Thanks for tuning into the January 2023 edition of the Monday Morning Paradiddle (first one of the year!), your monthly jazz drumming variety column. Things are about to get really busy around here with a variety of projects on the go and then a couple of small tours on the horizon so this will be my last blog post for the foreseeable future. Regular blogging will resume in a month or so. In the meantime, there's lots of great interviews and things to check out in my blog post below (or pay a visit to Todd Bishops Cruise Ship Drummer! or Ted Warren's Trap'd and you'll find plenty of great things to practice over there!) Please enjoy.
Thanks for your support and see you in March!
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And now, and without further ado, here are today's offerings:
1. Check out my recent "Five Minutes With..." interview and artist feature with the Calgary Guardian
2. Wonderful and insightful features on Ralph Peterson Jr. and Joey Baron from Vinnie Sperrazza's Substack series Chronicles
Last April 2022 Brian Blade performed at Koerner Hall in Toronto with Joshua Redman's Mood Swings band featuring Gerald Clayton on piano (filling in for Brad Mehldau) and Christian McBride on bass. Former Toronto and now St. John's, Newfoundland resident and drummer Mark Micklethwaite was in attendance and offered a very thoughtful and articulate post-concert summary via Facebook. He was also kind enough to allow me to share his thoughts here below.
Observations of Brian Blade by Mark Micklethwaite (April 2022)
1. Play for the Room.
Brian can play at every volume, from a whisper to a roar. In a resonant concert hall, drums can take over really easily. Even when he bashes, it doesn't sound too loud. This is not easy to do.
2. Intensity vs Volume.
As per above, you can have great intensity without bashing. Brian's intensity is beyond compare.
3. Explore Every Sound.
He used sticks, brushes, mallets with sticks on the other end, and some kind of soft plastic brush thing as implements, moving back and forth as needed. He kept his bass drum case to the right of his floor tom and would often toss what he was done with and grab something else. He also had a tambourine (didn't play it) and a few handfuls of bells and jingles that he used during his own rubato / free piece.
He also had a couple of thin towels that he used on the snare (snares on and off) and floor tom, with varying degrees of muffling. He'd put them on and take them off in the same song, as needed. Sometimes he'd move it to his leg for a while and then put if back on later.
He gets a million sounds from every one. Every cymbal can be a crash, a ride, a gong, a triangle and a shimmer. All sounds are available if you want them.
His touch is unparalleled. He can bash a cymbal and hold the stick against it so it doesn't fully resonate, so you get the crash but not an endless wash.
5. Feathering the Bass Drum.
This was a revelation for me, having seen him many times but never his right foot for the entire concert. Some say feathering is 'old school' but he played the bass drum on quarter notes almost constantly throughout the night. Felt but not heard. Beater hitting the head ever so lightly and muffling so briefly. In a loud room, bass drum control is uber important.
6. Know the Music.
Everyone else had sheet music (Gerald got it two days before...) but Brian had everything memorized. And he knew the songs and forms and hits / shots and caught every nuance when needed.
Brian was looking at all the members of the band, giving smiles and visual cues. This was especially evident with Gerald. Since it was his first gig ever with the band, Brian seemed to pay extra attention to him, especially the first few tunes. He was smiling and nodding, letting Gerald know that he was welcome in the band and nailing the music. Which he was, in a big way.
Joshua has always been very active as a listener onstage, even when he's standing side stage not playing. He's listening, tapping his foot, reacting to the music, encouraging. Brian cued the end of one drum solo VERY LATE and the only reason Josh caught it was because he was listening and watching and jumped in at the last second with the head out.
8. Process not Perfection.
This aspect was huge for me, and I'm not sure I can put it into words, but I'm going to try:
From the full view of his every move, I was amazed at how many times he "missed"; how he'd go for a fill up the toms (or down) and miss the crash at the end or flub somehow. And after a brief pause (or not) he'd just keep going. It was as if the trying and missing was part of the point; going beyond what you know, pushing ahead beyond what you can already play. And even when he'd miss, you'd be right there with him, because the intensity and the intent is all right there. One time near the end he almost fell off the stool going for something and I just about leapt out of my seat to try and catch him. Such intensity. So in the moment.
People talk about this all the time, but it's true; he translates joy in every way. His body language, the smile on his face, the reverence for the music. It's captivating. Inspiring. Everything.
10. On the drum rider, always request a comfortable seat!
Mark Micklethwaite is an accomplished musician, educator, historian, and administrator. His work experience in the music field includes positions at the Banff Centre, Greenleaf Music, JAZZ.FM91, and Manhattan School of Music. He has facilitated events at various venues including Glenn Gould Studio, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Blue Note Tokyo, working with such artists as Dave Douglas, Vijay Iyer, Sheila Jordan, Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano, Pat Metheny, and Oscar Peterson.
As an educator, Mark has developed innovative community and educational programming for students of all ages and facilitated relationships with schools and community groups to present many engaging programs. He has taught classes, workshops, and ensembles in various settings including the Halton, Peel, Durham, and Toronto school boards, Queens College, University of Toronto, York University, and University of Waterloo. Mark helped develop the jazz appreciation curriculum at JAZZ.FM91 and taught 6-week interactive courses to over 300 students.
A successful freelance drummer for over twenty years, Mark has performed at clubs, concert halls, and festivals throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East. He has performed with musicians such as Guido Basso, Phil Dwyer, Joel Frahm, Dave Frishberg, Molly Johnson, Christian McBride, Donny McCaslin, Mike Murley, Ted Quinlan, Kevin Turcotte, the Turtle Island String Quartet and Kenny Wheeler. He completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music at York University and his Masters of Music at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
His work experience in the music field includes key positions at the Manhattan School of Music , Greenleaf Music, York University, JAZZ.FM91, and the Banff Centre. He is currently on staff at Memorial University in St. John’s, NL where he coordinates venues and concerts and also teaches in the School of Music.
Check out Mark perform with Montreal pianist and composer Marianne Trudel on January 26th as part of the Newfound Music Festival at Memorial University January 26-27
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.