Saturday, January 31, 2015

Stone-type exercises in 3/4

Oh, I thought I already shared this. No big woop, just some easy front-of-Stick-Control type exercises written in 3/4:

Just play them on the snare drum, or root through the archives and find some drum set interpretations. Here, I'll get you started:

- Play LH on the snare, and the RH on the cymbal, with BD in unison with the RH.
- Play RH notes on the drums with one or both hands, and the LH notes on the bass drum or hihat.

Get the pdf

3½ minutes

Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson had a fun riff going over on the Twitter, which was to find iconic jazz tracks that were basically exactly 3½ minutes long; he was limiting it to music released during the LP era— roughly 1950 and after. I ran with that a little bit and put together a YouTube playlist/survey of things of that length.

Going through my own library, it's an interesting exercise to listen to a whole lot of things with that exact format; it's basically the shortest you can perform a “real”, fully developed jazz tune. A lot of jazz 78s are three minutes long, which always feels too short. A lot of jazz vocal numbers are also three minutes. 3½ minutes is a standard length for pop singles, slightly on the longer side, just enough time to lose yourself in the track a little bit before it wraps up. The Milton Nascimento song I included, and Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix are like that— they feel long.

Two killer drum sets — UPDATED

UPDATE: Both sets have been relisted, with a significant price drop on the Sonors. Don't make me call these guys and beg them to ship the drums to Portland, and incur some debt I don't really need right now. 

I hope I'm not ruining somebody else's bargain by pointing these out, but a couple of really great drum sets turned up on eBay just in the past couple of days, and I would rather my readers got them, than some other non-CSD!-reading, undeserving, rabble...

Sonor Phonic Centennial 10/12/13/14/20
starting bid $1700, BIN $2500

RELISTED: starting bid $1500, BIN $2000

After playing and recording with some Sonor Phonics in Belgium in 2012, I had being driving myself crazy trying to get a set, and finally found some last year. These are the ones with the fat, 9-ply beech shells. Not many Phonics turn up in usable sizes, like these; you can get them in rock & roll sizes for under $1000, but non-power tom sets with 18 or 20" bass drums tend to be up in the high teen-hundreds or low 2000s. It's not an insane value, but not absolutely ridiculous, either. They are special instruments, though, and, to me, worth the money. I think I paid $1800 for my 12/14/18 bop set, and will probably be spending another $500 to add 10 and 13" toms, if I ever find them, so I think you're getting a pretty darned good deal here. Fortunately the auction doesn't include that goofy snare drum.

Eames 10/12/14/18
$900-1200, depending on options


I would totally be buying these if I had not just gotten my Phonics. These are right in the sweet spot for quality / size / price / not having anything goofy about them. The toms are a little deeper than standard, but that's cool— it's not some ridiculous-looking power tom set. But this is the type of deal I hold out for when buying new drums; I basically would never pay more than this... except to get my Sonors. The Eames company, custom drum shell manufacturers, have been overshadowed somewhat by Keller with the drum-building crowd, but they're great drums. I just picked up a Craviotto-built (in the 80s) snare drum with a thin Eames shell, and I love the thing. The seller is offering some purchase options— I would be getting these with the snare drum, and without the die-cast hoops (assuming they provide standard hoops instead).

Both sellers are in the US Northeast, and say they'll do pickup only, but maybe you can cajole them into doing something for you. Whatever you do, resolve that before you buy...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Transcription: Elvin Jones — Lonnie's Lament

I've transcribed Elvin Jones's playing during McCoy Tyner's solo, on Lonnie's Lament, which you will have just listened to on the John Coltrane album Crescent. It's medium tempo, with a subdued vibe for much of it, and should be a manageable introduction to Elvin's playing, if you're new to it. The transcription begins at 1:49:

Swing the 8th notes. The solo 120 bars long, is over one chord, with four or eight bar phrases. There's probably more going on with the bass drum than has made it into the transcription— at some points it sounds as if he's playing it lightly on beats 1 and 3. Note that there are several variations/embellishments on the very-Elvin triplet pattern of RH/LH/BD.

Buy our e-book 5 Elvin Jones Transcriptions to get the complete transcription

Daily best music in the world: two drummers

The Modern Drummer website has a decent little list of great double-drumming tracks. I was ready to come down on them for not including the Butthole Surfers, but no, there they are— a bold choice for a drumming magazine. It'd have been nice if they'd got some Motown in there, because a lot of those recordings had two drummers on them. Also glad they didn't go for the easy Ornette Coleman choice, Free Jazz— they went deeper into his catalog for their selection.

