Friday, June 29, 2012

Tony Williams Swiss Army Variation

Well, it's been AGES since I've posted any kind of drum lesson but since so many of you have asked so nicely and have apparently found some of the other things I've posted here useful, here's something that I've been working on lately and I've been having some fun with.

After recently re-watching this phenomenal footage of this Tony Williams drum clinic, I was inspired to develop some Swiss Army triplet ideas based on some things that I've heard Tony commonly play around the drums during his solos.

Here is the clinic in its entirety to refresh your memory:

As you can see, Tony would often love to play big PHAT Swiss Army Triplets around his expansive arsenal of toms and floor toms.

This particular variation that I've come up with is a four-note pattern (rather than your usual three-note, triplet pattern) and is based on a hybrid snare drum rudiment that was taught to me by Chris Worthington back around 1995 (Chris was a great snare drummer who marched with the Blue Devils and Velvet Knights drum corps during the early 90s).

So here is the basic pattern:

As you can see it's basically a four-note variation of a Swiss Army Triplet (ie. there is an extra right hand stroke added to the stock rudiment).

Here is the same pattern, but with a reverse sticking and starting with the left hand:

Now, to make use of this on the drum set and to give it that "TW" flavour, add an accent on every fourth eighth-note and double it with the bass drum while that accent moves to the cymbal (or tom, cowbell or whatever you fancy).

So here's what that looks like:

As you can probably tell, there is a lot potential inherent in a pattern like this.

I've been trying to work this one into my vocabulary lately and discovered that it's quite a tricky pattern to execute seamlessly (thanks to the right hand "swipe" between the snare and cymbal). In fact, I recall hearing Dave Liebman speak once in a workshop with regards the notion of developing and expanding one's vocabulary. He surmised that if he introduced a new pattern or concept into his playing that it would take roughly a year until that idea worked its way into his playing and no longer sounded forced or contrived. It was comforting to know that I wasn't alone!

So there you go, something more to practice.

Have a great time this weekend and in the meantime here's some classic TW (complete with his yellow drums!) to enjoy:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lenny Nelson

Thanks to Berklee drum professor John Ramsay who shared these two via the Facebook, here is the legendary Boston drummer Lenny Nelson demonstrating some pretty slick moves:

If you check out youtube.com you'll notice that Lenny has quite a number of great videos posted to check out of him playing.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Great Drummers!

Thanks to Noel Martin Jr. who posted this clever compilation of all the greats, via the Facebook:


Man, I love being a drummer!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Well, it's Jazz festival season here in Canada and while Calgary still doesn't have an organized festival since its untimely demise two years ago, there is still lots going around here these days.  There are no names like Wayne Shorter or Dave Holland playing around these parts, but given the amount of world-class local talent playing on a nightly basis along with the occasional touring Canadian group (such as the likes of the Shuffle Demons and bassist Chris Tarry's band) there is still a lot of good Jazz music to catch around town.
You just have to dig around a little bit, that's all. Hopefully, things will get back on track and we can except Calgary to get back in the loop in years to come (sooner than later, I hope!)

Personally, the last week has been busy and I've had some really incredible musical experiences. On Friday evening I played with Juno award-winning saxophonist and pianist Phil Dwyer and bassist Jodi Proznick at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club and that was certainly one for the books! The Beatniq has recently changed ownership and it remains to be seen what their new policy regarding live Jazz in that room will ultimately be but I guess time will tell. One thing is for sure though, I've sure experienced many great nights of music in that room over the years and I'm sure that the Jazz community in this city (artists and audience members alike) will ultimately find outlets to experience live Jazz on a regular basis in Calgary, one way or another.

Here's a photo of the house drum kit currently sitting in the Beatniq. These Gretsch Catalina drums belong to local fixture John DeWaal and they really sing when tuned up properly with die-cast hoops on the toms. Those are my Zildjian K Constantinople cymbals thrown in the mix:

- Bassist Dale James has recently been sending me some fantastic real-time updates from Edmonton where he had the pleasure of hearing Wayne Shorter with John Patitucci, Danilo Perez and Brian Blade (thanks Dale!)

