today's post features a Peter Erskine drum workshop thanks to the The Drum Brother. Peter is a great teacher and I always enjoy his teachings and ability to articulate his concepts and ideas:

And finally, courtesy of the nice people over at Evans Drumheads here is a very important conceptual drum lesson on comping that I've been practicing lately and found to be very useful:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday with Farnsworth

Joe Farnsworth is one of my favorite contemporary Hard Bop Jazz drummers around these days. His hard-driving swing, timeless respect for the tradition and impeccable chops always make him an exciting drummer to watch. Many times I've sat at the bar at Smoke in New York and come away impressed and inspired by his playing.

In fact, on my first album "McCallum's Island" the track "Finding Farnsworth" (based on the changes to Cherokee) was inspired by Farnsworth's hard swinging style and great playing on his album "Beautiful Friendship":

Here is a series of clips of Farnsworth doing his thing using a very minimalist drum set without any toms, floor tom or extra cymbals. Notice how effectively he uses his vocabulary and really makes the drums "speak" while using both sticks and brushes regardless of his less-is-more set-up:

I think it's always good practice to sometimes leave the toms and extra cymbals at home and really focus on the basics...You'd be surprised as to how hard that really is! You'll also notice that Farnsworth's command of his rudimental vocabulary and use of accents within his phrases really allow him to come up with some interesting ideas, so we don't really miss those tom toms at all, I think.

For a taste of Joe playing with a band (and another fine example of how a good drummer can really "drive the bus"!) here is Joe from a hit last year at the Cellar in Vancouver with the group "One For all" on the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo tune "Manteca" demonstrating his fine Afro-Cuban chops as well:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Victor Lewis with Kenny Barron

Unfortunately I wasn't able to travel to Toronto recently to catch Victor Lewis with Ryan Oliver's group (it was all over Facebook so I gather that it was indeed pretty amazing (!) and Ted Warren even gave it a glowing mention over at his blog Trap'd) However, thanks to the gods over at youtube.com the rest of us can still enjoy this one of Victor laying it down with pianist Kenny Barron's trio joined by Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass:

Also, speaking of Ted and his fine blog Trap'd, thanks to Ted Warren for sharing this incredible clip in tribute to the great Paul Motian:

This is one of my particularly favorite groups that Motian led and the fact that they are playing one of my favorite Thelonious Monk tunes in the greatest Jazz club in the world is an added bonus as well! I've been messing around with Monk's "Misterioso" for awhile now on the vibraphone. Maybe if I'm nice Ted will let me play it with him on piano someday! ; )

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ed Thigpen on Brushes & A Lesson with Kenny Washington

More superb examples of brush playing brought to us today by the Master himself, Ed Thigpen:

These musical selections are excerpts from Thigpen's brush video "The Essence of Brushes" (also featuring Ron Carter on bass!) that was filmed as a companion to his instructional book "The Sound of Brushes". Thigpen's brush work with the Oscar Peterson Trio has always been a huge influence on me but I actually distinctly remember the first time that I saw this partiuclar video during the early 90s. One day I walked into the Long & McQuade store in Regina, Saskatchewan to purchase a pair of sticks or something and my good friend/store manager/local bassist Peter Dyksman pulled me aside, pointed to a monitor set up in the middle of the store and said: "Jon, now check THIS out!" So we ended up standing there and watching this video in its entirety right there in the middle of the sales floor! That moment really had a profound impact on me. Up to that point I had heard great drummers play the brushes, but this was the first time I had SEEN a great drummer play the brushes.

Incidently, I recently spent some quality time with Kenny Washington last week while he was in Calgary performing and teaching with baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan and Ray Drummond on bass. In addition to a Sunday afternoon performance the band also spent four days giving workshops to some very lucky high school and university students.

Fortunately I was able to spend some considerable one-on-one time with Mr. Washington during his visit. When the topic of our lessons turned to his approach to brush playing, Kenny really stressed the importance of listening to great drummers play the brushes in order to get that distinctive SOUND ingrained in one's ear, thus influencing the conceptual and technical approach that you are aiming for.

While pointing to his forehead Washington commented: "You have to get the sound in the old dome, ya see?"

