Friday, December 02, 2016

Ted Gioia's 100 Best Albums of 2016

Ted Gioia has just released his 100 Best Albums of 2016.  If you're not familiar with Gioia, he is a writer, historian, critic, what-have-you.  I've read and thoroughly enjoyed quite a few of his books.  He's also got tons of great articles on his website which are certainly worth a browse.

For the last 5 years, Ted has been compiling his favorite 100 albums of the year.  He claims to listen to over 1,000 new releases every year (1,021 in 2016).  Where he finds the time to listen to each of these in-depth enough to rank them while still finding time listen to old favorites as well as write, practice, and do whatever else it is he does, I'll never know.

On why/how he compiles this list, Gioia says:
"Like and music lover, I enjoy sharing my favorite music with others.  But in the last few years, a different motivation has spurred me.  I believe that the system of music discovery is broken in the current day.  There is more music recorded than ever before, but it is almost impossible for listeners to find the best new recordings.  The most creative work in music is increasingly found on self-produced projects and release from small indie labels - to an extent hardly conceivable only a decade ago.  Ver little of this music ever shows up on the radio, where formats seem to get narrower and narrower with each passing year.  Music fans once heard good new music at indie record stores, but most of them have closed.  Or they could read reviews in the newspaper, but both the newspapers and the music reviews are shrinking or disappearing.  And the big record labels are the worst culprits of all, picking acts for their looks or their potential appeal to fourteen-year-olds, or some other egregious reason, and in general jumping on the must trivial passing fads.  On the other hand, the Internet presents an almost infinite amount of music and music commentary - yet where do fans even begin to separate the good from the bad and ugly?  My personal solution to this dilemma has been to listen to lots and lots of music, and try to identify recording of quality and distinction.  I share my list because I know, from past experience, that many other listeners are frustrated with the broken system of music discovery, and are also looking for good new music"
Personally, I miss the record store days (in my time it was mostly cassettes, then CDs), where you would hear one song on the radio or maybe MTV and you would just go out and buy the whole album on blind faith with the money you saved up from mowing lawns.

So in an effort to recapture that vibe, a few years back I started checking out Ted's list each December and just picking a handful of his choices based on the description (and let's face it, the cover), and ordering the CDs.  I have yet to be disappointed.

I haven't ordered my 2016 picks, but here are a few artists I discovered in 2015 thanks to Ted's list.

Ibeyi - Twin sisters from France with Cuban roots.  They sing in both English and Yoruba, often singing about Orixas for those of you that are into Camdomblé.  There is a Björk-like influence, but they have certainly got their own thing going on; lots of Cuban rhythms and bata drumming blended with electronic beats.

Fabiano do Nascimento - 7-string guitarist from Brazil.  The album is almost entirely guitar and percussion, save a few vocal tunes, which are actually some of my faves.  There is only one original tune on the record, but his choice of covers is impeccable.  He's got some Hermeto Pascoal and Baden Powell pieces, as well as some really nice folkloric tunes, like Ewe.

Daniel Bachman - Killer solo guitar music.  It's not bluegrass per-se, but it reeks of the influence.  Daniel is a young guy from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and you can hear it.  I was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania, and lived for seven years in West Virginia, so I've got a real soft spot for this Appalachian sound.  I don't know what his background is as far as training, but to me, his playing has a beautiful rawness that leads me to believe he is self-taught.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You Be the Drummer - Bill Charlap, "I'm Old Fashioned"

As far as groups still recording today it doesn't get much more swingin' than Bill Charlap's trio with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington.  And the record I have for you here today is simply the Bill Charlap Trio minus Kenny Washington.  How could it get any better, you ask?  By adding Peter Bernstein!  I'm not sure I've heard a group swing harder without a drummer since Nat King Cole, Johnny Miller and Oscar Moore.

This record is, of course, great for any drummer.  I use it all the time.  But I think it's particularly good for up-and-coming, college-aged students as all of the tunes are common standards that you will be expected to know, all played at reasonable tempos.

As always, you should buy this record, but in the meantime....

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dig This - Cymbal storage solutions

If you're a normal drummer, you probably have way more gear than you could every possibly play at one time. And chances are a lot of that gear is cymbals.  Where do you keep yours?

For awhile I had mine in old cymbal bags.  But I'm a cymbal nerd.  Not only do I like the sound of them, and how unique each one is, but I also just like the look of them.  I want to see them.  I want to be able to flick through them like a vinyl record collection.  Because of this I've spent quite a bit of time in the past Google-ing phrases like "cymbal rack", "cymbal storage", etc., not coming up with much in the way of fancy storage ideas.  However, my prayers were finally answered recently.

My buddy Mike Dawson over at Modern Drummer has a great video series (are the kids saying "Vlog" these days?) on his facebook page and on YouTube.  While watching one of his videos I saw it.  Tons of cymbals stacked beautifully vertical for all to gawk at.  Immediately I dropped him a line asking, "What is that?!"  To my delight, it was nothing more than a $5 guitar (read: cymbal) stand.

So now instead of this....

I've got THIS....

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Permutations of a Bill Stewart fill

If you're a Bill Stewart fan then you almost certainly recognize this lick...

It pops up quite a lot in Bill's playing.  The placement of the bass drum seems to change from time to time.  Maybe it's a tempo thing or maybe just a personal choice.  Either way it's worth trying all three versions.

I was playing around with this phrase recently and started moving it around the bar, and inverting it, ending up with ideas like this....

Just by shifting everything by an 8th note we can get three very different feeling phrases.  Place the bass drum in all three places for each permutation and all of a sudden we've got 9 different phrases to play around with.

By playing 16th notes instead of triplets we can take this one step farther....

We now have a three beat phrase, which works well in 3/4, or perhaps even more so, as a hemiola idea that moves over the bar line.

Send me an e-mail if you'd like a PDF page of all the combinations.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Transcription - Edu Ribeiro, "Baião Doce"

Today I've got for you a groove that comes from the northeast of Brazil called a Baião.  You may have heard of it before, as it often gets a passing mention in method books after the one page on samba.  Baião comes from a family of rhythms called Forró.  I've got a larger piece about forró in the works, so for now we'll leave the history lesson at that.

The underlying rhythmic feel of a baião looks like this:

It's likely that you've seen an arrangement where the & of 2 is also on the bass drum, but I don't think that's very accurate.

In a drumset orchestration, the bass drum is imitating a drum called a zabumba, which is worn on a sling at an angle, much like an old snare drum, but higher.  The zabumba plays both the high sound and the low sound as the top head is played with a beater or mallet, and the bottom head is played with a long, thin stick held in the left hand.  The stick creates a sharp snap sound which we can imitate with a rim click.  It's quite common for the only other percussion instrument to be a large triangle.  So a stock baião orchestration would look something like this:

When a comping instrument is present, it's common for it to chase the low sounds of the zabumba.  This is also often supported by the high sound of the drum like so:

Where I feel the vibe of this rhythm is often lost when applied to the drum set is in the absence of improvisation.  While the part you see above is the foundation of the groove, many drum set players stay there and never move.  It's very common for a forró group to be only a trio: triangle, zabumba and accordion.  As the triangle is the motor and rarely fluctuates, most of the interaction with the accordion must come from the zabumba.

Edu Ribeiro nails this improvisatory element on "Baião Doce", a tune written by bassist Paulo Paulelli for Trio Corrente's debut album.  Check out how the basic baião feel is always present, but is very much embellished with the rim click, and improvisation with the bass drum.

E-mail me for a PDF

"Baião Doce" starts at 25:12

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Solo Transcription - Kenny Washington, "Put on a Happy Face"

The first half of 2016 has been pretty hectic.  In addition to the classes I already teach online for West Virginia University, I've been designing a new course in GarageBand, which has been taking up the bulk of my time.  Also, I've been doing the administrative work on my upcoming trio record, working with Joy Ellis on her new record, and editing our chapter for the 14th Darmstadt Jazzforum.  All this, bundled with my usual lessons and gigs has left me with essentially no time for blogging.  So to you, dear reader, I apologize.  But now, summer is here, and I have a little bit more time on my hands, so I'm going to see if I can't ease myself back into a steady posting routine.

So let's get started with a little Kenny Washington.  This comes from a great Bill Charlap record called All Through the Night.  Here he's trading with Bill on "Put on a Happy Face".  Lately I've started writing more in the Wilcoxon style notation.  I feel it fits the vibe of the playing more, especially with stuff like this.

E-mail me for a PDF

Thursday, May 26, 2016

14th Darmstadt Jazzforum

Back in October, Joy Ellis and I presented a paper at the 14th Darmstadt Jazzforum in Darmstadt, Germany, which has since been published.  The theme of this year's conference was Gender and Identity in Jazz which was broken down to three thematic blocks:

*Topics such as masculinity/gender/intersectionality/identity

*Analytical case studies, in which the art of specific musicians was to be approached without first looking at the gender aspect of their music

*The third block was to bring us into the lived-in reality both of days gone by and of today's world, allow for focused views into jazz history and for conversations with men and women active on today's jazz scene.

For our part, we wrote paper about the participation of women at jam sessions; the biases they face, the effects on their employment, etc.

Pick up a copy of the book here.  There was a wide range of fascinating topics presented by musicians, university lecturers, and journalists from all over the world.

Check out the video below which explains more about this year's conference, and also check out the Darmstadt Jazzinstitut, which houses the largest jazz archive in Europe.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Practice Loop - Milton Banana, "É Luxo Só"

As we're on the João Gilberto tip, here's a little practice loop for you to play around with.  It's comes from one of, if not the, first bossa nova album, Chega de Saudade, and features my man Milton Banana on the drums.

Again, grab the Jazz Samba Builder, and try mixing and matching some of the different combinations while playing along to this practice loop.

And if you don't already have it, pick up this album, why don't ya'.