Monday, September 30, 2019

Chris Smith - The Drum Hang Vol. 6

Another instalment of excellent Jazz drumming tutorials from Chris Smith via The Drum Hang. I've posted all of his videos before and will continue to share these because I think they are really great. I have really learned a lot from these.

Now, there are a ton of so-called experts in the online world and on YouTube.com and Instagram these days, all too eager to share their "expertise" but, in fact, there are really only a small number who actually know what they are talking about! (this is of course my biased opinion....)

Chris Smith not only knows what he's talking about (and he's a really good player too!) but he also offers his explanations and concepts in a very concise and articulate way as well. This series is significant and I think he should write a book or something...oh wait never mind, he did! Check out his excellent biography on Mel Lewis entitled "The View From the Back of the Band: The Life and Music of Mel Lewis".

Anyways, sit back and learn something from this collection of instructional videos, produced by someone who really knows what they are talking about:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Interview with Dave Laing

Montreal's Dave Laing is one of Canada's greatest Jazz drummers and has long been a huge influence on my own playing. I studied with Dave during my time at McGill University back in the mid 1990s (he really kicked my ass!) and I also frequently took advantage of the opportunity to hear Dave play on a regular basis for many years around town with a variety of artists (he was always playing everywhere!)

Dave is a consumate musician whose playing mixes sensitive and thoughtful musical accompaniment with fire, a burning ride cymbal beat and a deep sense of swing. I want to be like Dave Laing when I grow up!

Lucky for us, Dave will be performing in Calgary this coming Friday with Montreal's Sam Kirmayer on guitar and Ben Paterson on organ. 

Check out this footage of Dave in action with this trio in the studio:

And here's a brief clip of Dave burning through Min Rager's composition "Say What You Mean" from her 2016 studio recording:

Dave was also nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions:

Dave Laing - Four on the Floor Interview September 2019

1) How did you get your start on the drums? Who were your teachers and describe your education.

Some of my earliest memories are of the drums---my Aunt Florence could play a pretty mean rock beat and my older brother Mike was a drummer so that's really how I was introduced to the instrument. Mike was a talented player through high school and college and being 6 years older than me, he was a big influence on my early development. This was the 70's and he was listening to studio players like Steve Gadd and Jeff Pocaro. Incidentally, a lot of records from those days, even the pop recordings, would list all the musicians and it really drew attention to the individual contribution to the players, which the current format of music listening doesn't prioritize.

My dad was a jazz listener and so there was lots of jazz around the house, and back in those days you would still occasionally see jazz performers on tv shows--talk shows and variety shows, and even exclusively jazz programs like the Peter Appleyard show, which would have great bands. I had a chance to see Buddy Rich when I was a teenager and that was mind-blowing! My mom was a country and pop music listener and I remember spending many hours just going through all those records so there was a real mix of things in my early days. I personally gravitated toward funk and R&B bands, as the attraction for me was the feel and the groove--a deeper interest in jazz came a little later for me.

As for formal training, I didn't study until university and there my teachers were Lou Williamson and Pete Magadini. I also listened intently to Andre White and would pick his brain whenever I could so I would put him down as a teacher as well.

2) Who are some of the drummers that have influenced you, and why, over the years?

Every drummer influences me! That sounds a bit trite, but I do take things from every player I see and hear, since everyone has something different and unique about playing the instrument. I had an early encounter with Kenny Washington that was hugely influential in many ways. Of the elite drummers, I'd say I was most influenced by Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe, Jack Dejohnette, and Billy Higgins. I return again and again to their playing and I"m always finding new things. But honestly, there are too many names to list!

3) What are some of the projects and recordings you've been involved with that you are most proud of?

I consider myself a career accompanist and I take great pride when someone chooses me from among the many great players available to help fulfill their project or recording. I've had long associations with a lot of great players in Montreal like Kevin Dean, Ranee Lee, Joe Sullivan, Geoff Lapp, and Remi Bolduc and each of those players has many recordings that I'm quite happy with. I've done many projects with great younger players that I think sound great like Sam Kirmayer, Josh Rager, Carlos Jimenez and others.

4) What are you practicing and working on these days?

I studied a bit recently with a great Cuban percussionist in Montreal named Kiko Osorio and I'm trying to get some of that language together. After seeing players like Antonio Sanchez, Bill Stewart, Eric Harland and others, I'm trying to get some hipper foot ostinatos and odd times together but that's a work in progress!

5) You have been an influential teacher at McGill University now for over 25 years. What is your teaching philosophy and what skills do you focus on with your students?

I usually only have a few students at a time so I try dial in on what each particular player is motivated to work on while also addressing areas where I feel some attention should be focused. I like to come at development from two sides: one is the technical/rational side--which is usually what the books and methods address while the other is the emotional/feeling side of things which is harder to teach but vital to developing something personal and unique. All of our drum heroes were/are technical virtuosos but also developed something unique that made them stand out.

6) What exciting projects do you have coming up?

After this current tour with Sam, I've got a nice gig with Donny Kennedy in October at the Upstairs club in Motnreal with visiting bari sax player Paul Nedzela who's a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and a McGill alum. Following that, I have some shows with Remi Bolduc and also singer Ranee Lee lined up so it will be a busy fall.

7) Tell us about the current tour with Sam Kirmayer and Ben Paterson!

Sam originally put this band together two years ago with a record date and we did some shows last year at this time and we're back at it this year but on a bigger scale. We're doing 15 shows in 19 days, hitting 6 out of 10 provinces, so it's a lot of flying and driving and packing and unpacking but we are having a gas. We do a mix of Sam's originals and some standards and we've had some great crowds so far. I've known Sam for close to 10 years now and it's been great to watch him grow into such a polished performer and composer.

Ben is a fantastic talent and really knowledgeable about the organ tradition so it's fun to play these gigs with a great musician on a rarely-played instrument.

Dave Laing is currently touring Western Canada with the Sam Kirmayer trio featuring Ben Paterson on organ and will be appearing at Lolita's Lounge in Calgary on Friday, September 27th at 7pm. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Steve Jordan!

To commemorate the Fall Equinox, the end of Summer and the beginning of the Fall season, I'd like to offer these clips of Steve Jordan laying down some convincing backbeats to get everyone's attention!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Chick Corea on Roy Haynes

The very eloquent Chick Corea speaks to the musical legacy of his friend and Master drummer, Roy Haynes:

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Well, we are full into the swing of things now that Fall is here. Hope you are enjoying your time and working hard wherever you might be, back to school or back to work...

This is the first Monday Morning Paradiddle column in awhile now so here's more than a few things being passed around the Four on the Floor offices these days for your perusal and inspiration:

- Check out Ryan Shaw's new Jazz drumming blog Learn Jazz Drums. Lots of really great and practical Jazz drumming tips and advice to be found here on a regular basis!

- Listen to Dr. Collen Clark interviewed by the Drum History Podcast on her doctoral research "The Evolution of the Jazz Ride Pattern"

- Rudy Royston's "Always Listening" from Downbeat magazine

- Dave Douglas interviews drummer/composer Mareike Wiening at A Noise from the Deep. Also check out his interview with Andrew Cyrille!

- Sheila E. on 5 songs that changed her life from CBC Music

- Hey look! Vinnie Colaiuta now has his own podcast!

- French Jazz drummer Andre Ceccarelli offers this series of instructional videos en Francais:

- "Talkin' Jazz" with Herlin Riley, interviewed by WWNO radio

- Clayton Cameron shares Brush Methods of the Masters via DRUM! Magazine

- Trumpeter Nicholas Payton recently offered his thoughts and opinions on the influential comping style of Elvin Jones (via the Instagram) and how to get it right. Definitely some important points to consider here:

"The “Elvin thing” most drummers get into, it often ceases to be conversational and becomes filler. You gotta make sure there’s substance and reason for everything you play. Don’t just play noodlely shit on the drums because you can. All fills and accents have to be about creating an energy, moving the song forward, and a dialog. If not with the soloist, a conversation between the kick and snare or the toms. Whatever part of the kit you’re engaging with, make it purposed. What a lot of kats miss with Elvin is his ideas were about cascading and signaled a buildup to some sort of resolution. He just had a verbose way of doing it. He wasn’t that far off from Philly Joe. He just took longer to get there. Only then does playing all of that stuff inbetween make sense....There’s a code in Black music. Every question has an answer. It’s also about getting into and creating a space when you’re comping. Not about what you’re playing as it is about propelling the energy. You have to speak the language. Certain phrases have a logical answer or maybe several, but there’s a complementary rhythm to every phrase, that’s what “comp” is short for. It’s like boxing where you gotta be able to read your opponent’s move before they make it. But you’re not fighting, it’s more like dancing or playing with LEGOs. You gotta provide the framework and setting to make what just happened make sense and suggest the next possibility. Elvin set up these points of tension and then had a release, but they’d appear to be more busy than what they were. It was all about creating these pivot points leading to a resolution. How you setup the melody dictates what will follow. Don’t default to being too busy on the head in. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with playing that much shit out of the gate, but there has to be a reason to support it. Comping for a soloist is oftentimes like answering a knock at the door. Look through the peephole to see who it is, then respond accordingly. Opportunity could be knocking, don’t miss it! You’re not there to fill up space, you’re there to create space. You’re also there to create resolutions and solve problems. Sometimes you’re both creating and solving those problems. ALERT! Repetitive phrases are always an easy opportunity to interact. But don’t interact at the expense of making it dance. It should feel good, regardless of how bombastic. Be able to keep it dancing in short bursts as well as when playing complex figures with longer resolution points. And don’t just focus on the soloist while missing the chance to lock in with the other rhythm section players. And if you’re going to play a lot of shit, you must justify it with larger points of resolution. And it has to be more about where it’s leading than the shit you’re playing at the moment." - Nicolas Payton, via Instagram

- Vancouver's Mike Allen was recently caught playing this tenor/drum duet with the great Andre White:

- Poly-rhythm maestro Peter Magadini shares this poly-rhythmic paradiddle triplet concept from a recent drum clinic:

- Nate Smith offers a lesson in counting and takes everyone to school!

- Tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake unleashing on Giant Steps with Joe Farnsworth stoking the fire from behind the drums:

- Thanks to Cruiseship Drummer's Todd Bishop for sharing this amazing music!

- What am I listening to these days?

Scott Colley "This Place" - Bill Stewart (drums)

Gonzalo Del Fra "Standards in Dublin" - Gonzalo Del Fra (drums)

Peter Beets New York Trio "Page Two" - Willie Jones III (drums)

Christin McBride's "New Jawn" - Nasheet Waits (drums)

Gary Smulyan "Alternative Contrafacts" - Rodney Green (drums)

Mike LeDonne "Partners in Time" - Lewis Nash (drums)

Nathan Hiltz "Songs Poetic" - Morgan Childs (drums)

Charlie Rouse "Unsung Hero" - Dave Bailey (drums)

Craig Scott "Introducing Craig Scott" - Joe Poole (drums), Craig Scott (vibraphone)

- And today's Final Words go to Ron Miller with these important thoughts on improvising (sorry...the text is a bit fuzzy but it's worth the read!):

And then this one of course...

"Listening is the most important thing in music"

- Duke Ellington


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Kenny Washington!

From a recent performance at the Cotton Club Tokyo, here's Kenny Washington in action with the Bill Charlap trio, demonstrating his exceptional brush technique on a set of Canopus drums:

Monday, September 9, 2019

Kenny Clarke plays on the Moon

Check out this amazing and recently discovered French television footage of Miles Davis from 1957 featuring Kenny Clarke on drums with Barney Wilen on tenor saxophone, Pierre Michelot on bass and Renee Urtreger on piano:

Apparently Kenny Clarke was also the very first Jazz drummer to play on the moon. Who knew?

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Jazz Drumming with John Riley

Recently I was excited to come across this trailer for John Riley's latest web-based instructional initiative through onlinelessons.tv:

I've always learned a great deal from John, while taking lessons with him privately over the past ten years as well as working from his excellent books "The Art of Bop Drumming", "Beyond Bop Drumming", "The Jazz Drummer's Workshop"and his DVD "The Master Drummer". John is a great player and a wonderful teacher and I always learn something from him, whether it's from watching him play or benefiting from his extensive experience and tremendous insight as a pedagogue.

Here's what John has to say about his latest project:

"The online course is for Florian Alexandru-Zorn’s platform. Maybe you’re familiar with a great brush DVD he did years ago. I did 4 hour+ courses which are progressive and will be available in October by subscription from onlinelessons.tv.

I discuss the aspects of jazz drumming, demo techniques, discuss philosophy, play with a trio and provide play-along tracks. I’m really happy with the way the lessons came out and the way everything was captured from the sound to the camera work and to the transcriptions of the lesson material."

So make sure to sign up for John's latest offering once it launches later this Fall.

In the meantime, here's an older interview with John to check out from All About Jazz:

Monday, September 2, 2019

Bill Stewart!

And...we're back.

Hope you all had a nice summer and now that September's here, it's time to get to work and back in the swing of things, so to speak...

And what better way to do so than with a few doses of inspiration from the great Bill Stewart, shown here in a quartet with John Scofield, Joe Lovano and Ben Street:

Some B3 organ trio action featuring Stewart with Peter Bernstein and Larry Goldings on Miles Davis' "Milestones":

And this one is a repost but it's so darn good, here it is again (!) featuring Bill Stewart close-up and in action with Nicolas Payton's trio from a few years back at Washington D.C.'s Jazz Alley:

Here's an older interview from DRUM! Magazine:


And a feature from Jazz Times by columnist and distinguished Jazz author Nate Chinen:


Finally, here's a more recent interview with pianist Pablo Held whose ongoing interview series offers some real depth and insight into the minds of Jazz music's current generation of creative artists: