5) Thanks to George Sluppick who hipped me to this amazing new drumming sample loop app called Wheelhouse Beats https://www.wheelhousebeats.app/ that features such drummers as Bobby Previte, Carter McLean, George Sluppick, Corey Fonville, Derrek Phillips, Jeremy "Bean" Clemons, Brevan Hampden, Chris Gelb and more.
Ben Singer, the creator of this highly recommended app, was kind enough to take some time to tell us all about his cool and innovative new app:
I met Charlie Hunter when he moved to Greensboro, NC a couple years ago. I had been a fan for a long time, so this came as a fun surprise. I was wrapping up my programming job at PreSonus and looking for more apps to do as a indie developer.
The idea really came from him: a metronome app that uses loops from great drummers. I thought it was a great idea, and he hooked me up with some of his favourite players. Most of them have home studios, so I started by having them send me sessions where they would play the same beat at about five different tempos.
If this was a desktop app, I might have licensed some code to do time-stretching, but for mobile devices I needed something that was very efficient with CPU. I wrote a small playback engine that does this in one step. While it's playing the loop, it skips little pieces of the sound. Each drum or cymbal hit gets a little closer, making the beat sound faster. I speed up the loop until I can switch to the next recorded loop, the same way a keyboard patch would be sampled in multiple velocity layers.
After I split the sessions up into measures, I pick the best loops and sequence them into phrases. For most beats, there are versions with one, two, four, and eight measures. Some of the patterns, like Bomb Swing and Brush Groove, only have long phrases, so it's more like a jazz player.
We haven't tried to define a particular audience. It can be a guitar player shedding a tune, a drummer learning to play and feel these grooves, a songwriter using it for inspiration, or anything else. My strategy is just to make each beat sound as musical as I can.
The current drummers are going to be recording some more grooves and we will be adding new drummers too. I have sessions from the next two already, and I am very excited to get those in the app.
Some great drumming today from Kyle Poole and Joe Farnsworth, featured in tandem on Cedar Walton's Firm Roots, from arguably one of the best regular livestream series to come out of the past two years, Emmet's Place as curated by pianist Emmet Cohen.
Sorry for the radio silence as I've been on the road lately, working in Toronto with Canada's premier jazz dance company Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.
I've been working with this dance company regularly since 2011 and every production I've had the privilege of being a part of, under the direction of artistic director/visionary Kimberley Cooper and musical director/bassist Rubim DeToledo, is a creative adventure that consistently challenges my abilities and raises my musical bar. The results of these shows and the process of creating these productions are never anything short of an inspiring creative journey that combines jazz music and contemporary jazz dance at the highest level. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work with this dedicated group of talented artists.
It was quite a busy week, filming and performing at the Fall For Dance North festival at Toronto Metropolitan University and I'm really proud of what we accomplished. However, I did still manage to get out as well and hear some live music and I heard many great drummers that week including:
• Tenor saxophonists Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera's annual birthday tribute to John Coltrane at the Rex Hotel featuring Terry Clarke on drums.
Terry was my teacher during my brief stint in Toronto (2007-2009) and it's always a pleasure to hear him driving a band (I'd also venture to comment that he was really in his element that night playing this particular music and of course Kirk and Pat were on fire as always!)
• Montreal's Doxas Brothers Quartet at the Jazz Bistro with the always inventive Jim Doxas on drums.
Jim and I were both students at McGill together during the late 90s and he was really great, playing with a dynamic and adventurous style even way back then!
• The super swinging Barry Elmes Quintet, also appearing at the Jazz Bistro.
Barry was one of the very first Canadian jazz drummers I ever heard (initially on CBC Radio back in the day) and his unique style and creatively clever compositions have been an inspiration and influence of mine for the past 30 years.
• Finally, I capped off my visit to T.O. with a long subway ride on the Bloor line to check out a set at the Etobicoke Jazz Festival featuring Alex Dean's four saxophone Tenor Madness band backed up by the Donnybrook Trio, with my bud Jeff McLeod on organ and the always hard swinging Morgan Childs on drums.
Morgan moved to Toronto from Vancouver at pretty much the same time I left Toronto for Calgary a little over a decade ago but it's always a pleasure to hear his super swinging cymbal beat, supple comping and to watch him drive a band.
Anyways, my time in Toronto was really great and now it's back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Here's a short recent clip of the great Steve Gadd playing the classic rudimental snare drum piece Crazy Army:
If you've followed Steve's career you'll recognize that this particular piece has been a part of Steve's repertoire for a long time.
Here's a few observations:
• Dig the graceful way in which he plays this. Even by just playing rudiments on some sort of hollowed out piece of furniture acting as a drum pad (?) you still get a sense of the flow and relaxed feel that he is famous for. Listen to the sound he gets and watch the form and movement of his hands. Appreciate the graceful sense of flow he achieves. This, in my humble opinion, is what we, as jazz drummers, should be striving towards when playing, working on rudiments and applying them to the drum set.
Poetry in motion.
• Some minor gear observations from the photo above, at the top of this blog post (presumably taken sometime in the 70s or early 80s...and assuming that he is playing his own drums?)
Is that ride cymbal an old cracked K with a significant chunk missing from it? Was that his go-to cymbal at some point? This reminds me of Mel Lewis' infamous old K that also had a chunk missing.
Also notice the two-cymbal stack to his far right. This sort of thing seems to be a real trend nowadays but Gadd was obviously exploring this a long time ago!
And finally, I heard somewhere that Steve used a Ludwig Superphonic snare drum extensively back in the day and he appears to be playing one in this photo as well.
• Finally, if you dig this brief clip of Gadd playing Crazy Army like I did, then I would highly recommend checking out his recent book Gaddiments as well available at Hudson Music.
This is a blog about jazz, jazz drumming and all things unrelated. Thanks for stopping by!
A Bit About Me...
Jonathan McCaslin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. Jonathan began playing the drums at the age of nine. He progressed through the Regina Lions Junior Band and the music program at his high school, Campbell Collegiate, soon developing a passion for playing the drums and jazz. Ultimately, Jon's interest in music led him to enroll in the Jazz Studies program at McGill University, graduating with distinction in 1999.
While at McGill Jon had the opportunity to study with some of the finest jazz educators in the country including Gordon Foote, Kevin Dean, Jan Jarcyzk, Chris McCann, Andre White, Michel Lambert and Dave Laing. He also attended the prestigious summer jazz workshop presented by the Banff Centre for the Arts in 1997, where he performed with Canadian jazz greats Hugh Fraser, Don Thompson and Kenny Wheeler.
Jon has also been fortunate to have performed with many of Canada's jazz elite including Charlie Biddle, Brian Hurley, Louise Rose, Alaister Kay, Mart Kinny, Gary Guthman, Mike Rud, Hadley Caliman, Greg Clayton, Chase Sanborn, Andre White, Tilden Webb, John LaBelle, Kevin Dean, Dave Turner, Ralph Bowen, Don Thompson, Dionne Taylor, Jim Vivian, Kelly Jefferson, Ian McDougall, Brad Turner, Jim Brenan, The McGill Jazz Orchestra, Jeff Johnston, Lorraine Desmerais, Steve Amirault, Hugh Fraser, Chucho Valdes, Kieran Overs, The Altsys Jazz Orchestra, Pat LaBarbera, The Regina Symphony Orchestra and The Montreal Jazz Big Band.
In the spring of 2002 McCaslin completed his Master's in Jazz Studies at McGill University where he studied jazz drumming, improvisation and composition.
In January 2003 Jon released his debut CD, “McCallum’s Island”. Featuring his quintet, the CD contains an exciting collection of McCaslin’s original compositions, featuring himself and his band. The release of this CD was followed by a twenty-day tour of Western Canada, performing to enthusiastic, capacity audiences. During March of 2003 Jonathan was the recipient of a fellowship from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and attended the “Betty Carter Jazz Ahead” residency in Washington, D.C. Along with twenty other distinguished young jazz artists, McCaslin was featured with such jazz icons as Terence Blanchard, Carmen Lundy, Winard Harper, Curtis Fuller and John Clayton.
McCaslin’s quintet performed at the 2003 edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival and was nominated for the General Motors Grand Prix du Festival (awarded to the most outstanding Canadian group). From 2004 until 2006, Jon toured North America, Asia and Europe with the high-energy, critically acclaimed music production troupe “Barrage”. Featuring a cast of seven world-class fiddlers and a four-piece band, this dynamic show featured high-energy music and fiddle traditions from around the world set to upbeat choreography and movement.
In 2015, Dr. McCaslin received his Doctorate through the University of Toronto and completed his dissertation on the conceptualization of contemporary melodic jazz drumming. He is currently based in Calgary, Alberta where he maintains a busy performing and teaching schedule across Canada.