Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Victor Lewis

Some fine drumming here today from the Master Victor Lewis shown here playing with trombonist Steve Turre's band:

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Hope you all had a nice weekend.
Here's a few things that have been floating around the Four on The Floor office lately:

-A very cool story from jazzonline.com about the infamous Roy Haynes flat ride cymbal that appears on Chick Corea's seminal trio date "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" with the story from Mr. Haynes himself. Check that out here:


I had no idea that this cymbal (pictured above) was played on so many records. I'm going to have to revisit those recordings again with that cymbal in mind.

-I've been shedding the vibraphone a lot lately in preparation for some upcoming gigs. I really love the tune "All The Things You Are" and never find a lack of challenges or lessons to practice in that tune. Plus, the melody itself is really a work of art.
I still distinctly remember Jan Jarczyk giving me a piano lesson during one of our composition lessons and him teaching me the melodic and harmonic logic of this great composition.

I recently came across this interesting rendition of this classic tune:

-Thank you to everyone who braved the wet weather and came out to the Beatniq this past weekend to hear my trio with Jim Head on guitar and Jeremy Coates on bass. These guys really took the music to many places and a high level those nights. We had a great time creatively stretching on each others original compositions and a few familiar standards (although perhaps they weren't so familiar after we were done with them!) Jim Head is a FORCE to be reckoned with on the guitar. I have to say too that playing with an electric bass in a contemporary Jazz context was a very nice refreshing change of pace as well. Jeremy really nails it!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Levon Helm on Drums & Drumming

"If your drums don't sound good then put some tape on 'em!"

Thanks to David Stanoch who brought this one to my attention via the Facebook.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some West African Patterns

When I was in Moose Jaw, SK last week adjudicating the Jazz portion of the Moose Jaw Band & Choral festival I had the opportunity to catch up with my good friend Val McWilliams and her daughter Kate. Val is a very dedicated music educator and Kate is a very talented musician (and former student of mine!) and currently producing a summer music festival in Moose Jaw. Kate asked me about some patterns and ensemble grooves to play on the djembe.

Here you go Kate : )

I'm not sure of the exact origin of this groove but percussionist Aldo Mazza showed this to me in Montreal several years ago.

This piece consists of a 12/8 bell pattern and two drum patterns that compliment each other. You'll notice that the second drum pattern is basically the same as the first one except it starts on the second half of the bar. The pattern is rounded out by a simple shaker pattern that accents the dotted-quarter note pulse.

Use the following key for the djembe patterns:

+ = closed tone

o = open tone (accented)

R = right hand

L = left hand

Friday, May 27, 2011

Interview with Ignacio Berroa

Today we bring you an interview with drummer Ignacio Berroa, a great musician who blends his heritage of Afro-Cuban drumming with an authentic Jazz sensibility and sense of swing:

And here's Ignacio from a recent clinic in New Jersey demonstrating his unique Jazz/Afro-Cuban style of drumming:




Appearing live at the
Beatniq Jazz & Social Club
811 1st Street Southwest
Calgary, AB

Friday, May 27

Saturday, May 28



Jim Head - guitar and pedals

Jeremy Coates - acoustic and electric bass guitars

Jon McCaslin - drums and cymbals

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ralph Peterson Swings

Ralph is definitely one of my favorite contemporary Jazz drummers. I love his his aggressive and hard swinging approach. Definitely a nod to his days playing as the second drummer in Art Blakey's big band.

Here he is from a recent hit in Athens, Greece:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sam Woodyard with Duke

Some nice footage here that I hadn't seen before of drummer Sam Woodyard, playing here with Duke Ellington:

Not many Jazz guys could pull off playing a double bass drum set up. Sam was definitely one of the chosen ones!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Swing Control

Due to many requests for some more frequent lessons here at Four on The Floor, here's something to chew on. Hopefully you've all been keeping busy over at Jesse Cahill, Todd Bishop and Ted Warren's great blogs where they've been posting great things to practice and think about. I know I've been!

Today's lesson deals with phrasing sticking patterns and exercises from George Lawrence Stone's book "Stick Control" with the goal of making them swing.


A simple, basic exercise that I like to work on involves the following:

1) Playing the lines from Stick Control on the snare drum while playing a basic 4/4 swing pattern with my feet
(ie. 2&4 on the hihat and either feathering the bass drum on all four beats or playing a two-feel/beats 1 & 3).

You could also get fancy and incorporate a Brazilian bossa nova/samba or a Cuban tumbao bass drum pattern and/or play quarter notes with your hihat.

2) Furthermore, I would practice the eighth-notes both straight and then with a swing/shuffle feel.

I found this exercise a very helpful way for me to develop my touch on the snare drum and tune myself to simple, swinging snare drum phrases.


