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!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dan Weiss Solos...and Takes His Time!

I really enjoyed this one of Dan Weiss soloing, playing at the 55 Bar with alto saxophonist Dave Binney (Is that my old Montreal comrade Zack Lober on bass??? Nice one Zack ; )

Dig how Weiss really takes his time with this one. This solo is a real lesson in musical patience. He's not afraid to take his time and let his ideas unfold as they may, not forcing anything.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baby Dodds "Talking and Drum Solos"

My former drum teacher Chris McCann first gave me a cassette copy of this 1946 recording of Warren "Baby" Dodds entitled "Talking & Drum Solos". This is a very important resource and a tremendous insight into the method, techniques and style of arguably Jazz drumming's first great innovator:

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Another busy week ahead for myself and other Jazz fans here in Calgary as Francois Bourassa, Frank Lozano, Pierre Tanguay and Michael Donato present a Bill Evans tribute on Monday evening as part of the University of Calgary's Monday Night Jazz Series at the Beatniq, Herbie Hancock takes the stage with the Calgary Philharmonic on Wednesday while Ernesto Cervini's group featuring saxophonist Joel Frahm and bassist/cellist Andrew Downing's music for silent film project both appear at the Beatniq and Cantos respectively, both on Thursday evening. Chicago drummer Dana Hall is also in town this week giving some workshops at Mount Royal University so there is definitely lots of great Jazz music to check out that I'm all looking forward to. If these don't all add up to a healthy local Jazz scene, I'm not sure what does...

A few things making the rounds here at Four on The Floor world headquarters these days:

- Courtesy of Adam Nussbaum, here's a nice segment featuring Jo Jones and Gene Krupa from the documentary "Born to Swing":

Check out the height of Jones' brushes in the last portion of that clip. Damn!

- Also, another one courtesy of Adam, here's a 1972 WKCR radio interview with Elvin Jones worth listening to:


Hear the master speak!

- Drummer and educator John Riley appears on the new Modern Drummer Festival DVD, soon to be released. Here's a trailer featuring some of John's workshop:

From a previous PASIC clinic, here's an example of John's fine teaching (in case you weren't already aware!):

- Thanks to Peter Hum over at Jazzblog.ca who also brought to my attention that John Riley will be giving a virtual masterclass through the National Art Centre in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 8th from 12-2pm EST.

This masterclass will be live-streamed here:


John is a great teacher and educator so make sure to tune in and check it out!

- Here's some nice up close footage of swinger Willie Jones III in action:

- Courtesy of Ted Warren over his blog Trap'd, here's Seattle based drummer Steve Korn explaining a very clever rudiment:

If you break it down, it's sort of like an extended version of a Swiss Army Triplet. I'm going to spend some time messing around with this one. The way Steve plays it in that clip, it has a very Tony-ish vibe about it...

Have a great week everybody!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Trio

Inspired by my friend Patrick Boyle's recent trip to Seattle to hear Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette play, I decided to post this one today:

Jack and those guys never cease to inspire me. The musical connection between those three is really something else. And of course Jack always let's it all hang out...there is never a moment of hesitation or doubt. He really HEARS everything and his ideas just flow out of him like a fine bottle of maple syrup...(c'mon, this IS a blog written by Canadian Jazz drummer after all. Y'a dig, eh?)

I also mentioned to my friend Patrick: "Make sure you COUGH really loud during the piano intros...but not the drum solos...haha".

I'm sure that would have gone over well... ; )

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ed Thigpen Trio

Ed Thigpen has always been a favorite drummer of mine. I was first exposed to his fine and swinging playing on Oscar Peterson's album "Night Train" and he also inspired me to pick up a pair of brushes.

Here's some interesting footage of Thigpen in a different kind of trio featuring tubist Bob Stewart and Arthur Blythe on alto saxophone:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tain Stomps

I really enjoyed this clip today of Jeff "Tain" Watts playing (and stretching!) in a trio setting along with his longtime collaborator Branford Marsalis playing on "Stompin' at the Savoy":

Most people recognize the tremendous influence of Elvin Jones and Tony Williams on Jeff's playing but after reading several interviews with him I was surprised and impressed to learn about how much Frankie Dunlop and Sam Woodyard have also influenced his concept over the years. He has obviously checked a lot of cats out and I think the above clip really illustrates that. A nice reminder that we should always be doing our homework and always checking out the tradition!

And, of course, I don't think I can name another drummer who used a Sabian Rocktagon cymbal so eloquently !