Monday, June 29, 2020

Philly's Ride and Mel's Swish

Thanks to the nice people over at Zildjian and the Memphis Drum Shop, here's John Riley and Paul Francis talking about and demonstrating a ride cymbal owned and played by Philly Joe Jones:

And here's John and Paul featuring Mel Lewis' iconic Swish cymbal:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rudy Royston PaNOptic

Drummer/composer Rudy Royston has just released his newest album PaNOptic on Greenleaf Music featuring a program of solo drum improvisations. I was really impressed and inspired by the imagination and creativity that Royston displays in this music. 

Check it out on his Bandcamp page here.

I first heard Rudy play with Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstasy project at the Village Vanguard around 2011 or 2012 (?) and immediately became a fan of his drumming. I highly recommend his other albums 303, Flatbed Buggy and The Rise of Orion as well. 

Check out his page at Greenleaf Music to learn more about this accomplished and dynamic artist.

Rudy was nice enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his new music:

Rudy Royston PaNOptic - Four on the Floor Interview June 2020

1) Tell us about your latest recording!

PaNOptic, is a solo drum record consisting of 23 tracks of music that resulted from a three hour session of free flowing music I tried to surrender to the freedom of just playing music, playing what I felt at the time, whatever flowed from my conscience during this session. I found myself being inspired by poems, music legends, scenes, memories, exploring the quiet, darkness of my mind while beams of inspirations would shine through. It really is a comprehensive view of the music that was at the forefront of my thinking and creative process during that period. When I listened later I found there was a few arching themes through the music: scenes, tributes, sacred, pop. 

I didn’t want to just be playing drums and drum solos on the record. I wanted music complete with harmony and melody and emotion as well as rhythm. I wanted to play complete ideas, tell stories, paint pictures, express moods, explore feelings. I mean, exploring rhythm, textures and colors and even stories, these are things we can normally relate to the drum kit. But, to think of the drums as complete and comprehensive an instrument as piano or guitar, we don’t often think about drums in this light.

2) What inspired you to pursue an album of solo drum music?

I’ve always wanted to record a solo drum record. Ronald Shannon Jackson’s solo record, “Puttin on Dog,” was what inspired me mostly to make this record. At the time of this recording I was listening to so many different styles and genres of music, and I was exploring different approaches to my playing. I remember I was trying to capture an authentic, organic sound: trying to play the feeling of the moment, to illustrate an image in as unplanned and unforeseen a way as possible…just create the sonic expression straight away, however I could express it. I wanted to capture that adventure on record. I was listening to RSJ and the adventure of a solo drum record that was only using drums and cymbals…no loops or samples or overdubs, not even about grooving in the usual sense of the role was intriguing to me. I didn’t want any gadgets or gizmos on the heads. There is nothing wrong with these things, I just wanted the challenge and freedom of no help, and conveying a message on just drums and cymbals…and voice.

3) What are the musical challenges of programming an entire album of drum solos?

I don’t think of this as an album of drum solos. For me, it is a record of expression. I never felt like I was soloing; there was never a moment when it was my turn to shine: I was too into the pursuit of the feeling or emotion or image of the tune. It’s just music, on the drums. That was a challenge: expressing the “music” I was playing and not the drumming. This is connected to the larger challenge: style and pacing. The last thing I wanted was a barrage of continuous drum bashing. There had to be texture changes, style changes, tempo and volume variety. The elements were there since I was actually playing tunes and not soloing, but hoping they would work as an overall flow over the course of the record was a concern. I think it came out well: some tunes are dense with drums, some thin, some loud, some very soft, some fast, some slow. It is a good flowing record.

4) Was there a particular message you were trying to convey to the listener?

The message is just to enjoy the stories and feeling and emotions this music can evoke in you. Drums can be intimidating for some, and it might take a moment to adjust to the sound of solo drums. But, my message was forget that you are listening to solo drums, just enjoy the music, enjoy how it makes you feel or what it makes you see and think about. If you can listen this record like you would any other non-solo-drum record you like, I’m happy.

5) Who are your influences with regards to your overall style of writing and playing?

I think Ron Miles is my main influence for writing music and playing. There are so many others when it comes to writing; at times some more than others. That is the great part about bing a sideman, sometimes the people who I am playing with are giving me compositional inspiration. Playing?…Elvin Jones, Jack Dejohnette, Art Blakey, Paul Motion, Tain, Greg Hutchinson…some of the younger guys, Marcus Gilmore, Corey Fonville, so many more.

