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:


Friday, April 30, 2021

Four on the Floor *Live* featuring Jon Gordon on Instagram IGTV


Please join us for the next episode of Four on the Floor *Live* happening next Tuesday, May 4th at 7pm MST (9pm EST), appearing on Instagram Live IGTV @fouronthfloorblog featuring Jon Gordon.

"Jon is one of the greatest alto players ever!" - Phil Woods

A native New Yorker, saxophonist and composer Jon Gordon was born into a musical family and began playing at age ten. In addition to private saxophone studies he attended Performing Arts High School and won numerous competitions, among them the Julius Grossman, the Goldman Band and the Performing Arts Concerto competition. This led to performances as a soloist with the Grossman orchestra, Goldman Band and the Performing Arts Orchestra.

In his mid-teens Jon’s love for Jazz began to bloom. He began sitting in regularly with Eddie Chamblee at Sweet Basil and started lessons with Phil Woods. From 1984-88 he attended Manhattan School of Music. During this time Jon began working professionally including gigs with Red Rodney, Roy Eldridge, Barney Kessel, Al Grey, Eddie Locke, Mike LeDonne, Mel Lewis, Doc Cheatham and many others.

Since that time, he has worked with Maria Schneider, Ron McClure, Clark Terry, Benny Carter, Phil Woods, T.S. Monk, TanaReid and Bill Mays, The Vanguard orchestra, Bill Charlap, Ray Barreto, Mark Turner, George Colligan, Chico Hamilton, Harry Connick jr. and the N.Y. Pops Orchestra, among many others. Jon also appears regularly as a member of the Jazz Nativity, whose other featured artists have included Tito Puente, Ron Carter, Dave Brubeck, Savion Glover, Slide Hampton, and Harold Nicholas.

Jon has led his own groups at various European, Canadian and U.S. jazz festivals and clubs including, Ronnie Scott's and The Pizza Express (London), The Sunside, The Sunset, and La Villa (Paris), The Brecon Jazz Festival (Wales), The Oslo Jazz Festival, The Ottawa Jazz Festival, The Royal Caribbean Floating Jazz Festival, Savannah on Stage, The Savannah Jazz Festival, and The Wolftrap Festival. He has performed as a sideman at dozens of other festivals, clubs and concert halls around the world.

Recent appearances include stints at the Blue Note, Birdland, Visiones, Iridum, Smalls, the Jazz Standard, Jazz in July at the 92nd Street Y, the JVC Jazz Festival, the Village Vanguard, Fat Cat, And The Charlie Parker Festival.

In November of 1996, Jon won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. Judges for this important event were Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, Joe Lovano, Jimmy Heath and Joshua Redman. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Terri Lyne Carrington: The New Standards

A series of instructional videos with NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington from the The Library of Congress (here's the direct link to the Library of Congress website):


And a recently streamed concert from The Library of Congress featuring her New Standards band with Kris Davis (piano), Linda May Han Oh (bass), Tia Fuller (flute and saxophone) and Devon Gates (electric guitar and voice):