Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mel Lewis Tapes

Just a quick one to keep you occupied while I'm gone for awhile...

John Riley informed me yesterday that the infamous Mel Lewis radio interview series from the late 80s has now been archived on the PAS website here: www.pas.org/experience/oralhistory/mellewis

I've had a bootleg copy of these for a few years now and found them to be an exhaustive and very informative series of lessons in regards to the history of Jazz drumming. It takes time, but listening to these interviews with Mel is a MUST for any serious student of the music and of Jazz drumming. Mel's first hand knowledge of the drummers he discusses and his ability to articulate their contributions makes these a great resource. I especially dig the episodes where he deals with one of his prime influences, Tiny Kahn. Check it out. John also told me that these interviews have also been transcribed so I wonder if a published book might be in the works (?)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Intermission Riff

Gone to New York City. Full report once I return home next week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Matt Wilson with The Jazz Video Guy

Many who know me well already know that one of my inspirations for this blog comes from the work that Bret "The Jazz Video Guy" Primack has done with with his features that he posts regularly to Youtube. I'm also a big fan of drummer Matt Wilson and was very fortunate to study with Matt during a study project sponsored by the Canada Council for The Arts in 2004. So I was quite excited to see that Bret recently released an inspiring episode featuring drummer Matt Wilson. Matt is always a chalk full of inspiration and words of musical wisdom. Check this out:

Matt is a dynamic voice in the Jazz drumming world today. His playing embodies a spirit that, I think, we should all strive for as contemporary Jazz artists.

A quote by Winston Churchill, I think, sums up perfectly what a musician like Matt Wilson represents:

"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”

*Thanks to DJD visionary Vicki Adams Willis who showed me that one...

Matt is always looking forward and as far as he's concerned there is no "box" however the depth of his playing also demonstrates a real reverence, knowledge and respect for all the things that make Jazz music what it is.

Anyways, here's a few ones of Matt Wilson in action with an all-star cast from a European performance (where he demonstrates those qualities so eloquently):

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nasheet Waits

Today's post features some nice playing from Nasheet Waits, a great drummer (like his father!) whom I'm looking forward to hearing at the Village Vanguard next week with Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstasy band:

Here's Nasheet in action with the DD Brass Ecstasy from an edition of the NPR Tiny Desk concert series:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Metheny & Moses in Montreal

I thought this was an interesting piece for not only who's playing (Pat Metheny with Steve Swallow and Bob Moses) but where it was filmed:

This footage was taken in 1988 at the now defunct Montreal Jazz club L'Air du Temps. I have many fond memories of that club and of making late night treks through the snowy streets of Old Montreal to catch many memorable shows. I first moved to Montreal during the mid-1990s and by that time the club was only active on a part-time basis but I still managed to experience a lot of great music there nonetheless (hearing drummers such as Jim Black, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Ignacio Berroa and local fixtures such as Dave Laing, Andre White and Pierre Tanguay). My last memory of being in that room was actually playing an extended run there with bassist Brian Hurley's band with Allan McLean on tenor saxophone and Paul Shrofel on piano about ten years ago.

At one point, I recall someone actually purchasing the building with the intention of returning it to its former glory but from what I heard, one thing led to another and I understand that it's now a boutique, Starbucks-like coffee shop/beanery...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tony Williams

I was thinking back the other day to the time I first saw Tony Williams give a drum clinic at the 1993 IAJE conference in San Antonio, Texas. This is pretty much what he looked and sounded like:

Those big yellow drums (with multiple floor toms all arranged in a pod and with those big black dots gracing all his drum heads) sure caught my attention at the time. And, of the course, his playing exhibited a force of nature, power and sense of urgency that one could easily go one's entire whole life without experiencing. I feel very fortunate that I was privileged enough to witness that as a teenager...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brian Blade with Edward Simon Trio

Some fine playing from Brian Blade here today with pianist Edward Simon and bassist John Patitucci from a recent hit at the Jazz Standard:

I really appreciate the close up "drum" video angles to this footage. It's a great opportunity to see the great finesse and nuance with which Blade plays the drums.

This particular trio also has several albums to its credit including "Poesia" and "Unicity" which are both worth listening to.

The energy and musicality that Blade brings to the music is, as always, inspiring.


For all you Jack DeJohnette fans out there, here's a short interview in which Jack talks about his choice in cymbals:


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tain' - Vodeville

A nice but all too brief clip of Jeff Tain Watts dishing out like he does as no one else does on his original tune entitled "Vodeville":

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Hello everyone. Hope you enjoyed your weekend. It's been busy around here with lots of things on the go these days:

-I am currently playing with the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks company in their recent production of WILDS, running at Calgary's Grand Theatre until March 20th. Our first few shows went very well and the reception so far has been very positive. I'm really looking forward to getting deeper into this music as the shows go by. The level of musicianship and overall artistic talent is very high in this production.

It's a real fun challenge to play with dancers in a situation like this. The music, tempos and forms all have to be relatively consistent night-to-night or else it really throws the dancers off in a serious way (!) The challenge is to not only take care of business in those regards but to also keep things fresh and creative within those structures. It is a Jazz show after all ! All in all it's a great experience to be part of.

