Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank You Mulgrew

After hearing some rumblings and rumours over the past few days, it was confirmed this morning that jazz piano great Mulgrew Miller passed away due to complications from a recent stroke.

I was very sad to hear this. Miller has long been one of my favourite contemporary jazz pianists whether as a leader of one of his own trios, his band Wingspan or as a sideman with the jazz world's greats including the likes of Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Tony Williams and many, many others (by one of his estimations he's appeared on over 500 albums!) I've always really been drawn to his unique style that combines an incredible command of a modern bebop and modal jazz language with a soulful, bluesy feeling and an absolute crushing rhythmic sensibility. Oh yeah, he always SWUNG with integrity and conviction. Always.

I consider myself very fortunate to have performed with Mr. Miller during a week-long tour last March with saxophonist Fraser Calhoun's quartet. Each performance, each set, each tune and each solo were lessons in jazz, life and music, one after another.

Mulgrew was a real gentlemen and he played his ass off night after night. He was very complimentary to my drumming and appreciated the fact that I had done my homework and checked out his tunes. Needless to say I was a bit nervous as this man had played with ALL the great jazz drummers of our time and represents a direct link to Art Blakey and Tony Williams. However, while he didn't say much he certainly put me at ease with his soulful and friendly demeanour.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my brief time with Mulgrew was when he personally recounted how nervous and anxious he himself was shortly after joining Tony William's quintet during the 1980s. Miller described this as being a "Herbie" complex and was anxious due to the fact that he, for some reason, felt that he had to play like Herbie Hancock, since he was now playing with Tony Williams!

Miller described how he was put to ease after visiting the neighbourhood in Chicago where Herbie grew up and, upon that, realized that Hancock played the way he did because of where and how he was brought up. Comparing this to his own upbringing, Mulgrew (who grew up under different circumstances in the southern United States) quickly realized that we are who are and that we should embrace those things that make us unique, take pride in them and make them a part of who we are rather than trying to play someone else's life experience.

"At the end of the day you can only be yourself and you owe it to the world to let everyone know it."

Here's some footage of Mulgrew with his trio (featuring Rodney Green on drums) on Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at the Camarillo":

There are also many very touching tributes to Miller to be found on the web (in addition to the dozen's of tributes pouring in on the Facebook).

Here's Peter Hum's well written piece at the Ottawa Citizen:


And a piece from NPR's A Blog Supreme:


You can also listen to a full set of Mulgrew's trio on NPR Jazzset here: http://www.npr.org/event/music/166237914/mulgrew-miller-trio-on-jazzset?sc=tw&cc=share

And finally Nate Chinen at the New York Times chimes in:


Thank you Mulgrew.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ed Shaughnessy

It was with great sadness that I learned of Ed Shaughnessy's passing this past weekend. Ed was one of the great big band drummers of our time who was probably best known as the driving force behind the Tonight Show band for 30 years in addition to have played and recorded with many of the world's jazz greats.

I first met Ed at a Bands of America marching band competition in Indianapolis while I was still in high school and I always made a point of talking to him when I ran into him at a PASIC or IAJE convention. He was always very nice and made a point of showing a genuine interest in what it was I was doing as a drummer. I only met Ed a handful of times but we kept in touch via email over the years and he was kind enough to offer me some amazing stories of his experiences growing up in 1940s New York and chasing the greats along 52nd Street, hanging out with the likes of Big Sid Catlett, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich and how he survived some blistering up tempos, playing Cherokee and such, sitting in with Bud Powell, Don Byas and others. He also sent me a very nice note a few years ago as he was apparently an avid reader of this blog and encouraged me "to keep up great work kid!"

Ed's granddaughter was thoughtful enough to put together a nice little interview with her grandfather before he passed away:

I also recently received the following from John Riley who was nice enough to share his own personal correspondences with Shaughnessy.

This is a selected discography of what Ed considered to be his favourite recordings that he played on:

As you can see from above Ed had a very diverse recording career with a wide array of artists (man, he recorded with Charlie Parker!!!)

And here is a very thoughtful thank you note that Ed sent John. I think this really sums up the warm spirit that Ed was and also reveals a hint of the importance of the musicality that he himself valued and brought to the bandstand.

I also attended many of Ed's clinics over the years and still have those handouts around here somewhere, full of some very useful and practical information. I will make a point of scanning those and sharing them here later this week once I catch up a bit. Things have very busy of late as I personally just returned from Edmonton where I spent an incredible weekend playing with pianist Dave Braid and his brass quintet project at the Yardbird Suite. I don't use the term "Musical Genius" very lightly but I would certainly put David Braid into that category....I also had the good fortune of subbing for Matt Wilson last week with Oran Etkin's Timbalooloo project at the Calgary International Children's Festival with Wycliffe Gordon, Charenee Wade and bassist Linda Oh. Needless to say it's been a good few months of MUSIC for me although certainly busy ones at that! Anyways, I'll get those handouts scanned....I'm sure Ed would have liked for people to see and get something out of them.

