Saturday, December 31, 2011

CSD!'s 2011 in review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jack Dejohnette's Special Edition - 1983

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

h/t to Goatthroat

Three more screaming parts after the break:

Jazz Truth interview: Jack Dejohnette

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

Foot technique

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

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

General concept

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

Much more after the break:

Buy a turntable

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

I immediately noticed that:

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

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

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

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

More reasons/observations after the break:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday viewing

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

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

Mystery Science Theater 3000 of Santa Claus Conquers The Martians:

DBMITW: Gil Evans - Naña

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nothing to see here...

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Todd's methods: Reed triplets in steps - BD

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

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

Get the pdf

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vinnie Colaiuta Q & A

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

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

h/t to Stitch Kaboodle @ Drummerworld

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bob Brookmeyer 1929-2011

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

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

More after the break:

All the grooves from Still Bill

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

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

Get the pdf

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MD interview: Ben Riley on Monk, more

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

Time, feel

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Transcription: Ndugu - Watch Out, Baby!

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

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

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

Get the pdf

YouTube clip after the break:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two more Paul Motian memorials

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

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

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

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

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

Go read the enire piece.

I also came across a brief notice from Chick Corea:

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ralph Peterson interview

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A stack of books

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

Rolls, Rolls, Rolls by Joel Rothman

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

Purchase Rolls, Rolls, Rolls (revised edition)

The Solo Snare Drummer by Vic Firth

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

Purchase The Solo Snare Drummer

A bunch more after the break:

Thursday, December 08, 2011

One more thing...

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

Typos in Wilcoxon

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

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

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

Here's the much more playable original line:

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

You knew this was coming...

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

Get the pdf.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Buy CDs: part 1 - the so-called business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Transcription: Dom Um Romão - Agua de Beber

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

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

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

Get the pdf

More bossa nova-related posts.

YouTube clip after the break:

Friday, December 02, 2011

Transcription: Zigaboo Modeliste - Good Old Funky Music

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

Get the pdf | get mp3 | get CD

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

More Motian

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

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

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

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

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