Specifically, these are the albums that Kenny described to me as being MUST have brush recordings to check out:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Thanks to kind people over at Vic Firth here's a fun segment that also features some up-close performance footage of Greg Hutchinson, a man and his drumsticks:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Off To The Side with Matt Wilson

I can't think of a better way to start off this week than with a virtual up-close, in-performance drum lesson with Matt Wilson, seen here from a Boston performance with saxophonist Noah Preminger's Group on the classic Thelonious Monk composition "Four In One":

Matt is always an inspiration to watch and listen to play. He plays with a real sense of joyful purpose that permeates every musical situation he finds himself in. His highly groovy and often melodic and in-the-moment approach to playing jazz music really resonates with me and I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with him back in 2004 on a study project sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts. Matt also plays with a really beautiful sound, a dynamic sense of flow, impeccable phrasing and he always seems to know exactly how much space to leave. Fortunately I have all my extensive lessons with Matt recorded and I often find myself going back to those recordings for renewal and inspiration. In many ways I like to think of Matt as the modern Billy Higgins of our time, someone who's joyful and exuberant spirit never fails to lift the bandstand and embrace the music around him at all times.

I actually just spent the weekend playing a ton Monk tunes myself (including this one) at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club in Calgary with Toronto guitarist Alex Goodman who was nice enough to grace us with his presence and his music after having completed an extended residency at the Banff Centre. He's sounding pretty good these days, to say the least!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Calgary Scene - Tricia Edwards

It's been awhile since I've featured any Calgary musicians in my Calgary Scene column but I'm happy to be back at it today and feature the very talented and hard-working pianist Tricia Edwards.

Tricia Edwards is a Calgary area pianist. She was the recipient of the 2009 Richard Harold Cowie scholarship, given by the Calgary Musician’s Association and C-Jazz. She released her debut jazz CD “Joyspring” in March 2009. The Tricia Edwards Quartet performed as part of Calgary’s 2009 Jazz Festival and she also played as part of the 2010 Sylvan Lake Jazz Festival with vocalist Deanne Matley. Her most recent public performance was November 12, 2011 with the Latin jazz project “Quinteto Alegria” at the Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club. Tricia earned both Masters and Bachelors degrees in classical piano performance at theUniversity of Alberta. She then spent the next several years performing solo and chamber music, teaching and working as a free-lance accompanist in Edmonton, the Middle East, and Calgary. She was on faculty at both the Alberta College and Mount Royal College Conservatories.In the fall of 2003, she began studying jazz piano and bass. She now works primarily as a jazz and salsa pianist, playing with Quinteto Alegria, the Wednesday Night Big Band, Calgary Jazzwinds, Orquesta Latin Combo, and Tropicalgary, plays solo piano regularly at the Delta Bow Valley lounge, as well as freelancing with many local groups and musicians.

1) Can you tell us about your musical background?
How did you learn to play jazz?

I came to jazz by happy accident. I have spent most of my musical life in the classical realm. I started piano lessons in grade school, moved through the Royal Conservatory exam system and went on to do Bachelorʼs and Masterʼs degrees in piano performance at the University of Alberta. Right after graduating I moved with my husband to the Middle East for a couple of years and there had amazing opportunities to play with local and visiting musicians from all over the world, as well as teaching. After coming back to Canada, I taught at both Alberta College and Mount Royal College Conservatory and worked as a free-lance accompanist.

In 2003 I was preparing for a solo recital after a hiatus from playing, and...this story is such a cliché Iʼm embarrassed to tell it...I did too much too soon and ended up with tendinitis. So after taking some time off and still in the process of recovering, I started taking jazz lessons with Derek Stoll, on a lark, really. I hadnʼt tried improvisation before, but Derek is an inspiring teacher. I was instantly completely hooked. Since then I have taken lessons with local players, attended the Mount Royal College summer jazz camp, the Jamey Aebersold summer jazz program and this summer I went to New York for lessons and lots of listening. Also jam sessions and gigs often have the potential to be free lessons, and I am grateful for the generosity and support of the local musical community.

2) Who are your musical influences and why?

I did my Masterʼs degree with a great Canadian classical pianist, Stéphane Lemelin, and I have to say that even though Iʼm doing something very different now and itʼs many years later, I can still hear his voice in my head! And his playing is a standard I aspire to.Francois Bourrassaʼs quartet was one of the first jazz events I attended. I still go every time heʼs here and listen to his CDʼs regularly.

I love Bill Evans!

I remember one of my lessons with Derek Stoll - he played a montuno with a left hand tumbao (ok, I had really lived in a tiny musical bubble up to this point) and I remember it grabbing my brain. So I started listening to Latin jazz. Chucho Valdes, Michel Camilo, Rubalcaba, Danilo Perez - all favourites.

3) Name your top 5 favourite albums and how they have influenced you.

Top five is impossible, but hereʼs five that come quickly to mind. The only jazz album I owned up until about 7 years ago was Kind of Blue. Those tunes were floating around in my head before I understood anything. Anything by Bill Evans. Chucho Valdes, New Conceptions, Mstislav Rostropovich and the Bach solo cello suites. I keep coming back to this one. Right now Iʼm listening to Danilo Perez' "Central Avenue" and really enjoying it.

4) What sort of things are you practicing or developing musically these days?

My lessons in New York this summer (with Peter Zak and Michael Weiss) made me think about voicings more carefully than I had been. Itʼs like a big puzzle and I can sit for hours trying to figure things out. Also, transcribing wasnʼt a part of my training and it took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out what the fuss was about. Now Iʼm trying to exercise that (weak!) musical muscle because I realize itʼs key. Also I was fortunate enough to get involved in the salsa scene in Calgary recently, so
Iʼve been working really hard at that. And then by extension, figuring out how that can feed into jazz.

5) What interesting projects do you have on the go at the moment?

Iʼm involved in a new Latin jazz quintet project, Quinteto Alegría. So much fun!

6) You are in a unique position by having such extensive training as a classical pianist that also plays jazz music. How would you describe how your classical training has influenced your jazz training and vice versa?

OK, so I havenʼt figured this out yet. Is it cheesily quoting “Fũr Elise” in my solos? (Yes, guilty.) Or just letting the subconscious stew of all past musical experiences come out how they will? I will keep you posted. And when I play classical music now, I now have a greater appreciation for and insight into the composerʼs mind.

7) Favourite place to eat in Calgary?

Una Pizza on 17th has amazing gluten-free pizzas.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Rhythm Project

Thanks to Michele Moss from the Department of Dance at the University of Calgary who brought this incredible story to my attention:

"C'est le rhythme...TOUS les choses c'est le rhythme!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alan Dawson 3/8 Phrasing

Several years ago while I was still living in Montreal, I had the opportunity to teach an older drum student who had lived in Boston during the 1960s. During his time in Boston, while he was studying mathematics and computer engineering at MIT, he studied with the legendary and influential drum teacher, Alan Dawson. I think that I actually learned as much from my student as he did from me!

One interesting concept that he passed on to me was Alan Dawson's "3/8 figure":

Basically this phrase consists of dotted-quarter notes played continuously in 4/4 time and resolves after three bars. Alan would often use this phrase in the context of both soloing and timekeeping to generate interesting, over-the-bar-line ideas that flow very nicely.

Try the following exercises to start:

-Play the Jazz ride cymbal pattern and play the 3/8 pattern against it using different limbs and combinations thereof (snare, bass drum, hihat, etc.)

-Playing the pattern with accents on the snare drum, fill-in the missing eighth-notes and embellish the phrase with different rudiments (Dawson was big on the rudiments through his "Rudiment Ritual")

Remember, you don't necessarily have to start this phrase on the downbeat (!) and you can actually use any one of those three bars as your starting point.

The key, however, is to play this phrase in creative ways while still doing so in the context of four and eight bar phrases. It can get tricky if you're not careful!

Here's a few great clips of Alan Dawson with Sonny Rollins. If you listen carefully this phrase pops up several times:

For more insight into Alan Dawson's method, I would highly recommend this book by John Ramsay:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank You Paul

Paul Motian 1931-2011

John Riley Plays Tenor Madness

Some footage today of John Riley performing Sonny Rollins' "Tenor Madness" from a recent drum set improvisation clinic at the PASIC 2011 conference in Indianapolis:

Here's another close up angle of the same solo (also some additional footage of Billy Martin and Joe McCarthy in this one):

Nice blue drums John!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

-Thanks to all the staff, students and volunteers at the University of Saskatchewan where I spent the past week adjudicating and working with student groups at the annual Unifest music festival. It was very cold in Saskatoon last week but there was much great music to be made. Keep up the great work everyone!

-I spent Sunday afternoon watching and learning from the master Kenny Washington at Calgary's Ironwood Stage & Grill in a show that also featured baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan and bassist Ray Drummond. This fine trio is currently touring Western Canada with dates in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Thanks to local drummer and educator John DeWaal who was nice enough to set Kenny up with his vintage 1970s Gretsch kit:

Watching and listening to Kenny Washington is always a lesson in itself.

-During a conversation with Kenny after the show our conversation turned to the weather (it's too cold here!), Recordland (Calgary's premier used record store which happened to be across the street), cymbals and the art of playing Charlie Wilcoxin snare drum solos (get those accents UP there). Kenny handed me a book and asked me if I had checked out this interesting one by Dominick Cuccia:


Dominick has a website of his own that features some of his rudimental snare drumming knowledge:


-Here's a few new blogs to check out that I've been enjoying lately:

Bassist Rubim DeToledo - Mount Royal Bass blog

Andrew Hare - The Melodic Drummer

-Finally, if you are in the need of a little inspiration to get your week off to a fresh start, here's an archived radio interview with Lewis Nash to take a listen to: http://archive.kjzz.org/music/interviews/2007/nashview

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Up Close With Roy Haynes

Here's a clip with some nice angles and close up footage of the great Roy Haynes in action, the hippest man in the universe:

And here's a nice interview with Haynes and his neighbor Matt Wilson from last year's Litchfield Jazz Festival (Armando Slice wasn't available, I guess...)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Clayton Cameron Drum Clinic

Drummer Clayton Cameron is generally known for his impeccable brush technique but of course he also plays great with sticks too (!) Here's Clayton demonstrating his approach to soloing from a performance at the Chicago Drum Show (and for awhile with two sticks in each hand with a nod to the showmanship of the great Louis Bellson):

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Swinging with Half-Note Triplets

Today's drum lesson deals with using different permutations of half-note triplets as the basis for developing Jazz vocabulary and phrasing ideas on the drums.

Several years ago I attended a drum clinic with drummer Carl Allen, who is now the artistic director of the Jazz program at Juilliard and a very fine Jazz drummer and educator in his own right. Carl talked at length about the "Power of Three", his concept that illustrated the importance of feeling groupings of three in different ways while playing Jazz drums in the context of being a soloist and accompanist (whether that meant smaller combinations of triplets or larger groupings and subdivisions).

Based on that idea I've been messing around the idea of dealing with larger groupings of triplets lately, in particular the use of half-note triplets starting on different parts of the beat within the bar.

Here are the three variations of a half-note triplet in 4/4 time:

- In a timekeeping context I'll play the ride cymbal rhythm and then mess around with voicing these different rhythms around the drum set and splitting them up between the hands and the feet.

- In a soloing context I will improvise triplets around drums and accent those half-note triplet phrases within those phrases.

I like playing these rhythms because they take a bit longer to resolve evenly within a bar and, I think, allow my comping to open up and breath a bit. Often drummers, when they are comping, sometimes try to cram in all their ideas into a bar and the result is a very dense and unmusical sound. I've found that working with longer rhythms as a framework helps avoid this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Explosive Drums

Someone recently posted these audio clips of the long out-of-print LP "Explosive Drums" that featured many of the greatest swing drummers of all time including the likes of Jo Jones, Panama Francis, Michael Silva, J.C. Heard, Ed Thigpen and Cozy Cole and Oliver Jackson.

It's nice to see and hear Oliver Jackson included in this compilation. Incidentally, Oliver was Ali Jackson Jr.'s uncle (Ali currently holds the drum chair with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Centre orchestra).

