Thursday, March 05, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: “You shouldn't be able to do that.”

A pull from Ethan Iverson's Whiplash/Buddy article, which deserves its own space:

A story about Mel Lewis: Mel hated giving lessons, but finally a kid talked him into letting him come by a record session and watch Mel at work. During a break Mel gestured for the kid to sit behind the kit, and said, “Play me a snare roll.” 
The kid played a good, professional roll. Maybe not as good as the one that starts the movie Whiplash, but still, a good roll. Not easy to do. 
Mel took his sticks back and said, “See, right there is your problem. You shouldn't be able to do that. I can't do that. You gotta quit that shit and start becoming a drummer.

Now, Lewis was to all accounts a super-opinionated, cranky guy, who apparently was not above saying things for effect, which might not be the 100% literal truth. He could play a roll, and he certainly would've thrown the student out of the lesson if he couldn't play one. But it's such an article of faith today that more chops is always better, the idea that being a good drummer is independent of, or even possibly at odds with your chops, is something worth thinking about.

(h/t to Ethan Iverson)

A good pair of articles on Buddy, and a movie which will remain nameless

Whiplash. The articles are about Whiplash. I know I said I was going to leave it, but they're worth reading, so what am I supposed to do? They actually deal with the movie pretty indirectly, anyway. They are at Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson's blog, Do The Math. The first is by Iverson, and is a long meditation on drummers, Buddy Rich, and the movie. In writing about what he calls devotional attitude, he gets to the crux of a thing about Buddy I've been trying to figure out and articulate for some time. Also good stuff here about the primacy of African rhythm:

“Tootie Heath says that in the really old tradition, when a musician sits down to play a concert, it is very important for the musician not to have worked on music yet that day. The player's mind should be fresh, and they should ask the ancestors for permission to create. Everyone in the circle should be on the same fresh page, ready to respond not just to all the other musicians in the circle but also the primordial reason to play music. 
This is a devotional attitude, an African attitude.  
Most of the rhythms that power American music come from Africa. They were brought here on the slave ships. In shorthand form, all this music loved by so many created in the New Land is a mix of European harmony and African rhythm.    
One of the reasons that African rhythm is so compelling is its devotional attitude. It seeks ecstasy through communion, not just with God but with every one in the immediate vicinity.  You don't practice it. You plug into the ancestors and your reason for living and it's there.”  

Continued after the break:

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Rational Funk with Dave King

Bad Plus drummer Dave King's Rational Funk series of videos are pretty genius, and hilarious:

They brought me to mind of the old Book of the SubGenius, a blurb on the back of which goes something like “Genuine wisdom in the guise of pure bullshit.” ...Ken Kesey or somebody wrote that.

Anyway, Jon McCaslin has posted several of the videos— hop on over there, or to King's YouTube page, and check them out. It's kind of a sad commentary that these get a few percent of the views of your average Drumeo video...

A couple of more of my favorites after the break:

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Brazilian 3

Continuing our recent batch of downloads for odd meter Samba and Bossa, here are some parts for putting together some grooves in 3/2, or in 6/4. This isn't an incredibly odd meter for Samba, but it is non-traditional— if a thing people have been doing for at least 50 years can really be called that. We could say these meters are non-folkloric, but I'm resistant to thinking of Samba as folkloric music in the first place— it's a modern, commercial, urban music approximately as old as jazz, with the same tradition of innovation, and with an institutional apparatus, and professional class of performers and composers. To me it's significant that Pelo Telefone, the first important Samba recording, from 1916, referenced the modern technology of the time.

With that little bit of perspective, here are the rhythms. Again, I encourage you to get my book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova (print / e-book) for my complete practical introduction to these styles. Our brother blogger Adam Osmianski is also writing a lot of stuff about Brazilian drumming, which you should check out.

Practice the left hand parts with all combinations of cymbal/feet parts, then pick a few favorite left hand parts, and improvise variations on them. Play the left hand as rim clicks on the snare drum, at first, then experiment with moving around the drums, with different timbres and dynamics— rim shots, buzzes, accents, dead strokes. Play the cymbal part on the hihats or ride cymbal, or on the snare drum with a brush— ignoring the open/closed hihat indications in those latter two instances, of course. Generally you'll use the second bass drum pattern as a variation, rather than as a repeating part of the groove.

Get the pdf

A few recorded examples after the break:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Samba in 3

Or is it Bossa in 6? And I've never gotten a definitive answer on the genre name of this mostly-instrumental, piano trio, jazz-influenced, lounge-oriented form of Bossa/Samba, which we're listening to here. Right now I'm resisting calling anything without that very subdued vocal-and-guitar vibe Bossa Nova. Let's all play with more Brazilian cats and figure this stuff out. Meanwhile, here's a hip piece from Zimbo Trio. The drummer is Rubinho Barsotti:

A crappy victory lap

DEP'T OF CORRECTIONS: I thought he was going to
say “Come on, swing, you mother— SWIIIIIING!
, but in the actual movie he said
the only stupider cliché possible: “Faster! FASTER!”
By the way, I don't want it to pass unobserved that I called this Whiplash thing way back when all there was to go on was a single still from the movie, and a lot of buzz. Woody Allen once said he could tell if a movie was going to be any good in the first three minutes, so this must be my big name that tune in one note moment, or something.

Did I get everything right? No, I didn't know that there would be so very much blood involved. I failed to note the flat-beige vinyl contact paper wrap on the generic brand I-Can't-Believe-They're-Not-Drums drums, so they could be easily cleaned up and rewrapped after being abused and kicked around the set take after take. I did fail to anticipate that the professor would start banging on a cowbell and trashing the band room in his lust for making the drummer play fast. But any such predictions would have been dismissed as pure, rash, mean-spirited speculation. “How can you possibly know the movie's going to be that f__in' ridiculous?” is what people would have said. 

So, yeah. As tempting as it is continue berating this thing Harry S. Plinkett-style, and making a bunch of gifs of the horrible, childish mimicry of drumming by the actors in this film, I think it's best we just move on. It's just one movie, and not that big a deal. OK, here's one:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Page o' coordination: “Latin in 3”

“Latin 3” is not a style name you often hear; it's not a true Cuban/Salsa style that I'm aware of, and is not a super-common Brazilian style. But jazz musicians will call for it occasionally, suggesting a generic, non-clave, quasi-Cuban style— a loose Afro 6/8, with a 3/4 interpretation.

So this Page o' coordination will look suspiciously like the many other Afro 6/8 POCs we've done, except I've notated in in 3/4, and given it a hihat part in 3. Hopefully this will help us find some crossover between regular jazz waltz playing, an “ECM” feel in 3, and our Afro 6 feel, giving each of those styles some room to develop when we play them.

Incidentally, since there was a comment about this recently: “Afro 6” (or Afro-Cuban 6/8, or 12/8) is just a US jazz musicians' name for a style adapted from Cuban music. It's also sometimes referred to by some of the many Cuban folkloric styles with which the approximate groove is used, usually Nañigo (sometimes “Naningo”) or Bembé. But Bembé is religious ceremonial music, and is highly specific in every aspect; it's not really appropriate to refer to the groove/style used by US jazz musicians by that name. So I say Afro 6, or Afro-Cuban 6/8.

The bell pattern and bass drum parts are correct for several Cuban 6/8 styles— the bass drum note on 2 corresponds to the “bombo” in Cuban music— the waltzy hihat part is not. The left hand parts independence patterns; they're not written to conform to any particular style. Try these with and without the circled bass drum note on 1 of the second measure. Here are the tom moves again— do 'em.

Get the pdf

Monday, February 23, 2015

Brazilian 5

While I've got you pumped out of your minds about odd meter Brazilian styles, here's a page of Samba and Bossa Nova in 5/4:

Learn all combinations of the above parts, then improvise variations on the left hand parts. Re-read the notes for the page of Bossa/Samba in 7, and visit my post explaining why the concept of odd meter Brazilian music is not as screwed up as you might think. And do purchase my book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova for a general practical summary of these styles in their usual meters— either in print or as an e-book.

Get the pdf

Here's something from the '60s by Roberto Menescal. I have noticed that the bands tend to rush on these older odd meter recordings.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Whiplash drinking game

Waitaminit, 3&2&? What the hell are you  writing 
in a school chart, and why are you doing it in ink?
Well. I finally saw the movie Whiplash, and I'll say it definitely exceeded my expectations in the magnitude of how good it isn't. Even ignoring the avalanche of howlers, it's just a thoroughly unpleasant, unsatisfying movie— I'm genuinely mystified that people are so captivated by this film. That's the power of naked, mechanical, emotional manipulation, I guess. Shower an actor with abuse, and people will empathize with him even if you've done nothing else to develop his character, or make him likable in any way.

So, yeah. The movie is so riddled with errors in re: the world it purports to represent, I naturally figured that what is called for is a drinking game. Any time you and your friends want to get good and hammered, slap in the old Whiplash DVD and take a drink any time one of these things comes up:

A drumming performance that sounds like the soundtrack to a “shreds” video
A drumming performance that sounds like a bad Sunny Murray clone. [With apologies to Sunny.] 
A reference to “double-time swing.” 
Someone playing “double-time swing” like it's a polka.
A piece of drum equipment wrongly set up. 
A jazz student who looks like a JC Penney catalog underwear model.  
Gratuitous visual cue signifying paranoia, fear, alienation. 
An elite student musician with obviously terrible technique. 
An unimaginative, unfunny, homophobic/sexist slur. 
A strategic visual edit or camerawork to avoid showing that the star is definitely not playing the drumming on the soundtrack.   
Blood. Someone putting on a Band-aid.  
A 22" bass drum.  
A verbal or visual reference to a jazz drummer who is not Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Jack Dejohnette, or Philly Joe Jones.  
An obviously jive count-off— meaning every single count-off in the movie.   
Someone turning pages of someone else's music, or a reference to such. 
JK Simmons making an absurdly dramatic entrance. 
JK Simmons demanding something random from a student. 
Abuse of an instrument.  
An injury to a part of the hand that never touches the drumstick. 

That ought to get you started. That's just off the top of my head, having seen the movie one time. Feel free to add your entries in the comments. Enjoy, and please drink responsibly. Take very small sips.