Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sabian Raw Ride in action

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

A bargain on a great book - UPDATED

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

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

Here we are, in no particular order:

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

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

Read on:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Something key

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occasional Blakey: Afrique

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Podcast - Episode 5 - Paul Motian

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

Track list after the break:

Paul Motian 1931-2011

Update 2 - more notices:

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

NPR's A Blog Supreme

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

More after the break:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Favorite albums: Special Edition by Jack Dejohnette

Special Edition by Jack Dejohnette
1980 - ECM 001161902

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ed Blackwell story

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

Part 1:

Parts 2-8 after the break:

Bass drum variations for bossa nova

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

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

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

Get the pdf.

After the break are some practice suggestions:

Saturday, November 19, 2011


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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Masahiko Togashi

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

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

More clips after the break:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Making any money in jazz

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

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

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

More after the break:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making bird drawings

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Barry Altschul interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continues after the break...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's a five-off

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

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

Get the pdf.

What I was doing yesterday

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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

DBMITW: models of simplicity

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

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

More goodness after the break:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Putting together a jazz drum set

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Coordination "kernels" - further examples

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

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

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

Get the pdf.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A lot of hard sight-reading

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

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

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

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