Dale also forwarded me this great interview with drummer Matt Wilson courtesty of NPR:


- Thanks to vibraphonist Jay Hoggard who posted this movie clip of Max Roach and Pearl Bailey on a number entitled "Beat Out That Rhythm On A Drum" via the Facebook:

That's Max Roach - the movie star!

- Since we don't have an organized Jazz festival here in Calgary I've been following (with envy and admiration!) Peter Hum's excellent daily coverage of the Ottawa Jazz Festival over at his fine blog jazzblog.ca:


Keep 'em coming Peter!

- My good friend Jerome Jennings is really playing some great drums these days. Here he is in some guitar trio action with guitarist Barry Greene:

Jerome is currently teaching this week in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan with my good friend Mark Dejong, part of the Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival's Jazz education intensive. Look for their new album recently released with the Outer Bridge Ensemble.

-I've been playing a lot of vibraphone lately. Thank you to bassist Stefano Valdo, my very patient partner-in-crime, who has been pushing me on every gig of late.

Here's my lovely set of Musser M-55's from Saturday's hit at the Belfry on 8th Ave SW:

Just for the record: I LOVE playing the vibes, but I HATE moving them in the rain!!!

- I recently came across a large stack of music and scores from Kenny Wheeler's composition masterclass that I attended in 1997 at the Banff International Jazz Workshop. There is a wealth of information in these pages and I look forward to studying these pieces more throughly (and hopefully playing them!) over the summer months. They also brought back a flood of memories from what was a very memorable and important summer for me in terms of my development as an artist. Thank you Kenny!

- Sometimes I wish that could play the drums with the same sense of humor that Gary Larson (creator of  the "Far Side") does when he draws his cartoons:

Although, if you ask me, I'd say that Matt Wilson comes pretty close!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Rakalam Bob Moses

I came across this rehearsal footage of the great Rakalam Bob Moses is action and I learned quite a bit from watching this and observing his unique approach to the drums. I've always enjoyed his playing (particularly on Pat Metheny's album "Bright Size Life") and his informative book "Drum Wisdom" but, as always, it's always great to put those words and sounds into a visual context (complete with his custom line of drumsticks courtesy of "Vic Earth"! lol)

Check it out:

Hank's Symphony

I've always admired this composition written by Hank Mobley, featuring the great Art Blakey on drums. It's a clever arrangement and Blakey's solo features some classic Buhaina!:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bird Lives!

Thanks to Marc Jazzwax Myers for this find via the Facebook:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Straight Ahead Jazz Drumming" Book

Drummer and author Jeff Jerolamon was nice enough to send along a copy of his new book "Straight-Ahead Jazz Drumming" (Hal Leonard). It's a very well written and comprehensive method designed to develop one's functional ability on the drums as a Jazz timekeeper.

I asked Jeff a few questions about his method book and here's what he had to say:

 1) Tell us all about your book! What is it all about and what are the goals of your text?

Well, the book is basically a musical language study on how to accompany a soloist in a straight ahead jazz situation. One can observe in the great jazz drummers certain characteristics that they all have in common, regardless of stylistic differences, they being 1. The ability to swing hard, 2. Make a soloist sound even more exciting than he may actually be, 3. Enrich the music by adding detailed rhythmic counterpoint. Of course, the truly great ones, not only did all of the above, but in a very unique, personal manner.

On the surface, there's no real mystery here, just listen to the greats and you'll eventually get it.....and I really do believe that, the only thing I'm trying to do with the book is save the student some time. I would have saved years, if I had this information available to me when I was coming up.

The basic premiss throughout is, "if you can hear it, you can (with practice) play it." The first thing we deal with in the book is how to get a walking feel with the traditional cymbal beat. This is done (as are all the exercises and challenges in the study) while singing a jazz standard. That way, the student is always conscious of the song form he's playing and never just "playing time".

Once a solid "walking feel" with the cymbal is established, we get into some basic comping figures.

Comping figures later are combined with what are referred to as "tension figures". Tension figures are what make the music more exciting and hopefully urge the soloist to play at a higher intensity. The book discusses how, where and why these type of figures are used and resolved extensively throughout the text.

Also presented is a method on how to be constantly varying the cymbal beat, while mixing it up with the rest of the kit, yet hearing everything that you're playing. This is done by hearing the drums as one big rhythm, rather than 3 or 4 separate ones.

Pacing is also discussed, that is, how to make each chorus more intense than the previous if desired.

At the end, is a method on how and what to listen for when listening to Jazz CD's and how it relates to the study material in the book.

 2) What was the motivation and inspiration for putting together this method?

Well., I'd been accumulating this material for years and it was getting time to start sharing it. Also, in Spain, where I've been living for the last 30 years, the conservatories started to offer a jazz performance degree and I began fantasizing about what material I would use if I was offered the job in one of the centers. Ironically, 2 weeks after Hal Leonard agreed to publish the book, I got the job in the Valencia Conservatory as the jazz drum teacher.

3) How does your book differ from other jazz drumming method books currently on the market? What makes it unique?

Well, of course I haven't seen all the existing drum books out there, but one of the chief factors about what I suppose makes it different is that all the concepts and techniques in the book deal directly with song structure. This way the drums are approached like any other instrument would be. The idea of creating tensions and where and how to resolve them is something that I haven't seen in other drum books and also the method taught on how to vary the cymbal while playing the rest of the kit along with it I think is quite different.

4) How do you recommend students and teachers approach working through your materials?

First of all, make sure that you always work with a song structure. If it's a student with little jazz experience who doesn't know standards, sing a child's song, a nursery rhyme, a Christmas carol....anything, Also take seriously the guide in the back of the book on how and what to listen for when listening to the great drummers. It's important to hear it for yourself, don't just play things because the book says so! Remember, if you can hear it, you can play it. All the concepts and ideas in the book are doing are helping you to get to it sooner. Also very important, try to apply what you're learning as soon as possible. Get out there and play....playing with records is fine, but there's nothing like the real thing!

5) What are some of the challenges of putting together a drum method book? What advice do you have for anybody potentially interested in publishing their own book?

The real challenge for me was organizing the material in a logical didactic manner. I like to try the material out on my students to see how they handle it. I find them to be a more acurate barometer than myself.

Getting a book published is very similar to trying to get a record deal. You either send it out to the big companies and hope for a response or you try and put it out yourself. It's not easy and you have to be prepared for rejection, but if you really believe in it....go for it!

- Here's a few clips of Jeff discussing the art of Jazz ride cymbal playing:

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Welcome back and I hope that all you fatherly drumming types out there had a nice Father's Day.

Here's a few things to check out this morning:

- Speaking of Father's Day, I consider Max Roach to be my musical/jazz drumming "father", so to speak. Listening to Max play all those years ago really set me on my own path and after checking out "Study in Brown" there was no turning back!

Here's some footage of Max Roach with his quartet from a concert in East Germany filmed during the 1980s:

- For those of you who don't know, I'm currently researching and writing my Doctoral dissertation through the University of Toronto on the notion of contemporary approaches to "melodic" Jazz drumming.

There are many great dissertations out there written on the topic of Jazz drumming. Here's an exceptional paper written by Toronto Jazz drummer and educator Barry Elmes on the topic of Elvin Jones' revolutionary approach to time keeping:


- Thanks to David Ward, producer of CBC's Jazz radio program TONIC, who turned me on to this insightful three-part interview with long-time Bill Evans trio drummer Marty Morell:


Incidentally, if you are in Toronto, go to Honest Ed's legendary discount department store on Bloor and Bathurst and if you look carefully you'll notice the poster-sized, autographed photo of Marty Morell that  hangs on the wall near the exit as you leave the checkout counters (!)

- Jason Crane over at the Jazz Session recently took some time to interview drummer Jeff Cosgrove and asked him some questions about his fine new album which features the music of Paul Motian:


- I never get tired of hearing the Masters speak. I mean, I could just sit and listen to one of these cats order off of a restaurant menu and I'd be happy...

Here's a rare interview with the great Al Harewood:


And here Louis Hayes has a few words to say as well:


- Here's an awesome interview with Jeff Ballard courtesy of George Colligan over at his blog Jazz Truth:


- Since I'm on a bit of a Jazz drumming interview kick today, here's another with Winard Harper courtesy of the Pace Report:

- It's Jabali!

- It's Tain!

I really dig the pseudo Afro-Cuban groove that he lays into here. And the feedback...lol

- What am I listening to these days?

Phil Nimmons Jazz Orchestra "The Atlantic Suite" - Stan Perry (drums)

Freddie Hubbard "Live in France 1973" (dvd) - Michael Carvin (drums)

Aldo Romano & Joe Lovano "Ten Tales" - Aldo Romano (drums)

O.T.B "Out of the Blue" - Ralph Peterson Jr. (drums)

Sam Noto "Act One" - Billy Higgins (drums)

Gary Burton Quartet "Country Roads & Other Places" - Roy Haynes (drums), Gary Burton (vibes)

- Lots of exciting gigs on the go for me this week. Officially we don't have an organized Jazz festival in this town these days, but there is no lack of good Jazz music to check out this week so get out there and support our local Jazz scene!

For those of you who are interested, here's where I'll be playing in Calgary over the next while:

Monday, June 18 - The McCaslin/Valdo Vibes and Bass Duo
Waves Coffee House (Calgary West Location) 7:30pm

Tuesday, June 19 - Andrea Petrity Trio
Pacific Place Mall 4pm

Wednesday, June 20 - McCaslin Vibraphone Project
ProArts Noon Hour Concert Series, Church of the Redeemer 12pm

Wednesday, June 20 - The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble
Leacock Theatre, Mount Royal University 7:30pm

Tickets $25 Adults, $10 Students
For tickets and information call the Mount Royal University Box Office

Friday, June 22 - Phil Dwyer Trio
Beatniq Jazz & Social Club, 9pm

Saturday, June 23 - McCaslin Vibraphone Project
The Belfry 7pm

Wednesday, June 27 - Jon McCaslin Trio
The Yellow Nectarine Lounge 8pm

Thursday, June 28 - Jeff McGregor Trio
Kawa Espresso Bar - 8:30pm

Saturday, June 30 - Shane Statz Quartet Plays the Music of Sonny Rollins
Beatniq Jazz & Social Club 9pm

July 9-14 - Prairielands Summer Jazz Workshop
University of Regina (Regina, SK)

*If you want to study with me this summer, here's your chance!
Learn more about this great workshop here: http://www.prairielandsjazzcamp.com/

- Oh yes, don't forget to please come check out this exciting big band gig this coming Wednesday!

The charts have been arranged, the parts have been taped and the band has been rehearsed and is ready to go. It's going to be epic!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble Returns!

Just a heads up here before we launch into the weekend. I have a lot of great gigs coming up next week here in Calgary but one that I'm particularly excited about is a return engagement featuring the newly formed Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble. We started this new Jazz orchestra last February and I'm really excited to present yet another concert featuring some incredible local talent on a program of challenging contemporary Canadian Jazz orchestral music. It's going to be epic! Don't miss out on this one...

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble

Wednesday, June 20


Leacock Theatre, Mount Royal University

Presenting Canadian Jazz orchestral works by:
Rob McConnell, David Braid, Jon McCaslin, Michelle Gregoire, Mark DeJong, Carsten Rubeling and Paul Read


Saxophones: Mark DeJong, Keith O'Rourke, Jim Brenan, Sean Craig, Sarah Matheson
Trombones: Carsten Rubeling, Nathan Gingrich, Dean Yeats, Paul Toutant
Trumpets: Jay Mickalak, Doug Berner, Jon Day, Natalie DeJong
Piano: Michelle Gregoire
Bass: Rubim de Toledo
Drums: Jon McCaslin

Leacock Theatre
Mount Royal University
4825 Mount Royal Gate SW, Calgary AB

$25 Adults
$10 Students

Tickets available at the Mount Royal University Box Office

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


If you are looking for some things to practice and think about, look no further!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Christian Vander

Here's a name that you don't hear every day, but you should! French drummer Christian Vander was the drumming force behind the pseudo-progressive rock band Magma. As you can see from the clips below (including some footage for our guests of the Francophone persuasion - Merci beaucoup!) Christian's drumming is heavily influenced by Elvin Jones and he plays with a great deal of power, intensity and passion. I also really dig the aerial crash cymbals. You almost expect some flying squirrels to come swooping down with some small mallets at the height of his solo!

