Thursday, January 30, 2020

On the Road: Triplets & Bass Drum in the Middle

Practicing and keeping in shape (both drum wise AND physically!) can often be a challenge while on the road. Long car rides followed by short or drawn out sound checks often make it very difficult to fit in any sort of regular or productive practice routine while touring with a band.

One simple solution I have that works for me is to focus on ONE single idea or concept for a duration of time and then make the most of it during whatever limited practice time I may have. I also take my small, travel-size practice pad, a metronome and a pair of headphones with me everywhere I go.

I've recently been touring Alberta with vocalist and former CBC radio show host Tim Tamashiro, performing his tribute to the Rat Pack entitled "When You're Smiling". Here is a deceptively simple rhythmic concept that I've recently kept in my back pocket and have been trying to work on while on the road these days.

Bass Drum in the Middle

As you can see from the notation above, the pattern is fairly straight forward. It is a combination of triplets voiced between the hands and feet, with the second triplet played on the bass drum. Furthermore, pay attention to the specific sticking pattern as written (it's basically double strokes phrased as a shuffle).

I find this to be a tricky rhythm! Why is that you may ask? Well, for me anyways, it's close enough to many other hand-to-hand/bass drum triplet patterns that I've already been playing for years BUT just different and unfamiliar enough to make it feel slightly uncomfortable and make it a challenge. However, I might argue that whenever you play or practice something that is uncomfortable and takes you out of your comfort zone that this is actually a good thing!

I've also found this simple little rhythm a good balance exercise on the drums.

Of course you can orchestrate the hands between the tom toms/cymbals however you want and it's probably a good idea to play the hi-hat on 2&4 or all four quarter notes as well.

*Heck you could even replace the bass drum and play those notes with the hi-hat (or why not play both feet together?)

**If you were feeling motivated (and have the time!) you could also go through the first few pages of Stick Control and play the columns down using the same concept above (ie. play the lines on the snare drum as a shuffle between the hands and then insert the bass drum on the second triplet of each beat).

Anyways, it's a simple idea but it's easy to remember and it has also kept me engaged pratice-wise while on the road lately.

Remember, take it slow and keep it swinging!

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Monday Morning Paradiddle - January 2020

Well now that the holiday season is now long gone and over and done with, I hope you are all back and well into the swing of things whether you are back to work, on the road, back to school or in the shed. Stay warm and keep the dream alive!

Anyways, it's been a minute since I posted my last Monday Morning Paradiddle column so there is lots of cool new content to share with you and check out today.

- Rick Mattingly's tribute to Neil Peart via the Percussive Arts Society

- Hey look, you can buy Jack DeJohnette's Sonor drums on Reverb!

- Jerome Jennings featured in Downbeat magazine

- Dan Weiss interviewed by Next Bop discussing his latest album Utica Box

- An interview with Mark Guiliana by Leo Sidran on his podcast The Third Story

- Jerry Granelli recently toured Canada last December with his trio, playing the music from the Charlie Brown Christmas television special. Here is Granelli's interview with Margaret Gallagher on CBC's Hot Air.

- Todd Bishop, over at his fine blog Cruiseship Drummer, offers his compilation of Scott K. Fish's complete 5 1/2 hour 1984 audio interview with Frankie Dunlop for Modern Drummer Magazine. Thank you Todd and thank you Scott! (I tell all of my students to check out Dunlop's unique drumming and I have Andre White to thank for that...)

- Brazilian Jazz drummer & composer Igor Willcox interviewed by Modern Jazz Today

- A BBC feature on the legacy of artisan Turkish cymbal makers

And now a word from one of our sponsors...

Falk Willis, the creator of Jazz Heaven.com (an absolutely incredible and brilliant resource!) offers this update with regards to the recent offerings found on his website. I've really got a lot of out of his series of DVDs and now he's got a whole series of wonderful ongoing one-on-one artist features to offer. Check it out here: http://jazzheaven.com/live

Here's what Falk has to say:

Weekly Interactive LIVE Webinars & Masterclasses with the Greats! 
Your Questions Answered & 1-on-1 HOT SEATS...WEEKLY
Every Sunday @ 1pm Eastern (NYC time)

Included in your JazzHeaven EDGE Membership! (or buy individually)
90 Minutes to 2 Hours LIVE! (And will be RECORDED)
Masterclasses on one specific topic
WEEKLY! Every Sunday @ 1pm Eastern
PLUS: 1-on-1 Feedback by making Participants live via Webcam!

Artists confirmed:
Larry Goldings, Kenny Werner, Jerry Bergonzi, Matt Pierson, George Colligan, Steve Cardenas, Ben Allison, David Berkman, Brad Allen Williams, Ingrid Jensen, Dave Liebman, Nir Felder, Oz Noy, Dan Weiss, Pablo Held, Jorge Rossy, Ralph Peterson, Vincent Herring, Kevin Hays, Jean-Michel Pilc, Donny McCaslin, David Berkman (2nd webinar), Gil Goldstein, Bob Sheppard, John O'Gallagher, Marc Copland, Dayna Stephens, Hubert Nuss, Will Vinson, Ben Monder, Ralph Alessi, Jerry Bergonzi (2nd webinar), Guillermo Klein, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dena DeRose, Matt Wilson, Gary Thomas, Matt Stevens, David Berkman (3rd webinar), Donald Brown, David Liebman (2nd webinar), Gil Goldstein (2nd webinar)

Artists, confirmed but no date scheduled yet:
Vardan Ovsepian, Jeff Ballard, Joey Calderazzo, David Kikoski, Becca Stevens, Bobby Watson, Melissa Aldana, Pablo Held (2nd webinar), Gary Versace, Nir Felder (2nd webinar), Tim Lefebvre, Vincent Herring (2nd webinar, on Pentatonics), Jon Cowherd, Marc Copland (Harmony, the Brain & the Body Vol. 2)

Artists we are in conversation with:
Jeremy Pelt, Bill Pierce, Jonathan Kreisberg, Eric Alexander, Mark Turner, Peter Bernstein, Dave Douglas, Lage Lund, Ben Street, Ari Hoenig, Fred Hersch, Joel Frahm, Taylor Eigsti & Theo Bleckmann

Check all this out and much more at Jazz Heaven.com.

- UNT's Quincy Davis continues to offer great content through his Q-Tip series on YouTube. Here's his interview with Ed Soph:

And here's an excellent tutorial on learning and dealing with Traditional Grip:

- Ari Hoenig interviewed by JazzStudentCulture.com:

- Check out this inside look into a recent recording session featuring a duet between Antonio Sanchez and Eric Harland. Whew!

- Here's a preview of Greg Hutchinson's new brush course from Open Studio:

Check it out, it's great! (and the other courses to be found there are great as well!)

- Jazz legend Kenny Washington interviewed by Canopus drums:

- Portland's Alan Jones has recently been recording in the studio (a new album perhaps?) and he offers these two, interactive 360-degree-view insights into his session:

- Steve Fidyk offers some strategies to move around the drums, from his recent clinic at PASIC 2019:

- Here's some GREAT drumming from Elvin Jones, in duo with guitarist Larry Coryell, from a 1968 session entitled Lady Coryell:

This one was new to me!

- Johnathan Blake takes a great drum solo with Kenny Barron's trio:

- Let's take a moment to appreciate the fiery drumming of the enigmatic yet amazing French Canadian drummer Claude Ranger from a 1970 Radio Canada broadcast featuring tenor saxophonist Brian Barley and bassist Daniel Lessard:

- And finally, here's the late, great Alvin Fielder doing his thing:

- What am I listening to these days?

Brad Turner "Jump Up" - Dylan Van Der Schyff (drums)

Dave Holland "Conference of the Birds" - Barry Altschul (drums)

Cannonball Adderley "Somethin' Else" - Art Blakey (drums)

Max Roach "The Complete Mercury Sessions" - Max Roach (drums)

- And today's Final Word actually goes to two distinguished individuals:

First, from the sticks of the internet's Godmother of drumming, is Dorothea Taylor. Check out this inspiring feature on her below, brought to us by the nice folks over at Drumeo:

And finally...

Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame 'till the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

- Neil Peart "Mission" (1952-2020)

- "Max Roach" interpreted by Jean-Michel Basquait (1984)

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Elvin Jones - The Wise One

A big THANK YOU to Adam Nussbaum who recently shared and forwarded along these inspiring Elvin Jones quotes. We're not exactly sure who compiled all of these gems, but there is definitely lots of wisdom to be found here.

As per usual, when the Masters speak, we listen...

          ELVIN JONES

  • This way of playing adds more responsibility to the drummer. One of the responsibilities involves being flexible enough to support the soloist within the full range of support. You aren't just following the soloist; you become a partner. When approached properly, this way of playing offers greater opportunities and broadens the musical scope of the player. And it has to be musical; it can't be an ego trip. I knew my style sounded complicated, but it wasn't really. It wasn't status quo, but it wasn't all THAT different. (’82 Modern Drummer interview)
  • It's the honesty you apply to your playing that makes music enjoyable. The style of the music has little to do with it. It's only honesty makes it beautiful. (Melody Maker Dec. 19,‘72 p16)
  • Thad told me this many years ago and it got to me when he said it. He probably doesn't even remember saying it to me. He just said "Whenever you play, imagine that it's the very last chance or opportunity you'll ever have." So just that thought is enough incentive to at least not be wishy-washy or do something insignificant. At least it will bring out whatever honesty is in you to be applied to your instrument at that time.  hat's the only philosophy I know - just to do the very best you can at all times. (Down Beat Oct. 2, ‘69 p12)
  • When I go to a museum the things there are selected from thousands of sculptures and paintings worthy of public attention, and this is what should occur when you turn on the radio to listen to a music program. Who cares what makes the most money? The fact is this should be available so the proper attention can be paid to it. So it is a part of everybody's life. (Downbeat Mar. 27, ‘75 p25)
  • That feeling is always there. It's just a feeling - if you want to call it jazz you can call it jazz.  Anything you want to call it, but it's a spirit…cohesion…joint effort…all simultaneous emotion. (Downbeat Oct. 2, ‘69 p13)
  • There's no doubt about the fact that black musicians have been exploited economically, just as the whole social structure in the United States has been geared to play down the economic development of the black man. I mean this is understood. But still, as I say, it had no effect at all on the creativity of jazz. The music was created in spite of that, by the black and white together.  So anybody who tries to pretend otherwise has a very weak argument. Jazz is not the prerogative of the Negro race. It's the prerogative of the human race. (Crescendo International  Jan. ‘73  p27)
  • I like to be moved. I like to feel things. I like to feel music because that is the way I am. I want to enjoy myself. (Downbeat,‘73)
  • I've always liked the sound of the drums; its rhythm and those sounds make me feel good and I just like to do it because I like to hear it.  I like to hear it done well; that's why I wanted to be a drummer.  You have to like to, and you have to want to and you have to love it.  (John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960's, Frank Kofsky)
  • It isn't what it is; it's what you do, how you do it. That's a challenge to a musician if you put them in that particular context and say, "All right, here's the music, play this." And so you go ahead and play it and make it just as interesting and full and gracious and beautiful as if you were playing with a symphony orchestra. There isn't any difference. (Downbeat, Nov. ’97)
  • I don't feel any reluctance to tell people that I'm a jazz musician: I am. Also I don't ever hesitate to add musician after the word jazz. When I use the word jazz, I always say jazz music, because I think it is a complete art form. It's unfortunate that this word was chosen to express it, but nevertheless that's what it is. It's a pure art form developed here in this country by black artists and which is continuing to be developed by everybody that has any musical aspirations at all or who has even thought about becoming a musician, whatever color they are. I think the fact that it's pure transcends all colors and races. (Notes And Tones, Art Taylor)
  • I was a young man, my parents and their peers had ways of encouraging the young people, and there was an expression they would use: "Tell your story." What the people meant was, "Do it your way and make it for all of us." This is the way I believe a song is supposed to be rendered, whether it is a drum song or a saxophone song or any other. The composition should be expressed in a form that can be recognized as a story. If that's what people are hearing, then that means I'm doing it. (Modern Drummer Aug.‘79 p16)
  • Some parts of Latin music are very rigid, as are some aspects of African rhythms. The flexibility comes from the number of people that are playing the rhythm. It is not always synchronized, so that makes it more fluid. When I applied it, I opted for the fluidity rather than the static portion of the rhythms. The focus of Latin music is for people to dance. That's where the fluidity is apparent, and the dance enhances the music, which, in turn, enhances the dance. (Modern Drummer May ‘92 p53)
  • You always hope that the listener will hear what you are doing. If they hear what you are doing, then they also hear what you feel. If these two things exist...the insight that occurs when one human being meets another would be realized, and they would come back from the experience more enlightened, a better person, perhaps, or have more tolerance to whatever goes on and exists around them. I don't think that you can force anything on the listener. (Downbeat, Nov.’97)
  • When you are committed, then the only thing that is important is that commitment. And your knowledge and your experiences, whether they be great of small, how they can best apply that to that particular present. I never thought about how important it may have been, all I knew was that I was there. And I told myself, you are the one that has to do it. This is hindsight; we've got a lot of knowledge now. But all you know now is that you are with this group, you hear this music and you have to respond, because you are the one behind the drumset. That is where the commitment comes in. That is where you have to be absolutely honest with yourself, with what you are hearing, with what you are doing. That is what it all boils down to. That is the kind of commitment that I suppose after a few years has some significance. (Downbeat, Nov. 1997)
  • My drums are my life. Sometimes what happens to you during the day affects your ability and shows up in your work. But once you get to your set, you can obliterate all the troubles, which seem to fall off your shoulders.  f you aren't happy before, you are when you play. Playing is a matter of spontaneity and thought, of constant control. Take a solo. When I start, I keep the structure and melody and content of the tune in my mind and work up abstractions or obbligatos on it. I count the choruses as I go along, and sometimes I'm able to decide in advance what the pattern of a whole chorus will be, but more often five or six patterns will flash simultaneously across my mind, which gives me a choice, especially if get hung up, and I've had some granddaddies of hang-ups. If you don't panic, you can switch to another pattern. I can see forms and shapes in my mind when I solo, just as a painter can see forms and shapes when he starts a painting. And I can see different colors.  My cymbals will be one color and my snare another color and my tom toms each a different color.  I mix these colors up, making constant movement. Drums suggest movement, a conscious, constant shifting of sounds and levels of sound. My drumming can shade from a whisper to a thunder. I'm not conscious of the length of my solos, which I've been told have run up to half an hour. When you develop a certain pattern, you stay with it until it's finished.  It's just like you start out in the evening to walk to Central Park and back. Well, there are a lot of directions you can take - one set of streets going up, then in a certain entrance and out another entrance and back on a different set of streets.  You come back and maybe take a hot bath and have some dinner and read and go to bed. You haven't been somewhere to lose yourself, but to go and come back and finish your walk.  (American Musicians, Whitney Balliett)
  • To me, it has never been about a lot of money. It has always been, what are you going to do, what are you playing, what is the music, how does it sound, how does it make me feel, that kind of thing. That is my primary concern. (Downbeat, Nov.‘97)
  • Playing is not something I do at night. It's my function in life. Music is a way of life, it's everything. I play drums and that's what I believe I was born to do. (Downbeat Oct. 2,‘69 p 12)

Monday, January 20, 2020

Sammy Davis Jr. - Italy 1962

Sammy Davis Jr. was an incredibly multi-talented entertainer and clearly had put some time in on the drums as well. No doubt that his tap dancing influenced his drumming and vice-versa. Once again we are reminded of the important relationship between Jazz drumming and tap dancing. Check out this amazing Sammy Davis Jr. tap routine from Italian television circa. 1962:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Interview with Nick Fraser: DJD's Juliet & Romeo

I've known Toronto-based drummer and composer Nick Fraser since the summer of 1998 when we both attended the amazing but short-lived Lake Placid Jazz Workshop in upstate New York. I've always known him to be an incredibly talented, creative and hardworking musician. Lucky for us here in Calgary, Nick is currently in town for a reprise of Decidedly Jazz Danceworks production of Juliet & Romeo, a modern re-intrepretation of Shakespeare's classic tale, which is currently running as part of Calgary's High Performance Rodeo from January 16-26.

Nick was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his role as the musical director and drummer for this current production.

Interview with Nick Fraser: DJD's Juliet & Romeo

What is the musical concept behind Juliet & Romeo? Can you describe your process behind composing and developing the music for this project?

I'm not sure that I can speak about a "musical concept" as in something that was preconceived before I started working on it. I often think of Stravinsky's idea that the notion of "inspiration" is backwards; people don't get inspired TO DO work, they get inspired BY DOING work. The process was that I wrote a whole bunch of music (and mined my existing catalog of compositions for things I thought might be suitable), then we recorded a demo of about 25-30 pieces that Kim Cooper (the AMAZING choreographer and artistic director of DJD) took and ran with. She chose the pieces that she thought resonated the most with the story/choreography/energy of the show that she was conceiving. Then we started rehearsing the show, where many of the details came into focus.

How does working with dancers, choreography and movement change or dictate your musical choices?

Well, it changes it a lot. The main difference is that the choreography is of a set length. So, if a band were to say, add 4 bars to a piece during a regular jazz gig, it would be pretty much a non-event. Whereas in a dance show, it would likely be disastrous. So, all of the musical choices that I'm making as a performer are based on knowing the timing of the show. There is improvisation (it's still jazz music, after all), but within a much stricter framework than I'm used to.  I should mention, too, that Corey Bowles' beautiful and topical text based on Shakespeare (delivered in the current production by Tasha Korney in what I feel is a shockingly great performance) is a major part of the piece. When we were working on building it, I remember referring to the show as "the three-headed monster" i.e. the movement, the text and the music.

Who are your influences as a composer?

Composers who I'm pretty sure have directly influenced my work as a composer: Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Tony Malaby, Lina Allemano, Kris Davis, Andrew Downing, Brodie West, Justin Haynes, Rob Clutton, Doug Tielli, Eric Chenaux. Most of those people are people that I've worked with and I've often felt that the most influential people are those closest to you. 

Composers that I love, although I can't say how much direct influence there is, are: Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington, John Cage, Anton Webern, Paul Hindemith, Bob Dylan, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus...and many more.

Can you tell us about the musicians you've chosen to perform this music and how they contribute to this project?

Well, Rob Clutton is the only bass player that I've worked with seriously on my own music. There are recordings of mine that have no bass player, but whenever there has been one, it's Rob. We have long and prolific history going back to the mid-1990s when I first moved to Toronto. He was the bass player in Drumheller (a cooperative quintet that was active for about 10 years) and is in my current quartet.

Jeremy Gignoux is a violinist and violist from Calgary (well, he's French, but he lives in Calgary) who I met while doing my first DJD show, New Universe, under the direction of the godfather of New York free jazz, William Parker. Jeremy is a great improviser and brings a real eclecticism to his work. He's comfortable in fiddle music, folk music, classical traditions, jazz and more. That breadth is something that is a real treat to work with.

Carsten Rubeling plays the trombone. He has a beautiful sound, is an absolute sweetheart and brings a great energy and polish to all the performances. He is also from Calgary and has recently released a great jazz-funk-fusion record called Volk.

How do you find your being a drummer/percussionist influences your compositional decisions?

It's hard to say, because I don't know any other way to be! I guess that most of my pieces have a rhythmic idea at their core, although some have more of a melodic idea. There's a Twitter account called "jazz is the worst" and one of the tweets reads: "Jazz drummers tend to write avant-garde music... because their knowledge of harmony is so limited". This is hilarious and it is certainly true that the use of harmony in my music is usually somewhere between pedestrian, accidental and non-existent. I guess I've tried to make the best of my limitations. 

The Decidedly Jazz Danceworks production of Juliet & Romeo runs from January 16-26 at the DJD Dance Centre in Calgary. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit: www.decidedlyjazz.com

Monday, January 13, 2020

Ed Thigpen 1998

A wonderfully musical drum solo today from the master Ed Thigpen (circa. 1998), demonstrating the sonic potential of the drum set by means of using his hands, brushes and sticks.

I have a couple of personal Ed Thigpen stories to share, the first being an encounter I had with him at the IAJE Conference in Anaheim, California in 1995. I was wandering through the exhibit hall and Ed was holding court at the Remo booth, seated behind a snare drum with a pair of brushes. I had a recently purchased his wonderful brush book "The Sound of Brushes" so I gathered some courage, told him how much I admired his drumming and then politely asked if he could demonstrate his basic brush stroke (as shown in his book). He very enthusiastically obliged and then asked me to play it back for him. I got through about four measures of time and he smiled and nodded his head but then all of a sudden out of nowhere Dave Weckl walked by us. Ed exclaimed "Hey Dave!", took off in his direction and, well, that was the end of that!

I also purchased a used 20" inch Sabian Ed Thigpen Signature Flat Ride at the Drum Bazar in Montreal about twenty years ago or so. Unfortunately I didn't use it very much and ended up trading it in somewhere for something else (I don't even remember what...) However, that was a really nice cymbal and I regret letting that one go. Oh well...

Monday, January 6, 2020

Francisco Mela - Cuban Improvisation

And...we're back. Happy New Year! Hope you all had a nice Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus/New Year's break and now it's time to get back to work, back to school and back into the swing of things, so to speak....onwards and upwards in 2020!

Here's a recent "Cuban" inspired free-form improvisation from the sticks of Francisco Mela:

Thanks again for all your support and we look forward to another great year ahead here at Four on the Floor.