I recently had a great conversation with Montreal guitarist Greg Clayton while visiting Montreal last month. Greg has been around the Montreal scene for a long time and has also hosted the late-night jam sessions held during the Montreal Jazz Festival many times over the years. Greg has many great stories about all the legendary musicians that would come down to hang out and sit in with the house band night after night. In particular, Greg has many amazing tales about all the heavy drummers that would come and play (it's a long list!) Interestingly enough, Greg told me that the one guy who really lifted the band to another level when he played and really stood out from the others was, in fact, none other than Oliver "Bops" Jackson. And considering who else Greg and his band had the pleasure of playing with during those jam sessions, that's saying a lot!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brian Blade Up Close

A few shots here from a strategically placed camera of Brian Blade playing with Chick Corea and the "Five Peace Band" from a recent performance at the Bluenote:

I've sat at that the exact same table at the Bluenote over the years. For me it was always the perfect vantage point to check out the likes of Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Lewis Nash, Jeff Ballard and others...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ed Soph Brush Lessons

Thanks to the kind people over at Evans Drumheads, here's UNT Professor Ed Soph demonstrating some very important brush patterns and concepts:

I should also note that if you are looking for some other great and very creative brush patterns to practice, check out Ted Warren's brush lessons (all performed on a well-worn phone book!) over at his blog Trap'd.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Billy Martin @ PASIC 2011

I didn't make it to Indianapolis for this year's edition of PASIC : ( but here is a brief clip showing some of Billy Martin's "Life on Drums" clinic that took place last Thursday:

For those of you who did make it, I hope you had a great time and see you next year in Austin, Texas!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

5 Beat Groupings

I recently spent some time taking a lesson with John Riley. While discussing my questions about the often deceptive rhythmic approaches, cadences and phrasing of such drummers as Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and Jeff "Tain" Watts, John suggested to me that "often things that we think are random are often not and are planned out, although perhaps executed in unexpected ways."

As an example John had me take a look at his transcription of Jack DeJohnette's performance on the ECM album "Pictures" which is featured in John's excellent book "Beyond Bop Drumming". John pointed out a certain eight bar phrase that upon my first glance seemed to be highly syncopated, complicated and definitely random! However, upon further dissection the phrase actually turned out to be a series of five beat phrases broken up between the snare drum, hihat and bass drum and played against the ride cymbal pattern. However, each time this five beat phrase was repeated Jack would change the phrase just slightly (whether that meant orchestrating certain notes on different instruments or adding/deleting a note here or there). The end lesson being, of course, is that while this all sounded abstract (and perhaps random!) Jack obviously had worked some serious stuff out ahead of time and was able to manipulate it in an unexpected manner. Very hip.

Since five note phrases in the context of a 4/4 groove are definitely on the oblique side of things, I decided to come up with some of my own ideas and practice them.

Please refer back to my previous lesson "Another Comping Exercise" for the nuts and bolts of today's lesson:


So taking that concept of using the stickings from Stick Control in conjunction with some syncopated rhythms to come up with some practical and interesting comping patterns, I've been messing around with these two five beat phrases in 4/4 time:

The first one starts on the beat:

The second variation starts on the off-beat:

Both phrases involve playing eight consecutive eighth-notes followed by a quarter note rest (the second variation is just a displaced version of the first) to give you a five beat phrase that is repeated five times over the course of five bars of 4/4.

-Perhaps to get comfortable with playing five beat cycles over 4/4, try playing the phrase on the snare drum first using a RLRL RLRL sticking while also playing your hihat on beats 2 & 4.

-Then play the Jazz ride cymbal beat with your right hand and the hihat on beats 2 & 4 and play those first two variations with the left hand on the snare drum.

These two primer exercises should get you comfortable with feeling five beat phrases over the barline in 4/4.

The idea is that you use Stick Control-like patterns (with R= Bass Drum and L=Snare Drum...thank you Alan Dawson!) in conjunction with these rhythmic phrases while playing the ride cymbal rhythm and the hihat on 2&4.

So RLRR LRLL using the first example would look like this:

Starting on the off-beat, this five beat phrase using a RLRR LRLL sticking would look like this:

*Please note that I haven't notated the ride cymbal and hihat parts. You'll have to work those out on your own!

Here's a few stickings to get you started that work well with this one:













Of course you can use patterns from Stick Control or come up with your own and be creative.

Also experiment with replacing the bass drum parts with the hihat. If you straighten out the eighth notes and play it faster and play the hihat on all four beats then Tony Williams-like patterns will emerge...

Just remember: Take it slow and make it swing!