These clips appear to be from some sort of instructional video and, while my french is fairly adequate, I look forward to checking these out and gaining some more insight into this very unique musician.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Monday Morning/Early Evening Paradiddle

Today's post is a little late but I was busy running around all day putting up posters in advance of our next concert with the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble on June 20th.

So here's a few things on the go around the Four on the Floor offices these days:

- Vic Firth recently featured this extended Steve Smith drum solo on their website:

I really dig the melodic approach that he plays around with during the first part of his solo (I think using mallets helps emphasize that point as well). I've often thought about adding more toms to my set-up just to explore that way of expressing melody around the drums, however I always find that it just messes with the placement of my ride cymbal (!) so I always go back to my usual one-up, one-down tom set-up. Oh well...

- George Colligan has a nice feature on drummer Jeff Williams over at his fine blog Jazz Truth:


Jeff is an incredible drummer. Check him out!

- Hey, is anybody hip to these new BeBop drumsticks made by Vater?


- Ralph Peterson Jr. is featured in the lastest installment of The Pace Report where he talks about his latest album release "The Duality Perspective":

I look forward to checking this one out!

- What am I listening to these days?

Johnathan Blake - "The Eleventh Hour" - Johnathan Blake (drums)

McCoy Tyner - "Time for Tyner" - Freddie Waits (drums), Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone)

Cannonball Adderley - "Something Else" - Art Blakey (drums)

The 3 Cohens - "Family" - Gregory Hutchinson (drums)

Jack DeJohnette and Bill Frisell - "The Elephant Sleeps But Still Remembers" - Jack DeJohnette (drums)

Roy Haynes - "Out of The Afternoon" - Roy Haynes (drums)

Cannonball Adderley Sextet - "In New York" - Louis Hayes (drums)

Oscar Peterson Trio - "Oscar Peterson + 1 (Clark Terry)" - Ed Thigpen (drums)

Mike Downes Trio - "The Winds of Change" - Ted Warren (drums)

Wynton Marsalis - "Black Codes from the Underground" - Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums)

- Thanks to Irish bassist and blogger Ronan Guilfoyle who posted this insightful list of "Rules" from composer John Cage via the Facebook:

I think these are great guidelines to think of as an improvisor/composer. You could also live your life following these! Not bad advice at all...

- And finally, to finish off today's post I'd like to quote the greatest one-word Jazz poem ever written, penned by the great Jazz vocalist John Hendricks:


'nuff said ya' dig?

Have a great week ahead everybody!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sam Ulano!

Here's a couple good ones of the legendary (and I mean LEGENDARY!) drummer and teacher - the one and the only - Sam Ulano, one of New York's finest:

For those of you who aren't familiar with Sam's work, he was fixture on scene in New York for many years as a player and teacher.

Here is his biography to fill you in (borrowed from his website):

A native New Yorker, Sam Ulano was born on August 12th, 1920 on E 45th Street.  He had 8 siblings, including a twin brother.  His love of the drums began at age 13 when his Bronx buddy, Harry Koppleman, got a dazzling set of mother-of-pearl Slingerland Radio King Gene Krupa drums.  Something just clicked with those drums... It was love at first beat for Sam.

“Before studying music, I never did my homework, I didn't study, I wasn’t interested in anything,” says Sam.  “ I had a pretty good voice, though, and I liked to sing.  All the rest of the family studied. I never read a book.  My mind wandered and instead I drew cowboys and horses and dogs.  When the teacher asked to see my notebook, it was filled with drawings.” 

