Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Buy a turntable, redux

Four sides, five bucks.
I finally took my own advice and got a turntable- a fancy late 80's Kenwood digital tracking model, my original Sony from 1982 having bitten the final big one after several years of deteriorating performance awhile back. A few things I've noticed:

You listen to less stuff.  The laziness induced by the set-and-forget computer mode of listening actually works to your benefit: the path of least resistance is to play the side again, and again, which is what you're supposed to do anyway.

You listen to more stuff. Putting something on, skipping tracks, and changing records is more cumbersome, so you tend to let the thing run, so you hear all the things you'd skip over on the mp3 player if they don't grab you in the first five seconds. Ballads, for one. The format helps you listen to more than just the show-stoppers. Musicians with professional ambitions do not get the same luxury of diving straight for the money shot in their listening, like regular fans do.

You give yourself a chance to learn a little something about the recording. You have the personnel, composer, engineer, producer, and more right under your eyes if you just flip the sleeve over, so it's easy to take in a lot of small bits of information by accident. You can often get the same info on the computer, but you have to look for it- it could take you a dozen mouse clicks, a little bit of typing in Google, and some scrolling around to get it.

An album side is the perfect container. About the length of a Simpsons episode, minus commercials, and poetically brief if you've gotten used to the too-long CD format, or the permanent shuffle mode of the iPod, or the global content-tsunami aimed permanently at your face that is Pandora, Spotify and the rest. The LP side is the suite of the later 20th century.

It's cheap. Today on the way home from a lesson I picked up a '70's trio record with Joe Sample, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne, and a Flora Purim record with Airto and Joe Henderson for a grand total of $5.80,  and passed over a bunch of worthy <$3 things simply because I didn't feel like sorting through the stacks again looking for them, and I knew I'd be back. For my $2.80 I got a great lesson on playing the ride cymbal from Shelly since I've been sitting here writing this paragraph.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ballard Jazz Festival dates

I just got my gig dates for the Ballard Jazz Festival in April; I'm making up for my total, shameful absence from the Portland festival by playing two nights as leader. First I'll be playing on the Brotherhood of the Drum night on Wednesday, 4/18, at Conor Byrne. Michael Shrieve will be emceeing (and playing?), along with Kobie Watkins, the great Gregg Keplinger (hopefully playing duo with Rick Mandyke), and my old boat colleague Eric Eagle, who's been doing a bunch of touring lately. Probably one or two other people. Matt Chamberlain and Matt Cameron have each done it more than once, so maybe one of them will be on it, too.

Then I'll be playing the Jazz Walk on Friday, April 20 at the Eagles' Lodge with the Seattle iteration of my Ornette band- Rich Cole and Paul Gabrielsen plus Weber Iago on piano.

Get updates on the festival timing, locations, and more. If you're in Seattle, cumon down and say hi!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stick Control implied rhythms

I hope you dig all of this Stick Control stuff; I just happen to be working with this book a lot right now. One of my reservations I've always had about it- about the way the first three pages apply to the drums, anyway- is that the musical content is hidden behind the sticking patterns. And I don't want to base my playing on patterns of Rs and Ls, I want to base it on common musical language. So what I've done here is give the rhythm suggested by the right hand part of exercises 1-72 from the front of the book; if you drop out the left hand, or accent the right, these are the rhythms that pop out. I've written the more syncopated rhythms jazz style (as in Ted Reed), with long notes on the &s wherever possible. For easy reference, I've put them in the same format as the original:

Keeping these pages handy while working with the Stone exercises on the drumset will get one seeing the rhythmic content behind the exercises in fairly short order. If like me you use Stone and Reed a lot, hopefully making the connection between the two will encourage some different ways of thinking about each. I would be cautious about the way you apply this to snare drum practice, however; hanging everything off of the right hand is a normal thing on the drums, but when working strictly on hand technique you want to be more balanced.

Get the pdf.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grooves o' the day: found items

[UPDATE: Link fixed!] I found these inside an old copy of Mel Bay's Stage Band Drummers' Guide I just purchased on Ebay: two pages of beats cut out of 1984 issues of Modern Drummer. I actually remember these, and had played through them at the time.

The first page is part of an odd-meter series by a post-Dixie Dregs, pre-Winger Rod Morgenstein, in which he transcribes some famous grooves by Billy Cobham, Simon Phillips, and Russ Kunkel. The other is more of a period curiosity: a collection of random fusion beats from the heyday of the "signature" groove, written by James Morton. None of them sit very easily on the drums, so playing through them will certainly put some new moves under your hands.

Get the pdf.

YouTube audio from the Morgenstein piece after the break:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Stone on the drums

Here's something timely to the ECM feel post. I've been using Stick Control quite a bit in my practicing lately- particularly my application in 5/4 (and a similar thing in 7/4), and in fooling with it began using this simple but effective variation:

These are most effective in a moderate to bright 2. Definitely experiment with substituting your own fills for the given triplets/roll.

Get the pdf.

VOQOTD: listening

Because it bears repeating:

Through listening alone you can find ALL the answers.  
- Jamey Aebersold

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A crash course in the ECM feel

Look for the photos with water
and the Helvetica font.
The "ECM feel", as it's now being called, is a style that evolved in the late 1960's and 70's, and has since become one of the major time feels of modern jazz. It's associated with the ECM record label because that's where you find most of its major early practitioners and first/best recorded examples. Before you do anything, I suggest hitting the read more link at the bottom of the page and listen to the audio examples.

Some of its features: Even 8th notes, non-repetitive, linear, broken-up (pick your adjective), possible suggestion of a backbeat, Brazilian influenced. Light, airy, ride cymbal based feel (get yourself a Paiste 602 Flat Ride to complete the period effect). Had it's beginnings in the 1960's work of Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Paul Motian and Barry Altschul. The drummers it is most generally associated with include Jon Christensen, Jack Dejohnette, Bob Moses, and Airto.

There is no standard method that I'm aware of for developing this feel, but if you work through one or more of these suggestions and do a lot of listening and playing you should begin to find it

UPDATE: In the comments Clint lets us know that Berklee professor Skip Hadden has a method book and mini-series of videos at the Vic Firth site dealing more broadly with this style. Onward:

Practice methods:

Basic coordination using the 8th/2-16th cym pattern. You can also think of it in cut time:

Use regular jazz vocabulary with even 8th notes (converting them 8th note patterns to 16ths if you're thinking of it that way). Working out the same materials with two or three more complex cymbal patterns- and with plain 8th notes- would also be helpful; you could pick a pattern from Syncopation pp. 34-37 (new edition) and put it in double time, for example.

Stick Control- the first section, and maybe the flam section- and the same part of Syncopation as above, plus the long syncopation exercises. Play this (and all the following) with the right hand on the cymbal and the left on the snare. Also play the first section with the hands together on the cymbal and snare on the Rs, and the bass drum and/or hihat (w/foot) on the Ls.

Paradiddles and paradiddle-diddles and their inversions, plus plain old doubles- RRLL and RLLR RLLR- with/without a flam at the beginning of the R or L hand double:

And Swiss triplets in a 16th note rhythm. They make a 4:3 polyrhythm, so find a place to stop to fit them within one or two measures of 4/4:

Using the feet:

Again, with the right hand on the cymbal and the left on the snare, play all of the above over an ostinato with the feet; either samba or baiao, or double some/all of the right hand part with the bass drum. Also play an ostinato with one foot let the other play sporadically to fit with the hand part.

Note: It would seem to be an obvious choice for developing this style, but I don't like to recomend Dahlgren & Fine's Four Way Coordination to anyone seeking immediate results; as I've written before, I've seen it turn into a bit of a tar pit for more than one young drummer. But if you keep your eye on the practical result you want to achieve, and don't get bogged down with the need to learn it "completely", it should also be useful here. Vol. 2 of Dahlgren & Fine's Accent On Accents would be a good substitute/supplement for Stick Control for the exercises above, though.

Audio examples and discography after the break:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Free jazz handbook

That's free as in free beer, not as in Albert Ayler. Jamey Aebersold, the godfather- I guess- of jazz playalongs, has a very useful book covering the basics of jazz improvisation of available as a free download. Much of it is written for tonal instruments, but there's a lot of good advice and important general information applicable to everyone, including drummers:

"There’s no way anyone is going to play jazz or improvise well without listening to those musicians who have come before. Through listening alone you can find ALL the answers. Each musician is a result of what they have listened to. It’s easy to determine who people have listened to by listening to them play. We all tend to use imitation and it’s good to do this. Some feel that if they listen to others they’ll just sound like them. This is not true but your ego will try to convince you it’s true. The ego hates competition or what it preceives to be competition. Don’t let it fool you. If no one listened to anyone else, why play music?"

"One major point to remember concerns the avoidance of attempting to accomplish too many goals while practicing. The mind cannot easily digest more than one or two major points at the same time and still be effective. Always be very clear as to what you are practicing a particular exercise for."

1. At what part of your instrument will you begin your idea? Middle register, high, low?
2. How do you want to begin? Slowly, with held notes and use of space/rest? Quickly, with lots-of attention, motion, visibility? Moderately so as to suggest a searching mood? [...]
4. Once you begin, do you want to ascend, descend or stay in one area, register?
5. Do you want to use pick-ups ... one, or more? If so, make sure they lead to the first strong beat!
6. Once you’ve begun your phrase, how long are you prepared to maintain your continuity, thoughts, ideas? One measure, two, four, eight? Have you thought of it?
7. What rhythm are you going to initially play? Does your mind already “HEAR” the notes/pitches in rhythm? Can you actually play them? Remember, your first phrase represents the first several words or idea of a sentence. Think before you begin. [...]
9. Is your initial idea coming from your mind or is it something that your fingers have picked out? [...]"

"Don’t try to play everything you know in one solo. Take your time and plan ahead. Try to visualize your solo with ups and downs, fast sections and slow sections, loud and soft passages, tension and release sections. Aim at overall Tension-Release to your solo. Utilize repetition and sequence. Listen to jazz masters on recordings to get ideas and to wet your imagination. Music is for ears."

Get Jamey Aebersold's free Jazz Handbook

• Two factors that stop people from improvising are fear of getting lost and fear of playing a wrong note.
• Tape your own playing and listen to yourself. Don’t be critical. Just Listen.
• Humor is an important part of creativity.
• Can you practice for one hour without interruption?
• If you don’t think before you play a phrase, it is not improvisation - just an exercise.
• Think each note before you play it.
• Don’t practice the same thing forever - break new ground.
• Most music is grouped in 2, 4 and 8 bar phrases.
• Most drummers sing the melody to themselves to keep their place but they can learn to hear in phrases.
• Jazz players usually play eighth notes - play scales and exercises this way.
• Listen and lift ideas off records.
• LISTEN! -Over and over and over! All the answers to your questions are on the records.
• Listen to Jazz every day.
• If you are well equipped technically you can take chances.
• In live Jazz there is interaction between players.
• It is great to play with people who are a little or a lot better than you - they will push you to improve.
• No one is a born player. Good instruments and teachers are important but the player makes himself.
• Charlie Parker practiced 11 to 15 hours per day for three years to four years.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Transcription: Jon Christensen - Dansere

This goes out to my old friend Tim Willcox, who turned me on to this record- Jan Garbarek's Dansere, with Jon Christensen on drums. Christensen is pretty important to the current thing going on in drums in the Pacific Northwest- a lot of younger-than-40 drummers here are working in this vein. I think of him as sort of the Billy Higgins of the 70's- unpretentious and infinitely musical. This transcription starts at the beginning of the 5/4 section in the middle of the tune.

- Covers the beginning of the 5/4 section through the piano solo.
- He appears to be using three cymbals on the recording, which I've transcribed as two- a ride cymbal and a smaller cymbal. I believe the ride is a Paiste 602, possibly a Dark Ride, by the way...
- I've used parenthesis to give a sense of shape within measures. Notes in parenthesis are very soft ghost notes, and accents in parenthesis are just for shape- play them slightly stronger than the surrounding notes. Regular accents and housetops have their normal function.
- Each measure of 5/4 is divided into 3/4 + 2/4, with a tied note on the & of 3.
- The main cymbal line is played on the ride cymbal, until the last measure of the piece, where the right hand plays the hihat, as noted in the transcription.

Get the pdf | Get Dansere by Jan Garbarek | get mp3

YouTube audio after the break:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

DBMITW: Jim Gordon

I'm working on a long transcription right now, and am determined to post the entire thing, so for now just enjoy the drumming of studio great Jim Gordon:

Several more after the break- also see my little transcription of Gordon's break on Frank Zappa's Apostrophé.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On newstands now

Oh, my new Drum! Magazine piece- on polyrhythmic uses for Stick Control- should be on newstands now. It's the April issue, which comes out in February. I don't pretend to get how that works. You can read and download my first Drum! article here.

UPDATE 2/19: Heh, or not. I made a trip to Powell's yesterday and they still had the March issue. Sometime this month it will be out, anyway, dammit...

Other people write good things

Of excellence.

I haven't been giving my fellow blogs enough love recently, but they've been producing a veritable tidal wave of excellent stuff:

Trap'd has a long post about playing with large ensembles, with an excellent list of the general principles of big band drumming- a must read.

The Drummer's Way has some words of wisdom from Jim Keltner. "How do I exist in a world of Colaiutas?" Companion piece: interview with Andy Newmark, in which he tells about watching Keltner record with John Lennon.

A "double shot" of Swiss triplets from Four on the Floor and Random Randy. Companion piece: my absurd Swiss triplets exercise.

Dave Aldridge writes about Funkadelic's Tiki Fulwood. Companion piece: my transcription of all of the grooves from Maggot Brain.

The Melodic Drummer writes more about playing brushes at fast tempos.

Rudimental Hands titles a post with some useful advice: never practice struggle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Groove o' the day: Airto's samba in 3

Here's a favorite piece of drumming by Airto, from Chick Corea's Return to Forever album on ECM. I'd like to transcribe this entire track, but today I just have the primary grooves for you. The tune is a samba in 3; I've written it in 3/2, but it could also be counted in 6/4 or as 16th notes in 3/4. The intro, and various other points in the tune keeps a simpler bass drum part, buzzing the snare drum accent on 2:

As it develops, he also uses the standard samba pattern on the bass drum, and plays the snare accent as a stronger rim shot:

Get Return to Forever by Chick Corea

YouTube audio after the break:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Getting lost

Or not.

Here are a few pointers on a subject with which I am all too intimately familiar: getting lost while soloing over over a form, and while reading:


First, whatever various hells break loose during your solo, you can always just cue the band back in at the end. Set them up by playing something that sounds like a last A (assuming an AABA form)- going back to playing time would suggest that- and make significant eye contact with the rest of the band. If they're not deliberately hanging you out to dry, they'll come in at the end of the 8 bars, especially if you give them a nice bonehead-simple lead-in on the last measure. If they don't follow you, you can play eight more bars and then verbally count them back in. They would have to really have it in for you to ignore that.

You do also have to know the tune. Be able to sing the melody badly, know the length and structure of the form (12 bar blues, AABA, 32 bars + tag, 16+16, etc), and know the standard arrangement, if there is one (e.g., the repeated figure on Stolen Moments, or the stops in Work Song). At the very least you have to know the form.

Something you can do at the actual moment of getting lost is to just guess where the nearest reference point is; so if you get lost in the middle of the second A, then make a big downbeat and change the texture someplace that could plausibly be the beginning of the bridge, and carry on with the form from there. Who knows, you might even guess right. Even if you don't, most of the band will suspect that they counted wrong, and half of the rest of them aren't even paying attention. The actual cats will know that you blew it, and recovered. It doesn't matter.

More helpful tips after the break:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Basic solo vocabulary with Syncopation

Hey, it's been awhile since I've posted anything downloadable of my own, and you don't want to hear me prattle on about cymbals and crap, so here's a basic solo vocabulary builder I've been working through with a couple of students. Use lesson 6 out of the new edition of Syncopation, or pp. 14-15 from the old version:

You have to apply the variations with a vengeance to make these sound like anything. Especially vary the accents- give the thing some shape. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some observations on a Brian Blade performance

Last night Brian Blade played in town, and I thought I'd share a few impressions from it. I can't promise they hold any sway outside of that concert as perceived by me from the side of the room, around row 15. Some of them are contradictory, and none of them are criticism- except regarding the sound of the room. That was just bad. 

- Here's an example of a drummer generating energy by his engagement and his presence. The vibraphonist, Joe Locke, would've filled that role if Blade hadn't been present.

- Huge range of dynamics, of course. There were brief moments when the drums were the loudest instrument on stage. Maybe once per tune, or less, and for just a few notes at most. Not always at the obvious spot in the form, or at the peak of the arc, and usually not in unison with another instrument. The music had a notably more one-dimensional feel when he wasn't making those; the more sustained-dynamic sections would've fared better on a recording, or in a more intimate setting. The take-away: make big punctuations, but judiciously.

- Noting to myself the difference between music designed to wow a large live audience and music made for other purposes. At one point in my life these massive climactic moments seemed to be the central purpose of music; now I see them more as a device for appealing to a festival audience. I don't especially look for them in recorded music.

- Those Gretsch hoops sure sound clunky. They're part of the terrain of jazz drumming, but they really don't make a musical rim shots.

More astute observations and a few BB YouTube clips after the break:

Best values in used cymbals

By the way, during this recent bout of eBay-trawling, I noticed that the best deals on used cymbals appear to be:

Dirty, filthy old Paiste 2002's - A lot of drummers have the bad habit of needing their stuff to be new-looking. Here's an instance where getting over that can save you a lot of money on some great cymbals. Maybe pretend you're Stanton Moore; the first thing he does with any new cymbal is destroy the bright finish by subjecting it to some process he took the time and trouble to figure out.

Dirty, filthy old A. Zildjians or Sabian AA's - See above. These are plentiful, and with some patience you should be able to steal some nice cymbals.

Paiste 2000 - In the late 80's they basically split the 2002-type of cymbal into two lines- 2000 and 3000. My impression is that they are both pro cymbals, with the 3000's being a little more complex. Somehow I can't shake the impression that 2000's are a slight step down from the 2002's, but I don't think that's right. At any rate, there are some good deals on reasonably new looking cymbals here.

Paiste Sound Formula, and Dimensions - These are two discontinued pro lines I have little experience with; for whatever reason they weren't a big commercial hit. SF's appear to be relatively inexpensive version of the Signature series. I believe the Dimensions are a more sophisticated 2002. Neither of these are extremely cheap, but there are bargains here and there.

Note that Paiste 2002, 2000, Sound Formula, and Dimensions cymbals are all basically meant for amplified music; that's not to say they're all rock & roll dinner plates, or that they are necessarily useless in a combo setting, but they will trend heavier and louder than what people generally want in jazz cymbals these days.

More after the break:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Three Paiste cymbals

UPDATE: I think I've correctly ID'd one of the other cymbals.

I've been on a vintage Paiste cymbal-buying kick recently. Here are the findings on my finds:

22" Formula 602 Dark Ride - circa 1975-76 - approx. 3266 grams

The Dark Ride family of cymbals- which includes the later Sound Creation (and SC New Dimensions) Dark rides, and the "transitional" cymbals- has something of a cult following; on the aptly-named Cymbalholics forum they are discussed in terms bordering on mystical. Designed with input from Jack Dejohnette, other noted users include Paul Motian, Al Foster, and Jon Christiansen.

Here's what cymbalsmith Matt Bettis says about these cymbals, and how they compare to their successors:
The ultra-rare 22" Paiste Formula 602 Dark Ride is one of those cymbals that very few ever get to play much less actually own. The ideas behind them eventually became the Sound Creation Dark Ride, but they are definitely different beasties. The 602 has hammering that is more dense, and a markedly different sound. She has that killer, dark and complex wash, but her stick and bell are much more 602-ish than the Sound Creation Dark Rides.

So, this thing is, ah, quite prodigious. It even looks imposing sitting on the stand. It is actually about 1 cm larger than my other 22's, in fact. The sound is huge- an order of magnitude bigger than the light 22" Bosphorus Turk or Sabian Raw rides I've been playing. It's very imposing in the practice room, but when I played it on a session it snapped into a perfectly balanced Paul Motian sound. You can get a great range of sounds out of it lower volumes, and I'm really digging that the thing actually cuts- that's kind of a forgotten property for jazz cymbals. I noticed it influencing my touch on the rest of the instrument as well; it led me to pull a little fuller sound out of the drums. Yes, that means I played a little louder because of the louder cymbal, but it's more complicated than that. I actually think that trying to come in under the very delicate Bosphorus has led me to play excessively quiet; this cymbal balances with the natural volume of the instrument, which is a little bigger than I had been playing.

Using it in a combo situation definitely requires a refined touch- I don't think I would've been able to handle it as recently as five or six years ago. I play it with a Vic Firth SD-11 Slammer, a maple stick the size of a largish 5B. Cymbalholics devotees speak about "the haunt" of this cymbal- I see what they mean. It's not an overtly "pretty" cymbal like, say, a Bosphorus, but I can't get the sound out of my head, for reasons that are completely mysterious to me.

After the break are brief reviews of two other vintage Paistes, and some recorded examples of the 602 Dark:

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Tune of the moment: Feet First

I didn't intend for the "tune of the moment" to be an all Steve Swallow feature, but what the hell, I'm just playing his stuff a lot these days. Like a lot of his tunes, it's very friendly, but sits a little... funny. They're good for blowing in that they make you think a little bit, and don't make it easy for you to just play to the big emotional payoff. I play this with an ECMish half time funk feel- at least yesterday I did.

Get the lead sheet free from Steve Swallow's site.

YouTube audio with Adam Nussbaum after the break:

MD column: Alternative open roll stickings

Here's an interesting piece from that same old Modern Drummer from 1977. The writer, Mickey Earnshaw, proposes a set of alternate roll stickings, using the RLLR/LRRL paradiddle inverion or the RLLR/RLLR sticking in place of the traditional mama-dada sticking. This allows a stronger attack at the beginning of the roll, and easier (and hipper) movement around the drums. The author stresses getting an even sound out of the body of the roll, but a loose execution will also give these a nice shape:

Get the pdf

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Whew, the 602 Dark Ride arrived, and it's really something. I knew it was going to be a giant slab of '70's; the cymbal equivalent of either a Maserati Ghibli (pictured), or a Buick Riviera (fun, but ultimately a heap;  picture after the break). It's certainly the most prodigious cymbal I've ever owned; the thing  has incredible presence just sitting on the stand- it looks bigger than its 22"- and the sound is huge. Review of this and two other vintage Paistes coming soon...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Butch Miles on ensemble playing

Big band drumming tips from Butch Miles, from the Oct. 1977 issue of Modern Drummer. They apply to all types of music, of course: 

SUPPORT. If the band has a difficult passage, support them strongly. Let them rely on you for cues and dynamics.
DON'T GET IN THE WAY. There's no reason for you to play something rhythmically difficult if it detracts. Simplify it. You're responsible for keeping the band together.
DIRECT. Learn the entrances for ensembles and cue them in with authority. Always let the band know where they are.
DON'T OVERPLAY. Sometimes a well-placed rim shot in an arrangement has more impact than 10,000 notes. Learn the importance of silence.
KEEP THE ENERGY LEVEL UP. There's nothing that sounds as sad as a band dying in the middle of a passage.
LEARN THE CHART. Get your nose out of the music and be comfortable.
LEARN TO PHRASE. This is an art in itself. You don't have to play every note the band plays. Let them breathe. Learn when to punch, and when to back off. Talk to the leaders of the other sections and ask them exactly what they might want in the way of support in an ensemble passage. They may have some very valid ideas that you hadn't thought of. Don't be afraid to ask.
TIME. Never lose sight of the fact that you're the keeper of the time. That's the first and foremost job of a big band drummer - much more so than that of a small group drummer.
LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Learn the nuances, the dynamics of the arrangements. My boss, Count Basie, put it all together when he simply said, "LISTEN". As a big band drummer, you must be listening all of the time; listen to the soloist and support him; listen to the ensemble and guide them — cue them correctly; listen to the dynamics and play within that framework, but most importantly, listen to the overall sound and to yourself in the whole picture. Do you detract or do you support? A tape recorder is a great help. Listen to yourself on tape and be your biggest critic. That tape recorder never lies.

After the break are a couple of clips of Miles playing with Count Basie's band in the late '70's.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Tune of the moment: Misterioso

Thelonious Monk's Misterioso is a strangely beguiling little tune:

It's a slow blues, with a melody of running even 8th notes. That doesn't sound hard. Except somewhere in the playing of it, it always goes a little fishy. When I say slow blues, you of course immediately put a strong triplet feel into your time:

Which feels wrong because the rest of the band is playing off of the straight 8ths, with a double time feel. So you match that interpretation:

Still not right; the hihat on 2 and 4 feels a little silly. There's more momentum than that suggests, and you feel you're missing the boat. So you put the hihat on the &s, finally getting to the common groove for the tune- sort of a double time two feel, but not quite. Going into the fast two sounds too busy- you need to keep the slow four on the cymbal:

After eight measures or so this starts to reveal the deficiencies in your 'in two' playing. Over the course of the tune, you're not able to deliver your idea of modern levels of business, or build to a satisfying climax, and this is unsettling to you. The uncertainty of it all is compounded by the other musicians, who- despite what I said earlier- will be confused about where to put it; at least there will be a variety of interpretations present. You feel that at least one person is looking askance at you for not playing it his way. Most of them will play some version of double time; maybe the bassist will obstinately play the triplets; during the solo the saxophonist will play double time on the double time. It always feels like it wants to be someplace else. Even if you are able to hang with the original feel, in all likelihood one or more of the soloists aren't going to be able carry it, and it will- curiously- invert the process of rigor mortis by stiffening and then dying.

First, embrace the uncertainty, and release some of your need to make a big drumming performance out of it. Instead, just play with the thing. Changing feels slightly (or not-so-slightly) between soloists, or between choruses of the same soloist, is one thing you can do. During the course of the tune, there's room to play any and all of the interpretations above, plus a straight double time feel, plus, well, whatever you can get away with- suggestions of double time Afro-Cuban, slow funk, fast "drum & bass"... whatever is not going to get you fired.

You can work on your comping within the "standard" feel of the tune by running the common Reed/Syncopation interpretations with this cymbal/hh pattern, swinging the 8th notes (I'll make a stand-alone post out of this sometime soon):

You can take Art Blakey's polyrhythmic approach from the Sonny Rollins recording above. During the head he fills out the sixtuplets:

He then adds the 8th note triplets on the hihat:

Or 8th note triplets with the left hand (you'll hear him move these around the drums at a phrase ending):

Some more examples: Here Roy Haynes plays it fairly straight, as the modified two:

The original recording of the tune, with Shadow Wilson on drums:

And Paul Motian playing it:

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Cymbal post coming up

We don't write much about gear around here- there's something of an epidemic of misplaced priorities surrounding the topic. But I've been on a cymbal-buying kick the past couple of weeks- a heavyish vintage Paiste ride cymbal buying-kick, specifically. I'll be reviewing them shortly, as soon as the last one-a very rare 22" 602 Dark Ride- arrives on Monday.

Until I get around to that, here are a few entries from T. Bruce Wittet's list of the best, most innovative cymbals ever made:

1. Avedis Zildjian 20” Medium Ride: the staple of the modern drummer irrespective of era. he weight and the wide variation were such that the cymbals caught on with players diverse as Buddy Rich and Ginger Baker. This was a desert island cymbal, still is. If on your island old Ks were hard to find, you might be able to find that darker tah in an A medium. [Note: This is also Joe Morello's "Take 5" cymbal. The newer ones are much heavier than the older ones. -tb]

5. Paiste Traditional Medium Ride 20” (or perhaps the Trad 22” light proto). Forget all your Paiste 602 Medium Rides in jazz context and go for the Trad medium, or the medium-thin, come to think of it. This is the money shot. At the time of its debut, it was arguably the closest ride closest to the old Turkish-made K Zildjian with its archetypical dry tang with a rich underbelly. Although the tip was a little more brittle than certain legendary Ks, it gained that its ping without sacrificing the caw of the stick laid parallel to the bow.

7. Paiste Formula 602 Dark Ride. [This is the one I've got coming- tb] At one point, around the time when the Paiste Profiles of International Drummers was published, the 602 Dark Ride was the Holy Grail of cymbals in my opinion. It was a thick, heavy, cratered like the lunar surface owing to extensive machine and hand hammering. I first saw one in the flesh when interviewing Jack DeJohnette circa 1978 for MD (my first MD feature). Jack told me that he’d collaborated in the development of the Paiste Dark Ride, which was a rare cymbal that succeeded in combining bright stick attack highs with exotic, dark undertones. There was no trash in this one nor was there a lot of build up. I wrote to Paiste, half hoping they’d loan me one for review purposes, and one of the brothers sent me a letter stating that to enjoy fully the Dark Ride, I’d need to play thicker sticks and with considerable force. His take on me was that I’d probably prefer the 602 22” Medium Ride! Ah well. The suckers were expensive and each time I’d see one I’d be penniless, so it was probably just as well.

More after the break:

Friday, February 03, 2012

Groove(s) o' the day: Jocko Homo

Another curiosity for the groove o' the day, and the first drum beat I ever learned: Jocko Homo by Devo. Drums by... I forget if it was Bob 1 or Bob 2 [UPDATE: Oh, it was Alan Myers]. It happens to be in 7/8- I think I put the downbeat of the the drum part on the closed hihat note, but never reconciled that with the riff obviously starting on the open hihat note. It calls for four toms, so I had to get creative with my four piece round-badge Gretsch that was my drum set at the time, and use the snare drum and bass drum as tom voices on that part:

The rest of the beats and YouTube after the break:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Light posting

Still on light posting, through the weekend most likely, while I finish up some other projects. So enjoy some Dom Um Romao:

 A whole lot more of Dom after the break: