Monday, May 31, 2021

Louis Hayes!

For those of you who missed it, Kenny Washington is now posting on Instagram (!) and he broadcast an inspiring and informative Instagram Live session last Saturday afternoon (check it out as I believe it is archived). I really hope he does more of these!

Someone asked Washington about his approach to playing uptempos and, of course, Louis Hayes' name came up (and as Kenny recommended, check out Hayes' drumming on "Easy to Love" from Cannonball Adderley's album Nippon Soul). 


It's also Louis Hayes' birthday today (!) so I thought I would share some great footage and a pair of interviews with the Master himself:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Four on the Floor *Live* on Instagram IGTV featuring Jerome Jennings

Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Tuesday, June 1st at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring Jerome Jennings.


Jerome Jennings is a drummer, activist, bandleader, composer, sideman and educator. His debut recording ‘The Beast’ is a reflection of the every day joys and traumas of black life in the U.S. It was named one of the top three Jazz releases by NPR, received a four star rating in Downbeat Magazine, and was nominated for the prestigious French ‘Grand Prix du Disque’ award for Album of the Year in 2016. Jerome’s sophomore recording, ‘Solidarity’, released November 2019 was recognized by NPR as best music that spoke truth to power of 2019.

Jerome is a pertinent performer. To date Jerome has performed, toured and recorded with legendary musicians like Sonny Rollins, Hank Jones, Gerald Wilson, Christian McBride, Ron Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Wynton Marsalis (J@LC), The Count Basie Orchestra, Philip Bailey, Henry Butler, and countless others. He has also made recordings and shared the stage with contemporary musicians Sean Jones, Camille Thurman, Jazzmeia Horn, Christian Sands, Charenee Wade, and Bokani Dyer to name a few.

The summer of 2007 Jerome earned a MM from the prestigious Juilliard School in Manhattan NY. Jerome has been the Resident Director of The Juilliard Jazz Orchestra since fall 2017. He passed Jazz At Lincoln Centers Swing University 301 history course: The most comprehensive study of jazz from a non-performance perspective, available. Jazz At Lincoln Center has Jerome Jennings on file as an accredited jazz scholar.

Jerome has participated on several panels including Chamber Music America: Music, Language, and Revolution; Lincoln Center: Freedom’s State of Mind; Winter Jazz Festival: Jazz & Gender: A Discussion Of Community, Culture & Participatory Allies. Fall 2020, Jerome co-curated with Naomi Extra, a series of panels, performances and discussions at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem entitled ‘Jazz in The Era of Black Lives Matter.’

Currently, Jerome is keeping busy teaching, conducting clinics and educational youth out reach nationally and internationally. He is one of the most successful in the field of Black American music education. Jerome has been artist in residence, and have lectured at dozens of Universities, Academy’s, and Camps nationally and internationally including UNC Greensboro, John Hopkins Peabody Institute, Rutgers University, The Juilliard School, Jazz Music Institute (Brisbane, AU), Sydney Conservatory of Music, Xavier College (Melbourne, AU), The Ohio State University, Aspen Colorado, Brigham Young University, University Of Ghana - Legon School Of Performing Arts, Rockport Jazz Workshop, and the Universidad Sergio Arboleda (Bogota Colombia) and The National Taiwan University of The Arts.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Monday Morning Paradiddle - May 2021

And...we're back.

Thanks for checking in and there's no lack of interesting things to share with you all in this month's action packed variety column.

If you like what you are seeing here, please consider subscribing to my mailing list. Just click on the subscription box to the right side of the page. Don't miss out and sign up today to receive regular Four on the Floor updates straight to your inbox!

Thanks again to everyone who has been tuning into my ongoing, weekly Instagram interview series Four on the Floor *Live* happening every Tuesday evening. It's been really exciting to speak with and learn from all the artists who have generously taken time to speak with me.

Thank you for all for your ongoing support.

Please tune in tomorrow Tuesday, May 25th at 7pm mountain (9pm eastern) on Instagram IGTV @fouronthefloorblog for my interview with Johnathan Blake!