Here's one they missed: Peter Erskine and Steve Jordan playing on Don Grolnick's solo album, from about 1987(?):

A couple of more, after the break:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Listening: Coltrane — Crescent

This conversation between Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and composer/bandleader Darcy James Argue, about the John Coltrane albums Crescent, and A Love Supreme, happened on Twitter:

Crescent was the first Coltrane album I ever bought, and actually listened to (the first actual one was Om— a very challenging record, if you've never heard it), but it has always been a little bit of a dark horse for me— compared to other Coltrane recordings, the visceral emotionality I was seeking is very restrained here. It's very deep music, and it was probably too grown-up for me, honestly. Redman summarizes it perfectly in the comment above, and those are all qualities it has taken me a long time to learn to appreciate.

It is one of the very greatest things in 20th century music, and if you haven't listened to Crescent all the way through in a while, or ever, here it is:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Page o' coordination: Afro 6/8 — “Guiro”

A new POC in 6/8, with a variation on our usual bell pattern, pulled directly from Ed Uribe's excellent, horrifying, massive book, The Essence of Afro-Cuban Percussion and Drum Set. The pattern comes from Guiro, a Cuban folkloric style which I know very little about— we're really just pilfering a rhythm from Cuban religious music and using it for our own ends— to put it in the crassest possible way. Developing ourselves as artists is a legitimate non-theistic, non-liturgical religious practice in its own right, so I don't think what we're doing is quite the moral equivalent of strip-mining Madagascar for minerals to build iPhones.

Personally, it's taking me a few sessions to get this together. Do all of the by-now familiar tom moves once you can play the page straight through without stopping. Because we want to be aware of the 3/4 cross rhythm, take a moment to practice this bell pattern along with quarter notes in the left foot:

The pattern is actually an inversion of our usual so-called “short” bell pattern. If you play the above rhythm starting on beat 2 in the 3/4 example, you'll get the short bell rhythm. It could also be considered a variation on the “long” bell pattern, except they've moved the first note off of the downbeat.

Get the pdf

Note: Here is some actual Guiro music. The bell part, played on a piece of metal here, is something we haven't seen before; it's not the rhythm we're using here. It's kind of difficult to be certain about the beat for awhile here, but you can see some participants clapping Rumba clave— we can assume it's in the 3-2 orientation, since I believe that is normal in folkloric settings. Around 6:20 the lead singer also claps the main pulse while others are clapping clave.

Groove o' the day: Bernard Purdie — Funk Down

Here's a bright proto-disco groove from Bernard Purdie, on the tune Funk Down, from Mongo Santamaria's Afro-Indio record:

The snare drum filler notes on the es happen more regularly, and more emphatically, than notes on the as, which are more random. Phrase transitions happen with a crash on the & of 4— mostly with cymbal and bass drum, occasionally with cymbal and snare.

Drat, I thought this one was on YouTube, but there's nothing but a technoid remix, with a mutilated Purdie track. This dance guy will tell you what's a funky drum part, so shut up, Purdie! I guess you'll just have to buy the record.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: making In A Silent Way

Guitarist John McLoughlin on recording In A Silent Way with Miles Davis. Classic art can be very instantaneous:

[...] I had gone to New York to play with Tony [Williams] and Larry [Young], and I met Miles the day I arrived. I saw him again the next day and he said, “Come to the studio,” and that was the In a Silent Way recording. The title track is a Joe Zawinul tune and it’s a beautiful piece, only Miles didn’t like the way Joe set it up. So he said to me, “You play it. Everyone will stop and you play it.” Well, I had Joe’s part but there was no guitar part. So I said, “Listen, this is a piano part. Do you want the chords and the melody?” I was sweating so hard my clothes were soaked. That’s when he said, “Play it like you don’t know how to play the guitar.”

h/t to Scott K. Fish

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Daily best music in the world, again: TOM TOMS, MAN

Here's Billy Cobham playing with Ray Barretto in 1973. The tom toms are just outrageous— really exciting:

You never hear that sound any more— Steve Gadd just wiped everybody else out for fusion tom tom sounds— after him it was all 10 and 12 inch Yamahas with Pinstripes on them. That's still the standard studio pan-pop/funk sound you hear on everything. I guess Cobham is using Black Dots, tuned fairly tight, maybe with the bottoms heads a little looser than the top.

