Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Triplet Independence

If you're a "jazz" drummer, chances are you already have a sheet that looks something like this, or have worked on these patterns without a sheet.  As I've been into a lot of Bill Stewart lately, who plays many triplety ideas such as these, I figured I'd whip up an exhaustive work sheet.

If you're new to jazz drumming and four-way independence, this sheet is a must do as these phrases can be the building blocks to bigger things.  Play time on your ride cymbal (don't alter the sticking just yet) and, where applicable, play the hi-hat on 2 and 4.  You can also play around around with feathering the bass drum in the examples that don't have a written bass part.  Use a metronome sounding only on 2 and 4, or better yet, play along to a recording of your favorite drummer.

Even if you're an experienced player, work your way through this sheet and see what happens.  If you're human like the rest of us, there will almost certainly be a few of these that feel a little more awkward that the others.

The examples are intentionally not numbered.  If you read downward the rhythm stays the same while the voicing changes.  Read across, and the voicing remains while the rhythm shifts.  Or, of course, you can always just choose at random, or choose the ones that work best (or worst) for you.

E-mail me for a PDF.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Weekly Wisdom

In 1966 Bill Evans sat down for an interview with his older brother, Harry.  The result was “The Universal Mind of Bill Evans”, an educational video in which Evans talks about, amongst other things, his creative process, and how he built himself into the player he was.  There are a number of lessons in this video that we all, regardless of instrument, can benefit from.  

Some of my favorite excerpts...

“I think the problem is that [people]...tend to approximate the product rather than attacking it in a realistic, true way at any elementary level - regardless of how elementary - but it must be entirely true and entirely real and entirely accurate.  They would rather approximate the entire problem than to take a small part of it and be real and true about it.  And I think this is a very important thing that you must be satisfied to be very clear and very real and to be very analytical at any level.  You can’t take the whole thing, and to approximate the whole thing in a vague way gives one a feeling that they...more or less touched the thing.  But in this way you just lead yourself toward confusion.  You know, and ultimately you’re going to get so confused that you’ll never find your way out.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.  We’ve all seen musicians trying to play far beyond their ability.  To me, this is a disservice to both themselves and the music.  Sure, we’ve all been guilty of this at times - and I’m also not suggesting that we shouldn’t take risks - but in general I feel it’s better to play something that is simpler, or more basic, really, really well, than to try ramming some poorly played “advanced” material down an audiences throat.

Bill continues:

“It is true of any subject that the person that succeeds in anything has the realistic viewpoint at the beginning in knowing that the problem is large and that he has to take it a step at a time and he has to enjoy the step by step learning procedure.”

He goes on to give an example at the piano, playing a note-y improvisation on “How About You?”, discussing players who, for lack of a better term, fake their way through a chopsy solo rather than playing something “honestly and real-ly”, i.e. confidently.

Bill's brother, Harry, who is leading the interview, suggests that the average player has to overplay simply because they don’t have the hours to put in on the instrument.  Bill responds perfectly:

“The point is, what are you satisfied with?  In other words, it’s better to do something simple which is real...it can still be satisfactory, but it’s something that you can build on because you know what you’re doing. ...  Whereas if you try to approximate something which is very advanced and don’t know what you’re doing then you can’t advance and build on it.”

I love that idea of having something to build on.  We as musicians, have to have a foundation.  We must walk before we can run, or anything other very true cliché that you can think of.  As Bill puts it:

“The whole process of learning the facility of being able to play jazz is to take these problems from the outer level in, one by one, and to stay with it at a very intense conscious concentration level until that process becomes secondary and subconscious.  Now, when that becomes subconscious then you can begin concentrating on that next problem which is to allow you to do a little bit more.

The aforementioned foundation must be absolute second nature.  When you’re reading a book, or looking at a computer screen and want to take a sip of coffee you don’t need a mirror.  You don’t stop reading so that you can focus your attention on making sure you don’t miss your mouth.  It’s second nature, or as Bill puts it, it’s subconscious.  The more music and facility we have in our subconscious, the more we can then do with our conscious.

“I would certainly say it’s more than worth it, but I think most people just don’t realize the immensity of the problem and either because they can’t conquer [it] immediately think that they haven’t gotten the ability or they’re so impatient to conquer it that they never do see it through.  But, if you do understand the problem I think then you can enjoy your whole trip through.

Here is the video in it's entirety.  It's definitely worth 45 minutes of your time. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thank you, Jacques Delécluse

Jacques Delécluse, the French percussionist and composer who has caused many a university music student hours of frustration (for their own good, mind you!) has passed away at 82.

Prior to the release of his 12 Etudes for Snare Drum in 1964 there was very little in the way of orchestral-style snare drum repertoire.  Percussionists were mostly left to study orchestral excerpts and rudimental solos.  These etudes, which were inspired by orchestral repertoire, made the study of technique less about gym-style exercise and repetition and more about musicality, expression and finesse.

It would behoove any serious percussionist to spend some time with this material, no matter where your musical interests lie.

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur le Delécluse!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Happy Birthday, Bill Stewart!

I first discovered Bill Stewart circa 2002 when I saw him play with Michael Brecker and Adam Rogers, and he's been one of my favorite drummers ever since.  So on this, his 49th birthday, I thought I'd post up a few things that I've had sitting in the drafts folder for awhile.

Bill has been playing in an organ trio with Larry Goldings and Peter Bernstein for the last 25 years.  They release material as "The Larry Goldings Trio", "The Peter Bernstein Trio", and "Peter Bernstein, Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart".  But regardless of what name they play under, when these three get together general bad-assery abounds.

First, here is some trading on the tune "Metamorphosis", from the Peter Bernstein record Earth Tones.  Bill has such a grasp on independence, and internalization of time and form that he can take ideas which, when seen on paper, are actually quite clinical and scientific and give them an incredibly raw and earthy, almost Elvin-y vibe.

Trading starts at 7:00
E-mail me for a PDF

Next is the intro to a Meters-esque tune from The Larry Goldings Trio record called Moonbird.  Here Bill channels his inner Ziggy but in his own, unique Bill Stewart way.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Groove Transcription - Donald Bailey, "Back at the Chicken Shack"

I finally caved and joined the "vinyl revival".  I don't have room for it, but it's too much fun.  The very first thing I got (well, my wife bought me, knowing how much I'm listening to and playing organ trio music lately) was a copy of a classic Jimmy Smith record from 1960 called "Back at the Chicken Shack" with Kenny Burrell, Pittsburgh's own Stanley Turrentine, and Donald Bailey.

On the title track Bailey plays a shuffley variation on the groove that I've always called "strollin'" - though lately I'm starting to wonder, because no one else seems to call it that.  Some people call it "the conga beat".  You know, this one:

Guitarists sometimes tap it out on muted strings, ala Ray Crawford with Ahmad Jamal, and it can be reversed as well, like so:

Here's Donald Bailey's take on it.  It's a great groove to stick in your bag for the next time you find yourself playing a shuffle.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Groove Transcription - Kiko Freitas, "Vento Bravo"

After a few weeks away working in Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland it's high time I get back to posting.

Just before I left I was working on this very cool groove by Kiko Freitas on the tune, "Vento Bravo", which is a well-known Edu Lobo tune covered by Freitas and company in Nosso Trio.

Kiko Freitas, Nelson Faria, and Ney Conceição are, or were at least, the rhythm section for another famous Brazilian composer and performer, João Bosco.  The three of them then created Nosso Trio, which translates to "Our Trio".

The underlying rhythm here is a fairly common 12/8 bell pattern, what most of us would call Bembé.  Most of us also think of this as a pattern found in Cuban music, which it is.  However, it's important to remember that in the case of Bembé we are talking about Afro-Cuban music.  Music from Cuba, of African descent.  But, Cuba is certainly not the only place that Africans ended up.  The slave trade brought millions of Africans throughout Central and South America, as well as the States.  It's no wonder then that although the music evolved differently in each of these places, the African roots can not only be clearly heard, but there is a lot of overlap.  In Brazil, the rhythm that is most often called Bembé is referred to as "Vassi".  The rhythm and its name come from Candomblé, which is Brazilian sacred music of African descent.

Both Bembé and Vassi descend from the Yoruba people.  The largest populations of the Yoruba are found in Benin and Nigeria, but there are significant numbers throughout west African, including Ghana, Togo, and the Ivory Coast.  The Yoruba have had a huge influence on the music of Africa, and subsequently Cuba and Brazil.  If you've played in West African ensemble before, chances are that a lot of the music you played is of Yoruba descent.

If you are at all interested in the evolution of rhythms and African diaspora, you should definitely check out Billy Martin's book Riddim: Claves of African Origin.  It traces many Brazilian, Cuban and American rhythms back to their African roots.  The notes are very cool, but the reading and suggested listening is worth the price alone.

What I was most intrigued about in this arrangement of Vento Bravo was the placement of the bass drum on beat 2.  When I first heard this I just assumed that it was a Brazilian thing.  They place the low sound on beat 2 in samba, frevo, and many other styles, so why not this one?  But I was recently able to ask Kiko himself about the groove, and he explained that it was just something that he came up with for this arrangement of the tune.  Either way, it's pretty cool.

I haven't been able to find a streaming recording of this tune, so I guess you'll just have to go buy the record.  There are quite a few live recordings, one of which is below, but he plays the groove slightly different in each of them.  On the original recording, which is what I've notated here, the triangle at the top of the staff represents a cowbell, and the triangle above the staff represents some sort of block.  But play around with various sounds.  As you'll see if you check out some of the live recordings, there are tons of options that all make for pretty cool sounds.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Transcription - The Amen Break

If you listen to or create jungle, drum 'n' bass, breakbeat, hip-hop music, etc., you owe G.C. Coleman a beer.

Well, you would if he were still with us.  Mr. Coleman bestowed upon us "The Amen Break".  Whether you realize it or not, you know this break.  The song from which it comes, "Amen, Brother", was originally recorded on the B-side of a pretty successful record called "Color Him Father" in 1969 by a band called the Winstons.  However, the four bar break in the middle of the tune turned out to be more successful than the song itself as it became the backbone of jungle and drum 'n' bass music, and one of the most sampled breaks of all time.  It's been sped up, slowed down, pitch changed, chopped up, EQ'd and anything else you can think of probably a thousand times over.

You can read more about the background and influence of the break on Wikipedia.  The BBC also did a piece on it recently.  Both worth checking out.  But we're here for the notes.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you're asked to play a drum 'n' bass, or even a hip-hop groove, this break is probably a really safe place to start:

You didn't think I'd leave you without some practice loops, did you?  First is the original:

If you need some time to get in under your hands, here is a slower version.  I left the analog locked for that fat breakbeat sound.

Once you've got a really good grasp on things, try it at a DnB tempo.  Again, analog locked for authenticity.

And lastly but not leastly, here is the whole tune, in its entirety:

Friday, July 17, 2015

Right Hand Samba Speed

I recently received an e-mail from a former student with whom I worked on a lot of Brazilian music.  He was asking about some of the break-neck speeds that many Brazilian drummers get out of their right hands.  It turned out to be a rather lengthy response, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

There are a few different approaches to that kind of right hand speed:

I once interviewed Cuca Teixeira, who is Maria Rita's drummer, and asked him a similar question.  He said that many Brazilians, simply from years of doing it, and the style of music they grew up playing, have really fast wrists.  Some finger is surely used as well, but in general, many of these guys just have really fast hands.  I realize that's not much of an explanation, but that is to say that I think this approach just takes a LOT of time to develop.