6) What are you practicing/studying/listening to/researching these days?

These days I am listening to more soundtracks and television show, theme music—probably because my attention has been drawn to television music since I have been quarantined and watching more television.

7) What other current and future projects do you have on the go at the moment?

I can never tell what I am doing in the beginning of a project: I can’t decipher in what direction I am going to go. I am taking advantage of this quarantine time to write a little. I know there is a project in the making, just not sure how it will manifest itself just yet. I would love to play with a vibist at some point, but the “blues” of Flatbed Buggy is still in my soul for now, I think. Either look for another Flatbed Buggy record or something with vibes and harmonica…in that sonic atmosphere.

8) How do the drums and your overall approach to rhythm factor into your compositions and concept?

Sometimes I compose music from the drums, not often. When I do write from the drums, it is usually from a place of feeling out the shape of the tune. How grooves or textures undulate from one part of the song to the next…where to build and where to release. I will start with something on the drums and begin to sing and search for the rest of the tune…then to the keyboard to write it down.

In my approach to rhythm, I like rhythms that are simply stated but open to much interpretation. There are tunes that are written with more precise rhythms and—depending on the composer’s wants—for me that often puts me in a tight space a bit because there can be such rhythmic complexity that there is no room for embellishment without creating a feeling of chaos. I try to write music that gives space for rhythmic interaction. Besides the melody of tunes, and the occasional rhythmic interaction, I don’t tend to write precise grooves for parts much. I like to leave rhythmic interpretations to the particular musician who is playing the part. I may give a reference rhythm, but it is only a suggestion.  

9) What drummers (or other musicians) do you consider as influences?

Man…everything and everyone I like….many folks, from Prince to Dolly Parton to Coltrane to Mahalia Jackson to Nirvana to Cameo to Chicago to Jay-Z, Lady Gaga….everything I hear and like is an influence.

10) What advice do you have for younger, aspiring jazz drummers?

Get humble, stay humble; practice often; remember playing music is about the music, whether soloing or in a group; play without fear; always try to play something you can’t; laugh at/with yourself every time you play; play for passion of music, not success: the former will bring the latter; don’t worry; play for love.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Playing with Brushes!

Thanks to Rob Wallis and Hudson Music, here is Adam Nussbaum, Jeff Hamilton and Steve Smith playing and talking brushes:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Zildjian LIVE!: Marcus Gilmore

In case you missed it, here's Marcus Gilmore from his recent Zildjian LIVE! session:

And while we're here, check out this recent collaboration between Gilmore and Zakir Hussain:

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Monday Morning Paradiddle - June 2020

And...we're back.

Thank you all for checking in and here is this month's collection of jazz drumming related considerations for you to enjoy and learn from.

- CBC Radio's Ideas offers this fascinating episode on the neuroscience of rhythm and the role it plays in our daily lives

- Ulysses Owens Jr. wrote this motivating article Pandemic Entrepreneurship for Jazz Musicians in JazzTimes Magazine

- Chicago's Chad Taylor interviewed by Jason Crane over at The Jazz Session

- Gerry Gibbs in Modern Drummer Magazine, featuring his new and very cool YouTube Channel.

Dig this!

- Mike Clark on Tony Williams from Not So Modern Drummer Magazine

- Todd Bishop over at Cruiseship Drummer has been busy these days. In particular he's painstakingly compiled a huge archive of creative practice loops to play-a-long with. Check these out here.

These are really clever and can offer an interesting element to your practice routine if you are working on a particular groove or feel. I showed these to Adam Nussbaum the other day and he lost his mind!

Here's a good one if you might be inclined to work on your slow tempos:

- Jerry Granelli featured in Jazz Profiles, speaking about his days playing with Mose Allison and Vince Guaraldi

- Canadian free jazz drummer Larry Dubin is a new name to me. Check out this 1979 CCMC performance.

- The 80/20 Drummer offers this episode on his practical approach to playing the brushes:

- Steve Fidyk interviewed by Discussions in Percussion

- Cellar Live's Cory Weeds interviews Jason Tiemann

- Francisco Mela's tribute to the late Jimmy Cobb:

- Jerome Jennings offers these two inspiring performances:

- Ralph Peterson Jr. interviewed by Occhi Magazine:

- Brazilian jazz drummer Duduka Da Fonseca interviewed by Drummer Nation:

...and another episode from Drummer Nation, this time featuring the great Bill Goodwin:

- Jazzkeller Frankfurt interviews Adam Nussbaum:


- Neon Jazz offers two recent interviews with Allison Miller:

...and Jim Black!

- Drummer Kevin Dorn shares this elastic band bass drum pedal hack, taught to him by Jake Hanna:

Has anyone tried this???

- Here's some great footage of Jeff Hamilton with the Woody Herman band featuring tenor saxophonists Joe Lovano and Frank Tiberi on a burning arrangement of Giant Steps:

- A couple of great clips featuring Art Taylor...

 ...with Dexter Gordon circa. 1963:

...and with Dizzy Gillepie and Johnny Griffin playing "A Night in Tunisia" circa. 1971:

Thanks to Mike Melito and Andrew Dickeson for sharing these via the Facebook.

- And....last, but certainly not least, here is the great ROY HAYNES with Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and Christian McBride featuring one of the most epic drum solos you'll ever see:


- What am I listening to these days?

Harrison2 "Trouts in Swimwear" - Harrison Vetro (drums)

Elvin Jones Trio "Skyscrapers, Vols.1-4" - Elvin Jones (drums)

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers "The Freedom Rider" - Art Blakey (drums)

Rudy Royston "PaNOptic" - Rudy Royston (drums)

Ted Warren/Mike Murley/Rich Brown "Broadview" - Ted Warren (drums)

Sam Jones "The Bassist" - Keith Copeland (drums)

Duke Jordan "Flight to Denmark" - Ed Thigpen (drums)

Mark Eisenman Trio "Sweet & Lovely" - Jimmy Cobb (drums)

Nick Ayoub "The Montreal Scene" - Emile "Cisco" Normand (drums)

- And today's Final Word goes to Sonny Rollins with these two pieces from The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Kelly Jefferson also recently shared this great piece of wisdom via his Facebook page:

“It’s not about your music - it’s about what makes your music your music. You’ve got to have a feeling like that. You have to have a reason for your music. Have something besides the technical. Make it for something. Make it for kindness, make it for peace, whatever it is. You know what I mean?”

- Sonny Rollins

As always, when the Masters speak...we listen.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Kendrick Scott - "No Justice, No Peace"

A pair of very powerful and moving pieces today from Kendrick Scott:

Monday, June 8, 2020

More Jimmy Cobb!

Further to last week's blog post, here's a few more items on the great Jimmy Cobb that I'd like to share with you today.

First, as a follow up to bassist Pat Collin's reflections on his own experience working with Jimmy Cobb, I asked Toronto pianist Mark Eisenman to do the same. Mark was kind enough to offer these words on playing and recording with Cobb back in 2003 (incidentally this is also posted on the new Four on the Floor YouTube channel!):

Thank you Mark!

Here's a few more links to check out:

Rick Mattingly offers this memorial via the Percussive Arts Society website

- An older but great piece from WBGO, A Take Five Salute to Jimmy Cobb featuring many of his important recordings

- NPR recently published this obituary and also shared this 2013 performance of Cobb and his band, recorded live at New York's Village Vanguard:

- Bret Primack (aka "The Jazz Video Guy") offers this tribute to Jimmy Cobb, a 2006 trio performance with Mulgrew Miller and Buster Williams:

- And finally, here's a great clip of Jimmy Cobb in action with Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and John Coltrane:

Thank you Jimmy Cobb!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Thank You Jimmy Cobb!

The great Jimmy Cobb recently passed away at the age of 91. Jimmy has always been one of my favourites and, in fact, was one of the first jazz drummers I was ever exposed to. He's always been a huge influence on my own drumming.

When I was about 15 years old my jazz band director at the Regina Lions Band, Brenda McAlpine, made a mix tape for me (remember those mystical sonic devices we used to call "tapes" or "cassette tapes"?) with three albums on it: Kenny Clarke Meets the Detroit Jazzmen, McCoy Tyner's Just Feelin' and Art Pepper's Gettin' Together. The drummers on those records (who I still listen to and study today!) were Clarke, Louis Hayes and...Jimmy Cobb.

Not long after that introduction came listening to his work with Miles Davis on Kind of Blue and In Person at the Blackhawk. However, one real attention grabber for me was when drummer Kevin Dempsey played me Joe Henderson's Four! recorded live with Jimmy Cobb, Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers. Cobb's solo on the title track still floors me today (Go check that one out!)

I was also fortunate to finally hear Jimmy Cobb play in person at the Calgary Jazz Festival in 2009 with his Kind of Blue tribute band. I managed to sneak backstage afterwards and had him sign my favourite old 19" A Zildjian cymbal ("Don't sell it on eBay!" he said to me afterwards...)

Last summer my good friend and Canadian bassist Pat Collins told me some stories about a memorable trio session he recorded with Toronto pianist Mark Eisenman and Jimmy Cobb entitled Sweet & Lovely (Cornerstone Records).

Pat was nice enough to take some time to share what it was like to play with Cobb:

"Some Thoughts On Jimmy Cobb" by Pat Collins

In January 2003, my friend Mark Eisenman asked me to play with him on a recording with legendary drummer, Jimmy Cobb. This recording is now available on the Cornerstone Records label, under Mark’s name, and is entitled, “Sweet and Lovely”. A few things stand out about the session that I am happy to have the opportunity to share.

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about that session was the fact that the first couple of takes, from my perspective, didn’t feel as good as I thought they would have. I was playing tentatively and took the approach of trying to “follow” Jimmy. After a while, Barry Elmes, who was acting as producer of the session, told me to just play like I play and from that point on, things felt fantastic! It was a real lesson for me, that no matter who you’re playing with, you can’t be a follower, rhythmically. Once I committed to playing with a bit more conviction, things lined up with Jimmy and it and felt great! It was a truly memorable session.

One of the tunes we recorded for the album was, “Someday My Prince Will Come”. Mark decided we play a similar arrangement to what Miles did on his album of the same name. The intro starts with Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb playing a quarter note pedal on an “F”, with Wynton Kelly sneaking in after a few four bars or so. When Mark and I were playing this arrangement with Jimmy, at one point we looked at each other and each of us had this goofy smile on our face, the look of astonishment that here we are, playing with Jimmy freaking Cobb!

One of the things that most impressed me about Jimmy during the session, was how seriously he took things. It would have been very easy for him to come to the session, collect his cheque and get out of there with there as quickly as possible. At the point in the session when it felt like things were winding down, Jimmy said to us, “If you guys want to do some more, I’m up for it”. I’ll never forget that, and whenever I’m tired on a session or gig, I draw on those words from Jimmy as inspiration as well as a kick in the pants to myself.

Jimmy’s commitment to the music was also exhibited with us a year later. The trio did a six-night gig at Toronto’s, “Top O’ The Senator” club. It was such an incredible experience to be part of this gig. Every night people would come in with their vinyl copies of the iconic albums Jimmy played on and ask him to sign them. He was always gracious and often took time to have conversations with the people requesting the autograph. For the last tune of each night, Mark would call, “I’ll Remember April”. Mark would let Jimmy set the tempo each night, and it seemed like each night Jimmy would start the tune a little bit faster. Mark and I got used to buckling our seatbelts for this and by the end of the week, the tempo was burning!

It was such an honour, education and thrill to have the opportunity to play with Jimmy Cobb and something that I will never forget. RIP Jimmy.

Joe Farnsworth has also recently produced yet another amazing YouTube video, this time offering his tribute to Jimmy Cobb, featuring an all-star cast of drummers and well-wishers:

Thank you Jimmy Cobb!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Jack DeJohnette: Jazz & Spirituality

I was watching and really enjoyed a wonderful Facebook Live broadcast last Friday evening from Jazz House Kids hosted by bassist Christian McBride with special guests Eric Harland, Carl Allen and Cindy Blackman (with appearances by Chick Corea, David Sanborn, Dianne Reeves and Roy Haynes!) It was a very entertaining and informative session and I will surely return for more.  However, in particular, their discussion on the legacy of Jack DeJohnette really got my mind thinking and prompted me towards a late-night DeJohnette-inspired internet and YouTube binge.

I was really inspired by these two pieces from Jack DeJohnette in particular, for two related reasons:

First, here is an article from Best Self: Holistic Heath & Conscious Living entitled Jazz & Spirituality: The Mindful Music of Jack DeJohnette in which DeJohnette discusses his philosophy and thoughts on the powerful healing power of music.

Furthermore, here's a wonderful clip of Jack improvising on an instrument I know only as a Handpan or a Hang drum (?)

While we know DeJohnette as a drummer and accomplished pianist, his imagination and musicality knows no bounds. I am always inspired by musicians when they play another instrument (or engage in any other creative endeavour) and, as in this case, their profound musicality and message always comes across clear as day.