Monday, February 28, 2011

Know your paint: Prussian blue

I have no idea what got me thinking about this, as I haven't been painting recently, but it's my blog so what the hell:

Prussian blue is an earthy, ferric-looking blue that reminds me of the big earth-tone-with-black painters, like Courbet, or Constable's skies. It's pretty neutral, but seems to be very slightly towards the green side. Introduced in the early 18th century, it is one of the first chemically-synthesized colors, and predecessor of thalo blue in the category of being so strong that it tends to quickly spread and taint your entire palette. For that and other reasons (I think it's said to be prone to cracking) it's always been regarded as being difficult to deal with.

Wikipedia makes no mention of it, but I remember reading that German and French artists tried to blame each other for it- the French called it Prussian blue, and the Germans called it "Paris" blue. Not unlike syphilis, which 'had been called the "French disease" in Italy, Poland and Germany, and the "Italian disease" in France', and so on.

Before Prussian blue painters had to use expensive ultramarine (usually under threat of lawsuit from clients) or non-lightfast pigments like indigo. It's commonly used as a siccative for oil paints- a small quantity is added to other colors to help them dry faster. Makes a rich black when mixed with raw or burnt umber. It's also the blue used in blueprints and crayons.

It's a tough, ugly color. You can't just slap a bunch of it down and dazzle people.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Transcription: Roy Haynes - Morpheus

That does it- I may just switch over to an all-transcription blog- it probably took me less time to do this transcription than it will take to write an intro that doesn't make me sound like an idiot. The tune, Morpheus, from Miles Davis & Horns, was mentioned by drummer Alvin Fielder  (I'll be posting a sizable excerpt of that great interview later) as an early example of free time ("Roy's playing all across the bar lines, the first really free drumming I'd heard."). That doesn't quite seem to be the case- I think that effect is actually an experimental arranging move by John Lewis- during the early part of the tune Haynes plays a 3/8 pattern over a 3/4 bass vamp, which continues as the horns go into a fast four, making it sound like he's in his own time zone.

The break I've transcribed is fun, and kind of odd for all the quarter notes:

Get the pdf 

Jo Jones in the '70's

I stumbled across this piece about Papa Jo Jones late in his career, at Michael Steinman's Jazz Lives. Steinman was able to speak to Jones and see him perform a number of times during that period, and has some interesting stories and insights:

[...] In person, Jo was animated, inscrutable, vehement. Something in his manner and approach defied easy explanation. It felt as if we were speaking to a character in a play — and only Jo had the script. There was also some element of unpredictability, even of danger, as if he might suddenly get furious at you in the middle of a conversation, as I saw happen with Ruby Braff.
(Ruby, incidentally, told us a wonderful story about working with Jo at Storyville, almost twenty years earlier: Jo would never say, “Let’s play ROSETTA,” but start a rhythmic pattern and tempo on his hi-hat or snare and leave it up to the musician to guess which tune might best go with that tempo. Ruby shook his head in disbelief when he recalled, somewhat in desperation, picking some song that he thought might be fine at that tempo, and Jo saying, “That’s it! You got it!” as if Ruby had telepathically found the answer. “I don’t play with him any more. He’s nuts,” said Ruby.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Transcription: Sly Dunbar intros

Here's a project I had been meaning to tackle for awhile- a compilation of Sly Dunbar lead-ins. These are all taken from Serge Gainsbourg's album, Aux Armes Et Caetera, which is like a reggae drumming text book- nearly every track leads with an distinctive drum fill. I highly recommend that you purchase the tracks so you can hear the way he sets up the rhythm section and vocal entrances. And of course, no written notation is going to do Dunbar's playing justice.

Get the pdf.

Audio after the break.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Jon Christensen solo

Via Trap'd, here's a solo by Jon Christensen:

He has always struck me as being sort of the Billy Higgins of the ECM era- egoless-seeming, non-pyrotechnic. I'm working on a transcription of one of his most famous performances, The Windup by Keith Jarrett, from Belonging. If you're interested, be sure to download my other transcription from that record, Long As You Know You're Living Yours.

Ron Hudson 1940-2011

Via Rifftides: Seattle photographer Ron Hudson has died at 71. Jazz musicians were his primary subject, and during his career he photographed many of the greats, including Count Basie, Woody Herman, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, and pictured here, Sonny Rollins.

I'm not sure if you can still purchase prints through his site, but you can visit and view his work.

Transcription: Three Intros

Another fast little project- drum intros from three of my favorite players, tracks, and albums: Paul Motian on Resistor, from Bill Frisell's Rambler, Roy Haynes on H & H, from Pat Metheny's Question And Answer, and Elvin Jones on Ascendant, from his great trio's The Ultimate.

Get the pdf.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Todd's Methods, Pt. 1: daku-daku-paradiddle

New series: quick and dirty presentation of some of my practice methods. The idea is to write them up fast and on one page, so explanations may not be as thorough as everyone would like. The first one works on fast alternating singles between the hands and the bass drum, and filling out with paradiddles, in an up tempo jazz setting.

I've given it that stupid name because that's what it sounds like- especially the way Tony Williams does it. And the only thing I hate more than made-up onomatopoeic rudiment/lick names (like "herta"- I reeelly hate that one) is having to use ten+ words to describe a common thing. So "daku daku" it is.

Download the pdf.

It's hard to believe it has an age.

Via Larry Appelbaum @ Let's Cool One: today is the 50th birthday of one of the greatest albums in jazz, Oliver Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth. Like a lot of other people, the first jazz tune I learned was Stolen Moments (at least that I can put a title to- the first thing I ever played was a Sammy Nestico chart).

Unfortunately my favorite track, Hoe Down, isn't available on YouTube, but here's the opening from MySpace Music.

Audio after the break.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bob Moses interviews Rashied Ali

January 2003 interview of the late Rashied Ali by another great drummer, Bob Moses. This is only available through jpegs, so I can't quote it without typing it out, and you should read the whole thing anyway. They discuss music making and Ali's time with Coltrane, and how he missed getting on Ascension.

Purchase John Coltrane's Interstellar Space
Visit Rashied Ali's website.

Transcription by Steve Korn: Elvin Jones - Summertime

Here's an old favorite- Elvin Jones' solo on the tune Summertime, from John Coltrane's My Favorite Things record. I think this is one of the first Elvin things I attempted to transcribe back in 1988 when I was at USC- I didn't own a CD player, and I don't think I even had a cassette recording of this- I did it off an LP.

God only knows where that is. This version was done (probably with fewer mistakes) by Steve Korn, a fellow Origin recording artist, and a great drummer, teacher, and author from Seattle. I have some more things of Steve's I'll be sharing with you later on- he's got a lot of great stuff on his site.

Download page 1 | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | analysis >

Favorite tracks: Charles Mingus - Hog Callin' Blues

Here's a feature I've been meaning to start- my favorite individual tracks ever.

Our first entry will be Charles Mingus' Hog Callin' Blues, from the album Oh Yeah. I think Jimmy Knepper said "there's no place to hide in Mingus' band", and this is a good example of that. I don't know if they sketched this out in advance or what, but it sounds like it could've been completely improvised off of Mingus' opening vocal riff. Mingus plays piano on this one, with Doug Watkins on bass. Rahsaan Roland Kirk plays what I call his "chicken" solo. Booker Ervin is also featured.

Here a more verbose writer than I on this tune.

Monday, February 21, 2011

16th note fills using Syncopation - Part 1

This is the first part of a method for working on 16th note fills, which I developed for my intermediate students. It requires some selective reading, but in a constructive way- the same type of skill is required to read a chart or lead sheet. Use pp. 22-23 from Ted Reed's Syncopation. I suggest running through Reed ex. 1-15, plus the 20 bar exercise before proceeding to the next numbered item.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments.

Download the pdf

March 1: Stanton Moore DVD drawing for my followers

That's right, become a follower of Cruise Ship Drummer! during the month of February and you will be automatically entered in a drawing for a free copy of Stanton Moore's excellent new Groove Alchemy DVD.

All you have to do is click the little "follow" button in the sidebar and follow any instructions the Google machine has for you. On March 1st we'll select a name at random, and the winner will be contacted for shipping information.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Transcription: Frankie Dunlop - Rhythm-a-ning

Finally had time to finish this up- this has been languishing in the archives in dire need of proofing for some time. Here's the the complete drum part for Rhythm-a-ning, by Frankie Dunlop, from Thelonious Monk's Criss Cross.  I've included the rhythm of the head of the tune, and of the tenor and piano solos so you can see how the drums support them.

Get the pdf

Sunday, February 20, 2011

1985 Modern Drummer interview: Alan Dawson

Have I mentioned lately what a great resource the Modern Drummer digital archive is? Here are my excerpts from a 1985 Modern Drummer interview with one of the great teachers of the drums, Alan Dawson.

Wikipedia describes his methods:
His teaching style emphasized the music as a whole rather than concentrate on percussion alone. He stressed the importance of learning the melody and structure of the tune to better fulfill the role of accompaniment. For this purpose, he had students play over standards while also singing the melody out loud. He constantly strived for balance between musical ideas and strict technique. He was big on rudiments and wrote extensive exercises intended to be practiced with brushes. He believed using brushes with his "Rudimental Ritual" would reduce stick rebound allowing the sense of "picking up" the sticks. 
The interview:

[T]here are a lot of analogies between dancing and playing. In fact, I use that a lot if I talk about the cymbal rhythm. I always use the vision that the player should have the stick dancing on the cymbal. I think about that as a definite contrast between the approach to dancing and the approach to marching. When you march, you tend to march on your heels. I was in the army, of course. They told you to march on your heels. The reason is that it keeps you from bouncing up and down. When you walk on your toes, you bounce, and that's too nonuniform for marching. But if you dance, you dance on your toes to get that buoyant feeling, rather than clomping around.

That, I suppose, is the basic difference between a person having a good beat and a person swinging something and having a buoyant feeling. There's a difference. Having a good beat would be laying the beat down and being definite about it with straight tempo. If that was all there was to it, then a metronome would be better than any drummer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Best books: Like Syncopation

For many years Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer (better known as just "Syncopation") by Ted Reed was virtually the only drum book I used. As I alluded to in the Joe Cusatis book post, I'm a big advocate of the interpreting-a-melody-line approach to practice, for which Syncopation is basically the Bible. Or Das Kapital, Origin of Species, whatever you like. It does have its limitations, which caused me to look into sources for similar materials. Here is a survey from my library:

Modern Reading Text in 4/4 by Louis Bellson. A classic in its own right. I find the majority of it a little too difficult for daily use- either Bellson is going way outside what is conventional in order to challenge the user, or maybe he is including things more likely to be encountered by horns. I use it primarily for its "10 Syncopated Exercises", which are long exercises similar to the ones in Reed. I haven't devised much in the way of practice methods adapted to the strengths of this book.

Odd Time Reading Text by Louis Bellson and Gil Breines. A thick book dealing with a wide variety of odd meters. There are several pages suitable for Syncopation-type applications, and quite a few more involving triplets and 16ths. Much of it is extremely difficult, in changing or */16 meters, which are frankly of limited value to me.

The Rhythm Book
by Martin Bradfield. Bradfield is a teacher in Pennsylvania who has self-published this book and two accompanying volumes of interpretive methods. Covers roughly the same territory as Syncopation, but with a number of rhythms Reed left out. Maybe the best companion volume of these, and a great value. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Best books: Rudimental Patterns by Joe Cusatis

Rudimental Patterns
Full Drum Set Studies for the Modern Drummer
by Joe Cusatis

This book contains most of what I always felt was wrong with the traditional approach to learning the drums, and I LIKE IT. In learning to play, I always looked for ways to multiply my practice efforts: I wanted things to work on several levels at once- reading, hand technique, four-way coordination, orchestration on the fly, musical interpretation. As many things as I could fit in, I would. Things like pure calistenics and pre-packaged licks (especially out of that traditional Krupa-like bag) were verboten. If it could not be learned through a quasi-musical application, I didn't want to do it.

What I found in working through this book (and a few others like it) is that not only do calisthenics actually work, well, maybe they're necessary. At the very least they're better for isolating a move and learning it completely and quickly— which is difficult when you're dealing with several issues at once. By doing that I was creating a sort of Darwinian process, where some moves got unconsciously weeded out of my playing through never having been learned thoroughly. So it is worth it to address them directly with some calisthenic exercises as in this book.

Many of the licks in the book are clichés, and will be instantly recognizable if you're at all familiar with the more “drummery” rock drummers of the 60's— your Ian Paices and Ron Bushys— or with the legion of Krupa-influenced show drummers of that era. But I find I actually prefer doing my calisthenics in the context of clichés rather than in the nearly content-free, purely logical/mechanical mode of some newer books (Rod Morgenstein's Drum Set Warm-Ups comes to mind)— I'm learning the moves and learning history at the same time. Learning these old licks has not caused me to start regurgitating them verbatim, so far.

I'm not wild about the archaic notation system, a relic of a time when there was no standardized drum staff, and lot of drummers could barely read anyway. It's difficult for others to read quickly. A minor complaint.

A recommended book for mainly for jazz students— artist types like me will appreciate it filling in some technical and historical gaps, and novices will appreciate someone giving them some stock ideas to play.

Get Rudimental Patterns from Steve Weiss Music.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kenneth Mars 1935-2011

Sorry for all the depressing deaths, but I can't ignore this. Via Roy Edroso at Alicublog, I've just learned that one of my favorite comic actors, Kenneth Mars has passed away. Best known as Springtime For Hitler author Franz Liebkind in The Producers, my favorite role of his was Inspector Kemp, the police captain in Young Frankenstein. Also I loved him as Hugh (pronounced "You") in the silly What's Up, Doc?. Some people had Barney the Dinosaur, I had people like Mars, Gene Wilder, Woody Allen... RIP and so long...

Videos after the break.


"Grateful I don't have to go to work dealin' with people like you 9 to 5."  - Art Taylor

Just finished up and submitted a piece to Drum, and it's looking good for getting it published. It deals with playing meter-within-meter using Stick Control. I'll let you know when/if I get a publication date for that and my mad Vinnie Colaiuta/Zappa transcription. I heard from Seattle drummer, author, and educator Steve Korn, and am hoping to have one of his Baby Dodds transcriptions for you soon....

James Phillips 1962-2011

Saxophonist, band director and school principal James Phillips, an old musical colleague of mine, has passed away. I knew him at the University of Oregon around '89-91, when he was the tenor player for the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. He was involved in several of my creative projects that set the pattern for what I have done since. I think the high point was a concert at the time of the beginning of the first Gulf War, which featured a free piece that opened with James reading from Brave New World, and ended with him smashing a TV set with a giant pipe. After that he held the venerated position of band director at South Eugene High (always a great music school), and mentored several excellent musicians in those years, including saxophonist Ricky Sweum and composer Yati Durant. That's James with the goatee. RIP.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The John Lewis Show

I'm hoping to finish up an ed piece and fire it off to Drum! Magazine before some afternoon lessons, so until I can post something more substantive, enjoy these clips of the John Lewis Show (apparently a public access show), featuring Lewis hanging with some great musicians, and, from Lewis' co-host, the best opening line this side of Ali G.

The person who posted them has disabled embedding, so you'll have to hit the links to watch:

Roy Haynes | Vernell Fournier and Mal Waldron | Charlie Persip | Charlie Rouse 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Best books - Chop Busters by Ron Fink

OK, the title is a little goofy- a lot goofy- but this is an excellent, fun book of snare drum exercises written by North Texas State University instructor Ron Fink to "uncover weakness in basic technique" and to "develop a) coordination of finger, wrist and forearm motions, b) sticking accuracy, c) speed, d) dynamics, and e) rhythmic recognition." They're organized by meter (2/4, 6/8, 3/4, 4/4, 2/2, and 12/8) and target tempo, and do not follow the usual mathematically logical sequence, running each idea well into the ground before proceeding to the next one. Exercises are not strictly rudiment based- they primarily deal with singles, doubles, accents, paradiddle variations, rolls, four stroke ruffs, and dynamics. Notably there are very few flam exercises.

There are a number of things I really like about this book. Any single page covers a number of issues, making it good for warming up, or for just giving yourself a break from some of the more mind-numbing technique books (cough *STICK CONTROL*). While challenging, you never get a sense that you are being asked to do something pointlessly difficult- the goal always seems to be to develop practical facility. There is a clear musical intelligence at work in writing and selecting exercises. It has something like the feel of a professional manual, focusing on vocabulary that will be useful in the field, rather than technique in the abstract.

And the price- it's 48 pages long and costs $4.50. A great value. Very fun and very nice to have around.

Get Chop Busters from Steve Weiss Music.

Old & New Dreams - 1980 lecture/demonstration

From Warren Senders at Running Gamak, here is audio and a transcript of a clinic given at Harvard by Old and New Dreams (Don Cherry, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell) during their 1980 tour. They speak in depth about Ornette Coleman's "harmolidic" method, and about making music in general.

A fun aside: it was during this tour that, in one of the more inspired programming moves ever, my brother's fusion group, Glider (or was it Glyder? Including Portland bassist Kevin Deitz and LA guitarist Richard Smith), opened for OAND at Perry's in Eugene. I think that was set up by Portland bassist Andre St. James. I had just started taking drum lessons a few months before this, and was learning the nature of  life as a drummer by shlepping my snare drum the mile and a half to school 3 times a week. 

Questions and answers about Ed Blackwell, who was getting dialysis treatment and was not present:

Dewey Redman: ...if the drummer, who is the lifeblood of the group, is not here…it would give it a different inflection with the drummer, because he is the lifeblood, sets up the rhythm, counter-rhythm, etcetera.


Audience Member: Question for Charlie: Eddie Blackwell is not here, and you are the rhythm section for the time being. What’s that like?

Charlie Haden: Hard!

Monday, February 14, 2011

George Shearing 1919-2011

Via Let's Cool One: George Shearing has died.

Here he is with Denzil Best on the drums:

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Soul Eyes

Another transcription from the archives- Elvin Jones playing brushes on Soul Eyes, from the album Coltrane, by John Coltrane. The transcription is of the piano and tenor solos; it's written in the four of the double-time feel, so two transcription measures = one measure of slow four on the head of the tune. Swing the eighth notes.

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

Roy Haynes Grammy

Via this is nice to see- lifetime achievement award to one of the greatest musicians living.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Best books - Even in the Odds by Ralph Humphrey

The classic text on odd meter playing by Zappa/Don Ellis drummer Ralph Humphrey, this book covers swing, funk, and solo patterns in 5/4, 7/4, 5/8, 7/8, and longer odd time signatures. Each meter gets a concise treatment of four or five pages focused on learning its particular terrain. The written text is also minimal but effective- the instruction "repeat each exercise until a casual swing develops" is representative. This is a welcome change from many current books which tend to include way too many exercises, and assume a lot of ignorance (and isolation from real-world sources of information) with overly detailed verbal instructions. It appears to be geared towards college students who are going to tear through it, then run out and complete the process by applying it in performance.

For a partisan (like me) of the modern, interpretive Syncopation-based method of practice (reading a single melody line and orchestrating it for the drums on the fly), the process used in this book is rather old fashioned, in the Chapin mode. This entails learning by fully written-out one measure patterns, eventually adding up to at least a practical vocabulary, if not a lot of understanding. This does work well with the subject matter, though- many of us are back in the stone age (or at least the early days of the Chapin book) when it comes to odd meters, and it's fine to be spoon fed the patterns a little bit while the shape of the meters sinks in. And this book is well-constructed in that at leads you easily into going beyond the written exercises- in a way, it seems like the pinnacle of that approach.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Baby Dodds

One thing I've noticed in recent years is that you can't have a conversation about the drums in jazz without Baby Dodds coming up- he's become kind of a signifier of seriousness about the subject. I can't remember anything that's said about him- people just seem be saying the name to encourage others to go deep into the history, or to remind themselves of something.

Like most people, I can't say he's been a giant influence- I dug up some records when I was in school, and was struck by his fat, swinging sound, but that's about it. Unless you're playing Dixieland, it's not easy to apply his thing real directly- when playing modern music in the 60's tradition, you generally try to avoid those early stylistic things. Ed Blackwell and Charles Moffett come to mind as people who maybe do a similar thing in a hip way. Maybe I hear a little bit of him in Tony Oxley as well.

I take him as a reminder of the soul of the instrument that got maybe a little bit obscured as it moved into its modern phase- the "drumistic" rudimental melodies, military effects, the little two and three pitch melodies, sound/exotic effects, chokes, the strong use of the bass drum, the dramatic orchestration. Without the historical knowledge, modern drumming can sometimes feel like attempting high-level Christopher Guest style comedy without knowing anything about slapstick.

Here's a track from his famous Talking and Drum Solos record:

An interview excerpt and more clips after the break:

Sell everything.

Brilliant. Why raise taxes a few hundredths of a percent this year, when you can plunder your cultural heritage, then be forced to raise them in a few years, after you blow through all the money. I see no downside until you run out of things of value. It's the most dirtbag way of funding services imaginable.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Transcription: Lenny White - Invitation

Here's my transcription of Lenny White playing on Invitation, from Joe Henderson's In Pursuit of Blackness. I made note of a couple of suspect measures that gave me problems originally. I haven't proofed it recently, so who knows, you may find other discrepancies.

Download the pdf

This / Not This - episode 3 - duets with bassists


Not this:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ben Sidran speaks to Don Cherry

In keeping with our current theme, here, via, is a podcast of Ben Sidran talking to Don Cherry on NPR in the mid-80's. I'm listening to it now- you should be too.

There are free podcasts of other Sidran interviews with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, and others at

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Straight, No Chaser - two interpretations

You know, I think I'm kind of a Monk guy? Here's something I did for a student some time ago- a comparison of Ben Riley's and Art Taylor's approach to playing on the head of Straight, No Chaser, including rhythm of the melody for easy reference. They're not actually drastically different- each is fairly loose, varying the cymbal a bit, Riley uses the bass drum a little more. Neither plays anything real big, or follows the melody over-closely. I'm most interested in how they use the bass drum, what they do in measure 6, and at the end of the form.

Download the pdf

Charles Dowd aphorisms - part 2

More of the in-your-face wisdom of the late Charles Dowd:

You're not a PERSON, you're a SOOOUND!

Learn LOTS of notes. And play the RIGHT notes.

The only way to learn your scales is to PLAY your scales.

I can't play your lesson FOR you.

You don't pay me to listen to you PRACTICE... you pay me to teach you to make MUSIC... don't PRACTICE in your lessons... PERFORM in your lessons.

ALWAYS come to your lesson, ALWAYS prepare, ALWAYS...SOUND great. ALWAYS.

This / Not This - Episode 2


Not this, Tacoma:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Charlie Haden interview by Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus

As I mentioned, I'm doing a lot of thinking about Ornette Coleman, and happened to find this excellent, extended 2007 interview with one of my favorite musicians ever, Charlie Haden, by Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson.

In it Haden talks in depth about working with Ornette, Keith Jarrett, Old & New Dreams, and more. I've excerpted a few bits about the early days with Ornette, and about working with Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell and Paul Motian. Go read the entire thing at Do The Math. After that go to Four On The Floor to watch some great Ed Blackwell clips.

EI: Tell me about playing behind Ornette in 1958.

CH: I learned about the importance of listening playing with Ornette. We first played duo at his house, for days. I had never heard such beautiful melodies. He had his compositions written out with changes on them.

EI: There were changes on his charts?

CH: Yes, and he said to play on the changes until he left them, and then just follow him. At first I thought he meant he would play on the written changes for a little while, but then I realized he would be creating a new set of changes almost right away. So I discarded his changes and followed him.

Sometimes the changes he had for the written parts didn't always fit, so I would look for the right note, even if it wasn't the root of the tonal center.

EI: Dewey Redman told me once that he was looking at a piece of Ornette's music and thought he heard some changes in there. He asked Ornette what the structure was, and Ornette responded by putting a chord symbol on every eighth note! He made sure never to ask Ornette that question again.

CH: Yeah, NEVER ask Ornette about the changes!

Charles Dowd aphorisms - part 1

Here are some choice quotes from my old percussion professor at the University of Oregon, Charles Dowd, who died last year. He was a star pupil of Saul Goodman and Tony Cirone back in the day, has written several classic drum and percussion method books, and has taught many, many outstanding percussionists and drummers since the mid-1970's- you can't swing a cat in the pacific northwest without hitting an accomplished musician who came out of his program.

I had a contentious relationship with him, but he was a tremendous influence even so, shaping my concept of musicianship and professionalism before I even knew I wanted to be one- his students, including my older brother, were around me all the time from an early age.

These are as his students remembered him saying them, pulled from his memorial Facebook page:


Take the stick. Hit the marimba.

I'm from the Hit the Drum School.

Take your stick in your hand... and hit the drum.

Play Loud!

Don't BANG, unless the composer writes in your part, right above the note, BANG!

Every note is a little pearl.

NO! VOICE your bass drum. Who's gonna hear THAT?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Popular jazz tunes

Via NPR's A Blog Supreme here is's list of top 100 jazz tunes, as suggested by their listeners. It's not a bad place to start for beginners looking to get their repertoire together. There might be 10-15 of these I have never been called upon to play. Titles in bold are priority tunes for first year jazz students. Here's the list:

1. Take Five - Dave Brubeck
2. So What - Miles Davis
3. Take The A Train - Duke Ellington
4. Round Midnight - Thelonious Monk
5. My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
6. A Love Supreme (Acknowledgment) - John Coltrane
7. All Blues - Miles Davis
8. Birdland - Weather Report
9. The Girl From Ipanema - Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto
10. Sing, Sing, Sing - Benny Goodman

The rest are after the break:

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Papa Jo and Big Sid

Jammin' The Blues, a short film featuring Jo Jones and Sid Catlett. Watch for the trade off after 5:40:

"Big Sid was like my brother. I never go anyplace without a picture of Big Sid
Catlett. I've got a little picture of him that I carry with me. That's why I am never afraid. I know I've got Sid with me. See, I was very privileged to play with a Count Basie, to be around so many creative peoples. I remember one time Sidney sat in and he said, 'Man, I ought to knock you down— now I got to go back to the coal mines.'

Did you see Jamming The Blues? Remember when Sid threw that one stick at me? We used to do a thing every Thursday night at the Apollo when we closed. The theater's packed, but there are two seats set aside for Sid Catlett and his wife. I used to throw the stick to Sidney, and a man would put the light on him and BOOM—he'd catch it. Then, BOOM, he'd throw the stick back to me and we'd go into 'One O'Clock Jump.' Don't ask me. Ask the people that were there. They done saw it. They saw show business. Yeah, we did some strange things out there."

- Jo Jones, Modern Drummer, January 1984

This / Not This - Episode 1


Not this:


Light posting for a couple of days while I proof a transcription/analysis I'm submitting to Drum! magazine- they've expressed interest in my Vinnie Colaiuta/Keep It Greasey piece (from the guitar solo in 19/16)- here's hoping it makes it to press! That has dogged me for years, ever since I showed my college professor my transcription of the body of the song (which is itself no picnic), only to have him ask "why didn't you do the guitar solo?"

"Well, it's an extremely dense recording in a very strange meter, and the tempo is ~QN=144, and all I have to work with is a cassette deck and some crappy headphones with no possibility of slowing it down, and it's one of the most insane drumming performances ever recorded" is what I might have said if I wasn't dumbfounded by the comment.

I'm also busy transcribing and arranging a bunch of Ornette Coleman tunes for my new record, which is due to be released on Origin in the fall, in time for my Europe tour.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Ben Riley on Monk

Thelonious Monk's other great drummer from the '60's, Ben Riley talks about joining the band, and an early performance experience:

Performance clips after the break. You could but shouldn't write a bop drumming textbook from them:

Friday, February 04, 2011

James Gadson: soul master

Nothing to say, I was just thinking about the drummer James Gadson. What am I going to add?

Two Bill Withers clips I post anywhere and everywhere I can:

More clips after the break:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

2011 Europe tour dates

My 2010 Europe tour with my group Pop Art 4 is firming up, ever so slightly. It will run approximately from October 26th through November 9th, with the bulk of the dates in Belgium- Ghent, Antwerp, Liege, and several dates in Brussels. After missing them in 2010, we'll be back at Dumont's in Aachen, Germany again- a great venue from our 2009 tour, with one of the best audiences I've ever had. We should also be making a date or two in Paris, and elsewhere in western Germany.

The rhythm section will consist of me, plus two excellent Belgian musicians, Bram Weijters of Antwerp (piano), and Olivier Stalon of Brussels (bass)- the horn player hasn't been determined yet.

Updates as they come in...

Transcription: Frankie Dunlop - Bolivar Blues

There is just a ton of good stuff on Jon McCaslin's Four on the Floor blog- like this little 2010 piece on the great, under-appreciated drummer Frankie Dunlop, who was with Thelonious Monk for part of the 1960's. I've studied him quite a bit myself, and always recommend him as one of the first people for novice jazz drummers to listen to. He plays busy but simply- you get to hear him make a lot of comping decisions, and it's easy to pick out what he's doing. And he also happens to be on a bunch of great records with tunes you want to learn!

Monk's Dream is really a classic beginner's record, though I don't know how many people use it that way. With the title track, Bye-Ya and Five Spot Blues it's got three hip, semi-common Monk compositions. Bolivar Blues doesn't get played much, but is a very classic, singable blues with a little 3/4 figure in the turnaround- right up there with Freddie Freeloader and Blue Monk for first blues, in my opinion. Based on Sweet Georgia Brown, Bright Mississippi is the friendliest possible introduction to the contrafact concept. Monk and Charlie Rouse make it easy on beginners, too- Rouse's solos are straightforward, melodic and swinging, and Monk tends to play the tune behind the solo.

Here's an easy transcription of the head and piano solo on Bolivar Blues, from Monk's Dream (only $6.99 on Amazon!):

[ image here]

As usual, Blogger is balking at taking my uploaded images- I'll post that as soon as it deems to accept it. In the meantime:

Download the pdf

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Princess Wee-Wee

In his 2008 interview by Marc Myers at JazzWax, Roy Haynes talks about Lester Young and his reaction to Roy's first 20" bass drum:
Roy Haynes: [Lester] was a very humorous guy. He had his own way of talking. It was like a foreign language and unless you understood it, what he said would make little sense to you. You had to pick up on his special way of putting things to know what he meant. Sometimes you wouldn’t even know what the hell he was talking about. Thelonious Monk sort of reminded me of Lester. They both had their own way of talking. 
Back then, there were people playing jazz who were so original, even more so than everyone else who played it, you know. They developed different ways of communicating in the different parts of the ghettos we lived in and hung out in. There were a lot of exceptional people and musicians in the neighborhoods who never got credit. You've never heard of them and they're all but forgotten. Lester Young was one of those special people you did hear about. But you had to have a little imagination about a lot of things to get where he was coming from.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Erased De Kooning

Believe it or not, this work came up on a drumming forum. Admittedly, I was the guy who brought it up, but it was in response to this quote from GK Chesterton, posted by someone else:
Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.

It just sounded like something Rauschenberg might've said if he'd lived fifty years earlier.

Elvin Jones analysis - Big Nick

Here's a little analysis- or catalog of ideas- extracted from my transcription of Elvin Jones playing on Big Nick, from Coltrane's album with Duke Ellington. It's a good introduction to Elvin's playing for novice drummers- the tempo is nice and relaxed, and the ideas are straightforward. It's divided into four sections- phrase endings, comping patterns, hi-hat independence, and 3/4-within-4/4.

Get my e-book 5 Elvin Jones Transcriptions for a complete transcription of Big Nick

Learning to comp with 16th notes is a necessary misery.

Here I'm elaborating on what some comments in a discussion on these pages/recorded example from Jim Chapin's Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer:

I could just be trying to drag everyone else into my particular personal hell, but I think everybody hates the 16th note section in Chapin. I have three different 1986 assignment dates marked in my copy because I basically flat refused to work them up. OK, it's a minor hell.

My operative theory/makeshift dogma at the time went something like: 1) I'm an Elvin man! I don't want to be messing with my nice triplety ride interpretation by introducing that nasty dotted-8th/16th thing, 2) the patterns don't swing, 3) double time is wack. 16th notes suggest double time, and double time is wack!

I don't know what I was about with that last part. I was a little dogmatic at one point about double time being nothing but a CS means of evading moderately uncomfortable tempos. I did eventually learn that 1) Elvin plays a lot of 16th notes, and I did not in fact have a nice triplety ride interpretation to mess up 2) ideas are not swinging or non-swinging, it's how and where you play them, and 3) double time is and is not wack, but it also simply is.