Here he is playing a large Gretsch set in 1974, with what look like Pinstripes on the toms, but they sure don't sound like them. Nice 22" Swish cymbal with ~10 rivets in it, there, too— people used to play loud enough to merit a cymbal like that. There was a really unbridled vibe to 70s music that, for all the skill of current players, we're missing today.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Hal Galper Trio

Here's my brother, John Bishop, playing with Hal Galper, with Jeff Johnson on bass, at The Blue Whale in LA:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Page o' coordination: basic — 05

Here's another basic funk/rock page o' coordination, this time using a series of es and as on the bass drum— to me this exact rhythm is a very 70s thing, and doing it with an open hihat on all of the bass drum notes was one of the first “licks” I ever noticed and tried to learn on the drums. Here we'll just use it as a convenient idiomatic rhythm for structuring a measure of 4/4 with a funk feel. Some of the exercises are usable performance patterns, but we're really just working out some coordination issues, here.

Learn to play the page straight through without stopping, playing each exercise at least four times. If you have any problem getting the timing of the bass drum notes, try counting the combined rhythm of all the parts before playing the exercise. See the first entry in this series for some practice suggestions.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: Herzog's 24 maxims

From a, here are 24 pieces of life/work/career advice from the filmmaker Werner Herzog:

1. Always take the initiative. 
2. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in jail if it means getting the shot you need.
3. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey. 
4. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief. 
5. Learn to live with your mistakes. 
6. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern. 
7. That roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it. 
8. There is never an excuse not to finish a film. 
9. Carry bolt cutters everywhere. 
10. Thwart institutional cowardice. 
11. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. 
12. Take your fate into your own hands. 
13. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape. 
14. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory. 
15. Walk straight ahead, never detour. 
16. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver. 
17. Don’t be fearful of rejection. 
18. Develop your own voice. 
19. Day one is the point of no return. 
20. A badge of honor is to fail a film theory class. 
21. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema. 
22. Guerrilla tactics are best. 
23. Take revenge if need be. 
24. Get used to the bear behind you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We tweet!

Would that we were actually talking
about Paul Klee's painting “The Twittering
Machine”,  and not social networking.
By the way, we'll be making a fresh effort at getting going with the Twitter machine... I'm going to doing more on Twitter. I'll be sharing blog items, but it will also be a little more personal— for now, I'm feeling free to comment on non-music related items. And I'll probably post some videos and things I don't want to take up blog real estate with, for whatever reason. If that sounds like your cup of tea, well, hit the button:

Like everyone else on Twitter, I'm secretly hoping for a Jon Favreau-like public relations debacle, which leads to a food porn-fueled road journey across the south in my ramshackle sandwich truck, with my John Leguizamo-like sidekick, in which we all learn and grow a little, after which my wildest dream ventures are financed by a former nemesis turned benefactor...

Truth and negativity

This has been sitting in my drafts folder awhile— some thoughts on an older piece from George Colligan's Jazz Truth blog, a collection of thoughts about negativity, positivity, realism, “telling it like it is”, and all that:

I remember one tour where one of my band mates chastised me for being too negative. “Man, you are always talking s*$t about something.” OK. I decided then that my friend would only see the “positive” side of me.... 
Hey, good morning! I slept so well, did you? You look rested. Have you been outside? It's such a beautiful day. We are so blessed to have the sun shining today. I'm so glad we are on the road together. You are one of my favorite drummers, did you know that? Do you realize how lucky we are to get to play music together? I'm so glad we are friends. Here, come here, I want to give you a hug..... 
After a few hours of that, the consensus all around was that I should “go back to being normal.”

Now, I was thinking, “I'd much rather be on the road with that guy.” Assuming he was sincere, and not trying to be a jerk about it. It's actually not that fun to be around people who are prone to complaining, especially when they're lucky enough to be traveling playing music for a living. I want to enjoy every minute of it as much as possible, and that kind of stuff doesn't help me do that. It took me a long time to learn this, but I think you'll get further in life being sincerely positive with other people basically 100% of the time. That doesn't mean being vapidly sunshiny, or pretending problems aren't happening when they are. Usually it just means keeping your sense of humor when you have to do something stupid or hard, or are a little bit uncomfortable, or when things are not going well.

Continued after the break:

Monday, January 19, 2015

Billy's best

Here's some more essential Billy Higgins listening for you. I hesitate to declare anything the best— because a) the man played on over 700 albums, of which I have been exposed to, what, 5-7%? And b) what I know about “best”? But these are the records that were most influential to me. He's also on multiple albums— major works— with Cedar Walton, Mal Waldron, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Clifford Jordan, Eddie Harris, Charles Lloyd, and many others— enough that any two players might have completely different lists of favorites.

Ornette Coleman — Change of the Century
The Shape of Jazz To Come is more famous, but this one's my favorite of his records with Ornette. This is probably the track of his career, for me:

Don Cherry — Brown Rice
I've loved this since I found a derelict vinyl copy of it in the early 90s; for a long time it was as out of fashion as macramé. Charlie Haden is on this, and the next few...

Don Cherry — Art Deco
Lots of great medium tempo swinging here— for me this is kind of the record for modern bop drumming.

More after the break:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

1/2 of a concert with 3/5 of the Four & More band

First I want to acknowledge that headline... that just happened... OK...

Does it seem like we're in a Billy Higgins trough right now? I don't feel like he's getting talked about a lot— the current zeitgeist of maximal chops, polish, and improvisatory drama is not his thing. He's not going to throw you around and have his way with you, the way people like it today.

Whatever: here he is playing part of a festival set with George Coleman, Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter. Billy's playing his 20" 602 rivet cymbal, which was a feature of his sound later in his career.

I've listened to tons of Billy, and love his playing, but it took me a listen through to actually accept what's going on here— so, if it sounds rough to you, listen to it again. That first drum solo is notable because I think a lot of ambitious young jazz musicians today would not feel comfortable having played that— it doesn't feel like doctoral recital material. But this is the real creative article— you're supposed to play this way.

Variations on Stone flam patterns — triplets and 16ths

Lately I've been doing a lot with modulating between triplets and 16th notes, using similar stickings/coordination patterns. I've observed that it's a thing with Elvin Jones's drumming that he will play similar things in either a triplet or 16th note rhythm, or with a pull towards one rhythm or the other, and this is a way of working with that idea. These exercises are mostly based on patterns found in Stick Control; the stickings in each measure are almost the same as the other, except there has been one note added to make the 16th notes.

Also reverse the stickings, starting the patterns with the left hand. As a general rule, it's a good idea to play them twice as long left hand lead.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Groove o' the day PLUS: Roger Hawkins — Mustang Sally

Another Groove o' the day on steroids, from the studio drummer Roger Hawkins, of the famous Muscle Shoals rhythm section— we last checked him out on him on Aretha Franklin's Chain of Fools. Here we're looking at the original big hit recording of the song Mustang Sally, recorded by Wilson Pickett. This is one of those songs you play so many times on bad gigs, that you may go to great lengths to avoid all future contact with it; but hearing the original, good versions of these things will at least give them a chance to not always suck...

So, yeah: the main groove for the song— I neglected to put a key, but you know the deal by now: there's hihat, snare drum, and bass drum, plus crash cymbal and tom tom occasionally:

There's something happening in the (quite dense) accompanying tracks that almost sounds like a tom tom on the & of 4, but isn't. When playing the song, you could add that to the groove to fill in that missing part of the texture— just move your left or right hand to a tom tom on the & of 4.

Hawkins will do some normal variations with the bass drum, though not a whole lot:

And he plays this for a few measures before the last verse:

This fill, also used on Chain of Fools, happens several times— he'll also play it with the last two 8th notes on the snare drum:

More after the break:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Lulu line

Here's a little four measure phrase by Thelonious Monk, which has been a big influence on my thinking, in playing the drums. It's a little microcosm of the way you develop a melodic idea in jazz, and easy to relate to the drums since it consists of only two pitches. This happens around the 2:00 mark on Monk's solo intro to Lulu's Back In Town, from the album It's Monk's Time:

It's easy to intuitively grasp what's going on when you hear it; I've been listening to this record for years, and have never actually analyzed the line until now. But, to go ahead and break it down a little bit, with the melody written in a form we're used to seeing, on a drum staff:

A) Our starting motif is very basic.
B) Rhythmic variation, slightly syncopated.
C) More syncopated, begins before we expect it, on a weak beat.
D) Inverted and syncopated; an extension of C.
E) Same as the first variation, with a two-note ending on the phrase.

These are easy ideas to use on the fly while improvising, without a lot of thought or contrivance; while playing along, you recognize that you have just played a melodic idea, then you play it again with a rhythmic variation, and again, starting in an unexpected place. Just a simple way of developing ideas.

The line happens at 1:57:

Monday, January 12, 2015

2014 Book of the Blog now available!

2014 Book of the Blog
Scroll down for new posts— I'll keep this pinned near the top of the blog for a few days.

All right, continuing our frenzy of new product, the 2014 Book of the Blog is now available for purchase. 80 pages of intermediate-to-very-challenging stuff. There are robust sections on the jazz waltz and Afro-Cuban drumming; and a nice collection of snare drum exercises that have been on my stand for several weeks now. Transcriptions of the drumming of Tony Williams, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ed Blackwell, Dannie Richmond, Ringo Starr, Funkadelic, and 70s studio greats Rick Marotta and John Guerin, and more!

It's such an excellent companion to the 2013 Book of the Blog, I'm going to go ahead and discount that book 20% to encourage you buy them both. I don't know how long I'll leave that up, so git it now, if you're gonna...

And also: the print version of our e-book, Playing Samba and Bossa Nova, is now ready to purchase. It's a svelte little 30-page manual with all the basic information you need to begin playing this style with people, and to continue your education with that music. It's basically everything else you wanted to know after somebody showed you a bossa nova beat, and you didn't know what else you were supposed to do with it. “OK, fine, I can play the beat— now what?” Well, here...

There is of course the Kindle version available, too, if you swing that way. Viewable on Kindle, and on other devices using the free Kindle app.

Page o' coordination: anticipations

Here's a set of exercises which will force you to really get to know the &s of beats 2 and 4, and, by their frequent absence, beats 1 and 3:

Swing the 8th notes. Listening is important, here, so I suggest playing the exercises along with a recording, or with a metronome clicking on all four beats, or just on beats 1 and 3. Do you have the tom moves memorized yet?

Get the pdf

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Good lord, that's a deep pocket...

Here's Levon Helm— if the question on your mind after seeing this is not “my God, how do I make my time sound like that?”, you may need to reexamine your priorities as a drummer...

In re: singing and playing, the principle is the same as for things we do in just drumming: it's more a matter of coordination than of “independence.”

(h/t to Jake Feinberg and Drum Talk TV)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A few items for sale

Just FYI, I have a few things for sale right now:

Pearl 12"x7" snare drum — $150.00
It's a  “popcorn” size drum, but it's a real drum, well put together, with a nice, fat (8-ply?), maple shell. I used this on my last record, tuned low— great for getting that timbre without the pitch going way too low. Click through to my record Travelogue in the sidebar to give it a listen. Looks great.

SOLD - 20" A. Zildjian Deep Ride — $150.00
Late 70s vintage, with ink, and almost new looking. 8 rivets that must have been factory-installed. The Deep Rides are heavier cymbals, but with qualities you wouldn't expect. T. Bruce Wittet describes them thusly:

A marvelous low-profile, mystical ride cymbal that offered the articulation inherent in a heavier cymbal with the dark utterance of the Turkish K. [...] The Deep Ride was in a class all its own and while Zildjian figured the onslaught of new American-made Ks would render it redundant…they didn’t. The Zildjian Deep Ride confirmed my suspicion that a cymbal could be at once heavy in weight, full in tone.

It's a cool cymbal, but I've got a few too many heavier 20s around right now...

14" A. Zildjian New Beat hihats — $120.00
Early 70s. They're New Beats— as classic as they come. About in the middle of the weight range, relative to other New Beats.

SOLD - 20" Paiste Sound Formula Full Ride — $130.00
1996. Drilled for six rivets by Gregg Keplinger. A reasonable poor man's Sound Creation Dark Ride, if you want to try rocking that somewhat-dark, cutting vibe without spending $500. I used this on my 2012 Europe tour; it's on the heavier side of medium— I guess in the 2500g range?—  but lush-sounding, true to its name. Gregg Keplinger drilled this for eight rivets for me.

Ludwig 17"x12" marching tenor drum — $100.00
Olive badge, early 70s vintage? Gold/black/gold sparkle, with the long, one-piece lug casings. I was meaning to slap some bass drum spurs on this and make it the foundation of a micro-bop set, but I never got around to it. The 17" heads are apparently not as hard to get hold of as you might think— you will have to order them.

Let's say $30 shipping for the Ludwig, $20 for anything else, and $30 for two items. Reach me via email, in the sidebar, if you have any questions, or would like to arrange a purchase.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Very occasional quote of the day: inspiration

“Inspiration is for amateurs— the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
—painter Chuck Close

(h/t to Michael Shrieve)

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Snare drum workout in 5/4 — accented 8th notes with flams/drags

Another flam accent/flam drag-oriented snare drum workout, which is a good companion to this one in 6/8 and this one in 2/4— this will be a little difficult if you haven't mastered those first, actually.

Sticking is alternating, plus the drags and flams, obviously. Do play them starting with either hand. Observe the dynamics carefully— there are some unaccented flams which you'll need to be careful with; on the accented drags in ex. 17-18, accent the first note of the double only. As with all flam studies, the grace notes need to be very small— around 1".

Get the pdf

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Transcription: Ivan Conti — Nome Dele E Joan

Here's more from Brazilian drummer Ivan Conti, of the band Azymuth. The tune is a moderate-tempo samba, Nome Dele E Joan, from the band's 2002 album Partido Novo. I just transcribed a few bars from the first little B section:

If you've been reading our new book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova (Kindle | print), you'll notice several things I mentioned there, starting with the set up at the beginning, on the bass drum— you hear Brazilian drummers do that a lot, Americans, not so much. He hits it lightly here. The rhythms he plays on the hihat should feel familiar if you've played through the practice rhythms in the book; the left hand is not playing an independent rhythm, it's just following the hihat, partially in unison. Notice how he handles the little ensemble figures— he plays the figure exactly on the drums, or drums and cymbal, without the bass drum continuing the groove underneath.

Get the pdf

Sunday, January 04, 2015

“How can I understand Elvin Jones?”

This is a question that came up on the Drummerworld forum— Elvin Jones's playing is quite advanced in a way that inexperienced listeners may be slow to figure out, and that defies explanation. The way you go about understanding artists like that is by getting all the records you can find/afford with him on them, and listening to them a lot, and maybe doing some transcribing. And you see them play live, if possible. That's all anyone else ever did. Sometimes you can get some insight by talking to them, but usually not— at least not the insight you were looking for. But here are a few stylistic things that are thought of as being pretty “him”:

  • He has a strong tendency to phrase in 3/4, even when playing in 4/4. 
  • His cymbal pattern tends to emphasize the “skip” note— the note on the & of 2 and 4, in a regular jazz ride pattern.

  • That emphasis on the ride pattern, combined with the phrasing in 3/4 means his playing often has a strong pull towards a dotted-quarter note rhythm, regardless of what meter he's in. 
  • He tends to fill out the texture with the snare drum, bass drum, and sometimes hihat, to make a constant stream of triplets. 
  • He does play “triplety”, but there is also a pull towards 16th notes; so some phrases that sound like he's just playing sloppy/loose, is really the rhythmic grid shifting between triplets and 16th notes. 
  • He tends to shift his accenting around dramatically; over the course of a phrase, he'll accent in different places in the measure, in a different sequence, than a very mainstream bop player might. Here's an example, from our upcoming Book of Intros— he plays this Latin feel at the beginning of a recording of Night In Tunisia:

On the audio, you can hear him pushing accents around:

These are just tendencies; if you go in just expecting him to play “Elvin-style”, you'll find yourself being constantly surprised by him. He's a creative player, operating in the moment; these stylistic things that seem so obvious to us are not what he was thinking about as he was playing. Also, I should mention the obvious: that he was a jazz musician, so all of this stuff is in the context of playing jazz tunes, with jazz soloists. Without that basis, it's kind of meaningless.

Here's the shortest possible list of essential listening I could come up with:
John Coltrane: My Favorite Things, Impressions, Live At Birdland, Coltrane, Sun Ship
McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy
Elvin Jones: The Ultimate

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Friday, January 02, 2015

Survival chops: triplets in 5/4

Part of the idea of this “survival” series is to be very right hand (or leading hand, if you play lefty) oriented; we want to start every measure with the right hand— it just suits the needs of playing music on the drumset better. An awkward thing about playing alternating triplets in odd meters— including 3/4— is that every downbeat lands on the opposite hand from the last. So to make that right hand orientation happen here, so we can feel a little freer with this type of thing, we'll play a sticking of RRL on beat 5. We also could've used RLL, but RRL is a little hipper.

Many of these will sound rather far out your bandmates' ears, and you could lose them— not every single pattern is practical vocabulary— but having played through them you'll be much less likely to accidentally play something that gets you lost.

An easy modification of this would be to play doubles on all the unaccented notes, except for the two rights in row on beat 5. You could also pencil in whatever drags or flams you want. A reasonable workout with this page would be to play each exercise 2-8 times, going on to the next one without stopping; you could do that at two different tempos

Get the pdf

Thursday, January 01, 2015

DBMITW: Headhunters

Here's something special for the new year: Herbie Hancock's Headhunters— the Thrust lineup, with Mike Clark— playing live in Europe in 1974:

There's another one which has embedding disabled, so you'll have to click through to listen to it.