“When I was 14 I went to work in the Flatiron Building at a company that made gold eyeglass frames - Goldberg, Goldberg & Epstein.  On the first day the guy across from me was working on a drop press. The thing dropped right on the guy's hand and his hand was cut off - right in front of me!  I put my coat on and said to Mr. Epstein, ‘I can't work here - I'm going to be a drummer,’ and went home.  My mother said ‘Why are you home so early?’ I told her ‘I'm going to be a drummer and I can't afford to risk that.’ ”At James Monroe High School in the Bronx he studied with Alfred Freize and Fred Albright.  Sam won a gold medal for music - the only drummer to ever get the gold music medal.  His after-school drum instructor, the legendary Harlem percussionist Aubrey Brooks, told him “Music is the study of sound through math.  Get better in math and you will be a better musician.”  Because Sam had found something that he loved to do, by studying music his other school work improved.

Sam started teaching others right from the beginning  - while he was still a teenager.  He opened his first studio in the Bronx when he was 17 (the kids coming over to the house to beat on drums were getting to be too much for the neighbors) and has been teaching and writing about the drums ever since.  “I taught what I had learned and then kept learning and kept sharing.”

In November of 1942 at the age of 22 Sam was drafted into the Army, where he served for 4 years.  He was assigned to the 391st Infantry Band at Camp Breckinridge Kentucky, and was ecstatic at his good fortune to be playing music in the military.

“In the four years that followed, I gained some of my most important experience as a musician.  As a band player in all kinds of musical situations, I played shows for the troops with Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Betty Hutton, Jerry Colonna, and most of the other headliners that worked with the USO.  The USO was an organization that sent all kinds of entertainers to perform for the soldiers just behind the lines on the battlefields.  It was an important part of keeping the morale of the troops high.” 

They also made Sam a sergeant and put him in charge of a 100-piece marching drum corps.  He traveled all across the US and to Japan and Hawaii.  “I learned a lot - and fast.  Those four years were like going to music college - in fact, better than music college.”

After the war, Sam spent four years at the Manhattan School of Music - from 1947-1951.  “In school I studied timpani for symphony work, that’s what the curriculum was.  I didn’t have a clue how to consider a program.  I did what was told of me.”  He  got married and opened his studio in the Bronx, where 20 of the students he had before the war came back to study with him.

He’s played the Borsch Belt summer resorts in the Catskills, the concert field, the wedding scene, vaudeville, on Broadway, in studio sessions and shows with big bands and small groups.  He’s played classical, jazz, swing, Dixieland, Latin and many ethnic styles of music.  He’s done it all.

Being in NYC, Sam was able to go out and listen to the best in his field - Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, Louie Bellson, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Papa Jo Jones and many others - and become friends with them.  He was also carving out a niche for himself as a respected drummer on the New York scene.  For decades, Sam played at many of the top nightspots in New York, including the Gaslight Club - the premiere job in town.  Sam played the Gaslight 6 nights a week for 15 years. 

He also played at the famed Metropole Cafe in Times Square and The Garage in the West Village (“More Live Jazz Than Anywhere In The World - 7 nights a week”).  He played with Bill Snyder, Tony Parenti, Dick Wellstood, Sol Yaged, Bob Cantwell and Max Kaminsky.  From 1964 - 1965 Sam played the World's Fair every night for 2 years.   He had his own bands that played at the Gaslight Club, Red Blazer Too as well as many other configurations of musicians that played with him over the years.  He's been called the workingest drummer in New York City.

“One day I was teaching a 20-year-old student and he asked how to do a drum solo.  I said ‘Tell yourself a fairy tale or rhyme.’  I made up a jazz version of Goldilocks and The Three Bears and that’s how I started doing jazz nursery rhymes for kids.  I recorded an album - “Sam The Drummer Tells Famous Fairytales For Your Children” with my drummer friend Moondog and sent it to radio stations.  It got a lot of airplay; it sold in Sam Goody's, and other big stores.  It’s still  selling.”

“I used to do the school shows for the New York City public school system.  I called myself ‘Mr. Rhythm.’  It was all instruction - like - ‘What's rhythm?  I'll give you a dollar if you know.  Anybody in the audience know how to play?’  Some kids would run up and I'd let them have a minute, like they were on TV.   I did over 500 of those shows for the school kids.”

