Monday, April 28, 2014

Slide Hampton Octet with Vinnie Ruggiero

I spent a couple of great days with Joe LaBarbera last week and over the weekend while he was in Alberta. I took a wonderful lesson with him and we spent our time together working on brush technique and, in particular, exploring his approach to playing ballads (more on this later!) Needless to say, he knows what he's talking about having played with the likes of Bill Evans, Tony Bennett and many, many more. His light touch, huge vocabulary and total command of the instrument is astounding. His big band drumming with Calgary's Prime Time big band on Saturday afternoon was also equally impressive and a real testament to Joe's overall musicality and complete artistry as a total drummer.

During our conversations Joe suggested that I check out this following footage of the Slide Hampton Octet from a concert date in France featuring Vinnie Ruggiero on drums. Vinnie spent a great deal of time in Rochester, New York and was good friends with Philly Joe Jones. As you'll see below, Ruggiero was one real swingin' drummer:

To learn more about the drummer Vinnie Ruggiero, check out this website maintained by his son, L.A. drummer Charles Ruggiero:


In particular, scroll down this page and check out his hand-written transcriptions!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Greg Hutchinson Berklee Drum Clinic

I missed Greg Hutchinson's masterclass at Small's a few weeks ago (I don't live in New York City and I'm not sure it was streamed on their website either....) but fortunately for us, thanks to the nice folks over at the Berklee College of Music, we can still learn from Hutch's wisdom in this one:

Special thanks to my European correspondent David Grebil for passing along this great find!

And here's another one of Hutch putting these concepts into action:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kendrick Scott: "Hey, It's Me You're Talking To!"

I posted a lead sheet of Victor Lewis's trademark tune "Hey, It's Me You're Talking To!" a couple of weeks ago. I like this tune and plan on playing it with my own band soon.

Interestingly enough, Kendrick Scott also likes this piece and thanks to the kind people over at Zildjian we get a performance and "breakdown" of Scott's own arrangement of this tune featuring his nice new Kerope cymbals:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kenny Clarke "Lady Bird"

Happy Easter everybody! Don't eat too many chocolate bunny rabbits...

Thanks to Bret Primack aka "The Jazz Video Guy", here's some more great footage of Kenny Clarke, this time in a duet setting with an organist on Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird":

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zakir Hussain Carnegie Hall Workshop

More sessions today featuring North Indian rhythmic concepts from Zakir Hussain and Carnegie Hall:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Steve Smith: Zakir Hussain Workshop

Over the past few years drummer Steve Smith has been immersing himself in the study of North and South Indian drumming and rhythm. He has also been collaborating with the master tabla player Zakir Hussain and his group "The Masters of Percussion". I've seen this group several times (not with Smith unfortunately) and it's really worth it, at the very least to have any preconceptions you may have about rhythm completely shattered!

Anyways, from a Carnegie Hall workshop that featured Zakir Hussain a few years ago (in fact, you'll even see cameo's of my friend trumpeter Patrick Boyle in the audience in these ones), here's Steve Smith demonstrating some important rhythmic concepts. As you can see Smith is a very articulate teacher:

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Years!

It's hard to believe that today is Four on the Floor's FIVE year anniversary!

Thank you all for your support and kind words. In particular I'd like to thank Chad Anderson over at cymbalholic.com who first inspired me to do this kind of thing and keep this up.

Anyways, back to business...

Here's some Dafnis Prieto unleashing in Madison Square Park to get the weekend off to a good start:

I wonder if he stopped by the Shake Shack afterwards? I would have!

Thanks again and have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Drummer as Composer Part Four: Influential Recordings

(Lead Sheet above: "Hey It's Me You're Talking To" - by Victor Lewis)

For today's instalment of "The Drummer as Composer" I decided to conduct an informal poll from various musicians and friends I know and ask them to list their favourite recordings led by drummers. 

The focus was originally on drummers who were also composers/arrangers but since so many drummers have such an impact on the music at large by the way they (the good ones anyways!), really anything goes.

As an aspiring drummer/composer/arranger myself, I'm always looking for inspiration and new ideas. You'll see some really albums listed below to check out...

Thank you to all the people who kindly took time to answer my poll.

- Jesse Cahill (Vancouver Jazz Drummer) www.jessecahill.com

Tony Reedus - “The Far Side”

Reedus was so great, underrated by guys of our generation (and younger) that’s for sure.  When I first started listening to him back in the late 1980’s early 1990’s I remember being into the power and energy he created.  As I’ve matured  as a musician (whatever that means) I’ve come to appreciate the greasiness of his beat!   Mulgrew Miller is on this one too, makes me a bit sad to listen to it now..
Victor Lewis “Know it Today Know it Tomorrow"

What can I tell you?  This is such a classic recording.  Victor has such a great approach to the drums.  To my ears he has a perfect balance between the past and the present.  Seamus of course is instantly recognizable and always cookin! Oh and then there’s Dr Eddie, Christian McBride, and Ed Simon.  I guess they’re pretty good too!

