Saturday, December 31, 2011

CSD!'s 2011 in review

Jeez, has it only/already been a year? I started 2011 with this "terse announcement", my second blog post in four years:

"I'm about to revive this sucker somewhat. Look for more music-related items and odd bits out of the photo archives. A lot has been happening since my last post- two European tours, a well-received CD, an ed. piece published in a leading drum magazine, Drum!. Currently I'm working on arrangements for a new Pop Art 4 CD, and booking my 2011 European tour, doing a ton of shedding, teaching, and writing drumming materials. Lots of good stuff coming soon..."

Since then this thing has been going swimmingly- I feel we have delivered amply on the "lots of good stuff" promise, and it seems to be paying off in our level of readership, which has been climbing steadily all year. Basically we started at zero with a handful of accidental visits to the defunct photo blog every month, and are ending the year with 41 official followers (thanks, guys!), and averaging 500-600 page loads per day, which my friend and blogging guru Dave Valdez tells me is a good thing. So, a big thanks to everyone who has visited and used the blog!

I don't actually consider myself to have a whole lot to say about music just in words- talk is really a poor accessory to listening and doing- but I think I've still found a blogging voice and focus that isn't a total waste of everyone's time and bandwidth. The daily-ish gig has not transformed me into an extremely glib long-form writer, so a lot of nuance goes unexpressed, or un-elaborated upon. I'm a little bit of a fatalist in that I think if someone doesn't get (sooner or later) the plain value of, say, a Tony Williams ride cymbal transcription or Gil Evans clip, they're not going to be helped by a lot of explanation or raving enthusiasm. Then again, the whole point is communication, so I'll be working on that...

So far I haven't come to regret my decision to continue using the old name (complete with William S. Burroughs-inspired exclamation point) from when I was an actual cruise ship drummer posting photos of the band hanging around. Nobody interprets the actual words after the second or third time they hear them- it just becomes a meaningless label- so I may as well have my little joke.

After the break is an overview of the fairly massive amount of stuff we've covered this year. I've by no means included everything, so be sure to browse the archives using the labels when you find something you like. And of course, if this is of value to you, please become a follower, and help us continue by hitting the "donate" button to the right, and contributing as you see fit. And now, CSD!'s 2011 in review:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jack Dejohnette's Special Edition - 1983

This is timely: several outstanding clips of Jack Dejohnette's Special Edition which I hadn't seen before just came up on Reddit:

h/t to Goatthroat

Three more screaming parts after the break:

Jazz Truth interview: Jack Dejohnette

This is unusual: an interview conducted by a non-drummer geekishly opening with a discussion of bass drum technique. Here's George Colligan of the Jazz Truth blog speaking to Jack Dejohnette. As usual, I've edited out my favorite parts- be sure to go read the entire thing:

Foot technique

For developing the bass drum technique, at least for my type of practicing, I play with ride cymbal beats, letting the right foot follow the right hand, practicing slowly, always practicing slowly and gradually build it up. You determine what speed and intensity you can do it, so you don’t overdo it. You have to develop this technique utilizing the spastic muscle. You’re doing this off of your toe, so your heel is up. You can also try and do it flat footed, heel toe heel toe heel toe, doing it that way, or doing both ways. But you get more power out of it when the foot is up, using the heel toe.

And then the other thing to do is play triplets, utilize the triplets, and then playing with accents, you can either use your ride cymbal to follow, and just play independently. Then the next thing to try is to play things, ideas that you know, between the hand and foot, or play ideas with the foot that you normally play with 2 hands, or one hand. It takes some time to build it up. I’m still working on developing it. It depends on the solo I’m doing whether I’ll utilize… sometimes I’ll take a whole solo with the foot. And you know that’s a whole other kind of concept, but doing it in the way so that it communicates something musically….

General concept

I see myself as a colorist, not as a drummer, per se… I always thought…"I wanna do on drums what somebody like Keith Jarrett does on the piano." The drum set is a musical instrument like guitar and everything else; you tune them, you tune the set, like you tune a guitar or bass, and I tune my drums in such a way so that no matter what I play, whatever I hit on it is a melody and that makes me think differently, it makes me think more melodically.

Much more after the break:

Buy a turntable

Go here.
That's mainly an instruction to myself, but I invite you to do it, too. My first Sony turntable from 1981 finally died once and for all in the mid-00's, and like a big jerk I did not replace it. Since then CDs and mp3s have become my main formats by default, with my crates of LPs sadly exiled to the basement. I didn't realize how impoverished I had made myself until I walked into a record store the other day and started handling records again.

I immediately noticed that:

- Used LPs are cheap. In 20 minutes in the store (Crossroads Music in Portland, a used record co-op) I found a couple of dozen easy purchases I have never seen online, for 3 to 5 bucks. A lot of classic recordings were reissued many times with different packaging, and tend to be dirt cheap. Some things have gone up in price- Miles Davis In Concert cost me $4 in the mid-90's, before people started liking 70's Miles again; today I saw it for $8. The most expensive things I would've considered buying were about the same price as a new CD.

- Computer music is formatted for casual listeners (or "amateurs"), which you are not. As a musician, albums of music are your medium- they are your large-scale works. You need to have a strong sense of the collection of tracks as a whole, played in a certain order (preferably with an A side and a B side) and a certain amount of time between tracks, strongly associated with a title, the artwork, the group of musicians who played on the record, the songwriters, and the recording date, studio, engineer, and producer.

- By the way, have you ever searched for Tony Williams on iTunes? They tell you only albums he recorded as leader. No indication whatsoever that he once played with a minor group known as the Miles Davis Quintet. Same with Elvin Jones- searching for him returns a big fat "Coltrane who?"

- The packaging is incredibly efficient. To get all of that info, you turn the cover over and look. Instead of the dozen-plus clicks it takes to open a file browser and rooting around for the info file, or googling the album title and clicking around within a couple of different sites before you maybe find the information you want. Or just succumbing to the inertia and never finding out.

More reasons/observations after the break:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday viewing

You've probably heard this exquisite version of "O Holy Night" before, but maybe not with this guy lip syncing- we're convinced that he's an actual performer because he actually does a pretty impeccable job with it:

And now the main attraction, nothing to do with music, but an all-time favorite of mine, MST3K's Santa Claus Conquers The Martians:

Mystery Science Theater 3000 of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians:

DBMITW: Gil Evans - Naña

Gil Evans again. It's always Gil Evans. Usually I do these Daily-Best-Music-In-The-World-ses when I'm pressed for time, but this is such an insane rendition of one of my favorite Brazilian tunes it merited actually taking a minute to put together the video. Special vocals by Flora Purim:

After the break the first (and still favorite) version of Naña I heard, by Quarteto Em Cy:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nothing to see here...

Busy getting ready for Christmas, trying to figure out what to say about this, working out of Dahlgren & Fine (which I've never been fond of- more on that later) and playing through some of the sundry new-old books that have come in recently. So enjoy this tune that's been stuck in my head for several days, by now-obscure Bay Area jazz/rock group Smoke:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Todd's methods: Reed triplets in steps - BD

One of the common interpretations applied to Ted Reed's Syncopation is to fill out the written rhythm with triplets, which can be pretty technically challenging due to all the doubles and multiples that come up. So, at some point you have to fill out the triplets more selectively; I've written about this before, using parts of the triplet. Here we have a slightly different approach, which I've broken down into steps, partly to make it more accessible to different levels of skill, but mainly to introduce some space, and to arrive at something practicable and playable at different tempos:

This is meant to be applied to Syncopation, pp. 37-44 (old edition), but will work with any written music with 8th note or longer rhythmic values.

Get the pdf

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vinnie Colaiuta Q & A

Here's 37 minutes of audio from the question and answer portion of a Vinnie Colaiuta clinic. He opens with some discussion of playing in 19/16 on Keep It Greasey, from Joe's Garage by Frank Zappa (which reminds me, I think maybe Santa might have a transcription for you coming up). At a certain point in my life I would've worn out the cassette hanging on every word of this, despite the quality being a little rough:

As I'm listening through: He discusses getting an authentic feel in samba and baiao, which is something else we've talked about here, and also the non-alternating flam drag, which is similar to one of my licks.

h/t to Stitch Kaboodle @ Drummerworld

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bob Brookmeyer 1929-2011

Trombonist, arranger, and educator Bob Brookmeyer has passed away; visit Jazz Wax has a nice obituary and retrospective of his career.

Here he is playing with one of my favorite groups of the 50's, the Jimmy Giuffre 3, with Jim Hall:

More after the break:

All the grooves from Still Bill

Today we've got all of the grooves from the Bill Withers album Still Bill, with drumming by soul master James Gadson:

- Swing the 16th notes on "Lonely Town, Lonely Street".
- Bass drum notes in parenthesis are optional or occasional embellishments; snare drum notes in parentheses are ghost notes- play them very lightly.
- Also see my transcription of the drum breaks from "Use Me".

Get the pdf

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MD interview: Ben Riley on Monk, more

Here are some excerpts from a Ben Riley interview I hadn't read before- I didn't know who he was when the September, 1986 issue of Modern Drummer came out. It's a nice companion piece to the Frankie Dunlop interview I posted some time ago- they both have a lot about playing with Thelonious Monk. 

Time, feel

[Monk] had a great sense of time and rhythmic construction. I played two or three different ways in that band until I felt comfortable. Certain tunes dictated that I find another way to interpret the beat. I got more into a Shadow Wilson style of playing later on, because it left a lot of space for the other musicians to do what they
wanted, and it didn't dictate what was happening.

Thelonious would always drop one-liners on you. Instead of telling you what to do directly, he would give you a little hint, such as, "Because you're the drummer, it doesn't mean you have the best beat." He said, "You can't always like every song. Another player might like the song better than you; his beat might be better than your beat." What he was saying was that you should listen first before you take control and find who has the swing in the beat. And whoever has the best beat—that's the one you join.

One of the things I enjoyed about playing with Monk as well as Sphere was that we didn't always play the same tunes in the same tempo. When this happens, you can't come in and develop "cheats." Since each tune could be in a different tempo each time you play it, the things you played before won't fit the next time, so you always have to approach it differently. That's one of the great lessons that I learned from Thelonious. He played what we used to call "in between tempos." He used to say, "Most people can only play in three tempos: slow, medium, and fast." So, he played in between all of those, and we had to learn how to feel that beat. In certain tempos, you would be in big trouble trying to count, so you would have to feel the structure.

Monk's ballad test
In my first experience with him, in Amsterdam, we played "Embraceable You'' as a very slow ballad. Then he went into "Don't Blame Me." He stood up, looked over to me, and said, "Drum solo!" Fortunately for me, I had been working at the Upper East Side supper clubs playing a lot of brushes, and I like brushes. So when I played it, I didn't have to double the tempo, because I was used to playing slow brush tempos. I played it right at the tempo he gave me. When we were going back to the dressing room, he just walked by me and said, "How many people you know could have done that?" and he kept on going. You see, I had asked him for a rehearsal and he said, "What do you want to do—learn how to cheat?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Transcription: Ndugu - Watch Out, Baby!

Here's one of my favorite funk drumming performances ever, which I originally transcribed years ago off of my brother's bootleg cassette- Ndugu Leon Chancler playing on Watch Out, Baby! from George Duke's 1977 Reach For It album. Stanley Clarke plays bass on this track, in case you're wondering. Between this and my recent Good Old Funky Music and Use Me transcriptions we've got a veritable school of funk going here. It's got to be a school of funk if they use the word "veritable."

As I mentioned when this piece was a DBMITW, this is is pretty NSFW, so don't play the track loud during tea with the Reverend... save yourself some embarrassment...

- There are a couple of tempo changes, the first at the edit at measure 19, the second when the time pulls back a little at measures 72-73, for a new slower tempo at 74.
- Chancler uses a pretty large set here- at least five toms and two bass drums, but you can easily play through this without them.

Get the pdf

YouTube clip after the break:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two more Paul Motian memorials

This time from someone who actually knew him and played with him, Ethan Iverson. Here's the introduction:

"Who was Paul Motian? A bald white guy without proper technique? One look at his trademark grip, choked way up on unusually thick sticks, and many dismissed him as a charlatan. His off-and-on ride cymbal, although accurate as a metronome, had a bizarre spacing in the skip beat. For those who believe jazz drumming is bound by certain parameters, Motian was the ultimate enigma, perhaps even an insult.

Yet Motian had a deep relationship to tradition. Those baseball bats were Oscar Pettiford’s idea. In 1955, at Small’s Paradise in Harlem, the legendary bassist looked over at Motian’s small sticks and said, “What are you playing with? Are you a drummer or aren’t you?” The next day Motian went out and got the biggest drum sticks he could find.

Thelonious Monk was another mentor. Both Monk and Motian have something of earlier jazz in their rhythmic feel (as he got older, Motian’s phrasing on the hi-hat sounded more and more like a drummer from the 1940’s), and when Motian was about thirty, Monk gave him invaluable advice on his ride beat. At that age, most professional drummers would be unwilling to take instruction on their right arm, but Motian was still learning.

Indeed, he was arguably the most profound late bloomer in jazz history. It’s been said that Motian on the first Bill Evans album from 1956 was “Max Roach without any chops,” an unfair characterization that holds a kernel of truth."

Go read the enire piece.

I also came across a brief notice from Chick Corea:

"Paul set a very high standard of integrity as a human being. He kept his own counsel, communicated only when he chose to, played only the way he heard it and felt it, lived the way he chose in a society whose norm was quite different. He managed to accomplish the difficult feat of being completely himself."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ralph Peterson interview

Here's a nice interview with Ralph Peterson by now-Portland pianist George Colligan. They talk about a lot of things, but I've pulled out the bits most related to actually hitting the drums, because that's what we do around here- definitely go read the entire piece.

Andrew Hare @ The Melodic Drummer has a little Peterson post up now as well, with a clip from the Jazz Heaven site.

Alan Dawson's method
So, I was always talking about my philosophy regarding any kind of musical information: take what you need and leave the rest. And don’t buy in lock -stock-and-barrel to any philosophy that is not based in your own experience. Because then you are not living your life. You are living somebody else’s.

And so, to the extent that the program is now moving back towards a complete embracing – of every idea that Alan had, every idea that Alan has is not going to work for everybody, and what Alan taught, he lived, and he might have taught it differently to Kenwood Dennard, and then differently to Terri Lynne Carrington, and that might have been different from the way he taught John Ramsay. Because Alan is making you do three rudiments at a time, and you don’t get anymore rudiments until you come back for the next lesson. Maybe it's because he doesn’t think you can handle any more information than that. Maybe another student who has either a better work ethic... or ability to absorb information at a greater rate… they might get more. You can give information many different ways. But I‘m personally not going to hold somebody back based on a pre-described formula.

Drummers have to learn tunes. The other thing I teach is break your dependence on the Real Book. First of all, 60% of the Real Book is wrong. The other thing is if you only learn repertoire out of the book? Then you won't learn application. You won't learn the syntax and the language.You will learn the syntax and the language by listening to the recording. And you can learn the melody, but, to hear how the melody was..... most creatively improvised on, you have to listen to the records.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A stack of books

I got a nice deal on a pile of old books, and I thought I'd just give a quick overview of them, along with representative excerpts. Here, in no particular order:

Rolls, Rolls, Rolls by Joel Rothman

A book about rolls. Looks like a useful teaching aid; also good for self-teachers trying to figure out how to make a roll. The main point seems to be to work on reading and performing rolls in actual music by isolating the connection between a roll and its underlying rhythm. My old edition primarily deals with 16th note and sixtuplet pulsations in 4/4, and their cut-time equivalents. The current edition has about 20 more pages, and includes a section dealing with rolls in 6/8. I think most or all of this book of this is included in my Compleat Drum Reader by Rothman and Garwood Whaley.

Purchase Rolls, Rolls, Rolls (revised edition)

The Solo Snare Drummer by Vic Firth

A very challenging, college-level (junior and up, I reckon) book of etudes and duets for snare and multi-drums. There's some heavy reading in here, approximately the level of Tony Cirone's Portraits in Rhythm- most pieces have changing meters and rhythms that are very tough to negotiate. You don't use this book for sight-reading practice. It's an orchestral-style book, so the generally the only rudiments dealt with are closed rolls, flams, ruffs, and four stroke ruffs.

Purchase The Solo Snare Drummer

A bunch more after the break:

Thursday, December 08, 2011

One more thing...

A word of advice: always, always, ALWAYS request USPS Priority when ordering online. I just received two book orders from the east coast, and they each took all of two days to get here- one of them coming from Massachusetts to Oregon. Anytime I'm stuck with UPS or FedEx it inevitably takes 5 days plus a weekend to receive things even from stupidly-close places like the bay area.

Typos in Wilcoxon

I just received in the mail a copy of an older edition (circa 1969) of Wilcoxon's Modern Rudimental Swing Solos, and confirmed my suspicion that there are some typos in the new Sakal edition.

First, Rhythmania (p. 16) originally ended with a bass drum hit on the & of 2. In the Sakal edition that note is missing: 

The next one has been bugging me forever- the last line of Roughing the Single Drag (p. 20), which begins with this tempo-busting thing in the new edition:

Here's the much more playable original line:

I'm pretty sure there are more of these, I'll post them as they turn up. This makes me really want to track down an old copy of Rolling in Rhythm, because I feel like there are many more questionable things there...

You knew this was coming...

Here's the latest stupidly-named iteration of my basic paradiddle exercise, this time using 16th note 7s, septuplets, or whatever you want to call them. As always, play through the entire page, then play combinations of exercises in 1, 2, or 4 measure repetitions. The sequence I use for combinations is 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, etc... 2-3, 2-4, 2-5, etc... 3-4, 3-5, 3-6, etc... and so on.

Get the pdf.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Buy CDs: part 1 - the so-called business

Here's a little series about some things relating to the retail end of the music business, from the artist's perspective. First, a snapshot of the terrain- this is a little graphic from Information is Beautiful, which illustrates how many units- CDs, album downloads, mp3 downloads, streams- a musician has to sell per month to earn the equivalent of a full time minimum wage job- say, an entry-level position at Jack In The Box:

Keep in mind that even the "high end royalty deal" retail CD purchase (the sort of deal you can negotiate if you're Bono) is really egregious, and you don't expect to make your real money from album sales. By the level of the Amazon/iTunes track downloads, you're into the low end of migrant farmer level of renumeration, making per sale just over 1% of what you would for a CD.

With the streaming services, you are no longer dealing with a functional music business as far as content creation is concerned. These companies are strip mining operations, and the musicians are planet Earth. In the physical universe we inhabit, there are not enough people or hours in the day for all of the professional artists on Spotify to make a living wage. There one million sales will net you $290. I would really rather people stole the music by illegally downloading it than contribute to the success of a business based on that kind of slash-and-burn exploitation.

The retail music business has always been extremely unbalanced, with major labels offering artists egregiously unfavorable deals, and then using creative accounting to shave away as much of what's left of the artist's share as possible- now this dynamic has gone supernova, and can apply to independent artists as well- who get in return none of the benefits of being on a major.

One of the conclusions we can draw from all of this is that you just generally have to move a lot of product to make a living from the sales of recorded music. Even to make the starvation wages in the illustration- about $14,000/year- you would have to sell a very brisk (for most independent musicians) 1716 CDs every year at the "self-pressed CD" level.

At the other end of the spectrum, you would have to get 48,637,320 plays per year on Spotify to make your $14k. For perspective, Lady Gaga's recent hit "Poker Face" got 1,000,000 plays in five months, for which she earned a royalty of $167.

For a much more in-depth (and eloquent) discussion of this subject, read the post that inspired the graphic at the Cynical Musician.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Transcription: Dom Um Romão - Agua de Beber

A little companion piece to my bossa BD variations post- this should be helpful in giving your bossa someplace to go; as I mentioned before, a lot of people get married to the standard time feel and don't know where to take it from there.

Here I've transcribed just the left hand part from Dom Um Romão's performance on Agua de Beber, written and played by Antonio Carlos Jobim. The right hand plays 8th notes on the hihat or cymbal with a brush throughout, along with the standard bossa pattern on the bass drum. Where the bass drum or hihat are notated, he's doing something special with them; after that you can go back to the standard parts.

Measures 3 and 4 appear to be the foundational pattern for the tune, but as you can see, there is a lot of variety to the part; much of which follows the melody. It's notable that many of the section transitions are very softly handled- he'll leave space at the end of a phrase-ending fill (as in measures 16 and 32), and he usually doesn't punctuate the beginning of the new phrase.

Get the pdf

More bossa nova-related posts.

YouTube clip after the break:

Friday, December 02, 2011

Transcription: Zigaboo Modeliste - Good Old Funky Music

This is a permanent favorite of mine- Good Old Funky Music by the Meters, with Zigaboo Modeliste on drums. Not a single day goes by without me hearing this internally at some point. There is another version of this floating around; this is the shorter of the two- here they've edited out half of the intro, and I like it a lot better- it puts the Hawaii 5-0 fill right up front.

Get the pdf | get mp3 | get CD

YouTube clip and a few notes on the transription after the break:

More Motian

Photo by T. Bruce Wittet
From T. Bruce Wittet's site- which Google has done a good job hiding from me until now- a couple of very personal posts, one on interviewing Motian, and one about his cymbals- confirming for me once and for all the idea of 22" Paiste 602 and Sound Creation Dark rides as two of the great jazz cymbals.

From Trap'd, some thoughts for a mourning reader:

Chops (in the conventional sense) doesn't necessarily mean great art.
Currently, drummers win wrestling type belts for their speed. I wonder how many of them will still be playing when they're 80. Being known in music for your speed is sort like being famous for your looks, it's not sustainable. Many of these individuals as well as some well known artists took Motian's playing to task, saying "he can't play". Certainly he was never flashy. In fact, one of the great things about his playing is you never got an empty display of technique to try and dazzle the audience. He always played the music honestly. As well he forged a completely original sound and time feel. Isn't individual expression the point of Jazz? If that's what it means when you "can't play", sign me up! I'd love to "can't play" half as well as he did!

I think this is what's hanging me up the most- he was the highest-profile example of a living, unquestioned master who never gave anything up in the way of a dazzling, "amazing" performance. To appreciate his playing- or even to accept and understand the consensus opinion on it- you have to give up the cheaper values and deal with him in terms of pure art.

From Culture Catch, including some CD selections and this quote from Paul Bley:
"[H]e's one of the few free players who very often will create a part that's not related to the person he's playing with, and in the beginning, this might be off-putting, but on the other hand, if you're playing with someone like that, who's not accompanying you, but playing a parallele part, if you decide to change direction or do something other than what you're doing, you don't have to worry about having the drummer relate to you and catch it because, since he wasn't relating to you in the beginning, if you make a left turn, you don't have to worry about whether or not he's going to follow you or not.... It's very liberating to have a player like that."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sabian Raw Ride in action

I finally got to record with the 22" Sabian Raw Ride I was so excited tell you about awhile back. I'd say it has an unmistakable "A" sound- neutral-seeming, but very pretty, with a lot of definition, though it's not a super dry cymbal; as I mentioned before, the wash seems to be in much lower frequency range than the stick sound. The rivets are nice, since it's not a real complex-sounding cymbal by itself. For comparison, the cymbal you hear during the fade in, and again at around 1:27 is my 22" Bosphorus Turk Original Ride, which is close to the same weight as the Sabian- maybe slightly heavier. The hihats are 13" Bosphorus Turk Regulars.

This is off of my new record of the music of Ornette Coleman, Little Played Little Bird, which will be coming out on Origin Records in 2012. You can pre-order is from the sidebar under the "help keep us operating" heading. Personnel is Tim Willcox on soprano saxophone, Weber Iago on piano, Bill Athens on bass, me on drums.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A bargain on a great book - UPDATED

UPDATE: The book is now coming up at the usual $99.95 price. Hopefully a few people were able to take advantage while the opportunity was there. It's still a worthy addition to your library at the full price, if you can afford it.

I couldn't resist bringing this to your attention- Joel Rothman's Compleat Jazz Drummer is currently available at less than half price at $45, when it normally goes for $90-120. It's not exactly commonplace, so forget about finding a used copy. I've been meaning for months to do a review, but you'll forgive me for finding writing about this 500 page behemoth a little daunting. I think the only way I can deal with it right now is just to make a laundry list of what it is/what I like about it.

Here we are, in no particular order:

1. Takes the Chapin-style of jazz book just about as far as it can go. Contains coordination/comping patterns for one, two, or three limbs in a variety of feels- triplets/swing 8ths, 16ths/even 8ths, double-time feel, 12/8 feel. That last is, I believe, the key to understanding and copping Jack Dejohnette's elusive fast-within-slow thing.  So you can be the first kid on your block to nail that one.

I believe- but haven't gotten confirmation- that Dejohnette may have actually worked with Rothman's materials in developing that. I haven't seen similar materials anywhere else, and this book is one of two drum books referenced in the Dejohnette/Charlie Perry book.

Read on:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Something key

Jon McCaslin presents a very core principle of modern jazz drumming, via a lesson from Alan Dawson. The 3/8-within-4/4 polyrhythm has been present in a variety of forms in jazz since the beginning, and became a core part of the rhythm section concept  with the Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans groups of the early '60's. It comes from African music, and is a very elemental way of conceiving and expressing time and meter.

In Dawson's approach, as presented by McCaslin, it's treated as a melodic idea, in the bebop fashion- the recurring dotted quarter (and rhythms derived from it) is something of a special occasion within distinctly 4/4 bop playing. In post-60's playing, I regard it as more or less ever-present, whether it's stated directly or not- I may be a little bit of an extremist that way. It's often used (and abused) as a tension-producing device- "metric modulation", the currently popular pre-packaged indicator of amazingness, is the most egregious example of this.

This isn't exactly a how-to piece, but you can begin to introduce this into your playing by following the instructions at 4OTF, by getting very familiar with the way 3/8 and 3/4 lay against various 4/4 phrases, by getting your snare drum stuff together in 3/8 and 3/4 (here's a clue for how to begin applying that to the drums), by studying the difference between/similarity of 3/4 and 6/8, and especially by doing a lot of listening to the great drummers since the 1960's, including Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Jack Dejohnette, Bob Moses, Billy Hart, Jon Christiansen, Barry Altschul, et al, and to African, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian drumming. I didn't say it was easy...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occasional Blakey: Afrique

While I put myself back together after a long holiday in Seattle with the family, here's a favorite old Art Blakey track, Afrique, from the album Witch Doctor, written by Lee Morgan. Buy it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Podcast - Episode 5 - Paul Motian

A small collection of performances by the great master we lost today. You can also listen to it at the Podomatic site, or download it as an mp3.

Track list after the break:

Paul Motian 1931-2011

Update 2 - more notices:

Jazz Times obituary
Said saxophonist Joe Lovano, who worked often with Motian over the past three decades, “Paul was a strong, charismatic character, with a lot of energy and passion. He had a complete sphere of energy that you can hear in his playing, which could shift and change moods in a nanosecond. He was very serious and funny at the same time. He was a beautiful, creative soul, with so much love and passion.” obiturary 
Emerging first as a member of pianist Bill Evans' groundbreaking trio in the mid-1950s, Motian went on to become an innovator in his own right, creating a style of drumming that was as much about implication and suggestion as it was overt pulse and groove. Texture and color were paramount from a drummer who, in addition to recording in groups like pianist Keith Jarrett's vastly influential American Quartet of the 1970s, with bassist Charlie Haden and saxophonist Dewey Redman, went on to create his own vast discography.

NPR's A Blog Supreme

Though little known outside jazz circles, his career, well over five decades long, helped change the role of drums in jazz. His deep internal sense of swing, and the beauty he could create from colorful, occasionally spare accents, made him among the most respected musicians in his field.

More after the break:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Favorite albums: Special Edition by Jack Dejohnette

Special Edition by Jack Dejohnette
1980 - ECM 001161902

Arthur Blythe - alto saxophone
David Murray - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Peter Warren - bass, cello
Jack Dejohnette - drums, piano, melodica

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, which is bad because records are pretty much the most important thing in the world. Do not succumb to this current thing of buying individual mp3s. With jazz you need to buy complete albums and listen to them all the way through.

So, today we have the purple record. I've been hearing a lot of mannered, emptily virtuosic music lately, and listening to this record again blows it all out of my consciousness nicely. It feels very true. Includes two Coltrane tunes: India (my favorite track), and a drumless Central Park West. There's also the post-modern Zoot Suite, the spaced-out Journey to the Twin Planet (with a fun surprise a couple of minutes in), as well as the classic Dejohnette composition One for Eric (dedicated to Eric Dolphy). Blythe and Murray aren't Chicago guys, but there's a distinct Chicago vibe to their playing here which works very well for the ensemble- though I guess it's not the sort of playing that gets most sax players excited. I can't think of more classic examples of Dejohnette's playing than the blowing on Zoot Suite and India.

It appears that no part of this record is on YouTube, so you'll just have to buy an mp3 of India to get a taste of it, as long as you promise to purchase the whole thing.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ed Blackwell story

From Branford Marsalis' NPR show Jazz Set, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Joe Lovano, Max Roach and others talk about Ed Blackwell. Glad to see this resurface- I remember being glued to this, and cursing having missed parts, when it aired in 1998 or so. In eight parts.

Part 1:

Parts 2-8 after the break:

Bass drum variations for bossa nova

Bossa nova can be a very static style for novices- I've noticed in teaching that they have a hard time getting away from the standard, repetitive pattern. And, aside from Ed Uribe's book, I really haven't seen much in the way of methods for developing it. So here's a page of exercises which will help to open up the bass drum part, and to become more flexible in general with this style.

The usual place you would use the variations would be at phrase endings, or freely during the body of the tune, if you want a more open feel. I've written them in a two-measure format to give context, with the standard bossa pattern at the beginning and the variation at the end; in performance you would play the variations much more sparsely. It would be very unusual to play these exercises exactly as written (that is, as repeated two-measure vamps) in actual music.

These will tend to give your bossa a little more funky and samba-like feel, which won't be appropriate for every tune or situation. The bass drum is usually handled very delicately in bossa nova, so apply this with a lot of sensitivity. The variations can be treated somewhat as light fills, and played a little stronger than the body of the groove. Doing a lot of listening is vital, of course.

Get the pdf.

After the break are some practice suggestions:

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Here's one of my favorite funk performances ever, by Ndugu Leon Chancler on Watch Out, Baby!, from George Duke's Reach For It. It's pretty NSFW, so you may want to put on the headphones if there are sensitive ears about:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Masahiko Togashi

Here's a very interesting drummer you don't hear much about- Masahiko Togashi. In the early 00's I heard a record he made with Don Cherry and Charlie Haden, and dug his very "drummy" style, but was unfortunately never able to find a copy to purchase.

Like some other non-American avant-garde players he leans more towards a "jazz percussion" type of approach- for lack of a better term- than the swinging, timekeeping-based American thing.  Certainly his sound was influenced by the fact that he was paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair in 1970 (he was able to resume playing 18 months later). In addition to Cherry, he also recorded and toured (I believe in Japan only) with Steve Lacy, Gary Peacock, Sadao Watanabe, Masabumi Kikuchi, and Mal Waldron. His physical condition deteriorated and he gave up drumming in 2002, and died in 2007.

More clips after the break:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making any money in jazz

Dollar bill.
This is something I wrote last week, but decided against posting, as it can be kind of a downer. I have actually officially banned from my presence discussion of how much being a jazz musician sucks financially. But now it's being thrust upon me- sort of- by this post at Jon Crowley's blog; here a young elite is not pleased with his career prospects as a jazz musician, and has put together a petition to remedy matters:

I am a saxophonist living in New York City. I have lived here for the past ten years, attended and graduated from some of the best music schools in the world. I have toured and played with many of my jazz heroes including Dafnis Prieto, Jean-Michel Pilc, Chris Potter and Richard Bona, and have been a working musician on the scene. I now find myself looking at a broken, antiquated system—a system that no longer serves us and is no longer self-sustaining. The jazz system sends young hopefuls through music schools, charges them upwards of $150,000 and then spits them out into a world where it is almost impossible to obtain the most basic sustenance. We're not talking about low-level products; these are amazing and virtuosic musicians who are struggling for work. How did jazz arrive at this current state? 

He goes on for a good while outlining the state of things, ending with the questionable solution of starting a new "genre", which he wants to be called Stretch. The idea seems to be that giving the music a new name will force society to create an entirely new apparatus for its distribution and performance, which will be better for the musicians formerly known as jazz musicians. I think he could've just as well named it Mr. McFooty's Neo-Olde Tyme Hijinks for the all the likelihood of anyone anywhere ever adopting his genre name, but he does an OK, New York-centric job of outlining some of the systemic problems with the jazz end of the music business. If you choose, you can sign his petition at the

More after the break:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making bird drawings

Just so you know I haven't forgotten about you- I'm seeing a lot of great posts from Trap'd, FOTF, and The Melodic Drummer, and Dave Aldridge and feeling bad that I'm posting kind of sparsely while I'm working on new record/tour stuff. Right now, for example, I have these bird drawings to make, and I, ahm- it will make sense later...

So feel free to root around in my archives while I tend to this pressing matter. Like, have you read and re-read all of the interviews, or fully digested my transcriptions and original exercises yet?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Barry Altschul interview

Barry Altschul has been on my mind a lot lately- this performance kind of got stuck in my head, plus I was listening to a lot of Paul Bley before my recording session last week- he really puts you in a mindset to be reaching for pure music, as opposed to that of delivering an "amazing" performance; so Altschul (along with Paul Motian and Billy Elgart) came up a lot- particularly on the great Ballads album.

Anyhow, here are a few excerpts from a 2010 Altschul interview from Burning Ambulance, a jazz/arts blog I haven't read before. Like most interviews it's more about current events, career and listener issues, than about things drummers/artists want to know, but there are some interesting things.

Here, you can re-listen to these great clips in another tab while you read:

...a lot of my recording career has been what we’ll call the avant-garde. Yet a lot of my professional career has been fairly equal between playing with avant-garde people and playing with inside people, but my reputation is pretty much avant-garde. I remember once going out with Art Pepper, and we were on the road and one of the newspapers said, “The surprise of the evening was the avant-gardist Barry Altschul swinging.…”

  Q: Did you ever feel any sense of regret or frustration about this idea that you had been painted into a corner?

BA: I feel frustration about it because I think that it has affected my work—not my playing but my ability to get gigs. I think a lot of people when they think of me, think of me a certain way and feel that they can’t think of me another way.

[...] I do know that certain musicians who are close friends of mine have told me that other people have asked them about my abilities. “Can he play time more than three bars in a row?” Or, “Can he really swing?” There have been some of those questions asked to friends of mine who came back to me and told me that.

I remember one time, playing at Slug’s with Paul Bley. I’m not going to mention names, but one of the more established trumpet players almost got physically violent [when he heard] the music that was being played. He was very upset that we could do that to music.

...the more inside musicians felt that the players that were playing more out had to establish themselves first. They felt, I think, that you had to prove yourself that you can play a certain way before you took the liberties of extending.

Continues after the break...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's a five-off

Following the lead of Four On The Floor's 5 Beat Groupings (including a hip way of using Stone on the drumset), and Trap'd's 5 beat figures in triplets, here's another variation of the paradiddle exercise we've been using a lot lately, this time using quintuplets- 16th-note fives. As always, play each measure individually many times, then combine measures one, two, or four times each, then reverse the sticking for the entire page.

And yes, I know my made up rudiment names are stupid, but at least I don't put the word "cheese" in there... that's just nasty... 

Get the pdf.

What I was doing yesterday

Here's one of the rough mixes from yesterday's session- Ornette Coleman's Lonely Woman. I hadn't planned on recording this tune, and we didn't rehearse it, but we had nine tunes in the can, and a few minutes before Weber and Bill had to leave for their gigs. I thought it turned out rather nicely:

The band is Tim Willcox on alto saxophone, Rich Cole on bass clarinet, Weber Iago on piano, and Bill Athens on bass. The CD will be coming out in 2012, about the time of our Europe tour in April- info on pre-ordering coming soon...

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

DBMITW: models of simplicity

There are thousands of examples of simple pop drumming which achieve a kind of craftsmanly invisibility, but here I've chosen a handful of favorite tracks in which the drumming actually stands out artistically for its simplicity:

Sly Stone - Thank You For Talking To Me Africa - Greg Errico

More goodness after the break:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Putting together a jazz drum set

The Gretsch Catalinas on my 2010 Europe tour.
A good point in the comments of the How to be a jazz drummer post- the sound of your instrument is very important. If you've been playing rock, have a lot of cymbals with "POWER" printed on them, or have one of those generic drum sets with the 22" bass drum and the big tom toms, this may mean buying some new gear. Fortunately, everything you need can be bought inexpensively used- here at Cruise Ship Drummer! we don't throw money at our problems, and we don't much give a crap about flashy new gear. The sound is what matters.

So here we go- my epic user's/buyer's guide for getting your jazz instrument together:

Cymbals, particularly the ride cymbal, are the most important part of the set for a jazz musician. Part of the philosophy- I'm paraphrasing Mel Lewis here- is that you treat every cymbal as both a ride and a crash; so you don't want your ride be too heavy or your crash to be too small/light. Your ride cymbal should be 20 or 22", light to medium weight; your left-side cymbal can either be a 17-18" thin to med. thin crash, or an 18-19" light to medium ride, or "crash-ride"; hihats 13-15", light to medium.

We're in a golden age of cymbals right now, with people like Bosphorus, Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, Meinl, Istanbul, and many smaller companies making incredible hand hammered cymbals. One side effect of which is that the prices on regular old professional quality cymbals of the 70's-90's have come way down; and people have gotten pickier about appearance, so really dirty, funky-looking cymbals are even cheaper. People who only care about the sound can find some real bargains in A. Zildjians, Sabian AAs, Paiste 2002s and 3000s. Grungy-looking is good, tiny cracks (less than 1 cm) are acceptable (and will bring the price way down), "keyholing" is perfectly fine for you, but a good bargaining point for bringing the price down further.

Keep reading- it's a long post and there's much more information after the break:

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Coordination "kernels" - further examples

You may have noticed I've been on rather light posting this last week. Expect that to continue for the next several days; this week I'll be recording my new CD for the Origin label, Little Played Little Bird (the music of Ornette Coleman; stay tuned for info on pre-ordering!), and have been very busy with pre-production stuff. Mainly obsessing over my charts- transcribed off the record and arranged by me- and practicing.

Today at least I have some examples relating to my earlier coordination kernels post. These are taken from Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer, plus a couple of generic versions of the Afro-Cuban cascara, which you can read more about in Malabe & Weiner's Afro-Cuban Rhythms for Drumset, among other places:

Refer back to the original post for instruction on how to apply my method. Note that each cascara groove is composed of three "kernels". Learn each one individually, and then put them together as outlined previously; first with open space between each kernel, then gradually flowing from one to the next until they make the desired rhythm of the complete groove.

Get the pdf.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A lot of hard sight-reading

No entry for getting lost,
panicking, and soiling oneself.
An interesting day yesterday- I played two sessions in which we played through a bunch of really challenging reading. It's an interesting dynamic when a group of excellent musicians is on the raggedy edge of losing it- not what you would expect.

First, my man David Valdez had a stack of a dozen tunes by pianist George Colligan, who recently moved to Portland from New York. Colligan is a true heavy cat- he's currently in Jack Dejohnette's band, and has recorded with Bill Stewart, Lenny White, Billy Hart, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Al Foster, and... practically everyone else. He's also the author of the Jazz Truth blog- here, you're going to want to read his post on jam session etiquette if you're going to be a jazz drummer.

So, unpredictable would one of the first words that come to mind in reading through Colligan's tunes- they're generally defiant to any kind of comfortable, clichéd approach, with very few familiar turns. The melodies were very elusive of the type of support I'm used to giving, and I found myself latching onto the harmonic rhythm for dear life. Many delightful "oh, haha, that was the top of the form- I guess we're in bar three now" and "oops, I think that intro in 9/4 was supposed to be part of the solo form" moments were had. By the time we got to the head out I would be beginning to feel not horribly uncomfortable; I'm definitely looking forward to a second or third reading.

The second thing was a sextet project by keyboardist Andrew Durkin, who moved to Portland from LA a couple of years ago. Durkin is a self-taught (I think) composer and also an occasional blogger- he's the author of Jazz, the music of unemployment. His material is tough for a different reason- in addition to the rampant meter changes and unusual moves, his chart-writing style is a little bit naive, with a complete drum part sketched out note for note, with no indication of whether something is part of the time feel, part of an arranged passage, or an optional fill, making it very difficult to think of anything but the six inches in front of your face. It does encourage you to make a straightforward treatment that is actually very agreeable, once you give up needing to make a big personal statement out of it.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Very occasional quote of the day: on life choices

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make big choices in life. Because almost everything- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose... There is no reason not to follow your heart."

- Steve Jobs

(h/t to bseawell at

Saturday, October 29, 2011


So-called because it consists of three and a half "paras" (RL RL RL R), plus a diddle (LL), and I... never mind. I was hitting the practice pad along with an Illinois Jacquet/Wild Bill Davis recording (Blues for New Orleans, a very slow blues), and worked out this little pattern:

This can be very useful if you're working on your Jack Dejohnette "fast within slow" thing, or as just triplet solo vocabulary in 3/4 (convert the rhythm to 8th note triplets, in that case). This pattern does not change hands like a regular triple paradiddle, so practice these leading with the left as well. Once you have them together as single measures, combine measures as I've outlined previously.

Get the pdf.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How to be a jazz drummer

Here are some tips for a rock drummer who wrote to me wanting to begin learning jazz, but is unsure how to go about it:

1. Play a lot. With people. Everything you do as a drummer follows from this, so it's important to be playing with people from earliest possible stage- as soon as you can play a swing beat. Or sooner- I actually didn't know how what a swing beat was, exactly, when I first got into jazz band in school. You learn very quickly when you're put on the spot. Don't become so focused on practice and preparation that you don't do this.

2. Listen to a lot of jazz. Usually people start with whatever turns them on, plus the more famous recordings of the 1950's and '60's. Building a record collection and generally having a lot of curiosity about the music are  universal things among jazz musicians.

3. Go to jazz gigs. You need to see how drummers play the actual gigs you'll be playing in your own town. YouTube clips are good, but they don't tell you how to do that. This is also how you meet the people who you'll be playing with, your teachers, and your audience.

These first three are critical and non-negotiable. After the break are some more important things- read on:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Transcription: James Gadson - Use Me

I guess we could also file this under Groove o'the day. While I'm getting some longer posts together, here are James Gadson's drum breaks from the song Use Me, by Bill Withers. As you'll notice from listening to the track, you shouldn't play the accents too strongly, and the open hihat notes should just have a little sizzle to them.

Get the pdf

My favorite YouTube video in the world after the break:

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Hey, here's a chance for you to support the blog and keep this wonderful free content coming your way day in and day out! I'm fund-raising for a project I'll be recording and touring with next year, Glorie Incogniti.

The leader is Casey Scott, an expert pop songwriter and charismatic performer (as you'll see from the video), and veteran of the early-90's scene in New York that spawned Beck and Paleface, among others. We're partnering with a European independent label, Topsy Turvy, and are seeking funds to record at Jet Studios in Brussels in March of 2012. We'll be playing a few dates while we're in Europe, and will return for a real tour in fall, 2012.

Please visit us at IndieGoGo to contribute. Thanks for supporting the blog!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Page of funk beats

This is a fairly straightforward page of funk beats, which I wrote up for one of my middle school students. Each line starts with a fairly simple groove, with notes added in the following measures, mostly on the bass drum. It's a good idea to practice within one line, moving back and forth between the busier and simpler beats, and then improvising your own variations on the simple version. Where the snare drum part varies, emphasize the 2 and 4.

Get the pdf

2023 UPDATE: At the request of a reader, here is an iPhone video of me playing this page down— each measure played two times— plus a little improvising, because I felt like playing some more. 

Very occasional quote of the day: Monk

It's vague to me how I was thinking.

- Thelonious Monk, in Art Taylor's Notes and Tones

Friday, October 21, 2011

A growing community

Following up this post by Mark Feldman, I thought it would be good to direct your attention to my drumming blogroll, in case you somehow are not a regular follower of them already. There are other blogs than the ones I've mentioned, mainly dealing with gear, amazingness, or heavy metal, or just telling what the blogger is up to, but I'm interested in ones that deal with actually learning to play the drums and being a musician. I also haven't mentioned a few good ones that are either defunct, or extremely occasional posters.

If you write or know of a drumming blog not mentioned here, please let us know about it in the comments.

Four on the Floor - Along with Trap'd, Jon McCaslin of Calgary has the most active and prominent drumming blog. Excellent text and YouTube clips, occasional technical pieces. Most recent post: The Calgary Scene - Michelle Grégoire

Trap'd - By Ted Warren in Ontario. As I've already mentioned, I love his online teaching style. Most recent post: A little jam

Tim's Parlour - The one that inspired me to make this an actual drumming blog. Very sporadic posting, and not easy to navigate (get thee on Blogger/Wordpress!), but great content. Most recent post: Idea #11 ("This is a simple idea for working on hand co-ordination and involves playing different figures in each hand over a basic foot pattern.")

Bang! the Drum School - Mark Feldman in Brooklyn, NY has a great blog on his teaching studio site. Lots of downloadable content, just like here, for every level of player. Most recent post (after the one that inspired this one): Samba Independence Part 2

The Melodic Drummer - Andrew Hare in DC just started this blog a few weeks ago, and already has a ton of outstanding content. Most recent post: The Caravan Warmup: Moving moeller strokes between drums

Rudimental Hands - A really good blog for keeping track of what's current in the marching percussion world. Most recent post: Wednesday: Basic Strokes

David Aldridge's Drumming Blog - Primarily text, and a sporadic poster, a little esoteric, always interesting. Most recent post: Bio Robotic Drumming... Really

Jazz Schmazz - This is an honorable mention- it's primarily a jazz recordings blog, but he does have at least a couple of excellent Max Roach and Pete LarRoca transcriptions posted.