Check out how firm Cuca's hand is in this video:

This one isn't nearly as fast, but you can get a better look at his hands:

This is what I use the most.  French grip (ish), with all of the speed coming from the fingers.  Technically, as you may know, French grip is a three point fulcrum where the thumb sits in between the index and middle finger.  I once heard a symphony timpanist say that if you lost your ring and pinky fingers you could still be a great timpanist.  So it's not really French grip in that I'm using all of my fingers.  Also, rather than a typical fulcrum where the thumb and index finger are directly across from each other, my thumb actually sits a little bit in front of my index finger so that I can use all four fingers to move the stick.  This is just my personal approach.

Edu Ribeiro, who is probably the fastest guy out there, uses this technique, although he seems to use more of a standard fulcrum - thumb and index finger directly across from each other.

Here is a video of him talking about this technique (starting around 6:30):

There are a lot of great videos of Edu playing with this technique on YouTube.  Search his name with "bateria", as there are other Edu Ribeiros out there, and also check out some live videos of Trio Corrente:

You've probably heard of this before.  There are a million videos on YouTube about it.  Jojo Mayer gives a nice breakdown of it on his Secret Weapons DVD, and Gordy Knudtson has some good videos about it as well.  In short, you play a stroke with your wrist/hand and allow the stick to rebound with your fingers relaxed.  Then, as you are lifting your hand in preparation for the next stroke you close your fingers, creating another stroke.

If you are going to use this technique in a samba setting I suggest inverting the strokes.  Play the downbeats with the fingers, and upbeats with the wrist.  Because the wrist strokes tend to be stronger it will fit the samba style more, and you will feel the emphasis on "e, a, e, a" more naturally.

I just recently discovered a video of a Brazilian drummer talking about this technique.  He also talks about a three note grouping idea which seems pretty cool.  If you use the "Moeller pumping motion", as it's often called, you can achieve a string of rapid 16th notes, albeit with an accent on the first of every three notes.  It actually fits the samba feel quite nicely.

*This Other Thing
I have no idea what this is called, but I've seen more than one Brazilian player use it.  The fingers remain pretty stationary, while the stick is moved laterally, catching the cymbal in each direction.  I've seen players use a sweeping kind of motion, while others do it with more of a twisting motion.

Here is a video of Cesar Machado (no relation to Edison) using this technique:

Marcio Bahia, who previously played with Hermeto Pascoal, and currently works with Hamilton de Holanda uses this technique quite a bit with brushes.  Bahia is left-handed, so if you're a righty and trying this idea you may want to flip the hands.  Start around 7:10.

I asked Marcio about this technique once and he said:
"It's a very good tool to increase speed playing 16ths on hhat on medium/up, or fast tempos...I really don't know [where] or [who] came first playing like this.  We've learned just watching street smarted drummers doing, [which] I love it!  And works so cool!  Just relax your wrist and bounce it from side to side with sticks on a loose grip, not [tightening] them."

Friday, July 03, 2015

Solo Transcription - Larry Bunker, "Israel"

As promised awhile back, here is a transcription from the great (and often overlooked) Larry Bunker trading with Chuck Israels and Bill Evans on the British television show Jazz 625.

I'd have to say that Larry Bunker is my favorite drummer with Bill Evans, which I realize is a bold statement, given that he's keeping the company of Paul Motian, Philly Joe, Jack DeJohnette, Marty Morrell and Joe LaBarbera, amongst others.  To my ears Bunker contributes to the most cohesive ensemble sound of any Bill Evans trio.  Don't get me wrong, Philly Joe, Paul Motian and Jack D are some of my favorite drummers, but I can't help but hear Philly Joe, Paul Motian and Jack D more as their individual selves with Bill Evans.  They have such strong musical personalities that they really stand out, intentionally or not.  To be fair, the fact that I don't get that vibe from Larry Bunker could be due, in part, to the fact that he is not as widely known as the other drummers I mentioned.  Either way, Bunker tucks himself right into the ensemble, not standing out too far, but certainly not disappearing to the background to be overshadowed by Evans.  

Apparently Humphrey Lyttelton, the host of Jazz 625, agrees with me:

"Larry Bunker also studies piano and vibes which is, perhaps, why he contributes such subtle musicianship to a trio in which every instrument is of equal importance"

Check out the full show here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Weekly Wisdom / Dig This - Yogi Horton

This is a post I wrote quite awhile back which somehow made it's way into the drafts folder instead of onto the blog:

A drummer friend of mine in Austin, Stephen Bidwell, recently posted this video of the great R&B drummer, Yogi Horton to his facebook page.  I had first come across a very small snippet of it a few years ago where Yogi is talking about gigging, and provides us with some advice that should be pretty obvious, but is a great reminder, especially for younger players who are just beginning to cut their teeth as professional musicians.

“There’s a couple of don’ts that I like to tell anybody that’s trying to come in to playing music...

...if you’re going to get a date and you think you’re going to be late when you take it, DON’T TAKE IT...

Never do a gig that you don’t think that you’ll be good at...Never come in the joint and sound like you’re TRYING to do something, always just be DOING IT...

...if you’re tired, never go to work...

...always try to take care of your body...”

But now, the full video has made its way to YouTube for all to enjoy.  I would watch it soon in case it gets pulled down though.  This was one of the first instructional videos ever made by DCI Music Videos, which really shows.  Coming from the early days of home video recording the quality of the sound and picture is pretty poor, the set rather crude, and there was obviously no planning or script.  BUT, the content is killer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dig This - Rational Funk with Dave King

Clearly I’m not paying enough attention, because it was only a couple weeks ago that I first discovered Rational Funk with Dave King.

King is one of my favorite modern drummers, so I was naturally quite excited when I saw he had a series of instructional videos.  However, hilarity quickly ensued and I realized that this was not your typical drum video.  It’s more of a parody of the myriad of drum videos out there today.  But amidst all the levity there's some great drumming, and through some clever sarcasm, King drops in quite a bit of valuable wisdom.  The whole series is definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

7-stroke roll notation in Wilcoxon

Recently, on the Drummerworld Forum, someone asked a question about the notation of 7-stroke rolls in the Wilcoxon books.  I field this question quite often from my students as well.

Many of the youngsters today are not familiar with the notation style of Wilcoxon.  Most of the rolls, like the 5-stroke and 9-stroke are pretty much self-explanatory.  However, when the 7-stroke comes in it’s a bit different.  The thing to remember is that there is not one set way or rhythm in which to play a 7-stroke roll.  The name simply describes how many strokes are in that roll.

Take Solo No. 26, for example, from The All-American Drummer.  In the first two measures we see a 7-stroke roll on the “&” of beat 2.  In this instance, the skeleton of the roll would actually be played as a 16th note triplet.  In line 3 we again see a 7-stroke roll notated on the “&s” of 1 and 2, but here they have a ruff in front of them.  When you see this, the ruff, which falls on the 16th note before the 8th note, is treated as part of the 7-stroke roll.  Is it 2 of the 7 strokes.  This changes the rhythmic makeup of the roll.  It now becomes what is called a “tap seven”, which is a single stroke on the downbeat, followed by double strokes on “e, &, a”.  Here is each type of 7-stroke roll with its modern notation equivalent.

Stylistically, the triplet-based 7-stroke that starts on the “&” is played behind the beat, almost out of time.  There is a small breath before it is played, and the rhythm itself it stretched.  There are quite a few examples of this interpretation here:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Groove Transcription - Kenny Washington, "America"

If you're anything like me, you have a "go-to" groove.  A tune is called with a certain feel, and if you're not feeling particularly creative that night you have a bag of grooves you can reach into to pull something out.  But occasionally these can put us in a rut where we feel stuck always playing the same exact thing.  When this happens to me I find that even the smallest changes can spark new inspiration.  So generally I'll head straight to the record shelf and find something to transcribe.