Art Blakey Quintet - “A Night at Birdland Volumes 1 & 2”
This is it. If I had to pick a recording that defined the spirit of great music for me this would be at the top of my list.

Mel Lewis/Thad Jones - “Monday Night”
The first time I heard a recording of this band I almost lost my mind!  I only got my hands on this one recently but it has quickly become my favourite. 

Max Roach - “Max Roach +4”
Whenever I’m trying to get across the importance of the clarity of one’s idea in improvisation I find myself referencing Max Roach.  His intro to Minor Trouble on this record is as clear as it gets!

- Eric Platz (Professo Jazz Drums, Brandon University)

Paul Motian - "Lost In A Dream" (2010) w/ Chris Potter and Jason Moran
Recorded at the Vanguard, I think live recordings capture PM's sound and energy so well. The recording quality and sound is amazing, as are the tunes. I particularly like this combination of musicians. Jason Moran and Chris Potter are both favorites of mine, and the music that results in the live setting is great. I routinely listen through to this record start to finish.

Jeff "Tain" Watts - "Citizen Tain" (1999)
Hearing Tain play with Wynton, Branford, Kenny Kirkland (one of my faves) and Eric Revis and Reggie Veal on bass is always awesome for me. I love that swing feel and energy. The tunes are this record are very cool. Wynton's solo on the first track (The Impaler) is incredible.

Roy Haynes - "We Three" (1958)
Roy's first recording as a leader, I believe. Roy is probably my favorite drummer of all time. I love the drum and cymbal sounds on this record (especially the crash), and the swing with Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers is incredible. Roy's solos, 4s and 8s on this record blow my mind. I don't understand how someone can think that way,

Bill Stewart - "Snide Remarks" (1995)
Another one of my favorite drummers. Funny, quirky tunes ("7.5") and great drum sounds. Another reason I like this record so much is because of pianist Bill Carrothers (who is really under-recorded). I always have a soft spot for Lovano as well. 

Bob Moses - "Nishoma" (2001)

Bob was my teacher for many years, and I love that guy. I was spending a fair amount of time with him when he was making this record, and putting everything together. We would often play tunes on this record duo (Bob on piano, me on drums). I think Bob has one of the more unique and beautiful sounds and groove feel. He's a special person, and I think this recording captures a lot of his loving spirit. 

- Gordon Fick (Radio Host of "Lift the Bandstand", CJSW)

Max Roach Trio - "With The Legendary Hasaan"
Chico Hamilton - "Live At Strollers"
Shelly Manne - "At The Blackhawk"
Peter Erskine - "Transition"
Bobby Previte - "Empty Suits"
Tony Williams - "Emergency'
Tony Oxley - "The Baptized Traveller"
Masahiko Togashi - "Bura Bura"
Fritz Hauser - "Zwei"

- Mike Downes (Juno Award-Winning Bassist, Humber College)

Brian Blade Fellowship - "Perceptual" and "Season of Changes"
Musical playing, great band, excellent writing.

Art Blakey - "Caravan"
His band in great form plus killer arrangements.

Peter Erskine w/John Taylor and Palle Danielson - "Time Being" 
Love this trio and the open feel. 

- Rob Vanstone (Sports Editor, Regina Leader Post)

Shelly Manne - The four "Blackhawk" sessions could devour five spots in the list: 2, 1, 4, 3 in that order. 

As for the fifth, go with Ed Thigpen's "Mr. Taste"!

- Nick Fraser (Toronto Jazz Drummer)

Paul Motian - "Trioism" 
Simply my favourite Paul Motian Trio record. Great compositions played by the band at the height of their work together. I could honestly list 5 Paul Motian records as my top 5, though. :-)

Art Blakey - "The Big Beat"
This was the first Art Blakey album I ever bought and it is extremely swinging. Lots of great medium tempos. It's my favourite recording of my favourite edition of the Messenger band (w/ Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt)

Tony Oxley - "Quartet"
Amazing electro-acoustic free improvisation from a supremely creative musical architect. With Derek Bailey, Matt Wand, and Pat Thomas.

Jo Jones Trio (on Everest)
Jo Jones has it all. On this record, the drums are absolutely CRANKED in the mix and you can hear all of the detail of Papa Jo's brush playing. He plays pretty well with sticks, too. And his hands.

Gerry Hemingway Quintet - "Special Detail"
This is a great document of a slightly different version of Gerry's regular 80s-90s quintet. It was the first one of his records that I heard, which is possibly why it's still my favourite. (with Don Byron, Ed Schuller, Wolter Wierbos and Ernst Riesiger)

Honourable Mentions:

Michel Ratte - "Passages et Derives" (Can-con!)
Jean Martin Trio - "Get Together Weather" (more Can-con!)
Tony Williams - "Spring"
Tony Williams Lifetime - "Emergency"
Philly Joe Jones - "Showcase"
Gerry Hemingway - "Acoustic Solo Works"
Paul Motian - "On Broadway Vol. 2"

Billy Hart - "Enchance"
Tom Rainey Trio - "Pool School". I haven't heard the new quintet one called "Obligato" yet, but I heard the band live and it was AMAZING.
Peter Erskine - "You Never Know"
Mel Lewis - my real favourite Mel is "Joe Williams meets the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra", but I don't know if that fits your criteria of "drummer-led", so there's also "The Lost Art", an 80s sextet session under Mel's name.
Max Roach - similarly, my favourite Max is the Clifford Brown stuff. "At Basin Street", probably? Hard to pick just one... Also, "Freedom Now Suite" and "Deeds, not Words".
Elvin Jones - Puttin' it Together. Also, I have a sentimental attachment to "In Europe", as it's the version of the Jazz Machine band that I saw when I met Elvin in 1991. 

- Peter Hum (Jazz Critic, Ottawa Citizen) www.jazzblog.ca

Art Blakey - "Free For All"
For the crazy intensity of the title track and whole album, and the joie de vivre of Pensativa

Brian Blade Fellowship - "Perceptual"
For the great tunes, band feeling and vibe. This music really connects.

Billy Hart - "Oshumare"
Great tunes and arrangements, a distinctive vision. I love Billy Hart’s Latin/straight-eighths playing, and his overall mix of taste and audacity.

Elvin Jones -  "Earth Jones"
Maybe not the best Elvin CD, but … Kenny Kirkland! Lieb! Terumasa Hino! But that slow Elvin on the title track is nasty/great.

Jack DeJohnette - "Special Edition"
Again, great tunes, band feeling and vibe.

- Morgan Childs (Toronto Jazz Drummer)

Jeff "Tain" Watts - "Citizen Tain"
Max Roach/Clifford Brown - "Study in Brown"
Clifford Brown and Max Roach - "At Basin Street"
Art Blakey - "Roots and Herbs"
Art Blakey - "Caravan"
The Band - "The Band"

- Craig Brenan (Professor Jazz Trombone, Grant MacEwan University)

Marvin "Smitty" Smith  - "Keeper of the Drums"
The first album is so awesome - great writing, fantastic drumming, ok the solos could be better but this is the beginning of M-Base and all the players on it have gone on to monster careers with their own sounds and concepts.

Tony Williams - "The Story of Neptune"
Great band and great charts, sensitive yet powerful - Blackbird still a favourite

Art Blakey - "Caravan" - 
Not a lot of drum solos, or any writing, but the drumming is incessant, non stop, unrelenting and swinging. A big album for me

Louis Bellson - "Thunderbird"
I bought this for Carl Fontana who blows on every track but it wouldn't feel as good with out Bellson cranking it up every tune. Each tune gets faster and great blowing.

Mel Lewis Thad Jones - "Live at the Village Vanguard featuring the music of Bob Brookmeyer"
I guess these are more like trombone CDs but this live album captures the sound of the Vanguard, the band and a great big band drummer. Great tunes, Bob Brookmeyers return to NYC.

- Paul Read (Canadian Pianist, Saxophonist, Composer/Arranger and Jazz Education Icon)

Elvin Jones Quartet - "Live at the Lighthouse" 
I know he didn’t write for the album, but this is a desert island recording for me.

Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra - "The Music of Bob Brookmeyer"  
This is too good to ignore.

Matt Wilson - "An Attitude for Gratitude"
Total groove and musical wholesomeness.

Mel Lewis Sextet - "The Lost Art" 
Great writing and playing. Mel didn’t write but he did everything else.

Terri Lyne Carrington - "Money Jungle" 
Beautiful playing, production and compositions.

John Hollenbeck - “Eternal Interlude”
It’s weird, but I dig it!

- Tom Van Seters (Professor, Grant MacEwan University)

Peter Erskine - "You Never Know"

- Ted Warren (Toronto Jazz Drummer)

Tony Williams - "Spring"
Jack DeJohnette - "New Directions In Europe" 
Elvin Jones - "Earth Jones" 
Paul Motian - "Time and Time Again"
Art  Blakey - "The Big Beat"

Monday, April 7, 2014

Another Brush Off...

Another "Brush Off" today featuring John Riley, Greg Hutchinson, Russ Miller and Jim Rupp from Columbus Percussion's 2014 Drum Daze:

There is a lot of great information here, in particular all the different sounds, textures and ideas one can get from using the brushes. These kinds of things are always great to check out in terms of the wide range of techniques and options available to us. Playing the brushes is such a personal thing and varies from individual to individual.

I also really appreciate the sense of camaraderie displayed. They are all clearly having fun playing together. This sort of reminds me of the "Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland" recordings that pitted Art Blakey, Elvin, Philly Joe Jones and Charlie Persip against each other. Sort of a bit of friendly competition, I suppose, but the level of mutual admiration and respect is always there! After all, as Steve Gadd says: "At the end of the day, we're all in this together!"

Thursday, April 3, 2014