Alrighty, here's what's on the docket for this month's column:

1) Myself, Ted Warren of Trap'd and Todd Bishop of Cruiseship Drummer! (aka The Three Bloggers) offer another edition of our ongoing collaborative blog series, this time offering our individual thoughts on the concept of technique:

2) Benny Golson speaks about his experience playing with Art Blakey

3) Terri Lyne Carrington interviewed on CBC's Q by host Tom Power

4) A wonderful article on Listening Fast and Hearing Long by Toronto bassist Steve Wallace from Whole Note magazine

5) Check out Adam Osmianski's page That Drum Blog with several wonderful variations on an Elvin Jones coordination exercise that I shared right here on Four on the Floor many years ago Part 1 Part 2

6) An interview with Lewis Nash:

7) A tribute to Albert "Tootie" Heath, recently named a 2021 NEA Jazz Master:


8) Buddy Rich interviewed by the BBC circa. 1967:


9) Master Drummer Jabali Billy Hart celebrated by Western Michigan University:


10) Open Studio's Edu Ribeiro interviews Matt Wilson:


11) Alvin Atkinson offers some tangible concepts on trading fours from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Academy:


12) Steve Fidyk with two brush pieces and some great concepts to share:


13) Another instalment of Quincy Davis's incredible, ongoing Q-Tips YouTube series:

Make sure to check out Quincy's excellent ongoing interview series Drummer 2 Drummer found on Instagram @qdjazz. I always learn something whenever I tune in!

And be sure to take a listen to Nick Ruffini's interview with Quincy Davis over at the Drummer's Resource Podcast

14) John Riley with an introduction to the Art of Bop Drumming in a segment brought to us by the nice people at the Avedis Zildjian Company:

15) Billy Martin presented by Brooklyn Raga Massive and hosted by Daniel Freeman:

16) The Experimental Sound Studio and Option Talks Music presents Hamid Drake:


17) Newvelle Records presents the duo of Allison Miller on drums with Carmen Staaf on piano:


18) A creative percussion solo from Trilok Gurtu:


19) Jack DeJohnette (the pianist this time!) offers this composition "Ode to Satie":


20) What am I listening to these days?

Willie Jones III "Forgotten Heroes" - Willie Jones III (drums)

Lonnie Smith "Live at Club Mozambique" - Joe Dukes (drums)

Lou Donaldson "Alligator Boogaloo" - Leo Morris (drums)

Stan Kenton "Contemporary Concepts" - Mel Lewis (drums)

Hank Jones "The Oracle" - Billy Higgins (drums)

Kenny Barron & Dave Holland "The Art of Conversation"

21) And today's Final Word goes to Nadia Boulanger:

"To study music, we must learn the rules. To make music, we must learn to break them."

- Nadia Boulanger

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Four on the Floor *Live* on Instagram IGTV featuring Johnathan Blake


Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Tuesday, May 25th at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring Johnathan Blake!

Johnathan Blake, one of the most accomplished drummers of his generation, has also proven himself a complete and endlessly versatile musician — "the ultimate modernist," as John Murph of NPR has dubbed him. Blake's gift for composition and band leading reflects years of live and studio experience across the aesthetic spectrum.

Through years-long memberships in the Tom Harrell Quintet, the Kenny Barron Trio and other top ensembles, Blake has reaped the benefits of prolonged exposure to the greats of our time — arguably of all time. Through his powerful, evocative drumming and fully rounded artistry, he's also left a huge imprint on the music of such rising figures in jazz as Hans Glawischnig, Alex Sipiagin, Donny McCaslin, Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital, Patrick Cornelius, Michael Janisch, Shauli Einav, Jaleel Shaw and more. To date, Blake has appeared on over 50 albums.

Born in Philadelphia in 1976, Johnathan Blake is the son of renowned jazz violinist John Blake, Jr. — himself a stylistic chameleon and an important ongoing influence. After beginning on drums at age 10, Johnathan gained his first performing experience with the Lovett Hines Youth Ensemble, led by the renowned Philly jazz educator. It was during this period, at Hines's urging, that Blake began to compose his own music. Later he worked with saxophonist Robert Landham in a youth jazz ensemble at Settlement Music School.

Blake graduated from George Washington High School and went on to attend the highly respected jazz program at William Paterson University, where he studied with Rufus Reid, John Riley, Steve Wilson and Horace Arnold. At this time Blake also began working professionally with the Oliver Lake Big Band, Roy Hargrove and David Sanchez. In 2006 he was recognized with an ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award, and in 2007 he earned his Masters from Rutgers University, focusing on composition. He studied with the likes of Ralph Bowen, Conrad Herwig and Stanley Cowell.

Deeply aware of Philadelphia's role as a historical nerve center of American music, Blake has immersed himself in the city's storied legacy — not just jazz but also soul, R&B and hip-hop. In many ways he's an heir to Philadelphia drum masters such as Philly Joe Jones, Bobby Durham, Mickey Roker and Edgar Bateman, not to mention younger mentors including Byron Landham, Leon Jordan and Ralph Peterson, Jr. Today Blake is himself an exponent of the Philadelphia sound, described by Aidan Levy of JazzTimes in a review of his debut album, The Eleventh Hour as “the vertiginous sensation of being both slightly behind the beat and hurtling into the next measure.”

Approaches like this, one might add, can only be learned by sitting at Mickey Roker's right hand and absorbing exactly how the ride cymbal is struck. Such is the painstaking firsthand exploration that undergirds and informs Blake's musicianship.

Blake's playing helped the Mingus Big Band land Grammy nominations for the albums Tonight at Noon (2002) and I Am Three (2005). It has also earned Blake spots in groups led by Russell Malone, Randy Brecker, Joe Locke, Ronnie Cuber and other seasoned jazz veterans. As trumpet great Brian Lynch has said “Johnathan Blake is without peer among young drummers for the clarity of his beat and the incisiveness of his swing.”

Monday, May 17, 2021

UnDrum Festival - Suoni Per Il Popolo

I'm pretty stoked about this upcoming solo drum/percussion and multi-disciplinary festival happening in Montreal this coming June 6th and 13th.

Montreal's Architek Percussion ensemble and Suoni Per Il Popolo are presenting the inaugural UnDrum Festival featuring a diverse range of compelling artists including Ian Chang, Susie Iberra, Glenn Kotche, Architek Percussion, Nicole Lizée, Jessie Cox, Islem Ben Fraj, Camille Renarhd, Greg Harrison, Mili Hong, Michel Langevin, Germaine Liu, Susanna Hood and Jason Tait.

Both perforance dates will be streamed live at www.suoniperilpopolo.org

I've been considering and designing my own solo works for drum set lately so I'm really curious and excited to see what these artists will be offering. I'm sure it's all going to be really great.

Here's a couple of cool clips of Susie Ibarra, Glenn Kotche and Ian Chang who will all be presenting solo works during the UnDrum festival:

Architek Percussion and Suoni Per Il Popolo are pleased to present the inaugural UnDrum Festival, streaming live in June 2021.  UnDrum Festival features artists who are undoing our conception of the drum solo and expanding the meaning of being a drummer. Each artist uniquely approaches the drumkit by going beyond its traditional roles in popular music. Performances include free improvisation, contemporary dance collaboration, field recordings, electronics, avant-garde composition, and much more. Headlining artists include Glenn Kotche (drummer for Wilco, composer), Susie Ibarra (percussionist, improviser, composer), and Ian Chang (drummer for Son Lux, electronic artist), rounded out by an eclectic and diverse artist lineup. UnDrum will stream live June 6 and 13, 2021 and thereafter be available on demand via Suoni Télé-TV.

For more information visit: www.architekpercussion.com

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Four on the Floor *Live* on Instagram IGTV featuring George Sluppick

Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Tuesday, May 18th at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring George Sluppick!


George Sluppick is an American drummer born in Memphis, Tennessee, specializing in blues, funk, soul and R&B music. In 1986, he graduated from Overton, a prestigious creative & performing arts high school, where he studied music theory, sang 2nd tenor in the concert choir and played drums for their award-winning gospel choir. Growing up in Memphis, he shared the stage with many legends, including BB King and Rufus Thomas and just one year after his high school graduation, he went on the road with blues guitarist, Albert King, which opened many doors allowing him to become a full-time musician. George was 19 years old.

He moved to San Diego, California in 1991 and quickly became a major player in the local music scene, which included a two-year gig drumming with 50’s revivalists, Sha Na Na, touring the U.S. and Japan. During their second Japanese tour, they recorded a live album which he is featured, titled Sha Na Na: Live in Japan, (Sony). In late ’99, he began touring with Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, which lasted for three years and he is featured on Giving up the Ghost, (Magnatude). In 2003, he began drumming with North Florida’s MOFRO with whom he spent nearly five years touring the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia and is featured on three of their albums: Blackwater, Lochloosa and Country Ghetto (Alligator).

Between 2006-2010, he toured and recorded with Memphis soul-jazz trio The City Champs, releasing two studio albums, The Safecracker and The Set-up (Electraphonic). In 2006, he teamed with soul singer Ruthie Foster to record her critically acclaimed CD, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster, (Blue Corn) produced by Malcolm “Papa Mali” Welbourne. In the spring of 2008 George helped score the film, Gospel Hill alongside Memphis producer, Scott Bomar.

Chris Robinson, lead singer for the Black Crowes was given a vinyl copy of The City Champs, The Set-Up and called George, asking him to come to Los Angeles to play with his new solo project, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Leaving Memphis for the second time and making the journey west, he joined the band and toured with the CRB from March of 2011 till January of 2015. During this time, the band recorded three studio albums…Big Moon Ritual, The Magic Door and Phosphorescent Harvest (Silver Arrow), as well as two live albums, Betty’s Blends, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Silver Arrow).

George moved back to Memphis in November of 2016 and is currently keeping an active schedule, gigging, recording & teaching.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Ted Sirota's Vernel Fournier Drum Lesson Tapes

Something very special today....with Ted Sirota's permission, I am sharing his lesson tapes with the great Vernel Fournier, recorded on cassette tape in New York City circa. 1990.

Check these out. So much great info here, straight from the source!

Thank you Ted for sharing these with us via YouTube. Make sure to check out Ted's website www.tedsirota.com and consider making a donation to his GoFundMe campaign.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Four on the Floor *Live* on Instagram IGTV featuring Colin Stranahan


Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Tuesday, May 11th at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring Colin Stranahan.

Born In Denver Colorado, Colin Stranahan has always been surrounded by music. By his teenage years he was already actively working on the local Denver scene, and has recorded multiple records on the Capri Record label. After receiving the prestigious National Foundation Advancement of the Arts Presidential Scholar award in 2005, he studied at the University of the Pacific for one year as a Brubeck Institute Fellow. Shortly thereafter, he attended the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Stranahan was also one of the winners of the 2012 Thelonious Monk Drum Competition. Now living in Brooklyn, New York, Colin is among the most sought-after drummers in the world working with such artist as Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jonathan Kreisberg, Dr. Lonnie Smith,Fred Hersch, Terence Blanchard, Dave Kikoski, Kevin Hays, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and many others. 

He is part of a collective trio featuring some of the most talented and praised young musicians in New York City. Together, the Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato trio has recorded and released two successful albums and are releasing a third that was recorded live at Smalls, released in 2015.

Colin Stranahan currently holds adjunct teaching positions at Aarhus Royal Academy of Music, and London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he teaches both private lessons, and ensemble teaching.

He also teaches at a few summer Jazz programs including The Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, The Fara Sabina Summer Jazz School and Festival in Fara Sabina, Italy. Colin also gives drum master classes at Oberlin College, New England Conservatory, International Jazz Conference in Thailand, and the Singapore Esplanade Jazz Festival.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Three Bloggers - Part III: Technique!

For the third and final instalment of our ongoing collaborative collective series entitled The Three Bloggers, myself, Ted Warren of Trap'd and Todd Bishop of Cruise Ship Drummer! will each offer our individual thoughts on the concept of Technique

As before, this topic was suggested without any specificity or direction so I'm sure between the three of us we'll come up with a variety of interesting perspectives to consider.

Given the current circumstances and on-going restrictions re: Covid-19, the idea of Technique is something I've given quite a bit of thought to over the past year now since I've had more time to practice. Specifically, the question I've been asking myself has been: "How do I become a better drummer AND musician throughout all of this?"

Here are a few of my thoughts and some things that I've learned:

- In my opinion, developing one's technique as a drummer is a very important and lifelong study. 

Specifically, I am referring to developing, maintaining and refining one's rhythmic control and ability with one's hands, feet and overall four-way coordination on the drum set.

I once heard Jerry Bergonzi in a Downbeat interview say something along the lines of: 

"You never really master music. Music is the master." 

...and I think he's right! But what does this mean?

- I think people all too often confuse the idea of technique (practicing rudiments for example) with that of developing speed and virtuosity for their own sake. In a society and culture that generally celebrates speed and virtuosity it's easy to buy into this. But for me it becomes much deeper than that and I think it's really about developing and expanding your rhythmic/musical vocabulary and, most importantly, your sound on your instrument.

As my good friend jazz trumpeter Prof. Dean McNeill often reminds me: 

"Often the things that count the most aren't easily counted..."

- So yes, we should always continually work on the technical side of our instrument but ultimately it's how we apply those concepts in a musical context that matters most.

- I'm often reminded of many significant drummers who, over the course of music history, certainly had adequate technique but not to a level that I would qualify as being overly virtuosic (I won't mention any specific names here...)

So why were those drummers so special and in constant demand? It's because it wasn't necessarily what they played so much as it was how they played (i.e. their attention to their sound and how they made the music feel) and for me this is really the heart of the matter.

Carl Allen recently commented on this during my recent Four on the Floor *Live* interview with him:

"When you are playing there are two questions that you have to ask yourself: how does it sound and how does it feel?"

And he's right!

- Speaking of feel, Steve Gadd is, of course, one of the greatest drummers in the world and his prolific career reflects the way he makes the music feel and the rhythmic dance with which he plays the drums.

However, Gadd is also a master of the snare drum rudiments. My friend Chris Worthington recently forwarded to me this compilation of Gadd demonstrating his brilliant approach to using flam rudiments:

For me, I think Steve Gadd is a perfect example of how technique and musical intention merge and all come together.

- This has all been, admittedly, very challenging for me to put into practice over the past year since we, as musicians, have had our livelihoods turned upside down and haven't been able to play with other people!

- However, for myself, addressing technical issues from a musical perspective (such as sound), playing along with recordings, play-a-longs, composing/arranging new music, listening to music (more on this below) and playing melodies on the vibraphone has really helped give me a musical sense of balance to my practice routine over the past 12 months.

It's all a matter of musical intention and balance!

- Speaking of balance, saxophonist David Liebman puts this all into perspective with a brilliant artistic concept he breaks down into three areas. He calls this The Three H's: The Head, The Hands and The Heart (check out Liebman's excellent book Self-Portrait of a Jazz Artist).

These three areas of one's artistry (no matter your artistic discipline) all need to be addressed and they all work together towards creating a healthy and balanced creative spirit (and as Bergonzi stated before, it's a journey that one never finishes and it's always a work in progress).

1) The Hands

This is the technical and hands-on "muscle memory" aspect of being, in our case, a drummer. This is developing your facility on the snare drum, learning to use rebound, developing coordination, independence, etc. In some ways this is almost like being an athlete, meaning training our hands and feet to react in certain ways, developing control, dexterity and overall skill on our instrument (and your sound!)

2) The Head

This is the theoretical aspect of being a musician and a drummer: being able to understand and think about rhythm, melody, harmony, form, different styles, etc. One has to understand how music works and of its theoretical possibilities and potential.

3) The Heart

This is probably the most subjective aspect but the emotional content of one's artistry is very important as well. 

What does your music mean?

Why do you play? 

What message are you trying to convey?

These are important questions to ask and not only are the answers unique to every individual, they often take a long time to ask and to answer in an honest way. It's all very personal.

When thinking about this particular aspect, I often return to Charlie Parker's famous quote:

“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.”

All these Three H's work together towards creating an honest individual artistic identity. They all must be addressed or else you'll likely fall short of your creative potential. 

For example: one could have great technique (the hands) and lots of theoretical knowledge (the head) but with a lack of emotional meaning (the heart) one's music might come across as being cold and mechanical. The last thing you want to sound like is a machine!

One could have great chops (the hands) and lots of emotional spirit (the heart) but without a deep grasp of theory (the head) the depth and use of one's vocabulary will be limited.

Finally, one could have a lot going on in their Head and in their Heart but without the Hands (ie. technique!) one will never be able to fully express themselves adequately nor have the proper technical tools to do so.

But like I said before, how these different elements add up is different for everyone and everyones journey is unique.


Furthermore, Adam Nussbaum (also a frequent musical collaborator of Dave Liebman's) puts things into perspective with his concept of Chops that he shared with me once:

In Adam's opinion there are two kinds of chops, your Outside Chops and your Inside Chops.

Your Outside Chops are what one usually thinks about when we talk about chops: ie. your hands, your feet, 4-way coordination, rudiments, etc. = technique.

But your Inside Chops are what you listen to and how you listen.

This is really important because what music you listen to and how you listen to music informs everything you do with your Outside Chops!

I'm reminded of something Joe Farnsworth said to me in my recent Four on the Floor *Live* interview: 

"You have to listen to learn and you have to learn how to listen!"

Great advice from Joe Farnsworth, Charlie Parker, Adam Nussbaum, Dave Liebman, Steve Gadd, Carl Allen, Dean McNeill and Jerry Bergonizi and I think about these things a lot, whether I'm working things out on my drum pad, learning new Brazilian Batucada patterns on the drums or playing along with recordings of Bud Powell.

Furthermore, I've shared this one before but it's really important, in my opinion. Percussionist Evelyn Glennie offers this wonderful TEDx talk that is certainly worth a watch entitled "How to Truly Listen":

So there you go, a few thoughts about Technique to consider.

I'd also like to leave you with vocalist Jon Hendrick's timeless one-word jazz poem: