Monday, January 31, 2011

Jerry Bergonzi on drums and drummers

Just a few short pieces while I finish transcribing Vinnie Colaiuta's playing on the epic guitar solo in 19/16 on Keep It Greasey, from Joe's Garage...

Here's another nice piece from Ted Warren at Trap'd- Warren's interview with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, who I did not know is also an accomplished drummer.

Go read the whole thing, but this is my favorite part:
Warren: You have studied your main instrument (Saxophone) very extensively and have written many books dealing with it, yet when you play you never sound calculated or cold. Did you consciously work on separating practice and performance?

Bergonzi: When I play I do not think of any of the things that I teach or have studied. I try to think the least amount possible and be in the moment. If I don't feel anything I don't hear anything. I have to feel something and when that happens a whole world of sound opens up. When the conscious mind comes in the creative mind leaves. 90% of the stuff that I ever practiced never got in my playing but it help develop some other things. It is a work in progress. There is no end and we are lucky for that. What else would we do. Make Money?

Humanizing the hard stuff

Over at Four on the Floor Jon McCaslin has posted several great duo videos featuring Max Roach, including clips with Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, and this with Cecil Taylor:

Max really warms up Cecil's thing, doesn't he? This reminded me of Momentum Space, with Cecil alongside Elvin Jones and Dewey Redman, which gave a similar feeling; and the Tony Williams/Cecil duet on Joy of Flying. And Gary Peacock on Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity. I guess it shouldn't be a huge mystery- you put someone with the greatest drummers in the world and they're going to sound good. But his music is so impenetrable it's hard to imagine Max being able to do anything with it at all...

Favorite albums: Thelonious Monk Trio

Thelonious Monk - Trio
Prestige 7027

Thelonious Monk - piano
Percy Heath, Gary Mapp - bass
Art Blakey, Max Roach - drums

This record doesn't seem to get talked about much, and I don't know why. It has a bunch of great tunes in their classic form, including Reflections, Trinkle Tinkle, Bye-Ya, and Little Rootie Tootie; it has a loose, breezy feel, with each track coming in at a very concise three minutes long; the drumming by both Blakey and Roach is creatively handled, with something special happening on each track. Extremely friendly and listenable record.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What all the damn numbers on your camera mean

I encourage all of my friends to take up film photography, so to help them out of the trouble I have gotten them into, I'll be posting a little series of pieces about my methods. I like to do things about as easy, quick and dirty as is possible, so hopefully this will all be easier to understand and use than when it's explained by photo geeks with delusions of being the second coming of Ansel Adams on steroids and crack.

Before I can tell you what all the damn numbers mean, you need to understand what is actually happening when you press the little button to take a picture.

Exposure: what it is. 
It's how much light you let hit the film when you take a picture. There are three factors that go into your exposure: shutter speed, film speed, and aperture.

Shutter speed = how long the camera shutter stays open to let in light.
Film speed = how sensitive your film is to light.
Aperture = the size of the opening the light comes through.

A fourth factor is the brightness of the light coming through the lens. For now we'll assume that's part of the terrain and you can't do anything about it. Film speed is also sort of a given, because unless you're some kind of freak, you are not going to change film to get a single shot. So the main settings you have to work with creatively are shutter speed and aperture.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Three Camps

This is a traditional rudimental piece going back to at least Civil War days- it consists of accented rolls in a triplet pulsation. Originally it functioned as a sort of camp alarm clock, as part of the Reveille. More recently- since the 30's or so- it has been used by drummers as a framework for practicing rolls and a variety of other rudiments. I learned it when I was in drum corps in the 80's, and it was the first thing I pulled out when I decided to get my fast singles together once and for all, ten years ago or so. I learned this the old fashioned way (verbally and a little bit wrong) from corps legend Bill "Ghost" Linen.

Ghost was in the great Boston Crusaders drum lines of the 60's, and was a corps instructor in Salem, Oregon in the 70's; my instructors pulled him out of "retirement" I think to give us a taste of the old school, a connection to the tradition. He had a long beard and raggedy clothes, swore a lot, chain smoked Drum cigarettes, and used to tell us hair-raising stories about corps in the 60's, brawls in the parking lot after shows, which corps you went to to get which kind of drugs. He used to build his own marimbas and Harry Partch-style instruments, and had a funky, ramshackle studio full of all manner of percussion instruments where the drum line would occasionally rehearse. He seemed ancient at the time, but he was maybe 40-45.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Favorite albums: Where In The World by Bill Frisell

Where In The World by Bill Frisell
1991 - Nonesuch B000002H9S

Bill Frisell - guitar
Hank Roberts - cello
Kermit Driscoll - bass
Joey Baron - drums

I and a lot of other drummers of my generation immediately took all of the muffling out of my bass drum after hearing the opening track, Unsung Heroes. Baron's incredible playing is a little more subdued and supportive of the mood than on some of his wilder blowing albums. Covers a lot of ground stylistically, but plays like episodes in a movie. One of the things that kept me sane in L.A. in the riot year.

Also from this record: Child At Heart practice loop and transcription

Solo transcription: Jack Dejohnette - God Bless The Child

Another example of that ECM gospel feel with my original transcription of Jack Dejohnette's famous solo on God Bless The Child, from Keith Jarrett's Standards Volume 1:

 Keith Jarrett - Standards, Vol. 1

Keith Jarrett - piano
Gary Peacock - bass
Jack Dejohnette - drums

Get the pdf 

1996 Paul Motian interview, last part: There's No Rules, Man

This is the last part of my excerpts of Chuck Braman's 1996 interview with Paul Motian. I highly recommend you visit Braman's site and read the entire unedited piece (part 1 - part 2); there is also an excellent long piece with Motian discussing some of his recordings.
 Thanks again to Chuck for making this excellent piece of writing available- I wish all drummer interviews were this good.

Chuck: When you were with Keith Jarrett, you rarely played any swing music with walking bass and ride rhythms. Why was that?

Paul: We weren't into it! (laughs) We wanted to get away from that traditional stuff.

Chuck: But when I saw you reunited, playing with Keith again a few months ago, during the break I overheard him saying something to the effect of "Man, Paul's playing his ass off, he's swinging his ass off." And he said, "We never used to play that way when we played together, we never tried to just swing, we were always trying to do something different," as if he didn't know you could do it. And he seemed so happy about the new approach of that particular night.

Paul: So it's exactly what I was saying to you, man, at that time when we were playing, in the late sixties and early seventies, that's what people were into, just to do their damnedest to do whatever they could do to change the shit, to play something different, to try to create something new. And people would do things different just to be different, no matter whether it was good or bad. So that's what was happening too, we were playing with Keith and all this different shit was happening with jazz, plus what I was saying before about Dylan and the Beatles. All that was happening, so that's what we were playing, we weren't playing swing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

1996 Paul Motian interview, part 4: Rumba Beat on a Tom Tom

Fourth part of my excerpts of  Chuck Braman's 1996 Paul Motian interview:

Chuck: When you first heard people actually playing free, how did it strike you, coming from a background rooted so strongly in hardbop?

Paul: I know what you're getting at, but actually it didn't strike me as being real radical or real different. A lot of people at that time were into this thing about wanting to play different, wanting to explore more and get into different areas. Almost just for the fact to be different, you know?

Chuck: Do you miss that spirit today?

Paul: No. I feel pretty much settled now in what I'm doing. I don't feel like experimenting anymore, I really don't. I feel like I can play however I want to play now, and it's O.K.

Car chases!

This is fun: Marc Myers at Jazz Wax interviews Loren Janes, one of the stunt drivers on Steve McQueen's Bullitt. This film was slightly before my time- I'm more of the debased Smokey and the Bandit/Man with the Golden Gun/Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry generation- but the aesthetic is in my DNA. I was very young when these earlier-period, late 60's-early 70's car films came out; they work on a more subliminal level, and are more meaningful to me than the things made when I was more aware, in the Herbie Rides Again era. Plus they're classier; they don't have the goddam banjo music, chickens, and middle-aged rednecks punching each other in the gut and hurling obscenities at each other.

Still, I have to confess I'm a little more of a Frankenheimer-and-Friedkin man- Bullitt never quite made it onto my radar. McQueen's Le Mans resonates more for me. After the break are clips from some of my favorites, including Grand Prix, French Connection, C'Etait un Rendezvous, and To Live and Die in LA.

1996 Paul Motian interview, part 3: ding ding GA-ding

Third part of my excerpts of  Chuck Braman's 1996 Paul Motian interview.

Chuck: Did any of the musicians you worked with ever offer you any advice or make musical comments that struck you as interesting?

Paul: I remember Monk asked me to sing him my ride beat. He said, "Sing me what you're playing on the cymbal." So I sang, "ding DING-a ding, DING-a ding, DING-a ding, DING-a ding." He said, "The next time you play, play 'ding din GA-ding, din GA-ding, din GA-ding'." So that's what I did. And that helped my feel and the way I felt, the way my time is my beat. That helped me grow in how I play time. To try to think of all the notes, man, all the notes that you're playing on the cymbal, and the quality of the notes.

One time Lennie Tristano said something to me about what he heard in my sound. He wasn't suggesting anything to me. He just said, "Paul, when we play fours, your fours sound like a drunk falling down a flight of stairs!" (laughs) So, for me, I took that as a compliment, and the next time I took my fours I tried to think as if I was a drunk falling down the stairs, and tried to improve what I did the time before, you know?
Chuck: A lot of people wouldn't take that as a compliment. Why did that strike you as a compliment?
Paul: Because it was different, it meant that I played different. I played something else, you know? I played something that wasn't usual.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1996 Paul Motian interview, part 2: I Don't Have To Do S**t

Part 2 of my excerpts of Chuck Braman's 1996 Paul Motian interview. Here Motian discusses his approach to the instrument.

Chuck: What would you say is the central concept of how you approach the drums, that would distinguish you from everyone else?

Paul: Playing the drums like it's not really drums, it's just an instrument that's an extension of you. The playing that's coming out of me is coming from the music that I'm hearing, the people that I'm playing with, the music that I'm playing on the drums.

Chuck: I seem to remember you saying at a clinic that you gave at Pittsburgh that I went to, that every time you sit down you try to approach the drums as though you were playing them for the first time. Is my memory correct?

Paul: What you said is exactly right. Because sometimes I'm still playing stuff on the drumset that I've never played before, because I'm not thinking drumset, I'm not thinking of cymbals and drums. Hopefully, what's coming out is an extension of me and what's inside me. Sometimes I'm lucky my hands and arms and feet don't get tangled up within one another! Because I'm not thinking technique, and I'm not thinking right hand, left hand, or right foot, left foot (laughs), or tom-tom or snare or whatever. A lot of times my eyes are closed and I'm just playing. I know in my head where the instrument is, all the different parts of the instrument. And I just go ahead and play, and whatever ideas are in my head, hopefully they'll come out.

Larry Appelbaum: Before & After with Ed Thigpen

Over at Let's Cool One, Larry Appelbaum, jazz specialist at the US Library of Congress, does a Before & After (his variation of the blindfold test) with Ed Thigpen, from 2005. My favorite part, on a Papa Jo Jones recording:

“I Got Rhythm Pt. II” (from Jo Jones The Everest Years, Empire). Jo Jones, drums; Ray Bryant, piano; Tom Bryant, bass. Recorded in 1958/re-issued 2005.

Before: [immediately] Jonathan. Everything about him is wonderful. Nobody has as clean a sound. Is that with Ray Bryant? That’s a classic recording. You hear the clarity, the touch. It’s just so perfect. I don’t know if he’s the first to play brushes like this but as far as I’m concerned he’s the best. The way he played music. He knew music. And the effect he had on the musicians he played with. All this was very inspiring to me. What he brought out in the music. [listens closely to the breaks] He’s a dancer. He’s so happy. It’s classic. It’s an example of taking a small unit and making it sound like a full band.

After: Jo was my mentor. I didn’t take formal lessons from him. The way you learned from Jo Jones was by listening to him. And I learned from him about life and how to take care of yourself as a man. We didn’t talk that much about drums per se, we talked about music and life. But after I’d talk with him I’d play better that night, because you play life. We talk about all types of things; the children, the grandchildren, and his experiences with the people he knew. Never negative. He was very concerned about humanity. The things that made him unhappy were the people who were not respectful to one another. He had virtue, let’s put it that way. People like Jo Jones and Milt Hinton were our leaders and our mentors.

Read the entire piece.

Transcription: Jon Christensen - Long As You Know You're Living Yours

Here's Jon Christensen playing some of those ECM backbeats on Long As You Know You're Living Yours, from Keith Jarrett's Belonging. I mean to tackle the big one- The Windup- soon, but in the mean time:

Get the pdf

1996 Paul Motian interview, part 1: Not-So-Correct

This is another old favorite of mine that's just been floating around the Internet- you kind of have to look for it to find it- a 1996 Paul Motian interview by Chuck Braman. Not a lot of what you call deep reflection- Motian seems to be a pretty direct cat- but that seems to be the lesson itself. I've excerpted my favorite parts, of which there are many. In the first part he talks about his influences and early career, up to the 1960's:

Chuck: What was it about Max Roach in particular that attracted you to his playing?

Paul: He was more into the Bebop. I was going to say jazz, but you can't say jazz because you'd have to put Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa in that too, you know? And of course I liked them too, but Max was the one that stood out to me. And also, I was never really a Buddy Rich fan, I must say.

Chuck: Why not?

Paul: Because to me that was more technical. I mean, I admired it and I respected it, he was a great technician and played great. Even today, you listen to some of that stuff he played with Art Tatum and Charlie Parker, some of that shit's great, man. It's really good. But somehow Max stood out more to me. Just from the sound and the rhythmical patterns and what came out from him was somehow more hip than the other shit.

Chuck: Some of your early recordings also remind me of Philly Joe Jones.

Paul: Sure. Philly, and Kenny Clarke, those were my people, but at this point Art Blakey is high up on that list, man. I listened to him too, you know, but my playing, listening to it now, came more from Max.

Set it up

Victor Lewis, via Ted Warren at Trap'd:

Warren said Victor got his shoulder messed up and won't be able to play for a while- you can visit him on Facebook to send him your best wishes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Favorite albums: Dance by Paul Motian

New feature: I'll mention records that have meant a lot to me and write a little bit about them. Writing about musical experiences is not my thing, and I am not a jazz critic, so I'll keep my commentaries concise and idiosyncratic. Terse even.

Our first entry:

Dance by Paul Motian
1977 - ECM 144384

Charles Brackeen - tenor and soprano sax
David Izenson - bass
 Paul Motian - drums

This has been one of my all-time favorite records since I found the LP used (probably a promo) for two bucks at Portland's Crossroads Music in the late 90's. Features one of my favorite drum solos (on Dance), some of the friendliest Motian compositions recorded, the great David Izenson doing a lot of beautiful arco playing, and the interesting, elusive saxophonist Charles Brackeen. The blowing is raucous but also spacious. Rare overdubs nicely handled on Kalypso and Lullaby. Lush-sounding. Each piece and the entire album are beautifully balanced.

Purchase on

Monday, January 24, 2011

Joey Baron master class, last part: Make Music With Whatever You've Got

Joey Baron master class at the New School, 1994:  last part

I worked a gig at the Vanguard with Red Rodney and Ira Sullivan, it was like a bebop thing, and Elvin Jones was in the house, and I didn't know it- and I thought I was having a horrible night, and at the end of the night, I'm walking over and he's talking to Red Rodney, he and Red were old friends, and I saw him I was just really like [scared] and I just wanted to hide in the sewer; and he came over to me and he said "it's you and me tonight" [...] and I didn't know what he was talking about but I just went with it and we ended up hanging out all night, just kind of went across the street to the coffee shop, ate and just walked around Chelsea until, I don't know, until about five in the morning. And this whole time I was bambambambam- what about this, what about-- you know, and um, you know...

Joey Baron master class, part 4: I Didn't Go To Music School, I Went To Berklee

Joey Baron master class at the New School, 1994: part 4

[W]hen I started to practice, I would like put my ear- since I didn't have people to sit and watch close up, I would do it to a record, or the radio, or the television. I would listen- does anyone know a show called "The Wild, Wild West"? The background music to it was a guy playing brushes on a snare drum, and I always loved that, so every week when it would come on, I'd this close to the TV just listening, every week, and week after week I would just start to get the melody in my head, you kind of already know what the melody was, and just kinda whistle along with it or something and play along with it. Basically, that's it. That's really how I learned to play.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Real Diana

Following up on my posts on Android's Diana emulator app, Retro Camera, I wanted to put up some examples of the real thing, taken in Rome in 2006 and Paris in 2009. These are all shot on color slide film and cross-processed

For the uninitiated, the Diana is an extremely chintzy plastic toy camera manufactured in China from roughly the 1960's and '70's. It shoots 120 roll film, but gives a smaller 4.5cm x 4.5cm image than is usual for that format. It's famous/infamous for its sometimes-expressive light leaks and especially for its incredibly primitive single-element plastic lens. As you can see, it leads to vignetting and overall soft focus, especially around the edges. My camera is remarkably free of light leaks, so you don't see any of that here- I would probably tape them up it did have them. Mine does not like Fuji film, however, so sometimes I get things like the bottom image of the Tritone fountain in Rome, where the film didn't wind properly, and allowed light to leak in at the edges when I changed rolls. The numbers you see are reflected from the paper backing of the 120 film. 

Mine was given to me by my brother Scott- he has found many of them at the Goodwill over the years, usually picking them up for about a dollar. They sell used on Ebay for around $40-60, and you can now buy them new from Freestyle for about $40

More after the break:  

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Since You Asked

UPDATE 2019: Since I just linked to this in my Jack Dejohnette / Tennessee waltz transcription. New preview image coming soon. Now kind of amazed at how little I used to write about these things.

Here's an example of Jack Dejohnette “playing fast at a slow tempo”, to use Peter Erskine's phrase. This is another original transcription by me, from John Scofield's great Time On My Hands album.

Get the pdf

Joey Baron master class - part 3: I Forced Myself To Kick My Own Butt

Part 3 of Joey Baron's 1994 New School master class:

Um, drown them out? No, well, you can't make somebody listen. You can try to hint, you can do things like with the dynamics- seriously, you could drown them out- you could lay out, you could do something with the time, like take it into a different feel, you could jump up and down and make funny noises- I've kind of tried all of those and they all work. It just depends on the context, who you're playing with. But you can't make someone else do something, but you can try, and those are ways. If you're playing in a funk groove and it's a constant backbeat going on, and the soloist is going on and on and on and on and on and just you feel like, wait a minute it's like this is turning into like, they should get a rhythm machine or a sequencer, instead of...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Joey Baron master class, part 2: Nothing But Complete Feedback And Noise

Part 2 of the 1994 Joey Baron New School master class, via

The challenges for working with a guy like Zorn- it depends. He's got so many different kinds of music- [he] writes pieces that if you heard it, you'd probably think, "Jesus Christ, it's like nothing but complete feedback and noise"- and it is! But that's what he heard and that's what he worked on. Sometimes I find myself extremely physically challenged. I'm a little guy, I don't lift sides of buildings for fun or anything like that, so I'm not like exactly a power-oriented type of player. But for some of his music, I had to train a little bit to have the stamina just to keep up with the volume. Because when you're working as a drummer, you're working with people who put their stuff through an amp; if they want to get loud, they can just go like that [twirls knob] or get closer into the mic, and as that gets louder, as a drummer, I wanna accompany that, I don't want to get buried by it, totally. So, that was the first one big challenge, the physical challenge. And when somebody looks at you and tells you, "blow as hard and as fast and as long as you can right now, and don't stop until I cut you off", that's hard! That's really hard! You can tell when you start giving up, and when that happens you look and you see a glare. That's challenging, to give a composer what he wants or she wants.

Live jazz recordings!

Here are a couple of very special things from You Are What You Hear ("a live jazz blog")- free, downloadable live recordings of Gateway (John Abercrombie, Dave Holland and Jack Dejohnette) at the Blue Note in NY in 1995, and of Keith Jarrett's European quartet playing in Oslo in 1974.

This is definitely a site to bookmark- they have a ton more stuff, all apparently with free mp3 downloads. Fantastic!

Joey Baron master class, part 1 : Paying Your Rent Is High Art

This is part one of a transcript of a master class Joey Baron gave at the New School in 1994. I originally found this in '98 on the news group, and was just able to dig it up again. I've edited it substantially for clarity- the original transcript is by a student who left in all the 'likes' and 'I means', and fragmented sentences. It's long, and editing it is a giant pain, so here is part one:

It's difficult. Most of my experience is like out in the field... maybe i should give you a little bit of background. I'm 38 years old. I've been playing since i was 9 and travelling, starting on weekends when I was a kid travelling since i was about 10 and a half. So my expertise is kind of like out there in the field, so any questions you have about that kind of stuff- I'll do my best to answer and... to answer your point: it is really hard, to get out of school and out of the academic world. It's a whole other thing, surviving, and paying your rent... if your can pay your rent, that's being a success, forget about Downbeat awards and all that stuff, paying your rent, that's like high art.

It's difficult and everybody has their own way of making things work. I have some really good friends who came into music through a different angle than i did. Most of my experience has been as a player, doing apprenticeships, and as sideman with a lot of different kinds of musicians. I have friends like John Zorn, who's mainly a composer- that's his main thing he's been doing since he was a child. And he had his own way of making music and he just stuck to that and in terms of surviving, he did day jobs, worked at record stores, he helped assist people in the theater, you know, and he kept his overhead low. He didn't live in a big fancy place or anything like that. A lot of people do that, other people do a lot of commercial work, they end up doing club dates or if they're lucky enough to do recording work or jingles. It's as many different people as there are that's as many different stories as there are, as to how people pull it together.

Friday, January 21, 2011

NY Times: Freelance Musicians Hear Mournful Coda as the Jobs Dry Up

This is via the blog Jazztruth by pianist George Colligan- a NY Times story about the collapse of the freelance market for classical musicians in New York; much of it also applies to jazz musicians, only more so. I've officially banned discussions of how much the business sucks/is dying/is killing us from my presence, but I wanted to link to it to share a comment from the wife of legendary bassist Henry Grimes:

My husband is a great "avant-garde" jazz musician and poet. He is a 75-year-old African-American free-lance musician named Henry Grimes, educated at Juilliard, with no current academic affiliations, no salary checks, no benefits, no pensions, no security. He lives by his faith in, passion for, and dedication to his music. He constantly surpasses himself artistically and has gone far beyond levels most musicians or poets will ever achieve. He has to keep playing until he dies, and he wants to. We can only hope that this deadly system we live under will let him, if not help him, keep on. 
You can learn more about him, including something of what he has been through and something of how he has overcome all obstacles so far, at

Kicks and set-ups using Syncopation

Here's a little method I devised for working on basic big band-style kicks and set-ups, using Ted Reed's Syncopation. Like many of the ways of working with Reed, it involves some selective reading/interpretation, but in a constructive way. We're not just making things difficult because we don't feel like buying another book- the interpretive skills developed in this method are very close to what's required in playing actual charts. The biggest leap of imagination is putting in the ties, and you can mark those in with a pencil if you want.

Download the pdf from

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Elvin Jones transcription - Tunji by John Coltrane

Here is another one of my original transcriptions, this time by Elvin Jones. The track is one of my all-time favorites, Tunji, from the album Coltrane by John Coltrane. It's kind of a small piece that doesn't seem to get the attention of some of Coltrane's/Elvin's more Earth-shattering things.

Buy our e-book 5 Elvin Jones Transcriptions to get the complete transcription

Verdict: Android Retro Camera

The Android Retro Camera app is dead to me. After much intensive research (I took a picture and opened it in Photoshop), I've discovered that while the camera phone has a maximum resolution of 2048x1536, giving a managable 5.12" image @ 300 dpi, the Retro Camera app only offers a maximum resolution of 1024x1024, or 3.4" @ 300dpi. Better than the horrible 512x512/1.7"@300dpi the thing maddeningly forced on me before, but still not good enough for a CD cover. Probably the reason for this is to keep the processing times manageable. I guess the thing would also be worthless if I have to wait five minutes between shots, but it's certainly worthless for anything but screwing around as is. So:

I can sympathize with questions like "what do you expect from a phone camera, idiot?", but what the hell, I can pretty much guarantee that the lens in the Garmin phone (and any other lens known to man, for that matter) has better resolving power than the horrible plastic thing in the Diana. If I can get a good-sized, minimally-compressed image from a camera phone, fine; for me it's usable.

More pictures after the break:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

March 1985 Modern Drummer interview: John von Ohlen

Interview with big band drummer John von Ohlen from Modern Drummer, March, 1985, by Scott K. Fish, with the many good parts pulled out here, by me. Von Ohlen toured with with the Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands before retiring from the road to live in Cincinnati, where he formed the Blue Wisp big band. I forgot how much this influenced me- I must've reread this a dozen times during the long bus rides on drum corps tour when it was originally published. I was never much of a big band player, but Greg Hall did have us playing Blue Wisp's Love For Sale arrangement at South Eugene High School that year.

Interview excerpts are after the break:

Transcription: Roy Haynes - Solar

Here's something from a nice jazz drumming blog, Tim's Parlour- the opening of one of my favorite Roy Haynes tracks, from Pat Metheny's Question & Answer:

All of those &'s of 1 and 3 I'm so fond of playing come from living and breathing this album for a couple of years.

Download the transcription as a pdf.

Get Question & Answer from

Kenny Clarke on the invention of the ride cymbal

...and modern drumming in general, excerpted from Ed Thigpen's Kenny Clarke interview in the Feb. 1984 Modern Drummer. I originally posted this last year on the forum.

From Thigpen's introduction:
It's understandably difficult for a young drummer to imagine that the various components of the drumset were ever utilized in a manner unlike the way they are today. In actuality, the approach was, at one time, considerably different, and Kenny Clarke had a whole lot to do with changing it all. His drumming led the way towards usage of the bass drum for accentuation as well as timekeeping; the establishment of a jazz-time rhythm for the ride cymbal, and freedom from a strictly metronomic role, forcing the bassist to share in the responsibility of timekeeping. Kenny Clarke can also be credited with freeing the left hand so it could interact with the soloist—the obvious reason why thousands of young student drummers still sweat over Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer...
To say that Kenny Clarke was "important,"or "influential, "or even "a key musical figure, "does not do his contribution justice. To state, unequivocally, that he was drumming's all-time Great Emancipator, a man to whom every jazz drummer who's ever lived owes a debt of gratitude, is perhaps a much more honest appraisal.

Drum! Magazine piece - Inside "Cissy Strut"

This is an educational piece of mine, entitled Inside "Cissy Strut" And Beyond, which ran in the Nov. 2010 issue of Drum! magazine. After reviewing New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore's book Groove Alchemy for Oregon Music News, I devised a method for developing something Moore revealed about Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste's way of playing the famous tune Cissy Strut. The groove featured a two-handed, broken-up approach to the hi-hat which anticipated the linear fusion thing more fully explored later in the 70's and 80's.

The method is fully explained in the piece. You'll need your copy of Syncopation to cover it thoroughly- it's recommended that you apply it to the quarters and 8ths pages ("lesson 4" in the new edition), the 8th note rest pages, and the syncopation sets, before eventually moving on to the long syncopation exercises.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Droid Retro Camera app is fun, sucks.

Right, so I found an "app" on my new Garmin phone, "Retro Camera" by Android, and thought the thing might actually be a Diana killer, at least on the road. Currently when I travel I take a brick of film and at least two or three cameras, including the fragile, imprecise, and wildly unpredictable, plastic Diana (given to me by my brother Scott). I love the quality it produces, but I've been getting a little impatient with the chance element it forces on you. In my old age I want control and I want results, damn it. When I discovered that the Droid thing actually does a pretty reasonable job of emulating that, while being much easier to shlep around and use spontaneously, I opted to use it as my main fooling-around camera while hanging in Paris, Brussels, and Edinburgh during my 2010 Europe tour. The results were delightful, right up until I discovered that the high-resolution setting was disabled by default, and the pictures were coming out at ~2"x2" @ 300dpi- no good for anything but the web, or snapshot-size prints. The irritating thing is that I had set it for high-resolution, but there was a buried second setting that disabled that choice, resulting in... a bunch of pretty crap for my Facebook page. I'll let you know how the actual high-resolution pictures work out- until then this app is on probation.

A few pictures from Paris and Brussels- there are more on my Facebook page that will never be used for anything else:

Sampled play-along loops

This is something I've been doing lately- making play-along loops from drumless parts (usually intros) of favorite tracks. My attorney tells me this is of dubious legality distrubution-wise, but until I receive a cease-and-desist letter from Keith Jarrett's ghost, I'll leave them on my site free of charge for you to use as you like. You should buy the mp3 of the complete tune, if not for ethical reasons, at least so you know what's going on musically on the track. You can use the links I've provided, or go to Amazon or iTunes.

The loops are very quick and dirty- you may hear a pop at the top of the loop, and tempos may fluctuate slightly. This is actually a good thing- it forces you to listen and adapt. They are not meant to replace a metronome- I would use them more for creative practice rather than time feels. You can also make your own using the free program Audacity.

Vinnie Colaiuta transcription - Frank Zappa's Packard Goose

This is one of the hairier transcriptions I have ever done- Vinnie Colaiuta's drum part from the guitar solo on Packard Goose, from Frank Zappa's Joe's Garage. I originally transcribed this- along with much of the rest of the album- in 1988. Since I couldn't find my old notebook, and it was probably riddled with errors anyway, I re-wrote it to prove something to someone on the forum, and as a naked display of transcribing prowess.

It's mostly playable, though there are a few spots where I'm pretty sure the internals of what is being played are inaudible; you can only hear the accents, and the "drumistic" logic of the passage is lost. In those cases the transcription is just a foot print. The worst instances happen around measure 93. You can't purchase the mp3 on Amazon, but you can listen to it on YouTube:

About my sites

PDX Drummer - My drum instruction site. Lots of hard-sell please-please-study-with-me stuff, but also very robust pages of my recordings, exercise/transcription/play-along downloads, and recommendations/tips on purchasing everything related to drumming. Also links to my Amazon store.
Pop Art 4 - My major project right now; I'm currently reorganizing it, putting together material for a new CD, and booking our 2011 Europe tour. Our first CD, 69 Année Érotique- featuring the music of Serge Gainsbourg- was well-received, making several writers' best of 2009 lists.
Pop Art 4 on MySpace - Yes, yes- I'm aware that MySpace is dead as disco- deader- but it's still OK for bands. And the Europeans are still using it. Anyway, lots of good stuff in our MySpace blog, particularly our reviews, airplay, and assorted publicity.
The Notables - My events band. The site is in dire need of an update, so please don't judge me on the horrible things you find there. It's important that you don't judge me. But don't hesitate to contact The Notables for all your wedding entertainment needs!

January 2011 update


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...