Sunday, December 23, 2012

Four on The Floor - The Best of 2012

Well it's come to that time of the year and it seems like everybody and their dog is coming out with their top "whatever" lists of the past year.  So here's my Four on the Floor "Best of 2012" list:

- I don't really consider myself a Jazz "critic" per say as I'm not completely up on absolutely everything that's currently being released in a given year. It's not that I don't like new music or that I don't check it out, it's just that I don't actively seek out music just because it's new (also, I don't have the luxury of record companies sending me music on a weekly basis!) Besides, I'm still trying to catch up with the older stuff! So I'll leave the "Best Albums" of the year to the other fine Jazz bloggers out there.

However, I will say this, my best find of 2012 would have to be the Jim Hall Live! re-issues from 1975 featuring Hall with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke.

Apparently guitarists have regarded the original album in very high esteem (one friend even referred to them as the "Plugged Nickel" for guitarists!) and a whole bunch of material was recently re-released via Artist Share. It's awesome. Check it out.

For what it's worth, this is my pick for "Album of the Year" (still a re-issue, mind you!)

In terms of more recent releases, two albums that really stood out to me were:

Ulysses Owens Jr. "Unanimous"

Johnathan Blake "The Eleventh Hour"

- Speaking of "Best Albums of the Year", I was thrilled to learn that my new album "Sunalta" was recently included in Peter Hum's picks for Top 5 Canadian Jazz albums of 2012:


My latest album was released on the Cellar Live label last May. I'm very pleased with the results and please consider purchasing it so I can save my money to make another one!

- By this time next year I will likely have reached just over 1000 posts on Four on The Floor. However, many of the links I've posted (youtube.com videos, etc.) have gone extinct! If you happen to be browsing older posts of mine and you find the content to be inactive, please let me know so I can edit them accordingly.

- Speaking of videos, here's a collection of clips that I posted and inspired me the most over the last year:

Johnathan Blake with Kenny Barron

Michael Carvin with Freddie Hubbard

Kendrick Scott with Terence Blanchard

Kendrick Scott with Terence Blanchard in Ferrara, Italy from Kendrick Scott on Vimeo.

Lewis Nash and Bobby Hutcherson

Ali Jackson Jr. with Joshua Redman

Bobby Hutcherson and Harold Land

- I must admit that I've been very lax in terms of posting any drum lessons over the past year. They take some time to properly put together, however I do have a bunch of great ideas in the works that I will share with you in the year to come, hopefully on a more consistent basis. Thanks to all of you who write me with such positive comments with regards to the lessons I've posted already.

In the meantime check out Todd Bishop's fine blog Cruise Ship Drummer as he always has great things to practice there: http://shipdrummer.blogspot.ca/

- Speaking of drum lessons, I was very fortunate to spend some quality time studying with the likes of Joe LaBarbera, Adam Nussbaum, Dave Mancini and vibraphonist Allan Molnar over the course of the past year. They are all great educators and I definitely have no lack of things to practice and think about in the year to come!

- Do you live in Calgary? Do you like food? Here's my picks for 2012:

Best Breakfast - Dairy Lane

(with special mention to Edmonton's "New York Bagel Cafe")

Best Italian - Borgo

Best Burger - Boogie's Burgers, Five Guys and Smash Burger (a three way tie!)

Best Bar-b-que - Holy Smoke!

Best Pizza - Pimento's

Best Coffee - Deville (corner of Centre Street and 7th Avenue SW)

Best Steak House - Vintage Chophouse

Best Montreal Smoked Meat - Myhre's Deli (aka The Palace of Eats)

Thank you all for your continued support. Blogging will resume early next year. It's time for a break. Drive safe and see you in 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday with Bill Stewart

I've been revisiting some favorite albums of mine featuring Bill Stewart on drums lately, as well as checking out some new ones. His cymbal sound and melodic sensibility is always impressive and inspiring.

- Thanks to Calgary saxophonist Jeff McGregor who recently hooked me up with John Scofield's live trio album "En Route".

Fortunately there is some great live footage of that same trio with Scofield, Steve Swallow and Bill Stewart floating around youtube.com these days for us to enjoy:

- Here's also an older Jazz Times article with Stewart:


- And another interview with Bill over at drummagazine.com:


- For all you Facebooker's out there (ie. the all-mighty colossal waster of humanity's time!!!) here's an interview with Bill Stewart where he his discusses his approach to dealing with polyrhythms on drums:


(if you dig around there are others on that page as well...)

- The sound quality on this next one isn't great, but it doesn't matter! Here's Bill demonstrating his incredible musicality and groove and some very nice Zildijian cymbals courtesy of the Memphis Drum Shop:

I love it how the tiny splash cymbal at his far right gets its own cymbal stand (I noticed that Bill used to "piggy back" his splashes on the top of larger cymbals awhile ago...Billy Hart is infamous for that as well!) It looks so tiny compared to the 22" next to it! lol

- And from the Modern Drummer festival, here's another great one featuring Bill with saxophonist Seamus Blake:

- So what are a few of my favorite Bill Stewart recordings you are probably asking yourself?

Here some of my picks that I keep going back to for ideas and inspiration:

Bill Stewart - "Snide Remarks"

Bill Stewart & Bill Carrothers - "Duets"

John Scofield - "This is What We Do"

Bill Carrothers - "Joy Spring"

Pat Metheny - "Trio Live"

Seamus Blake - "The Call"

John Scofield Trio - "En Route"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Calgary Scene - Gareth Bane

Well it's been awhile since this column has made an appearance on Four on the Floor. Today I'd like to introduce to you a very fine young musician who has recently returned to Calgary from New York City and whom I've had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few months. Gareth is an incredible talent and Calgary is very lucky to have him in its midst!

Gareth Bane’s return to Calgary signifies his continuation of hard swinging, forward thinking baritone saxophone playing. Since discovering the Baritone at an early age, he has endeavored to deepen that instrument’s mastery and introduce listeners to its true potential. A blend of jazz, R&B and funk shape the concept of his powerful sound and approach to music. Influences as diverse as Nick Brignola, Ralph Bowen and Tower of Power have solidified into his appealing concept and approach to jazz.

Already in high demand as both a performer and educator, Gareth left Calgary in 2005 to continue his studies and graduated with his Masters of Music from Rutgers University in 2007. After a year working abroad he returned to New York City to live and immerse himself in that great city’s music culture. Studying with such masters as Ralph Bowen, Stanley Cowell, Conrad Herwig, Vic Juris, Bob Francischini and Jason Marshal have only broadened Gareth’s musical direction.

Between Calgary, Rutgers and New York some of Gareth’s favorite associations have been with Ralph Bowen, Conrad Herwig, Brian Lynch, Ed Simon, Frank Sinatra Jr., Eddie Palmieri and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also been building his reputation as a copyist and arranger, completing projects for Conrad Herwig, Tim Ries, Dave Pierce, Joey Van and the Calgary Stampede.

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

I started in High School at Central Memorial playing in the school Big Band. I switched over from being a classical to a jazz undergrad at the University of Calgary in my 2nd year, graduating in 2000. I dabbled on all the saxes in high school focusing mainly on alto, but UofC was where I embraced the baritone sax and I’ve never looked back. I’ve taken lessons from one time or another from just about every saxophonist in the city including Eric Friedenberg, Pat Beliveau, Rich Harding and most recently Jim Brenan. In 2005 I left Calgary to take a Masters of Music at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (yes, thats the title) and study with legendary saxophonist Ralph Bowen. While at Rutgers I also had the fortune to learn from Conrad Herwig, Stanley Cowell, Vic Juris and Lewis Porter. I would say this is the time I made the most leaps in my understanding of jazz music to date. Since graduating in 2007 I’ve also studied with Bob Francischini, Jason Marshal and Pat Labarbera. I like learning from any sources that present themselves and feel blessed to have studied and worked with some of the greatest musicians out there.

2) Who are your musical influences and why?

Pat Beliveau was the first. He has a power to his sound on baritone I still envy (though I don’t envy playing size 5 reeds!). Ronnie Cuber for similar reasons. Nick Brignola for his virtuosity, creativity and ability to drop a blues lick in ANYWHERE! Tower of Power and Stephen “Doc” Kupka for introducing me to the groove and how the Baritone fits in it. Pepper Adams for his concept and individuality. Earl Seymour, Gary Smulyan, Serge Chaloff, Leo Parker, Harry Carnie... these are just baritone players, but I’ve been influenced by many other saxophonists and instrumentalists. Everyone in a different way. You take something from everyone you hear.

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


Pat Metheny Group - "The Road to You"
I love this album and always have. People say you always love the music you listened to in High School and this was it for me. PMG makes complex time changes glide by effortlessly and its live so you feed off the energy. Amazing album that taught me how to look at odd-meter and musicality.

The Brecker Brothers - "Heavy Metal Be-Bop"
In my mind the quintessential Brecker Brothers album. The famous cadenza from Funky Sea, Funky Dew should be all anyone needs to hear to become inspired to master the saxophone. Michael’s ability to create his own grooves that the rhythm sections can’t help jumping in on has always blown my mind. That and Heavy Metal Be-Bop. ‘nuff said.

Mingus Big Band - "Live in Time"
Ronnie Cuber playing “Moanin” embodies my whole perception as to how the Baritone Saxophone should be approached. That and the latin groove he plays on the out-head is awesome and one of the first things I ever transcribed.

Kenny Wheeler - "Music for Small and Large Ensembles"
This is an essential album for any who are interested in jazz composition and has formed the backbone to my arranging style.

Tower of Power - "Live and in Living Color" and "Soul Vaccination"
The MOST grooving band with the most killing horn section in the world. Aside from the awesome which is “Doc” Kupka, this horn section redefines “tight” and is my benchmark for cutoffs.

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

I’m trying to really focus on vernacular so I’ve been transcribing a lot. Right now I’m working on Nick Brignola’s solo on Billie’s Bounce off of Baritone Madness. I’m also taking several different lines and concepts through 12 keys using the blues as a framework. I’m also working on “Odd Meter Etudes for All Instruments” by Everett Gates and trying to do as much writing as possible.

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

I’m working on starting my original sextet “Low Blow” back up. Tenor, Trombone, Baritone, Guitar, Bass and Drums. Basic idea is the horns all sound in the bass clef. The original group had more of a hard bop feel, but I’m looking to “modern” things up a bit by getting the current lineup to do some writing of their own for the group. At the moment its looking like me (Bari), Sean Craig (Ten), Carsten Rubling (Bone), Aaron Young (Gtr), Kodi Hutchinson (Bass) and Karl Schwonic (Drums).

6) You were fortunate to spend several years studying and working in New York City. What can you tell us about your experience as both a student and professional in the big city?

I could go on at length on that one... Here are a few lessons I learned.

-Even the “Heavies” are human and you can talk to them like anybody else you respect. Most are wonderful supportive people. All are on their path which is totally different from ours or anyone else’s.

-We are all in this together and being supportive of each other is critical if we want to succeed. It always amazed me how many musicians in the scene would come out to support one an others gigs and projects.

-I truly believe one of the best things you can do for your growth in music or any life pursuit is to travel. Getting away form what you’re used too is paramount for kicking your butt up to the next level.

7)Favorite place to eat and drink in Calgary?

That’s another lengthy one...

Breakfast- Dairy Lane in Upper Hillhurst on 19th Street NW. Amazing locally sourced food. I haven’t had a bad meal in there yet. Decent coffee. I also have to give props to Monki on 10th Ave SW. I’ve only been there once so far, but it blew my mind.

Lunch- Boxwood in Central Park on 13th Ave. Good dinner too, their modest kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant and has a bar around it that you can sit at. I recommend this for dinner. They have Brew Brother’s beer on tap which adds to their awesome.

Dinner- Cassis in Kilarney on 17th Ave SW. Little French restaurant with incredible staff and menu. Great wine list to boot.

Drinks- I’m a big fan of Beer Revolution on 11th Ave SW. They have a rotating craft beer selection which rocks.

I’ll also give a nod to Wurst on 4th Street SW. I’m a little biased as I used to work there, but their food is killing and you can get the Hacker-Pschorr Kellerbier on tap...

Second nod goes to Phil and Sebastian in Marda-Loop. Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

And...it's Monday once again! I hope you are all well and thanks again for checking out my blog and for your continued support. Things have been busy on the go around here lately. I've been lucky to have played with some amazing musicians of late including Rubim DeToledo's CD project with trumpeter Sean Jones, Jim Brenan's incredible CD release, former Duke Ellington trombonist Brad Shigeta's swing band, trumpeter Dean McNeill's quintet and several big band concerts performing Duke Ellington's arrangement of The Nutcracker Suite in both Edmonton and Saskatoon with the Yardbird Suite All-Stars and the Metro Big Band, respectively. I finished this weekend off with some gigs on the vibraphone (has been awhile!) I consider myself very fortunate to perform great music with such great musicians on a regular basis.

Here's a few things brewing around Four on the Floor headquarters these days:

- As I've stated before, drummer Johnathan Blake is one of my favorite contemporary young drummers on the scene today. Here is a great and energetic clip of him playing with bassist/composer Omer Avital's quintet:

Omer's quintet album "Live at Small's" has been on my CD rotation for quite some time and I really dig the variety of influences that pop up in his music (from Jewish folk melodies to Charlies Mingus and beyond...) I really hope that this band releases some more recordings in the future. I'll be first in line.

- In my quest to become a better Jazz vibraphonist and better my overall understanding of Jazz harmony and the practice of melodic Jazz improvisation these days, I've really been taking advantage of all the great information and wisdom posted on the website www.jazzadvice.com.

Calgary baritone saxophonist (and overall really nice guy!) Gareth Bane hipped to this great treasure trove of Jazz knowledge and I highly recommend it as it's a great resource for practical Jazz improv tips and lessons. If you ever find yourself "bored" and don't know what to practice...check it out!

- Here's another one of Peter Erskine playing his nice DW drums and demonstrating DW's latest hybrid maple/mahogony drum shells:

Man, those sound good!

- I first heard drummer Justin Faulkner when he joined Branford Marsalis' band during the summer of 2009 at the Edmonton Jazz Festival. Justin sat in on my drums and cymbals during a late night jam session I was hosting and he tore the house down with Branford and his crew on a lively version of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". Faulkner is definitely a young drummer to keep an eye on:

- Speaking of drummers to keep your eyes and ears on...When I lived in Toronto several years ago I caught Larnell Lewis several times with many different groups down at the Rex.  He is an exceptional talent on the drums and it was always a joy to hear him play, especially with Rich Brown's band Rinse the Algorithm. Here's Larnell unleashing on some cool Yamaha electronic drums and Zildjian cymbals, discussing his approach:

- What am I listening to these days?

Danny Grisset Trio "Encounters" - Kendrick Scott (drums)

Phil Dwyer Orchestra featuring Mark Fewer "Changing Seasons" - Jon Wikan (drums)

Don Cherry "Mu, First Part & Second Part" - Ed Blackwell (drums)

Alex Sipiagan "Mirages" - Johnathan Blake (drums)

Tardo Hammer Trio "Look, Stop & Listen: The Music of Tadd Dameron" - Joe Farnsworth (drums)

Bobby Hutcherson "Oblique" - Joe Chambers (drums) & Bobby Hutcherson (vibes)

Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz @ Lincoln Center Orchestra "Congo Square" - Ali Jackson Jr. (drums)

- Irish bassist and rhythmic visionary Ronan Guilfoyle offers some very insightful and important thoughts about the importance of developing a good "rhythmic feel" over at his blog: http://ronanguil.blogspot.ca/2012/12/a-friend-of-mine-told-me-that-at-recent.html

Ronan's columns and insights are always a great read and I learn something every time I venture over to his site.

- Lastly, to finish up today's post, here is the great Steve Gadd in a solo spot with the Pedrito Martinez group from last fall's PASIC 2012 conference in Austin, Texas:

Dig the retro, blue swirly finish on those slick Yamaha drums with the wood hoops. Looks cool and sounds great too!

Thanks again and gave a great week everybody.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Max Roach en Italia

It's Friday and, once again, what better way to start the weekend than with a clip of my favorite all-time Jazz drummer, Max Roach from a masterclass in Italia:

I also poached this photo from Leroy Williams' Facebook page. Here are some serious, bad ass, heavyweight drummers posing together following Max Roach's funeral in 2007:


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Erskine Trio

This one is for my friend Bryan Niblock. Today here's the great Peter Erskine in fine form with his trio:

I always admire how comfortable Erskine looks when he plays. Everything seems so loose and rubbery and he has a real effortless "flow" when he moves around the kit.

Monday, December 10, 2012

TEDx Talk: Clayton Cameron

And....it's Monday!

And what better way to start our week than with a nice jazz drumming TEDx Talk featuring brush wizard Clayton Cameron:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday with Jack

 - From Jack DeJohnettes performance at the Newport Jazz Festival last summer here is a fine duet between Jack on drums and Jason Moran on piano:

For the complete audio of this concert check this out thanks to NPR:


- And while we are at it, here's more Jack with an all-star cast including Dave Holland, Pat Metheny and Michael Brecker on Brecker's "Midnight Voyage":

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Miles & Tony

Thanks to Calgary bassist Brendan Rothwell who brought this one to my attention via the Facebook. Here's a segment from the Miles Davis documentary "Miles Ahead" that features some insight into the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet and the role of Tony Williams:

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Amazing Claude Ranger

These days I often get frequent messages from many readers around the globe with regards to my previous posts on the subject of the legendary Franco-Canadian Jazz drummer Claude Ranger. Claude was a force on the Canadian Jazz scene for a number of years, most notably in Montreal and Toronto during the 70s and 80s, and while he disappeared in Vancouver during the late 90s under mysterious circumstances, his influence is undeniable and his playing and personality is the stuff of legends.

I often point people in the direction of Armand Melanson's fine Claude Ranger tribute website www.clauderanger.com to learn more about this incredible drummer.

Many great clips of Claude (including some audio) have recently popped up on youtube.com

- Here is an interesting one of Claude backing up Canadian vibraphonist Peter Appleyard, bassist Slam Stewart and Hank Jones on piano. Dig Claude's fine brushwork at the 1:18 mark:

- Here is a very good CBC documentary on the enigmatic Claude Ranger entitled "Sticks & Stones":

- And here are a number of bootleg recordings of Claude Ranger courtesy of Armand Melanson and these are all really worth taking the time to check out!