Saturday, April 30, 2011

Airto: 1983 Modern Drummer interview

Here's part of another great Modern Drummer interview, from 1983, with Airto, the famous Brazilian drummer and percussionist. As always, I've excerpted the parts that are most important to me, and the headings are mine. Dig out your old issue, or get the MD Digital Archive to read the entire thing.

Here is a teaser anecdote about Miles Davis- all the best stuff is after the break:

Q: What was wrong on that session where Miles walked out and said, "This is shit"?
AIRTO: The music just didn’t come out. Today I can analyze it a little better. I think there were too many musicians there playing where there wasn’t that much music to be played. The parts weren’t really fitting together and it was a very experimental kind of thing. Everybody was going, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," and then Teo Macero asked, "Hey Miles, how is it?" And Miles said, "It sounds like shit. I’m going home," and he left.
I got very hurt because I thought I didn’t make it. I put everything on me, of course, but about three days later, they called me again. On that first session, there had been another percussionist playing tablas, sitar and some other things, but when they called me again, I was the only one. There was just one bass and less people, and then it was nice. I didn’t even know how to think about those sessions because I didn’t understand the music at all.
Q: How do you play on something where you don’t understand the music?
AIRTO: You listen and you play. You just have to be careful that you don’t play too much. If you don’t feel, you don’t play. It is better not to play than play too much.
Q: When you were young, did you find that you were anxious and overplayed?
AIRTO: Many times bandleaders told me, "Hey, shut up," or something like that. So I had learned that, but not to the extent that I learned that with Miles Davis. Miles is the best for learning to play the right time, the right note, the right space and everything.

Definitely keep reading:..

Friday, April 29, 2011

The only two videos available.

Another great post at Jon McCaslin's Four on the Floor- the complete Elvin Jones documentary Different Drummer- reminds me of how scarce information used to be. Up through at least the beginning of my college years- 1985-88 or so- the only serious drumming videos I was aware of were DD, and Steve Gadd Up Close. That was it. I didn't get to see Dejohnette on video until the mid-90's, shortly before I got to see him live. I never got to see Paul Motian, Philly Joe, 90% of other important people until YouTube came along. It seems absurd now.

So, here are some excerpts (someone was kind enough to remove all the pesky "verbal information" for us) from the other drum video available through most of my early drummerhood, Steve Gadd Up Close:

More after the break:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cherished notions bite the dust

I need a bushier goatee for this gig.
I've been experiencing all kinds of growth with my playing in recent years, which I attribute partly to me forgetting things I for years thought were really important, or a good idea, or central to "my" thing. Here are a few of those:

1. Learning licks is not the devil. Of the devil. Whatever. My philosophy has always been that music should be learned like a language, without stock phrases and all-purpose licks (funnily, for a long time my use of language was a model of what I thought music should not be- a collection of favorite phrases searching for opportunities to be shoehorned-in). It's actually near-impossible to remain lick-free in real life, and I have been as married to my own naturally-occurring phrases as anyone. The thing I had the real aversion to was learning prepackaged licks. I still think it's a bad thing if you don't understand their logic, and can't do anything else with them. Where my thinking has changed is that I will now use pre-written fills/solo ideas as physical conditioning- getting your hands to move in ways they may not in performance, when I don't want to have to think about mechanics. It also changes the way you think when improvising, in ways I don't fully understand yet.

2. The whip stroke is wack. It's a phrase that drummers like to repeat because it sounds cool, and doing it makes it feel like you're doing something, but this has just taken me down a rutted goat-path to inaccuracy. Seeing the technique of (and I'm not knocking any of these guys- I'm strictly talking about how this has worked with my own playing) Paul Wertico and some other fusion guys, and also seeing Chapin and Famularo doing the Moeller thing back in the late 80's got me thinking that a whole lot of forearm motion was the way to go. It looks and feels like you're really drumming, but I found that it made my hits land late because I was playing off of the feel of the motion rather than off of where the note was sounding. And it's just not necessary at most normal playing volumes. It's also one of the reasons my shuffle always sucked- my backbeat always landed late, I had no dynamic control, and I would get tired out (the true key is to do a fast upstroke with your wrist before the backbeat). Now I think about moving the bead of the stick with as little physical motion, and as direct action as possible, focusing on using the wrist and maybe a little finger. None of my excellent Pac NW players look like they're doing a whole lot physically when they're playing their faces off, and I'm trying to be like them.

More after the break:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Some of them just can't count.

There's a great extended piece over at Four on the Floor on the subject of form in soloing, and how to hip the other musicians to the fact you are adhering to it:

Of course Max Roach isn't the only Jazz drummer to have approached soloing [over the form of the tune, rather than free-form] and I think every great Jazz drummer has the ability to do this as well. It's really an important skill to have and the recorded history of Jazz drumming proves this. This isn't a knock on playing free form drum solos liberated from structure or a steady pulse, but I think you've got to be able to do it both ways. All the greats could as far as I'm should we.
Where my problem lies is in the often inability for other musician's to follow you while you are doing this.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Steve Swallow interview @ Trap'd

I haven't been getting around to the other blogs as much as I should, but here's something to shake me out of my anti-social torpor: Ted Warren at Trap'd interviewing bassist Steve Swallow. Here's a selection:

You have worked with most of the great drummers out there. (Roy Haynes, Pete LaRoca, Jack DeJohnette, Adam Nussbaum, to name a few). Do you have any favorites to work with and/or people you think you have an especially deep musical connection with?
I'm reluctant to name names, for fear of leaving someone out. Clearly, the drummer I'm next to on the bandstand is the guy I'm most focused on; it's a very intimate and intense relationship. If things don't go well with the drummer I'm left with an incredibly sore lower back by the end of the gig, the product I suppose of trying to force the music into a smooth, relaxed flow. Of course, this can't be done. Either you find a groove with a drummer or you don't, and sometimes I'm surprised that it's not there with a highly regarded drummer, or that it's magically there with a drummer of less renown. I like that you refer to a "deep musical connection." Really connecting with a drummer involves so much more than the placement of beats; touch, dynamics, the drums' tuning, the drummer's response to what's going on elsewhere on the bandstand and many other factors are equally crucial.

Go read the whole thing. H/t to Jon McCaslin at Four on the Floor for linking to this. He also gives a link to Swallow's site, which has his and Carla Bley's lead sheets available to download free of charge.

Caixa blow out: part 1

Here are a couple of pages of caixa (that's a Brazilian snare drum) patterns which are in common use in Portland, along with some of their variations from other sources. Includes a partial illustration of the "tripteenth" (Michael Spiro's term) concept, which may be helpful in getting the feel happening. These are primarily for use in a batucada group, though set players trying to cop that style are going to want to know them, for information if nothing else. Part two will feature patterns more commonly used on the drum set.

Download the pdf.
UPDATE: the Lions of Batucada, a group I performed with in the mid-00's, has their caixa rides written in tablature and posted online. Several of them replace or are alternatives to the ones I've presented here.

After the break are several fun and helpful videos:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

1978 Modern Drummer interview: Tony Williams

From the Modern Drummer digital archive, here are some excerpts from a 1978 interview with Tony Williams. I've edited out the large hunks of it where they discuss single-headed toms, the merits of fiberglass drums, the new electronics the kids are using, and CS Black Dots vs. calf heads, keeping just the essence of what I thought was interesting. The subject headings are also mine.


FIRST SET OF DRUMS: An old Radio King set. It consisted of a very large bass drum, 28 or 30 inches, and a 16" tom that was mounted on the bass. It was a very old type of set, probably made in the early forties. There was also a snare and a hihat. The hi-hat cymbals were almost all bell. The bell used up more space than the flat section. They were only about 12 or 13 inches, with this huge bell - about nine inches. I got rid of those pretty quickly.

FORMAL STUDY: After about four or five years on my own, I took lessons with Alan Dawson. Private lessons. I never did play in school because there were no musical facilities in my high school.

PRACTICING: When I was practicing every day, I was doing nothing else but that. I'd get up in the morning and not even bother getting dressed. I'd just move to the drums in my pajamas. I would be playing on the pad while I watched TV, and I'd go over another drummer's house and play with him. All drumming - all day. I practiced on the pad to develop my hands. I started reading when I began studying with Alan. I feel that my hands are the most important thing. But I also liked to practice for at least an hour on the drums. No routines, no books.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Transcription: three Bill Evans intros

Here are my new transcriptions of a couple of famous Philly Joe Jones intros from Everybody Digs Bill Evans, plus one not-so-famous by Marty Morell, from But Beautiful, Evans' great live record with Stan Getz. Night and Day is a little sketchy- sorting out the part between the rim clicks, rim shots, regular notes, pitch bends, and muffled notes was quite tricky. I had always assumed the beginning was out of time, but it does fit into 4/4, only breathing slightly on the rests.

Get the pdf

Bass drum variations for samba

Here are a couple of pages of third surdo parts, transcribed (one could say stolen) from a book purchased by a friend in Brazil, O Batuque Carioca, by Guilherme Goncalves and Odilon Costa. These are similar to some of the bass drum parts in my samba builder download (v. 2 coming soon!), but authentic- my parts are good coordination practice, but these are the real deal. Play all notes open, letting the beater come away from the head. Where possible (and where it makes musical sense) you could try adding a short/dead stroke on beat one. says about O Batuque Carioca: "Written in English and Portuguese, this book details the history, terminology, instrumentation, and written notation for samba played in Rio de Janeiro. With detailed tablature [actually conventional notation- tb] for each instrument, groups of instruments, and the rhythm sections from the great schools of today, this is the one and only book you will need to get started in creating your very own "batucada" Rio-Style!" 

Good luck finding it in North America- there is an email address for the publisher included in the pdf, though it is from 2000, and may well no longer be in service. The bold, determined, and Portuguese-speaking can try calling the store in Rio where it was purchased, Casa Oliviera, at 021 2325 8109.

Download the pdf.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pad practice survival

When I first started I used to practice the rudiments while watching TV, I found it boring so TV helped distract me. -Jack Dejohnette

One of the harder things for me to master was the discipline of putting in large amounts of pad practice. In college, when I did my first truly serious practicing, we used to do it standing in the hallway- it would be just you, the pad, Stick Control, and the textured beige wall. I don't know why, but sitting down was unacceptable- not cool, a taboo. I could hack it for a maximum of 90 minutes before I had to go do something else- it was just too bloody boring and hard on the feet after awhile. I learned to hate it so much I gave it up all together in favor of working everything out directly on the drums. In recent years I had become more aware of gaps in my technique, and became determined to take another crack at pad work. Now, after five years of hitting it consistently for 90 minutes-4 hours every night, I'm finding that a lot of things I assumed were just my personal technical limitations are not, after all. Here are some tips for making this work for you:

-General: practice seated, using a silent pad. Vic Firth SD-1 General concert snare drum sticks are recommended. Focus least as much on uncomfortable slower and moderate tempos as on fast ones. It's popular now to practice Moeller-type rebound- and finger-intensive stuff at ff-fff, but I've gotten the best real-world results by practicing at a low-to-moderate volume- p to mf- and using a lot of wrist. The tendency for a lot of drummers is to play through the pad like it's a floor tom with a loose Pinstripe on it- instead play it like it's a concert snare drum, drawing the (imaginary) sound out. For practicing brushes, the Ed Thigpen brush pad is great.

- Keep the TV or, better, a movie going in the background. Preferably something without commercials, or music/sound effects that are going to compete for your attention. The idea is not to watch TV while, oh yeah, running some exercises- practicing should still be your primary focus. You just want something to string you along through your repetitions of the more dry material. You don't want to get too engrossed in the plot, so familiar things are good- I've watched the Rifftrax commentary version of Titanic a couple of dozen times, for example.

- As an alternative to the metronome, create practice loops from the recordings of your choice. This can easily be done using the excellent free program Audacity. I usually use 4-16 measures  from the intro of the tune- hopefully without drums and/or without a lead voice. I may also make a loop of the entire head of a tune I want to learn or learn better. It takes some care to get seamless loops, with disruption of the time, but it's worth it. You can also just use complete tracks, of course.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Method book round up: Brazilian drumming

As some of you may have noticed, I've been thinking a lot about Samba of late. And as my friend Blake Thomas, an expert cuica (not to mention caixa and zbumba) player has loaned me a few of his books on the subject, I thought this would be a good time to give an overview of some of them. So he we are- the good, the great, and the fine:

Brazilian Rhythms for Drumset. By Duduka da Fonseca and Bob Weiner.

This has become a modern classic- the first serious attempt at dealing with the style authentically; at least the first gaining widespread usage in the US. Includes robust text dealing with historical background, the percussion instruments, performance/practice notes, glossary and discography. Takes you through fifteen pages of batucada-style samba, with the hands on the snare drum and toms, mimicking caixa, tamborim and surdo, before getting to the more familiar (to Americans) cymbal and snare drum based style. Covers Samba, Bossa Nova, and Baiao thoroughly, with  shorter sections on Maracatu, Marcha and Frevo, and odd meters.

The presentation is a little haphazard; some concepts that could've been easily explained verbally are instead written out as exercises, many (but not all) exercises have a written stop at the end, for reasons that are not explained. I believe the text could've benefited from some aggressive editing- many explanations for exercises contain no more information than the title of the exercise. For example:
Exercise 13 Samba Cruzado - Variation #4 - With 16th-notes on hi-hat 
Is explained:
Try playing sixteenth-notes on the hi-hat instead of on the snare. 

It's a small thing, but that kind of sludgy build-up of text is a little bit of a distraction. The book offers excellent information, but also feels somewhat laborious to work through for these reasons. Nevertheless, it's an essential book every drummer interested in Brazilian music should own.

More after the break:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gigs this weekend

There are a couple of opportunities to hear me play this weekend, for those of you in Portland:

Friday, April 15th - 8-11pm - Benson Hotel
With Brazilian pianist Weber Iago, and saxophonist David Valdez. This group has a unique instrumentation, featuring Eddie Parente on violin and Evan Kuhlman on basson. Tunes are by Weber, and a variety of difficult things from Valdez' book.

Saturday, April 16th - 8-11pm - Vie de Boheme
With vocalist Kelley Shannon, guitarist John Stowell and bassist Glen Moore. Kelley is celebrating 15 years of playing with Stowell, and there will likely be some guest performers.

What Monk was trying to do

I'll be on light posting for a few days while I complete my taxes, and get charts together for an upcoming recording session (Ornette Coleman tunes; with my great Seattle guys Rich Cole and Paul Gabrielsen, and pianist Bram Weijters of Antwerp). I've got coming more stuff about Brazilian drumming, an interview with drum author Joel Rothman, which I am very excited about, and more! In the mean time, enjoy these old favorites of mine from Hans Groiner and family:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Ultimate

Here's The Ultimate Elvin Jones, one of the first Elvin records I ever got. I think it was out of print at the time, and I was really lucky to find an LP copy (a CD player affordable to me was a few years away) that had been sitting in the bins a long time, mealy cardboard, brittle, yellowing cellophane and all. That opening track "In The Truth" felt like a whole level of seriousness above anything I knew at the time. Incredible, pure, one of the greatest things ever.

Listen to the rest of the album after the break:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Getting started transcribing

 There have been a whole raft of people asking for transcriptions over on the forum, so I thought this would be a good time for me to write up my long-intended little tutorial on the subject. If you read this and wonder if it's worth the trouble, you might also want to read my recent Why We Transcribe.

When I was what I imagine is your age, all I had to work with was a cheap cassette player with crappy headphones, or, God help me, a turntable (with no 16rpm). Happily, today there are computer tools that make the job literally a million times easier than it was for me back in the 80's and 90's. There are programs you can buy (Transcribe is a good one), but we'll be using the open-source Audacity, which is free to download and use (it is also spyware and other BS-free, so no worries there).

So, read on for my recommended procedure and tips. I haven't covered every single thing, but you'll develop your own methods as you work.

- Don't be frightened. This is the sort of thing you can only learn to do by doing it, and making mistakes. Just dive in, and take it one note at a time. No one will laugh at you if you screw up royally.

- Pick a tune. You've never done this before, so pick something easy- something with an straightforward drum part that is easy to hear in the mix. You are not obligated to do an entire piece- just getting one section, or one verse and chorus would be a good start.

- Get Audacity. Install it on your computer and open the audio file you want to transcribe in it.

- Hit play and listen and count through the piece. Determine the time signature. Hopefully you're starting with something in 4/4. If you can't figure it out, pick a different tune.

- As you listen and count through the track, hit Control-M on your keyboard on every beat 1. This will lay down a marker which will make it easy for you to select one bar at a time to transcribe.

- Prepare your notebook. Use manuscript paper- music paper. Put barlines in so you have four measures per staff, all the way down the page. To help make your measures even, put your first barline in the middle of the staff, then add the rest. Work in pencil.

- Back in Audacity, highlight the first measure of music by clicking and dragging from one marker to the next.

- Hold down the shift key while pressing the play button with your mouse to listen to the first measure as a loop

- Write out the drum part for that measure. Often this is easier said than done, which is the whole point of this. Here are some suggestions:
  • Put in noteheads first, add stems and beams last. Stems and beams "finish" the measure. 
  • As you sketch out the measure, place your beats proportionally. Beat 1 should be at the beginning of the measure, beat 3 should be in the middle, beat 2 should be evenly spaced between the 1 and 3, etc. 
  • Do the obvious things first, and the difficult things last. If there is clearly a crash on 1, snare hits on 2 and 4, 8th notes on the hihat, but something you don't quite get in the bass drum, write in those other parts first, then figure out the bass. 
  •  Tackle that challenging bass drum (or whatever) part one note at a time, starting with the obvious ones. If none of them are obvious to you, figure out where the first note falls, and take them in order. 
  • Try listening to the measure all the way through, one voice at a time. Start with the easiest or most repetitive one- maybe the cymbal or hihat.  
  •  If the tempo is too fast for you to hear what's happening, in Audacity go to "effects>tempo change" and use the little plug-in to slow down the tempo. If you find it's too slow/not slow enough, hit Control-Z and try again. After you finish with the measure, hit Control-Z to bring the measure back to its original tempo. 
  • Simplify the instrument. Unless they are very different in sound, don't worry about differentiating between multiple crash cymbals- use one or maybe two lines, if you must. Same goes for toms- don't sweat it if a drummer has so many toms that you can't tell them apart. 
  • After you get the notes in place, and add your stems and beams, go back and listen at regular speed and add dynamics and articulations.  
  • Simplify internal dynamics and articulations. Some drummers (cough *Elvin Jones*) may play multiple levels of accents, regular notes, and ghost notes, multiple durations of buzzes, and so on. Keep your transcription playable by restricting yourself to 1) regular-volume notes, 2) accents, 3) housetop accents, and ghost notes (I mark these by putting parentheses around the note). Most of your notes should be un-accented and un-ghosted, if possible.   
  • If you hit anything that doesn't make sense, feel free to "resolve" it to something you can play, or move on. Don't get hung up. 

- Here are some suggestions for when you hit something that seems too difficult for you:
  • Use siege warfare tactics- isolate and infiltrate. Determine where the difficult part starts and ends, then locate and attack the vulnerable "easy" parts. 
  • Start the playback before the beginning of the hard lick to establish the tempo.  
  • Listen to the accents to see if you can get a sense of how the passage breaks down internally.
  • Try picking out the rhythm of one voice and fill in the rest around it. 
  • You may have to use the brute-force method of stopping the playback quickly after the first note of the hard lick. Then let it run through two notes, then three, and so on. Once you get the sequence of notes, you may have to go back and correct the rhythm. 

- As you move through the piece, use shorthand where possible- one-measure, two-measure and section repeats, or slash marks (Google it- indicates to play time in the style of the piece- you can use them if the drum part is very repetitive).

- When you complete your transcription, mark it with the title of the piece, the composer or songwriter's name, the drummer, the recording artist, the album and record label, and the start time (if you've only done a section of the piece). And don't forget to give yourself a "Transcribed by..." credit and a copyright date.

 That's it. I've got my own transcribing to do- have fun and be persistent in figuring things out.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Todd's methods: 11-note pattern - part 1

This is part one of something I've written up strictly for my own practice, but others may be able to use it as a guide for developing and exploring their own ideas. Or maybe someone just feels like learning something a little unusual.

This pattern has been coming up spontaneously in my own playing for years, without me fully understanding it. With good reason, because it's stranger than I expected- it's composed of a RLL plus two paradiddles, which is easy enough, but it also comes out to being eleven even notes long, which is not easy to use any of the usual ways. Here I've run it through a number of rhythms, numbers of repetitions, and starting beats- or more importantly, ending beats. There's no particular logic in the sequence of rhythms- from 16ths to tuplets to triplets- so don't look for any. I'll do another installment to show some possible drumset applications.

Download the pdf.

Sabian AA's are amazing

I just received my 22" Sabian AA Raw Ride (purchased blind on Ebay) in the mail the other day, and continue to be really impressed by the quality of  the AA's- these beautifully refined-sounding cymbals keep coming up.

Since they were introduced in the mid-80's, Sabian AA's have been roughly equivalent to A. Zildjians, which for anyone coming of age in the 70's and 80's were the classic cymbal sound- I lack the vocabulary to describe it, but the envelope is instantly recognizable to anyone of that era. While the Zildjians seem to have declined somewhat- I can't remember hearing a really nice one in a long time, and they seem to be making them heavier now- Sabian seems to be making real advances with the manufacture of this type of cymbal, taming their often-obnoxious brightness.

My unhammered and unlathed Raw ride looks a lot like the old Zildian Earth ride, but is a completely different thing. It's a jazz weight- a little lighter than my 2600+ gram Bosphorus Turk 22" Original (light) ride- and plays exactly like a jazz cymbal. The sound is very mellowed-out classic A, much like some of the thinner A's from the 1950's. You expect this type of cymbal to be very dry, but mine has a lovely, harmonious low cushion of sound under it, almost like an organ drone. I love the bell sound: clear, but not harsh- in fact, it's hard to get any kind of obnoxious sound out of this cymbal- even riding on it with the butt of my SD11's works. It gives a nice balanced, controlled, but explosive crash. It's well-suited to acoustic music, but would likely not work in situations requiring a cutting sound, or a sustained strong riding. Mine has six rivets installed, which livens up the sound, but I'm not sure this is the ideal sizzle cymbal- catching it with a brush does not give that nice long tone I want from that type.

The price is also nice, costing (on sites like $75-100+ less than the K-type cymbals it is actually classed with.

Fulfilling the same role, the Sabian Raw ride is an excellent, lower-cost alternative to the generally darker and more idiosyncratic hand-hammered cymbals. Highly recommended, and I'm going to be keeping an eye on other AA's.

UPDATE: After using it on a couple of gigs (one very low volume), I'm more enthusiastic about this cymbal than ever- it's like a much kinder, mellower version of the circa 1970 A. Zildjian medium ride rivet cymbal I used for many years. In practice it actually works just fine as a sizzle cymbal, though not precisely ideal- I prefer a slightly heavier cymbal for that.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

16th note fills using Syncopation - part 2

Here's part 2 of my method for practicing 16th note fills using Syncopation. The goal is to practice reading interpretively, and also to give you a framework for working on the timing of your fills and kicks at different tempos. For example, if my fills aren't sitting the way I want them on a certain piece of music, I may run these exercises with a metronome set to the tempo of the piece. This can also be good for fine-tuning your accuracy before recording.

Part 1 was easy enough to read straight through once you learned a few lines of it, but part 2 is much less cut and dried. There are a lot of situations that make it difficult to apply the system exactly, so you have to make some creative decisions as you read. Hopefully you will also feel comfortable enough with the framework to feel free to take a few liberties with the system.

Review part 1
before trying this, then practice each line individually, then try running through lines 1-15 without stopping.

Download the pdf.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

This / Not This - episode 5 - free jazz vs. basement metal

I have to apologize again for the light posting- I'm working on some unrelated projects that need my attention. I do have a couple of big pieces you're going to enjoy coming soon, though! In the mean time:


Not this:

I'm actually quite fond of this guy.

Monday, April 04, 2011

John Bishop w/Hal Galper at Small's, NYC

Today is my brother's birthday, so here's a link for John Bishop playing with pianist Hal Galper at Small's in New York in February. Also in the group is the great Seattle (and elsewhere) bassist Jeff Johnson, who has been with Hal for years.

Listen to and purchase Hal's Origin CDs with this group, and with his trio with Reggie Workman and the late, great Rashied Ali.

And here's another thing with the trio:

Transcription: Max Roach - Garvey's Ghost

Here's my brand new transcription of Max Roach's drum solo over an Afro-Cuban vamp on Garvey's Ghost, from Roach's Percussion Bitter Suite. Includes a sample of the backing vamp, and of the drums on the intro- on the body of the tune he plays a jazz waltz behind the 6/4 Afro feel, which is kind of unusual.

Get the pdf

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Chick Webb drum lesson - part 2

Another time I went to see him, and I thought I'd hang out with him all night. Instead, he put me upstairs with a metronome, made that damn thing go at the slowest tempo you ever heard, and said, 'Roll to a hundred, and if you stop, I'll come upstairs and break your skull.'

- Art Blakey, Modern Drummer Interview, 1984, by Chip Stern

Drumming/jazz glossary roundup

Here I have briefly reviewed a selection of drumming and related glossaries from around the web. Writing definitions requires a special type of mind and writing skill, and is a pretty tedious, thankless task, so there aren't many of them, and the quality is mixed. I've listed them in roughly descending order of value for drummers. If any of my readers know of others, please post a link in the comments!

I did turn up a number of nice world music glossaries, which will get a post of their own soon.

Drummer Café - music and drumming terms
Very good, though not comprehensive, and could a little bit of a polish with an editor. Original, practical rather than scholarly definitions. Deals with common advanced drumming terms, which users are most likely to need help understanding, not so much with basic things.
Sample entries:
half-time feel Playing any groove twice as slow as the regular feel, while the measures of music continue as normal. To achieve this, in 4/4 time for example, the back-beat would play on beat 3, rather than the normal fashion ... playing on beats 2 and 4. 
This terms is used in relation to the pulse of the music, which, 99% of the time, is the quarter-note.
ostinato A musical phrase repeated over and over during a composition. 
An ostinato on the drums would be a rhythmic pattern played over and over again. One approach might be to play a single pattern over and over again with the feet, while the hands solo over the top. Another example might be to establish a groove on the drumkit, while one limb improvises around the drums. When an ostinato is used within a solo, it typically takes on the role of accompaniment ... allowing the performer to play over the top of this regularly, reoccurring pattern. 
Ostinato drumming is nothing new; listen to Max Roach solo drum compositions. Terry Bozzio gained a lot of notoriety using ostinatos in his solo performances because of the massive set-ups he uses. There are countless drummers who use ostinato patterns in their playing. If we take the actual definition of the term ostinato ... we quickly realize that drummers, especially those from the Jazz genre, have been using ostinatos for over seven decades.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Chick Webb drum lesson - part 1

He came in wearing a camel-hair coat and a cap, and brought Ella Fitzgerald and a chihuahua with him. He said, 'Make a roll, kid,' and I started rolling—what I thought was a roll. He walked to the door with Ella, pushed her out, turned around, looked at me, went 'Sheeeeeeeeeet,' slammed the door and walked away. 
- Art Blakey, Modern Drummer Interview, 1984, by Chip Stern

Frankie Dunlop on Monk

UPDATE: Scott Fish has posted some of his interview recordings of Dunlop, and they are hilarious. Much about playing with Monk in this interview with Ben Riley from 1986 as well. Do check out my Dunlop transcriptions.

In his 1985 Modern Drummer interview by Scott K. Fish, Frankie Dunlop talks about his time with Thelonious Monk:

...I went with Monk in '61, starting at The Jazz Gallery. That was with John Ore on bass and Charlie Rouse on tenor. I was with Monk for three-and-a-half years. After a while, John Ore left and Butch Warren joined the band.

MD: Monk's bassists always seemed to be restricted to straight timekeeping, more so than his drummers. Even during solos, Monk's bassists rarely broke out of a walking bass line.

FD: That's right. Monk always liked an exceptionally strong bass man and drummer. The reason you heard so much straight playing was because Monk didn't consider it a rhythm section—even though it was a quartet—unless it had the driving sound—the dynamics and the attack of a heavy, hard-driving section like those of Count Basie or Duke Ellington. That was the way Monk thought. Rhythmically, his conception was not like the average quartet. From the first beat, Monk's quartet would be just like the rhythm section of any good big band—just like Woody Herman stomping off "Woodchopper's Ball" or "Northwest Passage." We played a little louder than the average quartet, but basically we played with a lot of dynamics. We were just four pieces, but all of Monk's things would be hard-driving.