Recently I was looking for a little something different to do with an Afro-Cuban 12/8 or Bembe feel.  What I ended up pulling out was Bill Charlap's album Somewhere with Kenny Washington on drums.  Kenny's groove on "America" is only a couple of notes different than my own "go-to", but those few notes made quite a bit of difference, and I got some great ideas for fills and minor variations.

Rather than transcribe the whole tune to leave you to sift through it, I've written this out like a worksheet.  At the top is the basic groove (Kenny's "go-to", if you will) and below are some variations and fills that he plays throughout the tune.  There are also a couple of practice loops there for you as well.  One with bass and one without.

E-mail me for a PDF

I know I always say this, but if you haven't checked out this album, or the Bill Charlap trio period you need to get on it.  These three are the epitome of the classic jazz piano trio.  They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Staircase of Independence

This is an exercise I typically give to my students who are fairly early on in their jazz drumming journey.  But lately I've also been giving it to more experienced students as a bit of a brush up.  What I've found is that every single one of them finds at least a few of the bars difficult.  The reason for this, I'm guessing, is that fact that most of us work out of books like Syncopation and The Art of Bop Drumming, which presents pre-composed musical ideas based on common jazz vocabulary.  However, many students don't take the time to learn to place notes in every crack and crevice.

I once got into a bit of a debate with a reader of this blog, who, after seeing another exercise I had posted told me that "Life is too short to waste time on such 'exercises'".  That made me stop and think for a minute.  Could he be right?  After all, we're trying to make music.  Everyone seems to be obsessed with technical aptitude nowadays; sometimes to the point of detriment to the music.  Why bother with hours of patterns and exercises?  We should be expressing ourselves!  But my doubt was very short lived once I remembered my own advice that I give to all of my students, which is to remember that music truly is a language and all of these exercises that we work on are part of our vocabulary.  The larger our vocabulary, the more effectively we can articulate what it is that we would like to convey.  It’s no different than speech, really.  As toddlers we could point and bang things and shout to get what we wanted, but as we get older and develop a fuller vocabulary we can be more specific and convey our feelings with eloquence and style.  By working exercises like this we further our ability to take the ideas that we think and feel and release them through our limbs.

OK, on to the notes.  You can apply this to any number of styles, but as I said, I generally use this with students who are learning to play jazz.  Swing time in the right hand, read the exercise with the left hand, right foot and left foot.

I’ve notated it so that makes sense to read it both across and down.  By reading across you shift horizontally, one note at a time.  By reading down you start in the same place every time but add two notes, then three.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Dig This - Sammy Davis Jr. on the skins

Well here's a great video for a Monday morning.

Apparently, not only was Sammy Davis Jr. a phenomenal singer, and one of the coolest cats ever to wear a suit, but he could actually kick a band as well.

Friday, March 27, 2015

3, 5, 7 Exercise

Here is a versatile coordination concept that I often use when working on new groove ideas.  For lack of a better name I simply call it 3, 5, 7, because what we are essentially doing is implying 3, 5 and 7 (8 or 16) over 4/4.  By implying odd time signatures we can play over the bar line and build longer phrases with a more fluid sense of improvisatory time playing while also strengthening our coordination over a new ostinato or grooves.  In general I try not to think of this exercise in terms of one time signature being implied over another.  I’m not trying to see how many mathematical permutations I can achieve.  I’m simply trying to further develop coordination and facility in improvising.  Remember, music, not math.

There are a number of different ways you can use this concept.  As I’ve been doing a lot of samba stuff lately let's start with that as an example.  Say you’re working on some of the patterns from the Jazz Samba Builder.  You’re comfortable with many, or all of the combinations, and now you want to start playing longer phrases and improvising.

Try, say, the second ride cymbal pattern, with the first bass drum pattern, and upbeats on the hi-hats, which would look like so:

With the left hand, then, try each of the 3, 5, and 7 exercises (the note values will be cut in half).  You can orchestrate them as a rim click, or lightly on the snare.  As with the Four Limb Warm-Up exercise, these will naturally resolve after an odd number of bars, but you should work in more common phrases, like 4, 8 and 12 bars.  The best way to do this, of course, would be to play along with music rather than using a metronome.  Each of them would look like this:

Once you’re comfortable with each of them, you can thicken things up a little bit by adding a “skip” note.  Any time you have note followed by two 8th note rests, play two notes instead of just one, which will look like so:

Applied to the previous exercise:

We can also achieve some great textures by applying this to the ride cymbal.  Use the same feet patterns as before and play the 3, 5, and 7 patterns on the ride cymbal.  With your left hand you can fill in the gaps:

Or for a sound with a little more depth I like to play the snare drum on all of the 16th note upbeats (this fits the samba feel particularly well), like so:

If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you can try to play some of the left hand patterns from the Jazz Samba Builder sheet while you play the 3, 5, 7 ideas on the ride.

You can also apply this concept to your feet, and any number of different types of grooves.  Use it to develop coordination, longer phrases, soloing ideas, etc.  Once you’re comfortable with whatever way you try to orchestrate these ideas, start improvising with them by stringing them together and mixing and matching.

Although I have notated some examples for you here, I recommend that whatever you apply this concept to you do so without reading.  Learn to feel these ideas rather than trying to think of one time signature over another.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Philly Joe Jones - "How About You?"

Well, after a busy first part of the year it's high time for the first Philly Joe Phriday of 2015!

After the great response I received from the last PJP, where we looked at comping, I decided to do another; this time from a lesser known, but killer record by a bari sax player named Serge Chaloff.  Chaloff played bari in most of the great big bands (Ellington, Basie, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman) and is considered the first bebop bari sax player.  Unfortunately, like so many jazz greats of the time, Serge died young.  He, like Jones, battled heroin addiction, but was able to get himself clean before dying of spinal cancer.

In this recording of How About You? we again hear Philly Joe teamed up with Sonny Clark and bassist LeRoy Vinnegar.  Check out the last PJP post for some notes about Philly Joe's ride pattern, shaping, etc.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Solo Transcription - Antonio Sanchez, "Jackalope"

So, I finally got around to watching Birdman the other night, and besides being a very cool movie, the score is everything it's cracked up to be.  This led to me pulling out a bunch of Antonio Sanchez stuff to listen to during all the driving I've been doing lately.

One of my favorite projects that Sanchez has been a part of is the New Gary Burton Quartet.  I saw this group a few year ago at Ronnie Scott's and was blown away.  Gary Burton is, of course, Gary Burton.  Not much else needs to be said there.  Rounding out the group is Julian Lage - who is still only 27 years old yet plays with the maturity of someone far beyond his years - and bassist Scott Colley.

So, in honor of Sanchez being snubbed by the Oscars, here is a transcription of his solo on the tune Jackalope from the NGBQ album Guided Tour, which, if you don't have it yet, is totally worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Escola de Samba Patterns for Drumset

If you visit the blog often, you'll know that last year I had four articles in Modern Drummer magazine concerning the adaptation of samba batucada rhythms to the drum set.

Seeing as how the issues have been out for six months or more now, I figured the guys at MD wouldn't mind if I posted a little preview of the articles here; especially as carnival was last week.  This is certainly not all of it, so you should definitely check out the May, August, September, and October 2014 issues of Modern Drummer for lots more.

Many of us gringoes tend to think of samba (or other styles with which we are less familiar) as nothing more than a pattern, rather than music.  It is also common to think that there is one "right" way to play samba.  This simply isn't the case.  Samba just like jazz, rock, etc., is a style of music, within which there can be numerous variations.  Sure, there's a specific feel, and characteristic elements, but there are many different ways that we can get this point across.  Nearly all of the samba schools in Brazil have their own way of playing samba.  In the MD articles I go into a lot more detail about each, but here I have a little sample sheet for you containing some of the characteristic sounds of Rio.

On this sheet an x on the snare signifies a rim shot

The ideas on this sheet will produce quite a different effect than your typical jazz samba, and can be a refreshing change of pace.  These approaches are good for those of you that prefer a more folkloric sound.  And they are particularly handy when you encounter break-neck speeds.  If your right hand isn't quick enough for that steady stream of 16th notes, and you don't want a heavily syncopated sound a la "Meu Fraco É Café Forte" you can attack your snare drum with one of the above rhythms.  They work really well with brushes too.

Also, bear in mind that although each school has their unique way of play samba which they pretty strictly adhere to, there is nothing wrong with mixing and matching the caixa pattern from one school with the surdo pattern from another.  In fact, newer groups will often do just that as they develop their own style, much like you would combine various ideas from your favorite drum set players to create your own unique sound.  Play around with numerous different combinations of hand and foot patterns.  To create the surdo effect we often need to use the floor tom in conjunction with the bass drum, so it may be necessary to alter your stickings to make certain combinations work.

While you're at it, check out this year's carnival champion, Beija Flor:

Friday, February 20, 2015

A few pictures from the studio

Wow, this year is going by quick already.  I've been really busy with lots of playing and teaching which is great for the hands and the bank account, but not so great for the blog.

A couple of weeks ago I was in New Jersey, just across the Hudson from NYC to record a new organ trio record with Pat Bianchi and Dan Wilson.  I'm currently in the process of mixing it down and working on some cover art.  With any luck at all it will be available come spring time.  I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the session.

On the right is my new 22' K Constantinople Medium Thin Low, which, when recording a bit at home on a little digital recorder, I was starting to have my doubts about.  But the with real mics in a good room it sounded phenomenal.  I really wanted some sizzle on it, but just didn't have the heart to drill into it, so I put a chain on it.  In the past I've tried one of those Sabian chains, but the links are just too big and have a clunky sound rather than a gentle hiss.  So, I went to my local hardware store, and bought a pull chain for a ceiling fan.  Perfect!

On the left is a 20' K Left Side Ride that I picked up on ebay a few years ago and just never had the chance to take into the studio.  It, too, did not disappoint.

The rest of the cymbal setup includes 14' Istanbul Agop Sultan hats and a 20' Sabian Jack DeJohnette flat ride from before it was called the "Encore" series.

Friday, February 13, 2015

You Be the Drummer - Nat King Cole Trio, "After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It"

I've recently been getting back into the habit - and encouraging my students to get in the habit - of playing along with drummer-less recordings.  Playing with records is one of the best ways we can learn the idiosyncracies of music that can't be notated or, in some cases, even explained.  And while transcribing, and playing along with, other drummers is a fantastic tool, it can be extremely beneficial to play along with records that have no drummer at all.  When there is no one there to which you are trying to conform you're free to try new ideas and work on developing your own sound.  Sure, if you don't want to hear a drummer you could always just use a metronome, Band in a Box, or a Jamey Aebersold track, but why, when you can mimic the experience of playing with the greats?  Someone who can really teach you the aforementioned idiosyncrasies.

There are, of course, a number of drummer-less groups with varying instrumentation that we can check out, but if this is a new concept to you, I'd start at the beginning with the first great drummer-less trio: that of Nat King Cole.  Nat, along with bassist, Johnny Miller and guitarist, Oscar Moore, don't need no steenking drummer.  These are some of the swingingest recordings of all time.

Here's one to get you started, but I recommend just trying to lay your hands on as much of this stuff as you can.  Even if it's just one of those greatest hits records that you can snag for 3 bucks.