Monday, September 24, 2018

Cymbal & Gong and me

Public service announcement: You're going to have to put up with a lot of ranting about cymbals in coming weeks and months. I'm in the process of developing a web site for selling Cymbal & Gong cymbals, which will be connected with this site, and will have some shared content. I'm also arranging a trip to Germany (Berlin, Nov. 29-Dec. 3) to meet a lot of drummers, and bring them cymbals. So I'm thinking about cymbals a lot, writing a lot of content about them, making videos, and trying to help people... help themselves... to want to buy them... something...

...I'm going to be honest: I am not a natural salesman. You'll notice I don't spend every post slimebagging the world to buy my books, or call me for Skype lessons (see sidebar), or click on the annoying Amazon links (feh). I haven't blast-splattered the entire site with “branding” jive. I'm not dreaming of ways of copyrighting paradiddles and collecting a royalty every time someone plays one. I can't bullshit, and I feel a little sleazy being in a situation of encouraging people to buy things so I can make money; even things I think are very special, that I would be telling them to buy even if I wasn't getting paid for it.

perennial sap
At the same time, I'm not going to be a sap. I'm already giving away a ton of free content, I'm not also going to tell 500 people a day to go buy a Bugati snare drum for $3000, and give them an aromatherapy-scented hyperlink to go buy it, and get nothing out of it, like Ralph Bellamy.

I can't be apologizing for selling something every time this comes up, so I figured I would get it all out at once and be done with it.

So: Cymbal & Gong cymbals are products I feel strongly about. I got lucky to live in the same town as the proprietor, and to be acquainted with him from both being on the Portland scene in the 90s. If that hadn't been the case, I would just be buying the cymbals, and occasionally raving about them in blog posts... as I've been doing up to now.

For anyone wanting a traditional sound, they are actually consistently better than other things available, and I have spent a lot of my own money buying them. I have used them in the field and never wanted to be playing anything else; I haven't taken anything else on a rehearsal, gig, or recording session since I started buying them. Cymbal & Gong cymbals are actually the shit* and they get my fullest recommendation. Anyone interested in the kinds of things I write about on this site will love them.

I will be writing a lot more about cymbals, but I can't just do a full-on sales blitz— there has to be an informational element. I want to get away from the drum “gear” consumer mentality altogether. The more people know, and the more focused they are on actually playing and performing, the more they will appreciate what great instruments these are, and they will sell themselves.

* - I'm encouraging them to make this their actual tag line.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Daily best music in the world: Ronald Shannon Jackson with Albert Ayler

Ronald Shannon Jackson playing with Albert Ayler on the Live at Slug's Saloon album, recorded in 1966. Jackson wasn't recorded a lot at this stage of his career, and it's really interesting to hear him do the same relentless rolling thing we heard him do on a giant Sonor set in the 80s. Clearly he's more technically able than some other avant-garde drummers of the period— people who may have been going for an emotional intensity that was beyond their capabilities. Jackson also has a stronger sense of pulse than most of them— it's like listening to a mediocre bass player with weak harmonic sense play this music (another common situation), and then listening to Gary Peacock play it. It's like oh, this guy is playing off a pulse. He's a real drummer.

Jackson plays with real power, and he's obviously a strong listener. It reminds me a lot of Jack Dejohnette playing avant-garde. There's just a different quality when a real technically and musically able drummer does this kind of thing. There's more energy and more evident creativity happening; more melodic awareness.

He is awesome playing with Cecil Taylor a dozen years later, too. Cecil can be kind of punishing to me; Jackson humanizes him.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Very occasional quote of the day: soloing

“My idea of a drum solo is that you play like you sing. It comes from different things you listen to. And the beauty is always in the simple things.”

— Kenny Clarke, from 1984 Modern Drummer interview by Ed Thigpen

Friday, September 21, 2018

Three Camps video roundup

Just checking out various people's interpretations of the traditional rudimental snare drum piece Three Camps. A long time ago I did a round up sources of written versions; here we're looking at videos and audio recordings. We'll start with a version that has got to be definitive for early modern, circa mid-20th century rudimental drumming. After the break I'll comment on a number of interesting variations.

This is played by Frank Arsenault, a leading rudimental player when Wm. F. Ludwig, Sanford Moeller, et al were initially pushing their “26 Essential Rudiments” idea they made up. Three Camps begins at 2:20 in this video:

It's very interesting that on the repeat at the end he goes all the way back and does the third camp again— every other version I've seen and heard plays the four measures of the third camp and then the second camp twice. Arsenault follows a pretty strict triplet timing; in the more modern versions we'll hear later, that timing is somewhat exaggerated, emphasizing the space between the accents and the rolls. In the more traditional/amateur versions, the left hand doubles after accents are dropped in earlier, so the accent is effectively played at the same rate as the body of the roll.

There are a lot of other versions to listen to, so to avoid cluttering up my home page, I'll put them after a break. Read on...

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Timeless

Biggest longest transcription we've done here in some time. This is Jack Dejohnette playing on Timeless, another essential recording by John Abercrombie. Jan Hammer also appears. I got my copy of this album at Rasputin's Records in Berkeley, California in 1988. Where did you get yours? Our relationships with recordings are supposed to be significant enough that we remember stuff like that.

This is the title track, which is somewhat overshadowed by the presence of the hypervelocitous madhouse Lungs on the same recording. This tune is very “ECM”, in the same bag as Vashkar and Dansere: slow, with a long spacy intro, a beautiful tune, and spacy soloing over a vamp, or short form. The transcription starts at 4:40 in the recording:

The entire tune is played over a three bar vamp, with two measures of 4/4 plus one measure of 6/4. Later in the tune there are some odd bars— Hammer shorts a few of the 6/4 measures, and adds a beat to one of them. It happens.

Dejohnette plays very softly for much of this, barely ever getting into anything I would call a mezzo forte; the written accents are mostly very subtle. You'll notice his hands don't move around a lot, partly because of that— swinging your arm around naturally creates too much volume when you're mostly playing a couple of inches off the drum. Dynamic situations like this are extremely common in modern playing, and complex, rebound-y, Moeller-y type technique is totally useless in them.

The main cymbal here sounds like an 18" or 20" Paiste 602 Flat Ride, for whatever that's worth to you.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily best music in the world: Louis Hayes

While I finish a long Jack Dejohnette transcription, and work on my new cymbal-related web site, here is a Louis Hayes album from 1960, shared on Twitter this morning by Ethan Iverson:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Figure Control: 4/4 - Nexus riff

Let's do one of these for the rhythm in the Nexus practice loop. You'll recall, with this Funk Control / Figure Control series what I do is take a single performance rhythm and put a lot of common Reed style interpretations on it, all on one page, so you can practice playing them together easily and completely.

You could do that without me writing it out, but as you're first becoming familiar with this kind of thing, it's good to see it all together. You'll probably end up doing some combinations of things you wouldn't get to if you were just working from memory.

The top portion of the page just gives you the basic rhythm and foundational interpretations of it— there's no special need to practice them, but take a moment to study them and figure out how they relate to the base rhythm. Learn each of the practice patterns individually, then play all possible combinations of them:

A-B, A-C, A-D, through A-O
B-C, B-D, B-E, through B-O
C-D, C-E, etc

For each combination, play each measure once or twice:


Practice each sequence above many times, of course. Take care with the transitions between patterns— get them right in the practice room and you'll have better control when improvising on stage. Don't be too hihat-centric in your practicing— use all the cymbals. Pattern C and the hand unisons in patterns L and N can be played on cym/snare or toms/snare. Move patterns K and O around the drums.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Three Cymbal & Gong 22s

Here are the videos for those three Cymbal & Gong 22" cymbals, which I picked out for my friend Jakob in Munich to hear. I don't have gram weights for them, but the Holy Grail rides are a little heavier than conventional jazz ride weight— you could call them light mediums. Either one of those cymbals would be great as anyone's main axe. The Leon Collection is pretty much a medium thin crash.

A few notes on the cymbals; I gave them names to distinguish one from another, absent a gram weight:

22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Ride - “Louis”
Nice complex tones all around, higher pitched.

22" Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail Ride - “Richard”
More focused, controlled sound, cool deep bell sound, big deep crash. Both HGs will be getting a patina applied to them, which you see in this photo— that will mellow their sound a bit.

22" Leon Collection Crash - “Juan”
It's a crash, but it's suitable for light riding too— with care and the right sticks. Here I'm using hickory 7As. Solid bell sound for all dynamic levels. Very interesting harmonic profile, not in a bad way; I've never heard another cymbal like it. Very live, good for some very dynamic Brian Blade-like playing, where you do some very light riding together with some very big explosive crashing.

I made another video of those cymbals, which was horribly out of focus, but the sound is good. Hit the link if you want to hear the three cymbals played together. 

I'll be keeping the Holy Grails in stock, so at least one of them will be available for purchase. If you want the LC, get in touch soon, because it will be going back to the C&G headquarters and out to who knows what drum shop soon. Hit the EMAIL TODD link at the right if you have questions about them, or if you'd like me to find a cymbal for you.

Once again, if you're in Germany near Berlin or Munich, I'll be bringing cymbals there in December. If you're in Belgium or anywhere close to it, I'm planning a similar trip there next year.

Left handed rudimental study - 01

This relates to my old, old same handed flam accents post, and my more recent left hand lead developer post. This is very left hand-intensive, with a lot of those same-handed flam accents I like so much, and some flam drags and partial pataflaflas. I'm making videos today— maybe I'll post a video of me playing this a little later.

Repeat as many times as you like and end at the fine in the second complete measure. You can play the rolls open or closed— double stroke or multiple bounce. I'm playing them multiple bounce. 7-stroke rolls here have a 16th note triplet pulsation. The 11-stroke rolls have a quintuplet pulsation— this is a more common thing than you may think. At certain tempos it gives a better sounding roll than a 16th note or sixtuplet pulsation. The quintuplet pulsation should tell you this piece will be played fairly slowly.

Observe the dynamics on the long roll at the bottom of the page— there's a fp accent at the beginning, and the rest of it is soft, and it ends soft. Alternatively, you could start it strong and do a long decrescendo, ending pp; or if you're a crass SOB, you could start it softly and crescendo to the end.

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