Sam wrote his first drum instruction book at the age of 15.  He got the idea from watching Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman play at the Paramount Theatre.  He went home and wrote “Bass Bops” on sheets of plain paper.  No one had ever written down bebop before.  It was published in 1948 after he got out of the army through a friend’s father and sold for $1.  It’s still a classic today, having been continuously in print since then and studied by drummers all over the world.  
Writing “Bass Bops” was his epiphany: he realized that he needed to keep being a student, as popular music moved from Big Band to Bebop.  Writing drum instruction books has become a life-long job for Sam.
Well-known for his methods of drum teaching and his progressive approach to writing about the instrument he loves, Sam has over 4000 instruction books, CDs, newspaper articles, magazine articles and pamphlets to his name.  Even at 91 years of age, he still writes every day, and works on several books simultaneously.

Sam appeared on television on Cerebral Palsy Telethons, as well as on shows with Gary Moore, Shari Lewis, Morty Gunty, Ernie Kovacs, and Joe Franklin, drumming and telling his nursery rhyme songs.  Sam was Steve Allen’s guest on “The Tonight Show” the important night the NYC show was first broadcast nationally - September 27th, 1954.  He even was the mystery guest on “I’ve Got A Secret” -  a 1950s game show where celebrity panelists tried to guess a contestant's "secret": something that was unusual, amazing, embarrassing, or humorous about that person.  (Sam's secret was that he told jazzy fairy tales while playing on the drums.)

Sam has long produced records, audio- and video-tapes and CDs of his instruction, music and performances.  He produced and starred in a 30-minute Manhattan public-access cable TV show on drumming that ran for several years in the 1970s.   He also produced, wrote, and directed a series of drum instructional videos.

Sam founded the Drum Master Award, given to the drummer who has contributed  the most to the advancement of drumming and percussion, and was also awarded a Drum Master Award in 1997 for his many years of teaching.

Now 90 years old, in good physical shape and as sharp as ever, he’s showing no signs of letting up.  Sam still writes, teaches students and plays drums.  And, of course, practices every day. 


Now I was first introduced to Sam Ulano by my teacher in Montreal during the mid-1990s, Chris McCann. Chris played us a copy of Ulano's LP "How to Play a Show". Sam's routine, while informative and very impressive, had us all on the floor laughing and in stitches. Sam is a real character and his sense of humor combined with his impeccable drumming makes him a force to be reckoned with.

Sam also has several other "novelty" recordings out there that feature his fine drumming: 

Learn more about the man, the myth and the legend himself, Sam Ulano over at his website: www.samulano.com

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hutch at Bimhuis

Courtesy of an audience member with one of the best seats in the house, here's some great lessons in playing Jazz drums from Gregory Hutchinson from a recent hit in Europe at Amsterdam's Bimhuis:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sammy Davis Jr. Plays Drums & Vibes & Taps

Thanks to Efa Etoroma Jr. and Curtis Nowosad who hipped me to this following clip via the Facebook. Check out the multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr.:

And of course he was one incredible tap dancer as well. Here he is in a tap-off with the Master Baby Laurence:

Well, when it comes to entertainers....they sure don't make 'em like they used to!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Roy Haynes 3

I posted a bunch of Roy Haynes Trio footage from a European concert date awhile ago but here's another one that has popped up from the same concert featuring David Kikoski on piano and John Patitucci on bass:

I first heard that particular tune on the album We Three that featured Haynes with Paul Chambers and Phineas Newborn Jr. and that one is definitely one of my personal all-time favorite piano trio albums ever (and thanks to Tilden Webb who first made me a cassette copy of that one back in the day...)

If you haven't heard this album yet, do yourself a favor and get it!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Drummer as Composer: Part One

I find it interesting that still, in this day and age, that some people find it hard to believe that drummers are capable of composing and arranging meaningful music. I've conducted several interviews in the past month with regards to my latest CD release Sunalta and it's amazing how some people still think that we, as drummers, just hit things and are not capable of composing music nor contributing to an ensemble in the same way that other musicians do. Audience members will often come up to me after a gig and are shocked that I wrote all the evening's music! I suppose it's just all part of the stereotypes that we still have to deal with. Some like to believe that we just hit things with no regards to the total elements that make up music and being a musician. What a pity!

Of course, the legacy of Jazz history teaches us that this is certainly not the case (however this post really isn't intended to throughly defend that notion...I don't really need to as I think that the music speaks for itself!) but one only has to look at such musicians as Max Roach, Louie Bellson, Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Denzil Best, Peter Erskine, Kenny Clarke, Chick Webb, Paul Motian, Joe Chambers and many, many, many, many others to see that great drummers have been writing great music for quite some time now.

Check out Owen Howard's recent release Drum Lore  http://www.bjurecords.com/OHoward.html as this album contains pieces of music ONLY written by drummers. It was motivated by Howard's own personal experience dealing with people who were ignorant about the important contributions that drummers have made to Jazz composition over the years.

I myself was first inspired to write my own music after hearing Toronto drummer Barry Elmes' group Time Warp circa. 1996 at a small tavern on St. Catherines Street in Montreal called Bar Camera (when I reminded Barry about that gig he exclaimed: "Oh yes, I remember that gig too. The owner didn't want to pay us!!!) The experience of hearing Barry's unique approach to Jazz composition, how he dealt with melody and forms such as the blues and how he integrated the drums into the arrangement of his compositions really spoke to me. It started me on my own personal path to developing my own voice as a composer in addition to that as a drummer as well.

I was also very fortunate to have some great composition teachers during my studies at McGill including Kevin Dean, Jan Jarczyk and Joe Sullivan. They not only taught me the basics of dealing with melody, harmony and form but also encouraged me to think to think about music from different perspectives and to think creatively.

Personally, my own influences as a composer range from the likes of Wayne Shorter, Kenny Wheeler, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Thad Jones and Herbie Nichols, among many others. I'm also a big fan of such contemporaries as Ben Allison and I have to say that the albums "Rectangle Man" by John Stetch and "Whyte Avenue" from Mike Rud weighed very heavily in terms of inspiration as well during my earlier years.

I personally tend to write music from primarily a melodic perspective when I compose and build everything around that (although when I studied with Tim Ries at the University of Toronto he spent a great deal of time trying to identify HOW I wrote music and then getting me to do the opposite in order to generate some fresh ideas.....and you know what? It worked!) Many people have commented how much they appreciate the lyrical quality of many of my compositions and while I really appreciate that, personally I think I need to explore some more rhythmic elements and ideas in my writing in the future (which perhaps might sound kind of ironic speaking as drummer/composer!)

To date I have two albums as a leader which feature my original tunes and I'm quite proud of them. I've written a substantial amount of music over the past fifteen years and I hope to continue to document my compositions and progress in the years to come. Still much work to be done...

Today there are tons of great drummers writing great music. Here are a few of my favorite current albums that contain material composed/arranged by contemporary Jazz drummers (by current I guess I'm referring to albums released in the last 10-15 years or so as it were). This list by no means complete or comprehensive but these are just some of my personal favorites that I seem to go back to for some drummer-as-composer inspiration:

Bill Stewart - "Snide Remarks"

Brian Blade & Fellowship - "Perceptual"

Peter Erskine Trio - "As It Is"

John Hollenbeck - "I, Claudia"

Billy Drummond - "Dubai"

Jeff "Tain" Watts - "Citizen Tain" & "Watts"

Matt Wilson Quartet - "Humidity"

Ted Warren & Broadview Trio - "Two of Clubs"

Andre White - "Code White" & "Signal"

Barry Elmes - "Different Voices" & "D.E.W. East"

Mark McLean - "Playground"

Dafnis Prieto - "About the Monks"

Jeff Ballard & Fly - "Fly"

Ralph Peterson Jr. - "The Art of War"

Jason Marsalis - "Music Update"

Karl Jannuska - "Liberating Vines"

Victor Lewis - "Know It Today, Know It Tomorrow"

Dana Hall - "Into the Light"

Francisco Mela - "Cirio"

Herlin Riley - "Cream of the Crescent"

Marvin "Smitty" Smith - "The Keeper of the Drum" & "The Road Less Travelled"

Trilok Gurtu - "Crazy Saints"

Johnathan Blake - "The Eleventh Hour"

Willie Jones III - Vol. 1-4

Hey drummers! Write! Compose! Create!