Thank you Ed for your great music and I'm sure the band is swinging wherever you are now!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lewis Nash MVP

I posted some footage of Lewis Nash a few weeks ago. Here is more from his visit to Boston, a clinic and masterclass from the Berklee College of Music to enjoy:

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Well, I'm back in the saddle here after nearly a month-and-a-half on the road. Thank you to all the musicians in Saskatchewan, Montreal and Ireland that made the last few weeks so memorable.

Here's a few things making the rounds over here at the Four on The Floor offices these days:

- Thanks to Phil Dwyer who hipped me to this inspiring clip of the John Coltrane Quartet from a date in Antibes, France circa. 1965 featuring Elvin Jones:

I need to find this entire DVD...

- Speaking of Coltrane, CBC Radio's Tapestry recently featured a radio program on John Coltrane and the spiritual aspects of his music:


Thank you to my main man in Toronto, Bob McLaren for sending this one my way. If you ever have the opportunity to hear Bob play drums with Pat LaBarbera and Kirk McDonald's annual Coltrane Birthday Celebration at the Rex in Toronto, I would highly recommend it. Bob makes mountains move from behind the drums when playing this music.

- And speaking of CBC Radio....here's another great program to check out dealing with the science of rhythm entitled "The Heart of the Beat":


- What am I listening to these days?

Hank Jones "Blusette" - Alan Dawson (drums)

Thad Jones & Mel Lewis "Quartet" - Mel Lewis (drums)

Kiyoshi Kitagawa "Prayer" & "Ancestry" - Brian Blade (drums)

Ronan Guilfoyle's Linga Franca "Exit" - Tom Rainey (drums)

Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land "Blow Up" - Joe Chambers (drums)

- From Toronto guitarist Reg Schwager, dig this crazy drumming from Dutch Free Jazz improvisor Han Bennink:

Han is known for being able to drum and coax a rhythm out of pretty much anything. In this case his instrument is pretty conventional however in this one he shows that you don't even need a drum throne to play the drums and that a simple piano bench will do! I've even seen him sit on the floor, if necessary...

- Looking for some things to practice? These days the interweb has no lack of great resources to check out and inspire one to head back to the woodshed. I have a few personal favorites that I consistently check out to give me some ideas:

Drummer Justin Varnes has a great website here with a lot of great information. He is also posting a weekly jazz drumming lesson on youtube.com called "52 Licks" featuring patterns from all the great jazz drummers, old and new. This is a very ambitious project but so far I'd say he's been doing a great job of breaking down some very useful information.

Here's a taste of Varnes' work, breaking down a Max Roach pattern:

Busy Montreal drummer Rich Irwin has also started his own lesson site over here. I've known Rich since my McGill days and Rich has always been a great drummer with a great pair of hands. It's really nice to see him scoring some major gigs these days and getting some name recognition.

I also found this site featuring some lessons from Dan Weiss and Brian Floody over here. Dan's concepts are important, unique and will leave you dizzy (!) It was also nice to see some great drumming from Brian as well. When I was traveling to New York on a regular basis about ten years ago I used to used run into Brian all the time either at Small's, Drummer's World, on the subway or even on the street's of Manhattan. He has no idea who I am but I always dug listening to him play!

Toronto drummer Max Senitt often posts some unique lessons on his website over here when not on the road with Alex Cuba. Max has some great things to offer as well, most notably some tricky variations on various Afro-Cuban patterns and half-time shuffle grooves.

And to top it off, this guy has compiled a TON of exercises from the method of Alan Dawson. See you in ten years...haha

But seriously, he's also posted some great recordings of Max Roach performing solo at the New England Conservatory of Music circa. 1982:


- To finish off today's column I leave you with this quote passed to me from my good friend, saxophonist Mark DeJong via bassist John Clayton:

"Take care of the music and the music will take care of you!"
- Dizzy Gillespie

Oh yeah, one other thing...


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Billy Hart (aka Jabali)

Today's post features the BRILLIANT drumming and musicianship of Billy Hart, a real living jazz drumming legend in my humble opinion:

Furthermore, here's an interesting radio interview with this great musician:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jeff Hamilton & Matt Wilson Drum Battle Redux

I posted this one awhile ago but this drum conversation between Matt Wilson and Jeff Hamilton recently resurfaced from another angle...and worth re-posting in my opinion:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dafnis Prieto's Little Drums

I thought this one was cute, cool and bizarre all at the same time!