A variation that I've been working on lately deals with the swung/shuffle version described above.

Play the patterns as I've described above however, start the patterns on the + of beat 4 instead of beat one, therefore anticipating the phrase by an eighth-note.

Line 1 RLRL of Stick Control would then look like this:

Line 5 RLRR LRLL would look like this:

I've found this to be a great way to develop how to hear and play syncopated eighth note phrases that can be used as the basis for solos, trading and fills while swinging.

A couple of other things to think about:

-Experiment with playing accents at the beginning of each line and ending with an accent on the last beat

-Accent the beginning of each four notes

-Try starting the phrases on the all the different upbeats of the bar.

For example: the + of 1, + of 2, + of 3 and + of 4

-Spread these patterns and phrase variations around the rest of the drum set and cymbals

I've found these variations very useful in terms of developing a swing feel on the snare drum and for developing vocabulary.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

*Studio "action" shot of Jon McCaslin courtesy of Jesse Cahill - Vancouver Jazz drummer, blogger, photographer and overall really swell guy.

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Several thank you's are currently in order:

-Thanks to everyone who came out to the Cellar to enjoy my quintet that featured Brad Turner, Phil Dwyer, Tilden Webb and Jodi Proznick in Vancouver. We played to a packed house both nights and spent two very productive days in the studio. Steve Kaldestad and Rod Murray also joined us on a couple of tracks. The band played GREAT and look for this release on the Cellar Live Jazz record label later this fall. Special thanks to Cory Weeds who kept things rolling and Jesse Cahill who lent me his nice vintage Gretsch kit for the recording session.

-Thank you to everyone at the Moose Jaw Band festival. Myself and my Jazz comrade-in-arms Patrick Boyle spent the week adjudicating and working with over a dozen very talented and energetic high school Jazz ensembles. Patrick and I were also joined by Regina musicians Mike Schudel and Carlo Petrovitch and played great to a packed house on Tuesday evening. Thank you to all the volunteers who made this happen.

-Thanks to Bill Neher, Brent Ghiglione and the new YQR Creative Arts Initiative in Regina, SK that produced my concert this past Friday with my quartet featuring Toronto saxophonist Kirk MacDonald at the University of Regina. Kirk is a force and plays with an intensity and clarity that never ceases to amaze me. Taking note of the great drummers that Kirk has played with over the years (including the likes of Andre White, Dennis Mackrel, Claude Ranger, Barry Romberg, Jerry Fuller, Terry Clarke and Bob McLaren) he really is a "drummer's tenor player" so we had a lot of fun playing together and took the music a lot of interesting directions this weekend.

-I've got an exciting weekend of gigs coming up this weekend at Calgary's Beatniq Jazz club with "Three in One", a new trio featuring Edmonton guitarist Jim Head and Calgary's Jeremy Coates on bass. Jim is a very accomplished guitarist who's influences range from John Abercrombie to Adam Rogers, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ben Monder. I'm looking forward tp making some serious music with these guys this weekend.


Appearing at the
Beatniq Jazz & Social Club
811 1st Street Southwest
Calgary, AB

Friday, May 27

Saturday, May 28



Jim Head - guitar and pedals

Jeremy Coates - acoustic and electric bass guitars

Jon McCaslin - drums and cymbals

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jeff Sipe

A few more clips today of Nashville drummer Jeff Sipe, an accomplished studio/session drummer who plays with a very wide creative and ecletic approach to drumming and improvisation:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Finding Farnsworth

Here's Joe Farnsworth demonstrating how to play reeeeeaaaaally fast tempos!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bobby Hutcherson Recordame

Just a little Bobby Hutcherson with Tony Williams and the gang playing "Recordame" to enjoy...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On The Road/The Ben Monder, Brian Hurley & Andre White Trio

Things have been a bit busy these days but I've got some time to catch up on my blog here while sitting in the departure lounge of the Vancouver airport on my way to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to adjudicate the Jazz portion of the Moose Jaw International Band & Choral Festival this week with my partner-in-crime, trumpeter Patrick Boyle.

Thanks to all that came out to the Cellar in Vancouver this past weekend to hear my quintet. The band played their tails off both nights, the capacity crowd was very receptive to my music and we spent two action packed days in the recording studio. Look for this album to be released sometime this fall on the Cellar Live record label. More to come on this later...

Here's a couple of really important clips worth checking out:

During the mid 1990s guitarist Ben Monder would frequently come up to Montreal to play with bassist Brian Hurley and drummer Andre White at the Upstairs Jazz Bar. These gigs were always something special and musicians would flock to hear this cutting edge New York guitarist's unique take on standards with two of Montreal's finest sideman & bass/drum team.

Aside from a CBC recording session (which is probably lost in their archives somewhere...) I don't believe that this band ever did any recording together so these two bootlegs are important artifacts.

Andre White is one of my favorite drummers and has a very musical and swinging approach that blends such influences as Billy Higgins, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Jack DeJohnette. He is a superb accompanist and has been the choice of many musicians over the years (including several notable recordings with guitarist Sonny Greenwich). In fact, he is currently touring Canada with alto saxophonist P.J. Perry's band with Kevin Dean on trumpet, Mark Eisenman on piano and Neil Swainson on bass. Don't miss this swinging outfit if they are playing in your town!!!

I've been fortunate to play with Andre quite a bit over the years and played together with bassist Brian Hurley serving as the rhythm section backing up vocalist Johanne Desforges during a series of regular house gigs at Biddle's in Montreal (Andre is also a world-class pianist whose knowledge of Bill Evans is unparalleled).

I also had the opportunity to study the drums with Andre during my graduate work at McGill University. He really schooled me, helping me develop my approach to uptempo comping and working out of the Jim Chapin and Keith Copeland method books. He also really hipped to Frankie Dunlop and had me spent a great deal of time transcribing his comping and solo techniques.

Andre has a great album out entitled "Signal" that features him with Ben Monder, saxophonist Kirk MacDonald and Neil Swainson on bass. This album is a great example of Andre's fine drumming and really worth checking out:

Incidentally, I'm also playing with Kirk MacDonald this coming Friday at the University of Regina.

Don't miss it !

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Weekend!

The Jon McCaslin Quintet - Live at The Cellar

Friday, May 13th
Saturday, May 14th

The Cellar Jazz Club
3611 West Broadway
Vancouver, Britsh Columbia



Jon McCaslin - Drums

Brad Turner - Trumpet
Phil Dwyer - Tenor Saxophone
Tilden Webb - Piano
Jodi Proznick - Bass

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mel says...

‎"How much you stick in depends on how much you can hear. If you're really hearing, you'll put in only what is necessary...If you can't hear or you're not listening, then you'll put in a whole bunch of nonsense, and that's what's gonna come out..." - Mel Lewis

*Thanks to Richard Piasetski who posted this great quote on his Facebook account this afternoon.

Wise words to ponder indeed !

Impressions with Billy Hart

Here's drummer Billy Hart having some fun backing up an all-star cast at Birdland with saxophonists Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano on John Coltrane's modal anthem "Impressions":

I love all the reverse, piggy-back chinas in his cymbal set-up!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jeff Coffin & Jeff Sipe - The Art of the Duet

I first heard saxophonist Jeff Coffin last December with Bela Fleck's band in Calgary. He plays with a huge sound and a very clever sense of improvisation and creativity. I recently discovered that Coffin has released a duo album with Nashville drummer Jeff Sipe and I look forward to checking out this collaboration. Here's a taste of this recent recording:

Here's Jeff Coffin and drummer Jeff Sipe (with Jaco Pastorious' son playing bass!) from their presentation earlier this year at the JazzEd conference in New Orleans:

Nice t-shirt Jeff !

I love playing duets with other musicians of any instrument and I think that it not only forces one to think about different approaches to playing music (because often we have to take on different musical roles) but it also brings out other elements of one's playing as well that you might not otherwise realize.

Some of my favorite duet albums include:

Ed Blackwell and Don Cherry "El Corazon"
Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie "Paris 1989"
Max Roach and Cecil Taylor "Historic Concerts"
Max Roach and Anthony Braxton "Birth & Rebirth"
Max Roach and Archie Shepp "The Long March"
Duke Ellington and Ray Brown "This One's for Blanton"
Rashied Ali and Jaco Pastorious "Blackbird"
Matt Wilson and Lee Konitz "Gong with The Wind Suite"
Bill Stewart and Bill Carrothers "Duets"
Dave Douglas and Hans Bennink "Serpentine"
John Coltrane and Rashied Ali "Interstellar Space"
Jack DeJohnette and John Surman "Invisible Nature"
Jack DeJohnette and David Murray "In Our Time"
Ed Blackwell and Dewey Redman "Red & Black"
Steve Lacy and John Heward "Recessional (for Oliver Johnson)"

Lately I've been really digging the Billy Higgins & Charlies Lloyd ECM collaboration "Which Way is East" which was captured near the end of Higgins' life. You really get a sense of his spiritual journey when listening to them play. Some deep moments on that one. I've posted this particular clip of these two a few times now, but it's so good....here it is again!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Jon McCaslin Quintet - Live @ The Cellar

The Jon McCaslin Quintet - Live at The Cellar

Friday, May 13th
Saturday, May 14th

The Cellar Jazz Club
3611 West Broadway
Vancouver, Britsh Columbia



Jon McCaslin - Drums

Brad Turner - Trumpet
Phil Dwyer - Tenor Saxophone
Tilden Webb - Piano
Jodi Proznick - Bass


This weekend marks the first of many exciting projects on the go for me this month. I'm playing two nights this coming weekend with a GREAT band at Vancouver's premier Jazz club, The Cellar. We'll be working through my original compositions and then spending a couple of days in the studio recording my next album. It's been almost ten years (!) since my last major recording project so I'm really looking forward to playing some great music with these fine musicians and documenting it for all to hear. C'mon out and say hello !

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Planet Drum

Acclaimed Grateful Dead drummer and percussionist Mickey Hart's books "Planet Drum" and "Drumming on The Edge of Magic" were two very influential books for me. His worldly and global perspective of drumming and the power of rhythm exposed me to a ton new of music that I had never considered as well introducing me to the profound effect that drumming has in our world.

Here's Hart with his all-star percussion group Planet Drum in concert:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins & Co.

Courtesy of Bret Primack, the Jazz Video Guy, here's some pretty amazing footage of drummer Billy Higgins with Sonny Rollins, Don Cherry and Henry Grimes:

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Lesson With Steve Smith

Drummer Steve Smith is a true student of the drums and of the history of the drum set. Check out this impressive lesson in which Smith demonstrates some applications of press roll and stick-on-stick vocabulary:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Max Roach - Parisian Thoroughfare

A student of mine the other was asking me about commercially available video footage of Max Roach. There's not a lot out there but fortunately we can watch clips like this:

And this!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rodney Green Solos

A quick one today, here is drummer Rodney Green once again in a very nice extended drum solo:

I think there's a real art to playing longer drum solos and to keeping a sense of intensity, development, flow and interest throughout. I love the challenge of taking an audience on a rhythmic and sonic journey like that. Rodney does a great job of that, I think, in that previous clip. Learning how to pace a longer solo (on any instrument) is really an art form into itself.

As Kenny Washington said to me last month in New York: "Watch, listen and learn!" Indeed...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Herlin Riley Masterclass

From the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival here's the second line Master himself Herlin Riley working with some VERY lucky students:

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Well, I spoke too soon last week. It definitely wasn't spring...snowstorms in Calgary and in Banff late last week proved me wrong. But perhaps we'll have better luck this week. But I'll decline to making any predictions this time...

-Thanks to everyone who came out to the Broken City jam session on Saturday afternoon to hear me play the vibraphone with my band. And thank you very much to all the great bass players, pianists and the many talented drummers that sat in. There are always a ton of great drummers ready to play at this session!

Hmmm....where were all the horn players this week?

-I'm still plugging away at the vibraphone after almost 5 years now of studying this instrument and I have just recently started playing gigs with other people in addition to practicing and regular sessions in an attempt to take my game up another notch. My progress is coming along. I'm trying to expand my repertoire and ability to navigate all the chords and scales one needs to be a competent Jazz improviser these days. I get a lot of satisfaction from learning and playing Jazz music from a more melodic and harmonic perspective. I think it's definitely helped my drum set playing as well. I've also been studying with New York vibraphonist/percussionist Allan Molnar and that has definitely helped me along lately. I'm no Bobby Hutcherson or Milt Jackson but I think I am getting better! Thanks to everyone that offered their generous compliments over the weekend.

-Irish drummer Conor Guilfoyle is a great drummer from Dublin who's gone to great lengths to post many great lessons and transcriptions on his website: http://conorguilfoyle.com/

Conor recently posted on youtube.com a transcription of a Tito Puente timbale solo from the album "Top Percussion" and his very clever adaptation to the drum set. Check it out:

-Don't miss an exciting concert of large ensemble Jazz music this coming Friday at the Cantos Foundation:

The Summit Jazz Series
Part One: Bebop & Beyond

Friday, May 6 2011
The Cantos Music Foundation
134 11th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB


Admission: $15/$10 students


Carsten Rubeling - Trombone
Eric Bloom - Trumpet
Jim Brenan - Alto Saxophone
John Roggensack - Tenor Saxophone
Sarah Matheson - Baritone Saxophone
Chris Andrew - Piano
Kodi Hutchinson - Bass
Jon McCaslin - Drums

-Oh yes, a message to my fellow Canadians: Don't forget to get out and VOTE today!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Terry Clarke with Jim Hall

A nice find today. Here's Canadian Jazz drummer Terry Clarke (and my former teacher!) with guitarist Jim Hall, Geoff Keezer on piano and Steve LaSpina on bass: