Saturday, June 30, 2012

Afro 6/8: left hand variations - the basics

Here's something challenging for you. I've been working with left hand variations within the Afro-Cuban 6/8 (or Bembe, Naningo, whatever term you use) in a variety of formats for about the last year-- mostly applying my jazz comping books to the bell pattern. Needless to say, it's very difficult to get to a point where you can operate with normal jazz-levels of independence between the left hand and the ostinato. Here we've taken the bell pattern plus standard BD/HH parts, and run the left through a variety of basic rhythms.

As with many of our recent things, apply our basic tom moves to the left hand-- it's a real value-amplifier. When doing the moves, try playing the snare hits as rim clicks.

Get the pdf

Cracking 5/4: further listening

Aaaand I thought we'd end this series with some more listening, starting with some more modern things:

Jive Coffee - Brad Mehldau with Jeff Ballard

 Much more after the break:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Cracking 5/4: issues and things, and conclusion

In this final-for-now post on playing in 5/4 I want to talk about a few stray issues, and things that you may observe happening, or happening to you. This is a work in progress for me, so I'm sure we'll be getting deeper into it in the future.

The two measure phrase.
Part of the challenge of playing in 5 is not just surviving it yourself, but also managing the other musicians' lack of confidence. You may find yourself stating a lot of downbeats, and notice that leaving it out for even one measure can be a fairly big leap into the void for a lot of people. So two measures seems to be the basic phrase unit. Think of suspending stating the downbeat for longer phrases as the domain of expert odd-meter players and of well-rehearsed bands.

Playing "off the riff."
That's not the right usage of that word, but that's how that advice is often phrased. It's the usual intuitive way of approaching odd meters; just following the rhythmic vamp of the particular tune/arrangement you're playing, without thinking too much about what the time signature is. It seems to me to be basically a survival technique when you haven't done much homework in the meter in question. It will tend to cause you to play somewhat squarely (which is usually adequate), and you'll be prone to getting lost when you-- or the other musicians-- try to stretch a little.

Blowing past the downbeat.
One of the big problems when improvising in 5, particularly in the 3+2 form, where it's very easy to get comfy, feel like you've nailed it, and loosen up your playing only to accidentally lapse into 3+3, putting your next downbeat on the rest of the band's beat 2. And then you're dead.

Continued after the break:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Marv Dahlgren's prodigious output and the purpose of a library

Three bucks to purchase,
hundreds of hours to master.
As I was idly visiting the Really Good Music Publishing site-- the people, you'll recall, who have reissued several out of print Marvin Dahlgren books- an overwhelming amount of material-- checking to see if they had come out with volume 2 of his Variations on Three Camps book, I discovered that they have not released that book yet. Which is fine, because just the first couple of pages of variations have been dominating my pad practice time since I got the book.

No, that volume has not been released yet. Instead, there are a ten or so other new or reissued Dahlgren books: Drum Set Control in 3/4 Time, Drum Set Control in 5/4 Time, Hihat Control, 16th Note Stickings, Triplet Stickings, Setudes (drum set etudes), and on and on. The man is a machine.

Between all of that, his more famous Four Way Coordination, and his slightly-more-familiar Accent On Accents (Vol. 1 and 2)-- all together more than a lifetime's worth of practice materials; in fact very few drummers could claim to have exhausted the possibilities of any one of those books-- you begin to have to confront the question of the point of it all. Why have on hand piles of books if there is virtually no possibility of ever being able to master them? Why buy more books when you haven't completely learned the ones you have? What the hell are we doing?

A few thoughts on those questions after the break:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Groove o' the day: casually provided by Jack Dejohnette

Today's groove is a little unusual, in that it comes from a YouTube cymbal demo and not from a real record, but since the demo is by Jack Dejohnette, I figured what the heck. He only plays it two or three times, but it jumped out at me right away as something useful.

It's an Elvin-like (man, there's just no getting away from it!) Latin feel, with an unusual, simplified bell pattern:

The bass drum on 3 of the second measure is optional; he only plays it once, but it works nicely. It also suggests that he may be playing the 1 and 3 lightly on the BD all the way through. You could add the hihat on 2 and 4, if you want.

Here's a variation using a tom move I like to do:

YouTube video after the break.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recording session post-mortem

I was in the studio last weekend, recording some very challenging, highly arranged, often counter-intuitive music for a 6-piece quasi-jazz outfit, and had a few random thoughts about it:

  • Recording easy music for your own record is harder than recording hard music for someone else's. 
  • Preparing by playing easy stuff in the feel and tempo of the pieces you're recording is a great idea. 
  • So is clearly segregating the parts of the arrangement where you need to play functionally from those where you need to play creatively. 
  • Hey, simple stuff played solidly in time and with authority sounds great. 
  • This music involved some difficult reading, with lots of rhythm section stops, which made it prone to dragging. Using a click both removed any second guessing about tempo and insured that it would be possible to borrow sections or parts from various takes if necessary. 
  • A little emotion goes a long way. Just play the notes in time with a good sound. 
  • And finally: My 22" Paiste 602 Dark Ride does indeed rule. Making a fortissimo crash on the thing makes you feel like McCoy Tyner. Powerful. 

DBMITW: Vibrafinger!

Here Gary Burton runs his vibes through a Big Muff. Great tune, but everyone's really just waiting for them to play the little '70's-style hook at the end of the ensemble lick again. This is from Burton's record Good Vibes (a $3.98 download!). Bernard Purdie is on drums.

Friday, June 22, 2012

More fun with waltzes

I've been using these Elvin's Afro-Waltz things almost daily in my practicing since I started writing them, and they're working really great for me, so here's a new one. This uses the same concept as the previous posts: we take what is basically a 6/8  feet part along with a jazz waltz cymbal pattern, and add some left hand parts. The actual pattern came up in my practicing today, and we're moving away from things I pulled directly out of Elvin's playing, so I've changed the name.

I highly recommend practicing these with the tom moves I outlined before-- when doing those you have the option of doing the snare notes as rim clicks.

Get the pdf

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tune of the Moment: Out of This World

The tune Out of this World by Harold Arlen has been on my mind a lot recently-- I've been listening to John Coltrane's recording of it on the album Coltrane, then it came up in the Elvin afro feel frenzy, then I learned an old friend who I associated with that recording died, and then it came up on the Bill Evans/Jimmy Giuffre record, which took me a minute to place it because it's so different from Coltrane's version. You can view a chart for it on the probably-illegal it's a two pager, so hit 'next' at the end of the page.

It's a pretty monumental tune: a 74 bar AA1BA (16-20-18-20) with a whole lot of space, which Coltrane extends further by playing two measures of 3/4 for each measure of the tune, and adding 8 measures between the second A and the bridge. He does not double up the last four written bars of the bridge-- they just become four bars of 3/4. The line he plays before the start of the tune (from 0:18-0:43) is not on the other versions I have-- either it's something he wrote, or maybe it's the verse of the tune-- a very short verse. If anyone knows, please tell me about it in the comments. It occurs again between the tenor and piano solos, and before the second tenor solo, but not at the beginning of the head out. On the head out there appear to be four measures added to the end of the first A section. The solos are over a modal vamp.

On YouTube the track is split in two:

The rest of the track, and some other recordings of the tune after the break:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What records I'm listening to

I really want to cop a feature from Jon McCaslin and list what records I'm listening to, but I'm afraid it would get as repetitive as a broken example of the medium for which the feature is named... ahem, yes. My listening rotation moves very slowly, and I can listen to the same side over and over for two or three or more days. But maybe that's the so-called lesson?

So let's see how long I can keep this up before it just gets silly. This week it's:

Jan Garbarek / Bobo Stensen Quartet - Dansere ECM
Side A: Dansere - Svevende
Drums by Jon Christensen

Keith Jarrett / Jack Dejohnette - Ruta and Daitya ECM
Side A: Overture/Communion - Ruty and Daitya - All We Got
Side B: Sounds of Peru - Algeria - You Know, You Know - Pastel Morning
Drums by Jack Dejohnette

Miles Davis - Get Up With It Columbia
Side 2: Maiysha - Honky Tonk - Rated X
Drums by Al Foster

Miles Davis - The New Miles Davis Quintet Prestige
Side B: S'Posin' - The Theme - Stablemates
Drums by Philly Joe Jones

Miles Davis - All Star Quintet/Sextet Prestige
Side A: Dr. Jackle - Minor March
Side B: Bitty Ditty - Changes
Drums by Art Taylor

Cracking 5/4: more architecture

Beyond the 2/4+3/4 or 3/4+2/4 phrasing we've already discussed, there are a few common constructions you should be familiar with. Just learning the things covered in the first part will take a fair amount of time, and will go a long way towards being fluent in 5/4, so I present these not so much for using directly right now, but more as guidance for future practicing, for making your own variations on your written materials, and for writing your own materials.

6/8+2/4 and 2/4+6/8

Here we interpret the 3/4 part of the measure as 6/8:


In straight-8th feels you will build your groove out of the 8th note subdivision, with the 6/8 phrasing:

This interpretation will likely come into your swing feel more in the form of emphasizing the & of 2 of the 3/4 part of the standard */4+*/4 type of phrasing. This is example is in 3/4+2/4, but the tied note on the & of 2 gives the suggestion of 6/8+2/4:

Much more after the break:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

DBMITW: Art Ensemble of Chicago

I've got several things brewing-- including, but not limited to the rest of the series on playing in 5/4-- but they're all taking their sweet time getting finished, so in the mean time, here's some Art Ensemble of Chicago for you. I've always loved Famadou (that's FAmadoo) Don Moye's playing: deeply swinging, with a beautiful, clean and big sound. And he's the world's coolest free jazz drummer-- as someone else said about Kenny Clarke, he's not going to bust his butt "for nobody."

Here AEOC plays Dreaming of the Master, from the record Nice Guys:

The rest of this concert is after the break:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Groove o' the day: Al Foster - Rated X

As promised-- or hinted at, rather-- here is Al Foster's hip and unusual groove from Miles Davis's Rated X, from the record Get Up With It:

As you can hear, the 1 and the 4 of the first measure are accented slightly; he may also do a slight open hihat at the beginning.

Listen to Rated X at its Daily Best Music In The World entry from a few days ago.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

DBMITW: the kind of playing I'd like to hear more of

With hyperactive fast-16th-to-32nd notes kind of dominating drummers' collective mindspace today, I love hearing some utterly happening 8th note-based playing:


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cracking 5/4: rock variations

I wasn't planning on making this part of this series, but it happened to come up. I was prepping for a recording session today which will involve a couple of tunes in 7/4, and I played a few pages of Even in the Odds while singing/humming/thinking the vamps from the tunes we'll be doing. I want to go into the session with my hands feeling well prepared to play easy stuff at the tempo of the tunes, so I improvised a few very basic changes to the written grooves. In keeping with the current series, I wrote out the examples in 5/4. These work best at brighter tempos:

The pattern to the variations should be clear, I hope. I played the right hand on the hihat for the first beat of each series, and then on the ride and crash cymbals on the variations. Notice that the cym/hh part on the first variation of each series is in 2/4+3/4-- you can also reverse that to make 3/4+2/4. Another thing I did was to improvise ghost/filler notes on the first and second grooves of each section.

Again the idea is not to play hip crap, it's to get your hands doing basic things perfectly in time, while giving you a feel for the shape of each measure of music in this time signature. As you can see, the triplet variations are a little irregular-- a single scheme doesn't work for the examples I've given. But since we're not doing this for reading practice, you can take a second to figure out a sticking that will work with whatever beat you happen to be playing. If you don't own EITO yet, you can write out your own beats in 5/4 with which you can run these variations. Start simply-- with one bass drum and one snare drum note per measure.

Get the pdf

Friday, June 15, 2012

"If I think of something beforehand then I should not play it."

Pianist George Colligan has posted a really great interview with drummer Jeff Ballard on his blog, Jazz Truth. It's really hard to excerpt anything from this because it's all so good; I put in a few ellipses at the beginning to pull the salient points and then gave up. Just go read the whole thing-- this is about 25% of it.

On technique:

GC: Can you talk about the difference between technique and music?
JB: I figure technique is a way to play music so it’s understood. That’s what it’s for. The technique is not something for itself. It’s something to have so you can play music very clearly. 
It’s a tool, it’s not an aesthetic [...] and I think that some folks confuse them. And I think it comes from the fact that in this day and age we have accessibility to lots of technique. It’s not something, in a way, that you kind of earned. 
Before, I think you earned technique, you earned it by discovering secrets… like how does Dizzy get some sort of fingering, or Art Blakey’s got a certain kind of flick, a certain kind of way of playing a shuffle that no one else plays. [...] And so someone has to go out and earn it [by listening and watching] rather than just get it from a book or a Youtube video. I think there’s something in the effort that you have to give to get that technique, which connects it to the making of music rather than just getting the ability to play something. [...]

GC: Do you think a lot of drummers get hung up on technique?
JB: Yeah, I think it’s kind of the nature of the instrument. Same with saxophones or the guitar, maybe, those kinds of things where the technique is not so difficult to get to. You can sound impressive just by having some technique on those instruments. It’s a hazard area.

More after the break, but really go read the whole thing.


From Miles Davis's Get Up With It:

That's the great Michael Henderson on bass. From Wikipedia:

Davis saw the young Henderson performing [with Stevie Wonder] at the Copacabana in New York City in early 1970 and reportedly said to Wonder simply "I'm takin' your bass player." 

And I sense another 70's Miles Groove o' the Day coming up...

A couple of other versions after the break:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Groove o' the day: Billy Cobham in 7/8

Today we have another odd-meter Billy Cobham groove from the track "b. Spectrum" from his 1973 album Spectrum:

He plays the unaccented notes stronger than is customary today, and puts a light accent on the last note of the triplet; the natural sticking for that is LRL. If you're looking for opportunities to make variations, easy things would be to add a bass drum on the & of 2, or play it along with the hihat on the "&-a's" of 1 and 3.

From early in the track, here's a variation without the 16th note triplet, with an extra open hihat, and a different second beat:

YouTube audio after the break:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fast singles played for a long time

Of marginal utility for anything other than moving a
single human with no cargo a quarter of a mile in a
straight line as fast as possible, while raising serious
questions about efficiency due to the  massive logistical
support and  infrastructure required. Consider trading pure
velocity for broader functionality and lower maintenance.
The word speed comes up a lot in discussions with young drummers, and it's always a little bit baffling to me-- on it's own, the word is meaningless, musically. Usually I conclude that what is meant is "a really fast single stroke roll, played for a long time"-- almost a pure athletic thing, in the manner of the "World's Fastest Drummer" enterprise.

Since that's one of the most difficult things in drumming, and we want to practice smart, it would be good to be clear about the real musical need and professional requirement for it; when there are so many important things to work on-- both in music and in life-- to invest as much time as is needed for the more extreme forms of that skill, it had better be pretty useful, or have a big positive effect on other areas of my playing.

Purely as a matter of basic competence, the major circumstance I can think of in which they would be absolutely required would be in an orchestral situation, when rolling on xylophone or timpani (with hard mallets, and/or with higher tunings on the smaller drums). On most other instruments-- any with a long sound-- more reasonably-fast singles will make the required long tone.

Quite a bit more after the break:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cracking 5/4: the basics

It took me a long time to come around to accepting the type of method we're going to use here; for years the Syncopation-based interpretive method-- in which you think more like a horn player, creating a complete drumset part from a single written melodic line-- was the only legitimate one for me. 5/4, though, is so full of traps for improvising players that we need to take a more archaic-seeming "drummerly" approach, at least at first.

The first thing to know about playing in 5/4-- or any other odd meter-- is that each measure breaks down into threes and twos. In this case, 3/4 + 2/4:

Or 2/4 + 3/4:

This gets interesting after the break:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Interview on WHPK 88.5 fm Chicago Tuesday @ 7pm

I'll be doing a live interview about my new CD LITTLE PLAYED LITTLE BIRD on Lofton Emenari's show on WHPK 88.5 fm Chicago tomorrow evening-- Tuesday, June 11th.

Stream it live at 7pm Chicago time if you dare.

Visit Lofton's blog for more information about his show.

Groove o' the day: On the Corner

Today we've got Jack Dejohnette's James Brown-like groove on Helen Butte/Mr. Freedom X from Miles Davis' On The Corner:

There's an overdubbed part by Al Foster that's more forward in the mix, so it's a little difficult to hear once he comes in-- there's more of just Jack on the recording than you hear on the YouTube edit, so make sure you get the record if you don't already own it.

YouTube audio after the break:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cracking 5/4: the library

Again following my normal process of doing the easy stuff first, here is the library of practice materials I've used for finally getting my act together in 5/4. Normally you would put this at the end of the series-- like in an appendix-- but I thought people might like a chance to order one or more of these books to have on hand when we get to the real discussion.

You don't need to own all of these, by any means-- the Humphrey book along with the Rothman and the blog posts will be enough to give you a very robust introduction into this meter.

Drum set books:

Even in the Odds by Ralph Humphrey. Essential. Includes sections on swing and rock feels in 5/4, as well as extensive solo materials. The section in 5/8 is also helpful. This is one of my favorite method books on any topic-- you can read my earlier review for more on this one.

3, 5, 7, 9, Jazz!
by Joel Rothman. Jazz and generic Latin. This was my primary supplement to Even in the Odds. Jazz comping materials have an Elvin-like bent to them, using the middle of the triplet, and quarter note triplets. Good materials for developing ECM and Latin feels, and common kicks/anticipations as well.

Jazz Drummer's Workshop
by John Riley. Good, concise introduction to the meter in a swing feel. Illustrates a similar process to Humphrey's, and to what we'll be discussing in the rest of the series.

Four Way Coordination
by Marvin Dahlgren & Elliot Fine. Independence studies in a swing feel.

Continued after the break:

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Hemiola applications: funk

Here are some very straightforward funk applications derived from the 3:2 polyrhythm in 4/4 in the hemiola basics post. By isolating each measure, revoicing the parts slightly, and adding obvious things like a downbeat on the bass drum or backbeats on the snare, you can make some familiar-sounding funk grooves. I've broken it down into steps for my students:

I've given a couple of optional embellishments-- on part one the bass drum on the 'e' of 4 causes the polyrhythm to bridge the barline, running from the 'e' of 4 to the 'e' of 3; on part two the open hihat on the & of 1 emphasizes that note as the beginning of the polyrhythm.

Get the pdf

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Cracking 5/4: listening

Here's the first in a series on playing in 5/4. Since everything in music follows from listening (and this is the easiest type of post for me to write), we'll start with some recorded examples:

5/4 Thing - Elvin Jones / Coalition - drums by Elvin Jones
I've got a partial transcription of this one lurking somewhere. I'll try to dig it up and isolate something like a primary groove out of it:

Much more after the break:

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Groove o' the day: Ed Blackwell

Here's another simple afro feel played by Ed Blackwell on Mu, the duo record with Don Cherry. It's also available on the Cherry album Cool. This also could've been written as two measures of 3/4 or 6/8:

An easy change to this groove which would give it more of a 6/8 feel would be to add dotted quarter notes with the left foot, the right foot, or both feet.

YouTube audio after the break:

Monday, June 04, 2012

Transcription: Elvin Jones - Your Lady

Lately I keep doing the bulk of the hard work on these things, only to run out of steam in the last 12 bars, but David in the comments was able to shame me into finally finishing this up. Here at last is the intro and head of John Coltrane's Your Lady, from the Live at Birdland record, with Elvin Jones on drums. This contains the groove that inspired my "Elvin's Afro Waltz" series, which has been dominating my own practice time recently. The essence of that groove is a linear left hand/BD/HH part in 6/8 played under a standard jazz waltz cymbal pattern-- see the first entry in the series for an explanation of that.

There can be a pretty wide range of dynamics within the parts on each measure-- especially on the lower side; in making the transcription there were a lot of places where I've written a rest, though I suspect Elvin was ghosting a note to the point where it is inaudible. In general I've tried to minimize notating the internal dynamics of the parts-- it would be easy to go overboard with that, rendering the thing unreadable-- so it'll be up to you to study that closely. I think it's best to use this as a listening and study guide, rather than as a literal map for duplicating the performance.

Get the pdf

YouTube audio after the break

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Transcription: intro by Art Taylor

This is Art Taylor's 8-measure intro from the tune Jackie-ing, from Thelonious Monk's 5x5. I'm working on a long, challenging Joey Baron transcription and needed a little palate-cleanser, that's all...

What he plays doesn't seem to be connected to the tune, particularly. Most of the action happens in the last half of the first phrase, and the middle of the second phrase, with a little set up into the the tune at the end. He bridges the phrases with running 8th notes on the cymbal, and accents on the & of 4 and on beat 2.

Get the pdf

YouTube audio after the break:

Saturday, June 02, 2012

VOQOTD: Hit it loud.

“Hit it! Don't be afraid to hit it— loud, you dig? Hit it loud.”

-Thelonious Monk

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Friday, June 01, 2012

Groove o' the day: Ed Blackwell stick and brush

This is one of my favorite things ever, anywhere: Ed Blackwell's opening groove on Charlie Haden's tune Chairman Mao from the first self-titled Old And New Dreams record, on Black Saint (there's another one on the ECM label, which is also great). Here Blackwell plays with a stick in his left hand and a brush in his right:

The brush hand makes the rhythm with a fanning move, which you can hear by listening to the recording; the stick hand just plays the rim click on 2 and the tom on 4. Play the bass drum softly-- when my old band Flatland used to play this tune I would often play it in 4, as Blackwell does when the groove changes a little further on, which has a nice driving energy (on that recording I'm playing the drums with the back ends of rattan-handled marimba mallets, by the way).

More Stick Control in 5/4

Another nice addition to your 5/4 practice library: Andrew Hare @ The Melodic Drummer has taken my Stick Control in 5/4 thing a step further, applying an Alan Dawson interpretation to it, filling in the stop that was built in to my idea, and writing it out in the familiar Stone-looking format. It must be time for me to bring this back into my practicing-- lately my Elvin thing has been monopolizing all of my 5/4 time.