Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Page o' coordination: bass drum variation in 6/8

Are you getting to the point that you can work these up in a few days, and then retire them, yet? We've done a big pile of these POCs, but they cover a fairly narrow range of difficulty, and once you've sort of mastered one, the remainder should come quickly. Today's YAASE (Yet Another Afro 6/8) is at the harder end of the spectrum, somewhat, with a bass drum variation which I noticed creeping into my playing during the tour. I wrote this to get a little better command over it, and introduce the possibility of some different things happening with the left hand with it:

Do the tom moves, please. I generally play them a few times with the left hand playing rim clicks on the snare, then do the moves, playing rim clicks on the notes landing on the snare drum. Add accents with the left hand wherever you are able— I just listen to the recording and let them happen naturally.

Get the pdf

Here's the track I've been playing along with:

Monday, December 30, 2013

VOQOTD: choosing cymbals

I’d go to the bin, I’d get two fourteens, I’d go to the eighteen bin, get an eighteen, then I’d go to the twenty bin and get a twenty, and that was that—none of that banging and trying.
— Elvin Jones, interview with Chip Stern

He's talking about visiting the warehouse where K. Zildjian cymbals fresh off the boat from Istanbul were kept, where all the New York players went to get their cymbals. I've read more than one account of the extreme variability of those cymbals— there were great instruments, but evidently a lot of quite bad ones, too. Elvin continues:

You know, what’s that anyway? I mean, first of all, you have to play the cymbal just as you would have to play a trumpet, and so it doesn’t really matter if it’s gold or silver or brass or steel, you know. If you’ve got a good mouthpiece you can play it. So I never did believe in going through that whole charade of listening to the vibrations and the ding-ding-ding; that seemed to me to be so superfluous, because it’s the stroke that makes the tone, and if the cymbal isn’t flawed to begin with, then the more you play it the more it becomes pliable, and of course it’ll vibrate more, and the tone grows—and once I discovered that, I quit trying. 
I used to do the same thing, although I’d get to the point where if you’d bang a couple of cymbals I couldn’t tell the difference. My ear would be completely blank; it would just be dulled to any kind of subtleties. So I concluded, “Well, the best thing to do is if I’m behind it I can tell if it sounds good or not and I can put more pressure on it to bring the tone up or hit it near the crown and near the leading edge or whatever,” and the tone changes in each position. So it’s very simple.

Chip has a three part interview with Elvin which I encourage you to go read: one | two | three

UPDATE: This quote has aroused some discussion at the Cymbalholics forum.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sunny Murray, the bebop tradition, and Milford Graves

“Take it easy, now... there's no work in this shit, they're gonna jump on your ass...” 
— Sunny Murray to a young, interested, Hans Bennink

 Here's an interview by Dan Warburton, with one of the original free jazz drummers, Sunny Murray. It's most interesting to me as a piece of archeology into the attitudes of these players, who seemed at the time to be making such a large break with previous music, and who are often regarded as not maintaining, shall we say, traditional technical standards. But Murray clearly feels himself to be part of the same tradition as some more mainstream players (even if McCall and Blackwell were thought of as avant-garde at the time) and having less connection to another great early free player, Milford Graves, who he felt was coming from someplace else:
[...] I like Milford a lot, but basically I have the attitude of a bebop drummer regarding what I feel about music and other drummers. Milford didn't come from bebop at all. I love Roy Brooks, and Louis Hayes with those beautiful mahogany-looking hands, Eddie Blackwell that could just swing your head off, Steve McCall was the best surprise with the left hand I ever heard, Dennis Charles he'd just chug-a-lug you for ever. [...] You know, it's traditional for a drummer to be opinionated about other drummers, because there are some basics and roots in jazz drumming and there's a whole generation today that hasn't had to deal with those rules or laws, aesthetically or spiritually, or go through the kinds of pressures I had to go through, Louis Hayes, Dennis Charles, Eddie Blackwell, Steve McCall had to go through... It wasn't something unpleasant, it was an education.

More after the break:

Transcription: Les Humphries — Ching Miau

In honor of Yusef Lateef, who we just lost a few days ago, at age 93, here is the thing that inspired yesterday's post: Lex Humphries playing on Ching Miau, a one-chord modal tune in 5/4, played over a one-measure vamp, from Lateef's album Eastern Sounds. The transcription starts at the beginning of the saxophone solo, at 0:29, and ends shortly before the head out:

The vamp has the rather unusual 2+3 phrasing, while Humphries's time has a 3+2 feel; I don't suppose the crossing interpretations is intentional; it seems more likely that that is the only way Humphries knew how to play in 5 at the time. He likely plays the bass drum (lightly, at least) on every beat one, but I've only notated it where it's audible.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Page o' coordination: across the barline in 5/4

This is a classic situation when you start improvising in 5/4: you get a little cocky about your ability to just vibe the meter and come out OK, and in a few moments you observe that you have blasted past the downbeat several beats ago-- who can say how many?-- and you are lost, totally screwed, and destined to spend the next eight-plus measures playing very dumb stuff, trying to find beat 1 again. Anything you practice in 5 should help with that, but this POC should acquaint you with one possible landing point in the middle of the measure, and make it easier to stay oriented when you land there accidentally. Just avoiding looking stupid is a pretty low purpose, so hopefully this will turn into a musical expression thing quickly...

Treat the hihat note on beat 4 as optional, according to your taste; personally, I don't like playing two quarter notes in a row on the hihats in any jazz feel, but here I wanted the extra little coordination challenge. You should add your own accents with the left hand— really, with any jazz comping/independence exercises— don't just play all the LH notes at an even volume. And don't forget the to do the tom moves— they really multiply the value of the exercises: they make you do more repetitions, they make you concentrate more, they make your movements around the drums more automatic, and they generate some interesting melodies and cross rhythms of their own.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Transcription: Ed Blackwell solo — Tarik

Oh, what the hell, happy Saturnalia— I went ahead and transcribed the solo from the GOTD of a few days ago, Tarik, by Ed Blackwell, from Dewey Redman's album of the same name. It's a real study of hand independence, and not very readable, but at least roughing it out measure by measure or phrase by phrase should give you some insight into Blackwell's way of playing. At least into this tom tom thing of his, which you should recognize right away if you've heard much of his playing. The tune is basically just a drum groove, with Redman improvising freely on the musette, along with Malachi Favors on bass. Possibly the opening phrase on musette was composed.

Throughout the piece, there are many times when the snare is played with both hands in unison, or nearly so, which I've indicated with a B. I included them based on the sound, and haven't worked through them on the drums prior to posting this, so if you hit anything really unplayable, probably one of those both-handed notes is in the wrong spot. Definitely write in your own additional stickings where needed. Blackwell basically plays quarter notes with both feet in unison all the way through, though often one or both may drop out for a few beats. It doesn't matter— the main thing is the hands. The repeated lick at measure 36 gets a little sloppy, and ends with an accidentally dropped beat, hence the single measure of 3/4.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Monday, December 23, 2013

VOQOTD: the way it was, then

[F]ifty years ago, long [running gigs] were more commonplace.

Oh, yeah. There was a club on 52nd Street called the Hickory House. I played in there for three months with Bill Evans, and for three months again with Joe Castro, a piano player. I remember playing 10 weeks with Lennie Tristano at the Half Note. Nine weeks at the Vanguard with Bill Evans and Gary Peacock. One or two weeks or more at the original Birdland. That's the way it was, then.


According to your gig book, you first worked the Vanguard maybe at the end of '56? 

'57. With Lee Konitz. That was the first time I played there. In those days, they'd have two bands. The Bill Evans Trio opposite the Miles Davis band. We played opposite Mingus. They'd have comedians. I played there with Bill Evans opposite Lenny Bruce. The place was never that full! One night with Bill and Scott LaFaro, there were only three people in the club. Now it's packed. It's unbelievable. It's quiet, and they clap when you walk on stage. That never happened in those days!

— Paul Motian, interview by Ted Panken

Groove o' the day: Ed Blackwell — Tarik

Here's something from I think the first record with Ed Blackwell I ever bought: Tarik, by Dewey Redman. It's sort of Blackwell's tom tom thing boiled down to it's smallest essence:

It will be up to you to find a sticking that works. Though it would be very difficult for most of us, I wouldn't be shocked if his right hand were playing all of the tom notes, plus the accent on the snare drum. Or there could be a LR on the low tom; probably that's the way you and I will have to play it. The flam is pretty “flat”, almost a unison, with the right hand louder than the left. As the piece develops, Blackwell begins playing the hihat with his foot in unison with the bass drum. One day I'll transcribe the solo.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Todd's 11-note pattern: some examples in 4/4

One of the earlier things we did was a pretty exhaustive, four-page write up of an 11-note pattern which has for some time been coming up spontaneously in my playing. I've been working on it with a student lately, and have written up some ideas for fitting it into a basic funk phrase:

The main idea here is that, obviously, the plain lick doesn't fit neatly into 4/4, and I've given some possible ways of setting it up and getting out of it. You should try your own ideas for doing this, try starting the lick in some different places in the measure than I have given, and experiment with moving it around the drums. It will help to run the lick repetitively by itself, in 11/16; and to go back to the original piece, and learn to play all of page 1 of the pdf on the snare drum.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Groove o' the day: Ronald Shannon Jackson — Behind Plastic Faces

I guess I'm blogging in couplets this week. Speaking of one of my favorite records, Decode Yourself, by Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society— long totally out of print, from a not-very-collectible era in jazz— I'm glad to see the tune Behind Plastic Faces up on YouTube now. The groove for the main part of the tune uses a sort of synth china cymbal sound— probably using a Simmons SDS-5— and tom sound at the end:

He plays no fills or variations (oops, I just caught one) on this part of the tune, except that he seems to sometimes play the roll as a 7-stroke instead of a 5-stroke. It also sounds like he's closing the hihat along with most of the bass drum notes, which you can do, or not.

Monday, December 16, 2013

VOQOTD: Ronald Shannon Jackson

“I play music and I play rhythms. I play them and I work on it because I hear something, then I just go sit down and start working on it. It’s like when my wife first asked, I’d be writing music all the time, she’d say ‘What are you going to be doin’ with all that music?’ ‘l don’t know…’ I just know that I be hearin’ it and if I keep writin’ it, it’s going to come. It’s like a dream, if you don’t write it then, you won’t write it. You just keep doing that man, you know?”
— Ronald Shannon Jackson

That pretty much sums up the entirety of the life of an artist. That's from Michael Bettine's remembrance of, and interview with, the late, great Ronald Shannon Jackson, from Bettine's blog Percussion Deconstruction. It's also a nice overview of Jackson's recorded work, if you're just getting acquainted with him, and are wondering what to buy— though he doesn't mention my favorite RSJ record (after Barbeque Dog), Decode Yourself:

“Play like you play at home when there’s nobody else there. What you be hearin’ and playin’ then.”
— Ronald Shannon Jackson quoting instructions from Albert Ayler

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Afro 6/8 exercise: getting the 3/4 pull

More on this. All I can say is, my readers should be absolutely killing it with their Afro 6/8 in the next 6-12 months. This is a basic counting and coordination exercise I've been using with a couple of my students, for getting the hang of a basic concept of this feel, which is that it exists in 6/8 and 3/4 simultaneously. And it's good for just generally understanding the architecture of the feel, and coordinating it with a basic pulse in each of the limbs.

Repeat each exercise until it feels solid and grooving. Then play all of sections 2 and 3 without stopping: play each line in the order given on the page, repeating each exercise several times. Normally I would play the snare drum part as a rim click, but if you find yourself tearing through the page very quickly, you might try doing our standard tom moves with your left hand.

Get the pdf

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Transcription: Tiki intro

Hey, some time ago I promised you a new book— a collection of transcribed intros— before the end of the year. Work on that got sidelined as I was preparing for tour, and there's no way I'm finishing in the time frame I wanted. But I'll get back to it now, and see if I can't slam it out by January. You may also have noticed the style of my printed music has changed slightly; I've upgraded to Finale 2014, and the default styles are a little different than my old one. I'm trying to maintain as much continuity as possible, but some of these transitional things may look a little different as I figure things out. If there's one thing I learned from Joel Rothman, it's that continuity of style matters... you can always tell one of his books by just looking at the style of the copy...

So, here's another drum intro, from our man Tiki Fulwood. The tune is Good Old Music, from the first, self-titled Funkadelic record:

Yesterday we made big deal out of Fulwood not accenting the ride pattern on his hihat; here he does do that, accenting every other 16th note, and again, it sounds great. A good way for students to practice this would be to take make a repeating groove out of each measure, and run them many times.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Groove o' the day: Tiki Fulwood — Red Hot Mama

Another GOTD by my favorite Funkadelic drummer, Tiki Fulwood. The tune is Red Hot Mama, from Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On, by Funkadelic, of course. The groove for the verse:

The song consists of a one-measure vamp on the verses, plus a two-measure chorus, played four times. As the song develops, Fulwood moves to the cymbal, and the bass drum part gets denser, with more variations. He also plays 8th notes on the hihat with his left foot when he plays the ride cymbal, which I haven't included in the notation:

The first thing young drummers learn to do to mature their funk feel, and distinguish themselves from those primitive rock & roll meatheads, is to accent the hihat, usually on the beat:

Once learned, it's easy to fall into doing this routinely, without thinking about the musical effect. But you can hear that on this song Fulwood plays his right hand dead even and strong, and it sounds great. For that matter, the ghost notes on the snare drum, the obsession du jour of Internet drummers, are entirely absent— aside from a few embellishments, and the fills, he plays the snare drum strongly on 2 and 4, with no filler. Also pay attention to the sound he's getting out of the snare drum; it's very strong, but it is definitely not the generic harsh crack currently in favor.

Audio after the break:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This is fun. Musicians at all levels of the business are becoming increasingly incensed at the devaluation of our work by people with money, and in the culture in general, and are becoming vocal about it. I can't copy the text of this artist's response to a TV person who wants to use his work for free, so you'll have to follow the link to read it. I highly recommend that you do.

The Abanico

The Abanico (meaning “fan” in Spanish) is the name of a stock set-up that occurs in Salsa, Afro-Cuban music, whatever you choose to call it. It is played by the timbale player— the timbalero—to bring in a new section after a stop. It occurs in two basic forms, depending on the clave orientation of the piece: 3-2, or 2-3.

Here is the 3-2 version; the top line is clave— son, in this case— whether or not anyone in the ensemble is actually playing that rhythm, the music is oriented around it. The bottom line is the percussion. Usually the figure is played on a high timbale, but since we're all about the drumset here at CSD!, you'll likely play it on a high tom, or on the snare drum, with the snares off. The accents are rim shots, played near the edge of the drum. The roll can be played open or closed, or as singles, depending on the tempo, and the personal style of the player— you have some latitude in how you choose to do it.

And in the 2-3:

As drummers in the North American mode, we're used to starting our grooves on beat 1, maybe just substituting a crash cymbal for the ordinary ride sound. But here we're ending the fill on a drum on beat 1, so you'll have to get used to coming in with your salsa grooves on beat 2, as in the case of this 2-3 Mozambique:

Recorded examples after the break:

Monday, December 09, 2013

Afro 6 basics

Man, it's tougher to get back in the swing of this than you would think. Like anything else, it's a fairly minor daily effort, but you do have to do it! I do have some passable excuses though, if that made any difference...

Today what we've got are some basic exercises, which I've been running with some students, for understanding the Afro 6/8 a little better:

There are four things we're working on here:

1 and 2: Part of what makes this style interesting and fun to play is that it seems to exist in 3/4 and 6/8 simultaneously. So we'll get the hang of counting the bell pattern, and playing it along with a quarter note/dotted-quarter note ostinato in each of those meters.

Also we'll begin to get a feel for the accents, first by playing a funk-style pattern, giving it a strong pull towards the 1 of each measure— the 'a-1' should be played strongly on both measures, with the right accenting on the second note of each double. Then, taking the right hand in isolation, we'll make those same accents, plus accents on all of the single notes. After you've learned all of the other exercises, go back and play them again, with these accents in the right hand.

4: Getting into slightly more complex coordination, we'll add the rumba and son clave rhythms, and then clave plus dotted-quarter notes in the feet.

Play all of the exercises many times without stopping, preferably along with a recording (a selection of good tracks for that is coming).

Get the pdf

Monday, December 02, 2013

Tour wrap-up

After our first gig, at Hot Club de Gand, in Ghent.
The tour went quite well, by the way— the shows were all well attended, audiences were very appreciative, we got some good press, and we are well situated to expand our reach next year. And we actually turned a profit this year; the gigs paid well, and I sold all of the CDs I took with me— 60 of them, I think. This was my fourth trip to Europe leading my own group; the first one lost a lot of money, another one made a little money, and another roughly broke even.

There's a gallery of photos from the tour here, and our updates from the road are here.

Earlier I posted the tunes I was including in our book— we ended up playing:
Mothers Of The Veil
Feet Music
Strange As It Seems
Mob Job
Lonely Woman
Owl of Cranston
Empty Boat
Valse de Melody

And less frequently:
Comme Il Faut
Check Up
Las Vegas Tango
Olhos de Gato

Here's the group playing Mopti, by Don Cherry, at the Jazz Station in Brussels:

The musicians there are: Weber Iago — piano / Jean-Paul Estievenart — trumpet / Olivier Stalon — bass / Todd Bishop — drums

It's funny, this was the second gig of the tour, I was feeling pretty jetlagged, and felt that the group was under-rehearsed, and that we were kind of hacking out a performance; with a little distance from it, though, you forget what you were feeling, and what you were trying to do, and you can see the thing for the respectable performance it is. That's become one of my rules: the gig was always better than you think it was. I can't promise that holds for everyone at all times— it most certainly doesn't, in fact— but time and time again I have heard recordings from what I thought was a really off night, and they are inevitably totally fine, or even good.

So, now it falls on me to make a new record fast— which is how I like to do them— and get booking the November '14 tour in January/February... onward...

Sunday, December 01, 2013

On playalongs, pt. 2: play exercises

Stuff like this. Anything. Why not?
Back from tour and easing back into blogging, here, with part 2 in this thoughts on practicing along with recordings series. Today we'll discuss the value of not just playing the tune or drum part, “drum cover” style, but also playing technical exercises. For example, these days I like to run my Dahlgren & Fine and Gary Chaffee linear patterns along with tracks from Maggot Brain. In fact, just about the only way I can practice that book, and certain other very dry materials, is along with music.  

Broadening your hearing
Doing this gives you a chance to hear how the technical patterns sound in the context of real music, and will help you move them into your actual playing— which is a major issue nearly everyone deals with. Since you'll be forcing these things into a musical setting where they don't necessarily belong, you're going to hear a lot of things happen—good and bad— which you never would have played on purpose. You'll be surprised at how often random things actually work together, though. It's a crash course in the Rubber Shirt principle— random musical ideas tend to work together because you put them together.

What and how
You can use anything that will work with the tempo and feel/rhythmic grid of the recording. You can decide for yourself how much you want to conform to the song: you could follow the form or phrasing of the song, changing exercises along with song phrases or sections, or not. You could also alternate exercises with playing time in the style of the track. On the more advanced end of things, if you're learning how how to play meter-within-meter, you could run exercises in 3/4 or 6/8 along with a song in 4/4, and practice improvising resolutions of the resulting polyrhythmic phrases to match the phrase endings in the song.

A musical standard
Often when doing your technical exercises in isolation with a metronome, you have no external reason to play them with some shape, so you play them with a “neutral” phrasing and dynamic level, and your one standard of progress tends to become simply more speed. Playing them along with music, suddenly the problem becomes how to make them sound and feel good with what you're hearing— which is the whole name of the game in actually playing music. For me, anyway; music is nearly always a process of making whatever you're playing feel good based on what you're hearing; it is almost never just a process of just rendering patterns perfectly. For me. That's not to say there's nothing to be gained by learning to render patterns precisely in a neutral, non-musical way, but that is a different process than the one you will use in actually making music.

More coming soon...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Europe tour updates

Jazz Station, in Brussels
Things are going swimmingly so far, with two gigs down, but it's proving difficult to put tour updates on the blog, so if you're interested, please visit my personal Facebook page (and you're welcome to add me as a friend), or our Facebook event page. Otherwise, see you in December!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rock on

A little hitting-the-road music:

On tour

As you may've heard, because I keep mentioning it, I'll be in Europe for the next 2+ weeks, starting now. Stay tuned for whatever updates I can make from the road— photos, video, and such. If you're in Belgium, Luxembourg, or northwest Germany, come on out and hear the band. Visit our Facebook event page for a list of gigs, with all details, but here are the essentials:

Todd Bishop - drums
Jean-paul Estievenart - trumpet
Weber Iago - piano
Olivier Stalon Music - bass

12/11/13 - 21:00 :: Hot Club de Gand — GENT
13/11/13 - 20:30 :: Jazz Station Asbl — BRUSSELS
15/11/13 - 19:00 :: Blues-Sphere — LIEGE
16/11/13 - 20:00 :: Appeltuin Jazz — LEUVEN
17/11/13 - 15:00 :: Centre Culturel Hannut — HANNUT
18/11/13 - 20:30 :: Dumont's — AACHEN
19/11/13 - 21:30 :: LiquID — LUXEMBOURG
20/11/13 - 21:00 :: Le Rideau Rouge — LASNE
23/11/13 - 21:00 :: Lokerse Jazzklub — LOKEREN
24/11/13 - 17:30 :: Flamingo Brussels — BRUSSELS

We'll be back to our regular content around December 1st. And, once again, if you would like to get a lesson from me, I will be based in Brussels from the 12th-24th, and then in Berlin on the 25th-27th. You can reach me through the regular site email.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Mike Snyder on triggering

I put together thousands
of these things. 
This is really just a quick link share for a friend— I have nothing to say on the subject of electronics, other than to give the reasons I don't use them. But for a couple of years in the 90's I did work for Mike Snyder, building drum triggers, when he still had his company Trigger Perfect. He was a studio drummer in LA in the 80's, and came up with the first decent trigger, and no one knows more about the subject than him. There tends to be a lot of confusion and frustration among drummers about this, due to lack of education, so here, from Mike and Drum! Magazine, is the latest, best information on triggering electronic sounds from an acoustic drum.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Everybody digs the same stuff, part eleventy

I've decided that one of the immutable laws of the universe is that everybody digs the same stuff— well, I've felt that way for some time, and it keeps getting confirmed. In this latest case: if you're listening to any Ornette Coleman and, oh, Paul Bley, maybe looking for tunes to play, you're going to end up with the same selections, partly because only some of them are transcribable and playable by normal musicians, but partly because everybody digs the same stuff and everybody knows the same stuff. 

Call it the Have-You-Met-Miss-Jones? effect. Everybody loves Roy Haynes's opening rim shot on that tune, including Roy. If you've heard this record, it's instantly your favorite thing on Earth:

Interviewed by Alan Jones in Portland recently, Haynes is still bringing it up, 50 years and many millions of notes later:

So anyway, in today's reletively minor case, I was slapping together some new things for next week's tour, I stumbled across a site, a blog called Jazz Transcript Authority, sharing a bunch of the same damn things I was working on: Mr. Joy by Annette Peacock, Street Woman and Macho Woman by Ornette Coleman, plus some other things I had written up in the past— not exactly well-known stuff, from little-heard albums. We'll see how usable his charts are, but there's a bunch of other interesting stuff in the same ballpark: late 60's Miles, Collin Walcott, some Don Ellis. Worth checking out if you have any interest along these lines.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

2013 tour repertoire

Here's a list of the tunes we'll be working with on my group's Belgium trip next week. We won't end up playing all of this stuff, but it's in the books. A little over half of those are my own arrangements— I transcribed them off the record and made a playable lead sheet out of them, anyway.

Alice In Wonderland — Sammy Fain
Beatrice — Sam Rivers
The Blessing —  Ornette Coleman
*Blood — Paul Bley
Check Up — Ornette Coleman
Comme Il Faut  —  Ornette Coleman
Country Town Blues — Ornette Coleman
*The Empty Boat —  Caetano Veloso
Eighty-One — Ron Carter 
Enfant —  Ornette Coleman 
Feet Music — Ornette Coleman 
Guinea — Don Cherry
*Happy House — Ornette Coleman
Ida Lupino — Carla Bley
Las Vegas Tango — Gil Evans 
*Let's Play — Ornette Coleman
*Law Years — Ornette Coleman
Lonely Woman — Ornette Coleman
Mr. Joy — Annette Peacock
Mob Job —  Ornette Coleman 
Mopti — Don Cherry 
Mothers of the Veil — Ornette Coleman 

Never — Steve Swallow
Olhos de Gato —  Carla Bley
Owl of Cranston — Paul Motian
*Somnambulist — Rich Cole 
Strange As It Seems — Ornette Coleman
Syndrome — Carla Bley
Valse de Melody —  Serge Gainsbourg

Bold — likely players
 * —  new additions for 2013. We'll see if they work...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Just so we're all on the same page...

While I'm working on some last-minute pre-tour adds to my book, I suggest reading this, from Digital Music News:

One of my favorites:

Lie #9: Spotify is your friend.
The Lie: Streaming on Spotify will make artists money, if they just wait long enough.
The Truth: Spotify will make Spotify and Wall Street tons of money, if they’re really lucky. And they’ve already made tons of money for major labels, not artists.
And even superfans rarely stream enough to equal the nice, upfront, transparent royalty offered by an iTunes Store download. 

Keeping in mind, of course, that iTunes royalties are also very poor.

Much of the music business conversation centers around middle-to-major league artists, but I'm more interested in recovering a viable artistic working class, or lower-middle class— how those people can make a living wage.

Lie #7: There’s an emerging middle class artist.
The Lie: Internet-powered disintermediation would create a burgeoning ‘middle class’ of artists. Not the limousine, Bono-style outrageous superstars, but good musicians that could support families and pay their bills.
The Truth: There is no musician middle class. Instead, the music industry has devolved into a third world country, with a wide gulf between the rich and struggling/starving poor.
And, those ambitious middle-class artists that try to make ends meet by spending 350 days on the road are probably not raising very good families.

Well, there is an emerging middle class artist. Unfortunately, it consists of the people who would've been the upper class a couple of decades ago.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

How to play Stablemates

The bop tune Stablemates, by Benny Golson, is something of a test piece for drummers. As now-Portland pianist George Colligan said, “Stablemates can be revealing for a drummer….”, and Golson himself said “It moves around quite a bit.” Indeed. Despite the instantly-digable melody, it's very easy to get lost, and avoiding that for a drummer can involve some psychological trickery.

It's a medium swing tune, and the form is ABA, with 14-bar A sections— 10 bars swing + 4 bars Latin— and an 8 bar bridge. There are stops on the 10th bar of the A sections, and at the end of the bridge. The stops and the Latin feel are not normally played during the solos. The tune is played one time only before the solos, and at the end of the whole piece. In the pdf I've given some kicks which are played on the Benny Golson recording, but which are not usually played at sessions today.

The goal is to have a clear internal sense of the tune, so you can play it without getting lost, and without relying on audible cues or having to count measures. The big test will be to be able to solo over the form without getting lost, while also making some kind of musical sense.

I've found, through bitter experience, that there are two major pitfalls: the first 10 bars of the A sections, and making it back to the top of the form:

The A sections
The 10-bar swing portion is the hard part— despite how it looks on the page, the it doesn't break down to an easy 8+2. If anything, it's a weak 5+5. Maybe. You could manage it just by the brute-force counting, but to me that's the worst way to approach a piece of music; and I believe it will fail you sooner or later.

Intuitively following the melody, which meanders in ways that can trick you into adding or cutting measures, can also get you into trouble, but that is my preferred way of handling it. To do that, you just have to know the line well. Learning Golson's kicks will give you something more to hang onto, even though they are not often played at sessions. You can also count through the section (1234, 2234, 3234-style), and get used to corresponding the measure numbers and melodic elements.

The end of the form
The problem here is that it's not easy to hear two A sections in a row. Hearing one ABA is easy— especially the AB part— but hearing ABA/ABA/ABA isn't. So what happens is, when you're going into the second chorus of your solo, you accidentally internally hear the beginning of ABAB, and— zip, WHOOSH!— you're already dead. You try to figure out where you would've been if you hadn't just screwed up, fail, and finally give up, hoping that the band is lost, too, and that you can cue them out of your solo sometime that could plausibly be the top of the form, as far as they know. It's a drama that is played out countless times every year.

The problem is that the A sections have pickups which we are not used to also hearing the end of the form— they aren't played as a normal part of the tune. Where they would occur, you are either going into the solos, or ending the piece. This is a problem when you are primarily playing off of your internal sense of the melody, so you have to practice hearing those pickups. You can do that by playing time, or soloing, singing the tune yourself as you play a whole lot of A sections in a row. There's a little video after the break which may help with this. Once you have that together, you will just have to have the presence of mind to know whether you are going into the bridge, or back to the top of the form.

Get the pdf

A lead sheet, and audio after the break:

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A few new vintage Paistes

I guess the 80's is vintage now. In the past few years I've been rebuilding my cymbal collection, after ruthlessly disposing of a lot of things during a lean patch, and have largely been focusing on older Paistes. After years of listening to Billy Higgins, Jon Christensen, Paul Motian, Al Foster, and ECM recordings in general, much of the sound in my head calls for them. And, as I've written before, I've also been on a clarity kick for several years, and the 602 and Sound Creation cymbals definitely fulfill that. The thin, warm, dark, lush, pretty-sounding, quiet cymbals jazz drummers have been favoring of late, while great for recording, I've felt have led to stage volume issues— mainly, a death-spiral of quietness— as well as being-heard-by-the-audience issues. I'm still generally playing these heavier cymbals quietly, but there is enough sound here to keep players from weirding out at their own finger noise competing volume-wise with the actual music. I believe a pianissimo on these cymbals gives you a true stage pp, which is louder than a practice room pp, where your ear is a couple of feet from the instrument.

That's the back story. These tend to be expensive cymbals, but through some very patient, unemotional shopping I've been able to get them very reasonably— for about half the expected price, actually. Here they are:

14" Sound Creation Dark Sound Edge Hihats — Black label, 1978

The sound here is dark and fairly complex, but these are very powerful cymbals, and high-pitched, the loudest hihats I've ever owned. The wavy sound edge bottom cymbal gives a very crisp, cutting foot sound. One of our local jazz guys, Ron Steen, has been using these exact cymbals and sounding great with them for years, in all settings— dinner music, vocalists, and everything. Players used to stomping on their hihat pedal would have trouble using these when any kind of delicacy is required; I've found it relaxes my whole physical set to just be able to step on the pedal and have the cymbals speak. They don't sound especially pretty by themselves from the playing position, but they blend nicely with the entire drumset, and with the rest of the ensemble.

20" 602 Heavy — Blue Label, 1985

I've been proceeding on the assumption that there are no bad 602s, and haven't been much disappointed so far. I saw Art Blakey playing what I guessed was a 22" heavy 602 back in 1985— his ride cymbal was extremely cutting. I don't feel this cymbal fits that profile at all; it's not overpowering or especially bright, despite its weight, which actually seems to have a dampening effect. It has that very refined 602 sound, and is not too bright. It is difficult to get a clean crash out of it, which I suppose you would normally expect, except that I can get that out of my 22" Dark Rides, which are not any thinner than this. Here the crash is long, without much of a peak, and you don't get much volume. It's obviously not a quiet cymbal, but it's not really a high-volume one, either; you could hurt yourself and the cymbal trying to play it really loudly. It would probably make a beautiful sizzle cymbal, but I'm going to take a break from drilling things for the moment.

I don't know the weight in grams— maybe around 2700-2800. Close to the weight of an A. Zildjian Ping Ride, but without that model's offensive qualities.

22" Sound Creation New Dimension Dark Ride — 1984, drilled for rivets, 3220 grams

 With the acquisition of a second one of these monsters— the other being a very early 22" 602 Dark Ride— I guess I'm officially an “SCDR” guy. Certainly Paul Motian's statement that “I’ve got a few of those…” has been working on my mind. I got a very good deal on this, mainly due to the fact that it has been played a lot; the top logo is worn away, there is a keyhole that appears to have been professionally drilled, and one minor nick in the edge. Plus cymbals drilled for rivets tend to sell a lot cheaper than “virgin” ones. People are silly that way. This is a creative tool to me, not a decoration or a vanity item, and I don't give a crap about any that stuff, so I was able to pick it up for about half of the normal low-end cost for this model.

This is the New Dimension model, and I don't know how those are distinct from the regular SCs— it's an addition to the line they introduced in the 80's. There are several iterations of 22" darks at cymbal smith Matt Bettis's site, and while he notes differences, he doesn't seem to particularly value one line (602, transitional, SC, SCND) over another. Compared to my 602 Dark, the ND is darker sounding, lower pitched, and more complex, with a fatter, gong-like overtone cushion. There's a fairly pronounced shoulder built in to the cymbals profile, which gives some distinctly different-sounding playing zones— you can draw a lot of sounds out of it. Like the 602, it is capable of producing a fast, explosive crash. It's rather an intimidating cymbal— when you first sit down with it, it feels like driving a large, 70's-vintage Cadillac. It handles like a boat at first, and you definitely have to find the right touch for it.

These Dark Rides were created by Paiste in partnership with Jack Dejohnette, and I wonder if the sound he was going for was not that of Jon Christensen's famous, heavy 22" K— it seems likely they crossed paths a fair amount in Europe in the early 70's— at least they were both being produced by Manfred Eicher a lot. It's remarkable how well the Sound Creations— heavy cymbals— handle in all sorts of situations. There's a lot of hype about them; maybe it's justified, and/or being what they are, maybe I give them a chance in settings where I would normally use something lighter.

By the way, if I've talked you into spending a lot of money on these types of cymbals— well, first think twice about it; they can be very challenging cymbals to work with— and then reread my tips on buying used cymbals online, then visit the following page by Zenstat, a moderator at the Cymbalholics forum who has compiled eBay sales statistics for Paiste 602 and Sound Creation cymbals from 2006-present. That should give you a ballpark idea of what you can expect to spend, keeping in mind that used prices are trending precipitously downward from the high points in his stats right now.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Transcription: Jon Christensen — Keep It Like That- Tight

Here's Jon Christensen doing some nice open, dynamic playing on a slow, static vamp: Keep It Like That — Tight from Terje Rypdal's self-titled album on ECM from 1971. We love Christensen because he's a very cool, musical, non-flashy player— I think of him as sort of the Billy Higgins of the fusion era. And he tends to play very linearly between all four limbs, which makes the time spent working through 4-Way Coordination more worth it. We'll see if I have the wherewithal to write up the obvious companion to this, Miles Davis's Yesternow, with Billy Cobham on drums.

The dynamic markings are extremely general— there's quite a bit of range within every level. The crescendos only refer to the dynamic shape of a lick— they don't signify a larger dynamic change. I've been a little irregular in how I label the subtler accents and ghost notes— sometimes I indicate them, sometimes I don't. I suppose if I submit this to Down Beat I'll go through it and model each measure more finely, and maybe add some pocos and piùs where necessary. You'll just have to use your ears, and be aware that Christensen plays a lot of shape.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On playalongs, pt.1: use real music

That's the idea.
I was working on a single post about practicing along with recorded music— something I've been doing a lot of lately— but it was running long on me, and taking forever to finish. I need to start acting like a blogger and getting stuff out there in shorter bits, so here are some thoughts on choosing music to play along with:

Real vs. simulated
Generic playalong collections, like the popular Groove Essentials series, are fine for getting together the very basics of a style, or for getting a general sense of your readiness for the professional world. You get clean recordings which closely resemble music in a variety of (mostly) common styles, as they might be played by the best American musicians. But don't mistake them for the real act of making music, despite their similarity to it: to me they are a gutted, abstracted form of playing. They're missing the actual things you're supposed to be playing in support of, the real impetus for most of what you play: a melody, and a lead voice.

Compare the experience of playing along with some of our previous pop transcriptions: God, Anticipation, or Beauty And The Beast, with that of any of the rock/pop entries from GE— here's one:

What is missing from the naked rhythm tracks should be obvious. On the actual records, the rhythm section parts are only one element of what the drummers are playing off of; they are equally focused on what is happening in the melody; their parts are intimately connected with it, and closely track its dynamics, and overall arc. You only get the barest shadow of that with the playalongs. Being able to play convincingly to a generic rhythm track— to play blind, essentially— is a real skill, but it is not the main thing.

Much more of this after the break:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Daily best music in the world: Barbara Song

Here are several versions of Barbara Song, from Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. I could try to write something about it, but what for? The content is self-evident and I see no need to flail around it with words. OK, it's very German and very beautiful— there. A YouTube commenter helpfully informs us:

"Barbaren" means "barbarians" in German[...] There is no [character named] "Barbara" in the libretto. 

First in its original form, from G.W. Pabst's 1931 film Die Dreigroschenoper:

And by Gil Evans, one of the greatest things ever in jazz:

By Tethered Moon, a trio with pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, Gary Peacock, and Paul Motian:

Those are the big three in my book, but there are couple more after the break:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed 1942-2013

It's a good day to give White Light, White Heat a listen in its entirety— news that Lou Reed has died is breaking all over the Internet right now. I first heard this record on a boombox in a thrift store on Clinton Street in Portland in about 1996, which seems fitting. It's the example I usually give for how something can have nothing going on technically and still be the best music in the world.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Transcription: Raymond "Monchito" Muñoz — Caminando

Here we have a Latin percussionist funking out a little bit on Caminando, a hip cha cha* recorded by Eddie Palmieri on his great album Vamonos Pa'l Monte. The drummer, Raymond “Monchito” Muñoz, brings very much a percussionist's sensibility to the drumset; almost the entire track is played on the hihat alone, with little variation, and with very sparing use of the bass drum and snare drum. The funky parts happen at the end of the first interlude, and on the outro.

There is little information about Muñoz online, and I had never heard of him before. From what I gather, he is a Puerto Rican percussionist active in New York and PR since the 60's, or earlier. Apparently he studied with Henry Adler. From his Facebook page, it appears that he was seriously ill recently.

It seens that Muñoz's primary instrument is timbales, and he plays the drumset with what I imagine to be a timbalero's touch— for whatever that observation is worth. He draws a variety of sounds out of the snare drum (and hihats, to a lesser degree), playing loosely and not very loud, blending volume of the drumset with the congas. You never get the feeling that he's playing into the drums, the way many funk drummers do. I would be tempted to approach this by just learning and playing each measure— or group of two measures— as a groove in its own right.

* — If you're better than me at IDing salsa styles, please let us know in the comments.

Get the pdf

Audio after the break:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013 tour posters

All right, the posters for my upcoming Europe (well, Belgium, plus the outer tip of Germany and Luxembourg) tour are done!

Here are the shows, once again, with times:
9:00, Tuesday, Nov. 12 Hot Club de Gand GHENT, Belgium
8:30, Wednesday, Nov. 13 Jazz Station BRUSSELS, Belgium
7:00, Friday, Nov. 15 Blues-Sphere LIEGE, Belgium
8:00, Saturday, Nov. 16 Appeltuin Jazz LEUVEN, Belgium
Event starts 5:00, Sunday, Nov. 17 Hannut Jazz Festival HANNUT, Belgium
8:30, Monday, Nov. 18 Dumont's AACHEN, Germany
9:30, Tuesday, Nov. 19 LiquID LUXEMBOURG
9:00, Wednesday, Nov. 20 Le Rideau Rouge LASNE, Belgium
9:00, Saturday, Nov. 23 Lokerse Jazzklub LOKEREN, Belgium
5:30, Sunday, Nov. 24 Flamingo BRUSSELS, Belgium

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Groove o' the day: Ronald Shannon Jackson — Yugo Boy

Today we'll do Ronald Shannon Jackson's groove from the other day, Yugo Boy, from his 1984 album Barbeque Dog. Jackson was always coming up with distinctive grooves, and I don't know why I haven't shared his things before, except that I only have his records on vinyl, not digital, and they rarely come up on YouTube. I'm hearing a lot of Stewart Copeland in his playing here— definitely in his snare sound— which I never thought of before; he was paying attention to Copeland then, so it's not too surprising. Playing the snare on beat 4 only strikes me as a very 80's thing, too.

You can hear that there's a lot of variety in how he handles the end of the measure, though he doesn't do anything too fancy. The hihat is partly open on the 16th notes, obviously.

I've spent a lot of time listening to him, reading his words, and thinking about his playing, and I'm still sorry he's gone. There aren't many drummers who manage to create such a unique voice on the instrument as he did, and it's a tragedy one one of them dies.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Page o' coordination: 6/8 Rumba clave in the left hand

Like I said: a lotta 6/8. That feel has always been one of the stronger elements of my playing, but I thought I'd see what happens if I do a whole lot of more work on it. Just out of curiosity. Here's a nice companion to our clave-in-the-RH page-o'— we'll play clave with the left hand, and do some variations with the right.

I don't like to put up too many of these things without restating our purpose. When I originally learned this feel, and the other major feel we've been developing with these pages, I just learned a basic form of the groove, and then had a lot of fun playing it a lot, fleshing it out as I went, based on the vibe of what I was hearing on records. I did it almost completely by feel, and never worked anything out precisely, the way we're doing here. My goal for my own playing with these pages is to fill in some coordination gaps, and to introduce a different way of thinking than I am used to, to allow some new things to come out spontaneously. My basic approach to the actual playing has never changed— I still vibe it, rather than attempt the worked-out thing these pages might suggest. I think most players— those who are likely to do the amount of work necessary to master this type of thing— would also benefit from a large amount of playing by vibe.

Where there are accents given, they are played with the right hand only. Since the variations are happening with the right hand, I'm not doing our usual tom moves. You can feel free to do them, though. If you want. You might also try doubling the right hand part with the bass drum, eliminating the written BD part.

Get the pdf

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ronald Shannon Jackson 1940-2013

Very sorry to hear that the drummer and avant-garde master Ronald Shannon Jackson died today. This would be a great time to revisit his Modern Drummer interview from 1984, by friend of the blog Chip Stern, which I excerpted here some time ago. Immediately after reading that— probably a couple of times— when it was originally published, I ran out and bought Jackson's album Barbeque Dog:

Here he is on a Cecil Taylor album— he was my favorite drummer to play with Cecil:

Here's a notice from Jazz Times.

(h/t to Larry Appelbaum)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Survival chops: cymbal and bass drum licks

Here is a collection of moderately easy, very functional, right-hand lead licks for the drum set. Normally I would arrive at these by other means— like, by playing Stick Control, Syncopation, or any paradiddle rudiment, with the right hand on the cymbal, with the bass drum playing in unison. You can make major workouts out of any of those. But I wanted to write them in “Chop Buster” format, as a single column of composed patterns, representing about fifteen minutes worth of practice, after you've had a basic introduction to them.

Play the unaccented snare notes softly, and don't overplay the accents. You should have little problem learning these quickly. They're designed to be easy to be played fast, too, as long as your doubles with your hands and right foot are together. The metronome marking of 140 beats per minute is a reasonable goal— you may be able to play them faster than that, or it may take you some time to reach that tempo.

There are no repeat signs, but assume each pattern is to be played many times. In the pdf there are some examples of ways of practice them along with any time feel of your choice, in any style, like:

Or, using a partial measure of the pattern:

Get the pdf

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My art... on pillows!

Here's a random thing— my sister, Christy Bishop, an interior designer, is releasing a line of high-end printed pillows, and is including some of my old (c. 1997-2001) works on paper in her art. So far she's got in the collection this painting of two skulls on a red background, which was staplegunned to the wall of my painting studio above my easel for several years:

And this stylish martini glass:

And this expressionistic portrait bust:

If you must have these for your home, you can purchase them from Opal At Home.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Afro 6/8 with a backbeat

In my day we didn't have fancy drum blogs giving us near-daily pages of nicely formatted, well-thought-out drum exercises free of charge. Our teachers just scribbled something in the margin of our tattered copy of Syncopation, and we liked it! We loved it! Life was a carnival.

That's today's groove— a funk-style Afro 6/8— as presented to me by Tim Stodd, my teacher back in 1983, along with my own primitive scribbling. The right hand was to be played on the hihat, and the circled notes had bass drum with them; I was left to make my own variations, and turn it into a fully-realized thing on my own. Here's how we do things now:

Start by learning the hands part alone, observing the dynamics— the notes in parentheses are played very softly; also play the right hand part in isolation. The groove is felt in 2 or in 1— two beats per measure of 6/8, or one. Once the hands are together, the bass drum parts should come pretty quickly.

The first four lines give the normal bass drum parts associated with this style. Lines five and six give more of a sixtuplet funk feel, and the last two lines are given as coordination exercises.

Get the pdf

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kerrigan syncopation exercise in 6/8

I guess there's no getting around it: we're all about the 6/8 these days— there's a whole bunch more of this on deck. This is a Chuck Kerrigan syncopation exercise, from his very useful Syncopated Rhythms for the Contemporary Drummer, originally written in 3/4, but transcribed into 6/8 by me.

Get the pdf

After the break: a full page of things to do with this.