-I've been getting numerous inquiries lately about my private teaching availability. Yes, I am always accepting students and interested in working with you and answering whatever questions you might have. Drop me a line and we can get together at my studio here in Calgary or arrange for a long-distance web lesson via Skype.

-With Joe Morello's recent passing this weekend, I thought back to the impact that Mr. Morello's drumming has had on myself. I first heard Joe play on the Dave Brubeck album "Time Out" (the first CD that I ever owned that my father purchased for me 20 years ago) and was immediately impressed with his sound, feel and tremendous drumming ability. Being primarily a young drumline snare drummer at the time, his approach not only impressed me but exposed me to the wider musical possibilities of being a drummer.

Several years later I had the opportunity to hang out and take a lesson with Joe while he was doing some teaching in Kingston, Ontario. My good friend Chris Smirnios was smart enough to bring Joe up for a weekend worth of master classes and private lessons during the fall of 2007. I had a great time learning from Joe over several bottles of Heineken in a hotel restaurant with him showing me his basic sticking techniques (playing on the table nonetheless!) and telling many stories from the days of drumming yesterdays gone by. His comments on my grip and arm/wrist/finger movement still resonate today. His methods, instruction videos and book "Master Studies" have since become an important part of my practice routine.

I feel very fortunate and privilege that I had the opportunity to learn from Joe. He will be missed.

-Thanks to Jim Rupp who forwarded this oral history clip of Joe Morello from NAMM www.namm.org/library/oral-history/joe-morello

-A few albums that I've been checking out lately (in between learning music for the DJD dance show!):

Pat Metheny & Chick Corea "Like Minds"- Roy Haynes, drums & Gary Burton, vibraphone

Seamus Blake "The Call" - Bill Stewart, drums

Elvin Jones "Live at The Lighthouse", vol.1 & 2 - Elvin Jones, drums

Don Grolnick "The Complete Blue Note Recordings" - Bill Stewart & Peter Erskine, drums

Joe Dukes "The Soulful Drums of Joe Dukes" - Joe Dukes, drums

-Here's a fun little clip of Gene Krupa to get the week off to a good start featuring an old-school novelty piece entitled "Big Noise From Winnetka":

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Joe Morello 1928-2011

Thank you Joe !

Dana Hall Tears It Up


Dana is a fantastic Jazz drummer from Chicago who was first brought to my attention from his great playing with brothers Jim & Craig Brenan on their release "The Throwdown":

Dana has also been doing great work with the likes of Ralph Bowen and Terell Stafford. Check out Hall's release as a leader "Into The Light":

You can find out more about Dana's music at his website www.danahallmusic.com

There are also some very nice drum solos that stream on his site while browsing that are really worth checking out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hands

Having good hand technique and proper stick control is paramount to being a good drummer. For me it's a constant process of refinement. These days I find myself continually trying to tweak how I grip my sticks and physically use my hands when moving around the drums and it always translates into my getting a better sound and feel coming out of the instrument.

I've been fortunate to spend some time with Joe Morello and John Riley over the past few years and it's exciting to hear how my drumming improves after making seemingly subtle little adjustments to the way I physically play the drums. Tommy Igoe's DVD "Great Hands for A Lifetime: The Lifetime Warmup" as well as practicing through Alan Dawson's Rudimental Ritual have also been very helpful in applying these techniques to playing rudimental patterns in a musical way while refining my grip and motion.

With all that in mind the following clip comes from percussionist Beverly Johnston via the Facebook:

This lesson is obviously taught by a cello teacher and comes from Tai-Chi but I think the concept is an important one and could easily be applied to drumming as well.

Furthermore, here's a good one of drummer/educator Danny Gottlieb in a recent clinic demonstrating his approach to basic, fundamental drum strokes:

Speaking of traditional grip, last month I had the opportunity to work with some university percussion students in Saskatchewan over a series of master classes and workshops at the University of Regina. I came across a student with a strange looking left hand traditional grip that I had never seen before that looks something like this:

You'll notice that the most significant part of this grip is the position of the thumb. In this grip the thumb and the index finger don't touch whereas I was always taught to keep the thumb on top of the index finger and to use the index finger on top of the stick to provide a center and focus to the stroke. Instead the thumb places over the stick.

Apparently this is the left hand traditional grip commonly found in Scottish pipe snare drumming and (according to John Riley) similar to how Mel Lewis gripped his sticks as well.

I've been messing around with this approach and find it quite useful and practical for playing fast, loud and messy press rolls. I think the added pressure required of the thumb to keep the stick place at the fulcrum point helps a lot in that regards. Something to think about anyways...

Monday, March 7, 2011


Times have been busy lately rehearsing with Calgary's Decidedly Jazz Danceworks recent production of WILDS. The show is choreographed by Kimberley Cooper with original music composed by Rubim DeToldeo and Chris Andrew. The music is an exciting and eclectic mix of contemporary Jazz music exploring many different vibes and textures (and some challenging odd meters to boot!) There is lots of great material here to deal with and I'm having a lot of fun working with Kim, the whole band and this talented cast of dancers.

The show opens on Friday evening and runs March 11 - 20 at the Grand Theatre in downtown Calgary, Alberta. Don't miss this exciting show.

For more information about this show and the company check out their website here: www.decidedlyjazz.com

The four of us in the band (including myself on drums with Bob Tildesely on trumpet and effects, Chris Andrew on piano and keyboards and Rubim DeToldeo on bass) performed the music from the show on Saturday evening to a packed and enthusiastic crowd at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club in Calgary. It was really nice to stretch on these fine tunes and see what different directions the music could go. There were a lot of musicians, and in particular drummers, in the house that evening and several asked me afterwards about a particular groove that I played for one movement of the show (simply dubbed "The African Vibe"). No one seemed to be able to agree where beat one was !

So here it is....

I needed to come up with a workable, groovy "African" sounding pattern for this particular piece so with much influence and inspiration taken from drummers Ed Blackwell, Billy Martin and the beat Max Roach plays on Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco", I came up with this drum pattern:

The Wilds "African Vibe" Drum Groove

Here's a few finer details about this pattern:

-The right hand part is played on a cowbell and is basically a displaced version of a common calypso bell pattern that I heard.

-On the cowbell I play a subtle little accent on the + of beat 4 in the first bar to give the groove a little "hump" and a little direction phrasing-wise.

-For an extra texture I play the groove with a small wicker shaker placed on the floor tom and a West African bundle of shakers/beads on the small tom to rattle around and add an extra effect, sort of like a "prepared" drum set (Thank you Glenn Kotche/John Cage!)

-The hi-hat plays in half-notes although as the groove intensifies during the piano solo I will often double it up to play quarter notes.

-During a quieter section of the piece I'll often play the groove exclusively on the rims of the drums to change the mood (sounds great on my new wood hoops!) and when the piano solo reaches its climax I'll often return to the original pattern but with the right hand on the bell of the ride cymbal to crank it up a notch.

-It's a fun groove to mess around with and a deceivingly simple pattern as the right hand cowbell phrase starts on the + of beat one.

Please come and check out the show during our run and experience a very unique and exciting show of contemporary Jazz dance and music. I consider myself very fortunate to be in the company of such a talented and creative group of artists, dancers and musicians.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Interview with Peter Erskine

Today's post features a three part interview with Peter Erskine who always has great things to say:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sammy Swings...Yet Again!

Okay...is there anything this guy couldn't do ???

Friday, March 4, 2011

This Weekend...

Just a heads up regarding a couple of interesting gigs of mine to take note of this weekend:

I'll be appearing at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club on Saturday evening with the band featured in this year's DJD production. Known as the reClaim Collective, we'll be performing all the music and original soundtrack from the upcoming dance show "Wilds" of which we are currently rehearsing and which will be running at the Grand Theatre March 11-20. The music is all composed by Rubim DeToledo and Chris Andrew and features an eclectic mix of styles and grooves. There is lots of variety and a lot of very interesting harmonic textures and melodic material to work with. Rubim and Chris have also come up with some quite challenging mixed-meter compositions that will be sure to keep us on our toes!

The reClaim Collective

Live @ The Beatniq Jazz & Social Club
811 - 1st Street SW Calgary, Alberta

Saturday, March 5th



Bob Tildsley - Trumpet
Chris Andrew - Piano
Rubim De Toledo - Bass
Jon McCaslin - Drums

I'm also co-hosting the jam session at the Broken City on Saturday afternoon with saxophonist Jeff McGregor from 3-6pm.
Come out and enjoy some great music, sit in with the band and taste one of Calgary's finest burgers!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ignacio Toca La Bateria

A few shorter, edited clips of Cuban-born Jazz drummer Ignacio Berroa in action from a previous European concert:

I really admire his multiple tom and cymbal set-up. I'm going to make an effort to give that a try myself although, of course, I realize that's going to mean a lot more drums, hardware and cymbals to lug around ! I think there is a lot to be said to be able to play with a smaller kit and to have the ability to get a multitude of sounds out of a limited set up however, I think having a larger set up with more cymbal/drum choices is fair game too. The expanded sound palette at your disposal makes for some interesting drumming but it's probably also about having the discipline to NOT hit everything all the time either !

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rodney Green

A couple nice ones today of drummer Rodney Green who has played as a sideman to many of the world's greats including Mulgrew Miller, Diana Krall and Charlie Haden. Here he is with a nice opening solo from a recent hit in Tel Aviv:

And playing here with a very nice Milt Jackson/Modern Jazz Quartet tribute:

And appearing here with Charlie Haden's Quartet West:

I heard Rodney play with this particular group in 2008 at the now defunct Calgary Jazz Festival. The group performed in a very wide open church and I was very impressed with Green's incredible dynamic control and ability to make everything sound right given the the challenging acoustics of such a venue.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dafnis Prieto en Clave

A few more clips of Dafnis Prieto in action today courtesy of Evan's Drumheads: