Thursday, October 29, 2020

Joe Farnsworth on Playing Ballads

Joe Farnsworth takes a moment to talk about and demonstrate an important topic that is all too often neglected in the realm of jazz drumming these days: how to play a ballad! 

In this video Joe takes us through several unique approaches to playing a ballad with a pair of brushes, inspired by the likes of Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins, Art Taylor, Albert Tootie Heath, Connie Kay and Max Roach:

Monday, October 26, 2020

Dewey Redman & Matt Wilson Duo - 5th House 1996

A big thank you to Jeff Lederer who recently shared this VHS footage of a 1996 duet performance, recorded at the 5th House performance space in Brooklyn, featuring tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman and Matt Wilson on drums.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Shawn Mativetsky - RUDIMENTAAL Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India

I am always excited when I hear about a new book on the topic of rudimental drumming. As someone who was initially introduced to the drums and percussion via rudimental drum line culture, I'm always interested to see what creative applications and variations people are coming up with. Admittedly, it's sometimes hit or miss (!) but many percussionists these days are coming up with some very imaginative and creative uses of the PAS 40 for us to consider.

With that in mind, Shawn Mativetsky's RUDIMENTAAL Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India recently caught my attention and it's impressive. In this book Shawn has taken rhythmic concepts from North Indian tabla drumming and applied them to the snare drum rudiments.

I first met Shawn during my first week as a student at McGill University back in 1995 and even back then I recognized what an incredible talent and devoted student of rhythm he was. He's put together a great study here and I encourage anyone who is interested in expanding their knowledge of rhythm and applications of rudimental patterns to check it out.

To learn more about Shawn and his book, visit his website (also check out his page for some fantastic videos where he demonstrates various North Indian rhythmic concepts and applications) and you can order his book through Liquidrum.

Shawn was nice enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about his publication:

Shawn Mativetsky - RUDIMENTAAL Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India - October 2020

1) Tell us all about your new book! What is it all about and what are the goals of your text?

RUDIMENTAAL is a collection of rudimental snare drum pieces, inspired by the tabla drumming of North India. My aim with this text is to provide a gateway into North Indian drumming for drummers and percussionists from all backgrounds. In addition to the pieces contained in this text, are explanations of the solo tabla form and the repertoire of which it is comprised, along with exercises and ├ętudes in order to further develop one’s understanding of the compositional forms, rhythmic devices, and performance practices of this rich musical tradition. My hope is that readers will enjoy this exploration of Indian rhythm, and like me, get absolutely hooked and travel further down the rabbit hole, so to speak.

In RUDIMENTAAL, the repertoire is presented in a way similar to how one might learn tabla. First, one learns various compositions from the repertoire as separate items. Each item can be seen as an ├ętude, or a short concert piece for performance. Once enough repertoire is learned, one can then connect the various compositions together to create a fully-formed solo. There are a number of compositions provided, along with instructions for how to piece them together, allowing for numerous possible permutations in coming up with your own solo snare drum performance. Essentially, you can design your own piece based on your repertoire preferences, and the form can expand and contract to suit whatever duration you have in mind.

Through RUDIMENTAAL, my aim is to provide insight and understanding of North Indian rhythm, including the concepts of taal (rhythmic cycles), tihai (rhythmic cadences), layakari (rhythmic density), strategies for improvisation of variations on a theme, and how to apply the tabla solo form to snare drum. In notating all the compositions for snare drum, it required me to simplify the compositions down to their bare essence - the soul of each composition - making the motives and structures clear. Due to this, drummers, composers, and all musicians in general, should be able to expand these ideas further, and apply them to the drum kit and to many other musical contexts.

2) What was the motivation and inspiration for putting this together?

I know that many people are fascinated by the tabla and Indian classical music, however often tend to be intimidated by the complexity of the music and the many years of study required to play an instrument such as the tabla. With RUDIMENTAAL, I hope to create a bridge between the Indian and Western music traditions, so that more musicians outside of the Indian classical tradition can gain some understanding of this rich, beautiful tradition.  Much as the tabla is the principal percussion instrument of the North Indian classical tradition, the snare drum is likewise central to the Western percussion tradition, and so this transposition of repertoire from one to the other makes a lot of sense to me, and comes quite naturally. In this way, drummers and percussionists can approach North Indian rhythm on an instrument that is familiar to them. My hope is that RUDIMENTAAL can help drummers, and musicians in general, to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the tabla and North Indian rhythm, and begin to apply some of the concepts in their personal musical practice.

3) How do you recommend students and teachers approach working through this?

As previously mentioned, the repertoire is presented in a way similar to how one learns tabla. Each of the pieces in RUDIMENTAAL can be performed as separate works, or can be joined together to create a larger form. First, there are some introductory exercises centred around counting taal with the hands, and speaking bols of the theka (timekeeping pattern) and some tihais (rhythmic cadences). I have provided videos of these on my rudimentaal.com website in order to assist with this process. After one has integrated these foundational concepts, one can move on to learning the compositions.

Tabla players do a lot of repetitive practice, looping phrases and compositions over and over until they are fully integrated in terms of memorization, technique, tone, and musicality. I strongly recommend taking this approach, going item by item, repeating as many times as necessary to fully integrate the materials, before moving on to the next, and before attempting a run-through as notated. If there are challenging phrases, isolate those phrases and repeat as many times as necessary.

My Guru, Pandit Sharda Sahai-ji, would often say, “Practice one million times, perform once.” This illustrates the work ethic and level of preparedness required.

For the kaidas, which are theme-and-variation compositions, it is a good idea to try to follow the logic of the variations. This will help with the musical flow, but also in understanding what is actually going on, musically, which will allow for these concepts to be applied to other musical contexts outside of the book. In order to assist with this, I've provided a full analysis of KAIDA 1 in RUDIMENTAAL.

One could work through the repertoire in the book in order, treating each short piece as an etude or short performance, or, one could join these together in a specific way in order to form a larger solo performance. Detailed instructions for this are provided in the text, but essentially, the tabla solo form is flexible - as long as we have an introduction, development, and conclusion, the solo can last 5 minutes, or 5 hours! In the case of RUDIMENTAAL, perhaps 5 minutes to 30 minutes with the repertoire provided.

There are also three complete standalone pieces included, which are significantly longer.

4) What future book projects do you have in mind?

RUDIMENTAAL is still quite fresh off the presses, so I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I can definitely imagine a ‘Volume 2’, expanding the concepts further, introducing new repertoire, different taals, and further strategies for improvisation.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Dana Hall's Inner Dialogue: Sound & Semiosis

Check out this great solo set from Chicago's Dana Hall, presented by the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, recorded outdoors on a nice sunny day earlier this summer, underneath a big green tree:

And from the same series, here's a duet featuring Dana Hall with tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield:

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Adonis Rose "Piece of Mind - Live at Blue LLama"

New Orleans drummer and composer Adonis Rose recently released his latest album of music on the Storyville label, recorded live at the Blue LLama jazz club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Check out his Bandcamp page to download his album here and learn more about Rose's music on Storyville's website: https://www.storyvillerecords.com/products/piece-of-mind

This album was welcome news here at Four on the Floor. Back in the early 2000s while I was still living in Montreal, I really enjoyed listening to and learning from Rose's albums and dynamic drumming on the Criss Cross label on a regular basis: The Unity, Song for Donise and On The Verge.

Adonis was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his latest recording project (check it out!):

Adonis Rose Interview - Four on the Floor October 2020

1) Tell us about your latest recording! How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen? What inspired you to pursue the vibe and instrumentation that you did? Was there a particular message you were trying to convey to the listener?

Piece of Mind - Live at the Blue LLama is my first live recording as a leader. It was a project that was on my mind to do for a while and finally came to fruition through my partnerships with Storyville Records and Blue LLama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor, MI. I chose a quintet with trumpet and saxophone because that configuration and sound have been constant throughout my career in the various bands that I’ve performed with. I first played with Terence Blanchard, and then had a ten-year tenure with the Nicholas Payton Quintet. I have also played in the bands of great singers such as Kurt Elling, Nnenna Freelon, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, so I wanted to include a vocalist on this recording. I think everything came full circle for me with this project. It is a feel-good record that takes the listener on a musical journey through great times, various styles, and unique instrumentation.

2) Who are your influences, on and off the drums, and why?

When it comes to drummers who have influenced me, I would have to include almost everyone I’ve listened to and studied with so far. My favorites are Baby Dodds, Papa Jo Jones, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, Jimmy Cobb, Joe Chambers, Jack DeJohnette, James Black, Herlin Riley, Shannon Powell, Billy Kilson, Lewis Nash, and many others.

My non-drummer influencers include so many people that I wouldn’t have enough time to mention all of them! Life is very interesting and has a way of influencing you gradually and unexpectedly. 

Wynton Marsalis has always been a huge influence for me, and he seems to be now more than ever. His relentless passion and pursuit of educating and promoting jazz around the world is unmatched. His ability to lead a large cultural institution for decades while maintaining the ability to perform and compose on a high level has been very inspiring to me, especially now that I have to run an institution and am an artist at the same time.

George Wein has changed my perspective on what it means to be an artist and the importance of dreaming big. I’ve been reading his autobiography, which is very informative. He is clearly an innovator, and the book helps me realize that thinking outside of the box and understanding jazz as a business is vital for artists. His story is incredible, and his accomplishments have immensely impacted our industry.

3) What are you practicing and listening to these days?

I have to admit that it has been difficult to practice consistently during the pandemic. Having so much uncertainty and death has caused the world to be very dark at times. I’m sure many musicians are dealing with periods of ups and downs and are looking for inspiration wherever they can find it. I have always practiced the basics to maintain consistency. Touring helps with this. I still practice my rudiments because it would be almost impossible to achieve what I hear on the drum set without that. I’ve also been composing music, planning tours and concerts for next year, and finishing new recording projects.

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

I am actually in the studio right now, starting a new recording project that will be released late next year. I’m also putting the finishing touches on a new project with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, which features Cyrille Aimee that we are planning to release sometime in 2021. As Artistic Director of NOJO, I curate concerts, develop educational programming, and create opportunities for our orchestra members year-round.

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

Be the best musician that you can be every time you get behind the drum kit. Educate yourself about harmony and melody to influence and advance musical situations that you are involved in. Learn about the music business and aspire to be a leader. Listen and be patient. Welcome constructive criticism and always be your biggest critic.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Matt Wilson on Melodic Drumming

During the Spring of 2011 I traveled to New York City and interviewed many of the world's greatest jazz drummers, soliciting their thoughts and opinions on the concept of "Melodic Drumming". This information formed the nucleus of my doctoral dissertation that I completed through the University of Toronto in 2015 (you can check that out here). 

All the drummers that I interviewed were very generous with their time and information including my good friend Matt Wilson. I've known Matt for many years and I very was fortunate to study with him for a period of time in 2004 thanks to a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.

I was rummaging through an old hard drive the other day and came across these videos, taken in Matt's basement, of him demonstrating some of his approaches to dealing with melody on the drums.

The clips are brief and somewhat incomplete as most of the commentary is missing (!) however, it is what it is and I think his drumming speaks for itself.

Anyways, here is what I have and I hope you dig it (thank you Matt for allowing me to share these!)

Thursday, October 8, 2020

John Riley's Vintage Cymbal Collection

Thanks to the nice folks over at the Memphis Drum Shop here is an interesting four-part series in which John Riley demonstrates his collection of vintage cymbals. Take note as there are lots of great sounds and information to be found here for sure:

Monday, October 5, 2020

Art Blakey - Indestructible

And...we're back.

Thanks for checking in and it's been a minute. I hope you are all well and staying safe during these challenging and uncertain times.

It was a busy Spring/Summer but it also was nice to take a break from blogging for a bit. Anyways, I'm back at it now that Fall is in full swing and there are lots of interesting things in the queue coming up. So stay tuned.

For starters, Bret Primack, the prolific "Jazz Video Guy", recently produced this wonderful documentary on the legacy of Art Blakey with some great insight and commentary from several Jazz Messengers including the likes of Geoff Keezer, Brian Lynch, Ralph Peterson Jr., Bill Pierce, Bobby Watson, Willard Jenkins, Benny Green and Max Roach.

This is just one of many jazz videos that Primack has produced and I'd encourage you all to take a look at his YouTube.com channel and check out all the wonderful work that he's been doing.

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