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