Thursday, February 26, 2015

Daily best music in the world: Samba in 3

Or is it Bossa in 6? And I've never gotten a definitive answer on the genre name of this mostly-instrumental, piano trio, jazz-influenced, lounge-oriented form of Bossa/Samba, which we're listening to here. Right now I'm resisting calling anything without that very subdued vocal-and-guitar vibe Bossa Nova. Let's all play with more Brazilian cats and figure this stuff out. Meanwhile, here's a hip piece from Zimbo Trio. The drummer is Rubinho Barsotti:

A crappy victory lap

DEP'T OF CORRECTIONS: I thought he was going to
say “Come on, swing, you mother— SWIIIIIING!
YEAH! YEAAAH!”
, but in the actual movie he said
the only stupider cliché possible: “Faster! FASTER!”
By the way, I don't want it to pass unobserved that I called this Whiplash thing way back when all there was to go on was a single still from the movie, and a lot of buzz. Woody Allen once said he could tell if a movie was going to be any good in the first three minutes, so this must be my big name that tune in one note moment, or something.

Did I get everything right? No, I didn't know that there would be so very much blood involved. I failed to note the flat-beige vinyl contact paper wrap on the generic brand I-Can't-Believe-They're-Not-Drums drums, so they could be easily cleaned up and rewrapped after being abused and kicked around the set take after take. I did fail to anticipate that the professor would start banging on a cowbell and trashing the band room in his lust for making the drummer play fast. But any such predictions would have been dismissed as pure, rash, mean-spirited speculation. “How can you possibly know the movie's going to be that f__in' ridiculous?” is what people would have said. 

So, yeah. As tempting as it is continue berating this thing Harry S. Plinkett-style, and making a bunch of gifs of the horrible, childish mimicry of drumming by the actors in this film, I think it's best we just move on. It's just one movie, and not that big a deal. OK, here's one:




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Page o' coordination: “Latin in 3”

“Latin 3” is not a style name you often hear; it's not a true Cuban/Salsa style that I'm aware of, and is not a super-common Brazilian style. But jazz musicians will call for it occasionally, suggesting a generic, non-clave, quasi-Cuban style— a loose Afro 6/8, with a 3/4 interpretation.

So this Page o' coordination will look suspiciously like the many other Afro 6/8 POCs we've done, except I've notated in in 3/4, and given it a hihat part in 3. Hopefully this will help us find some crossover between regular jazz waltz playing, an “ECM” feel in 3, and our Afro 6 feel, giving each of those styles some room to develop when we play them.

Incidentally, since there was a comment about this recently: “Afro 6” (or Afro-Cuban 6/8, or 12/8) is just a US jazz musicians' name for a style adapted from Cuban music. It's also sometimes referred to by some of the many Cuban folkloric styles with which the approximate groove is used, usually Nañigo (sometimes “Naningo”) or Bembé. But Bembé is religious ceremonial music, and is highly specific in every aspect; it's not really appropriate to refer to the groove/style used by US jazz musicians by that name. So I say Afro 6, or Afro-Cuban 6/8.




The bell pattern and bass drum parts are correct for several Cuban 6/8 styles— the bass drum note on 2 corresponds to the “bombo” in Cuban music— the waltzy hihat part is not. The left hand parts independence patterns; they're not written to conform to any particular style. Try these with and without the circled bass drum note on 1 of the second measure. Here are the tom moves again— do 'em.

Get the pdf

Monday, February 23, 2015

Brazilian 5

While I've got you pumped out of your minds about odd meter Brazilian styles, here's a page of Samba and Bossa Nova in 5/4:




Learn all combinations of the above parts, then improvise variations on the left hand parts. Re-read the notes for the page of Bossa/Samba in 7, and visit my post explaining why the concept of odd meter Brazilian music is not as screwed up as you might think. And do purchase my book Playing Samba and Bossa Nova for a general practical summary of these styles in their usual meters— either in print or as an e-book.

Get the pdf

Here's something from the '60s by Roberto Menescal. I have noticed that the bands tend to rush on these older odd meter recordings.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Whiplash drinking game

Waitaminit, 3&2&? What the hell are you  writing 
in a school chart, and why are you doing it in ink?
Well. I finally saw the movie Whiplash, and I'll say it definitely exceeded my expectations in the magnitude of how good it isn't. Even ignoring the avalanche of howlers, it's just a thoroughly unpleasant, unsatisfying movie— I'm genuinely mystified that people are so captivated by this film. That's the power of naked, mechanical, emotional manipulation, I guess. Shower an actor with abuse, and people will empathize with him even if you've done nothing else to develop his character, or make him likable in any way.

So, yeah. The movie is so riddled with errors in re: the world it purports to represent, I naturally figured that what is called for is a drinking game. Any time you and your friends want to get good and hammered, slap in the old Whiplash DVD and take a drink any time one of these things comes up:

A drumming performance that sounds like the soundtrack to a “shreds” video
A drumming performance that sounds like a bad Sunny Murray clone. [With apologies to Sunny.] 
A reference to “double-time swing.” 
Someone playing “double-time swing” like it's a polka.
A piece of drum equipment wrongly set up. 
A jazz student who looks like a JC Penney catalog underwear model.  
Gratuitous visual cue signifying paranoia, fear, alienation. 
An elite student musician with obviously terrible technique. 
An unimaginative, unfunny, homophobic/sexist slur. 
A strategic visual edit or camerawork to avoid showing that the star is definitely not playing the drumming on the soundtrack.   
Blood. Someone putting on a Band-aid.  
A 22" bass drum.  
A verbal or visual reference to a jazz drummer who is not Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Jack Dejohnette, or Philly Joe Jones.  
An obviously jive count-off— meaning every single count-off in the movie.   
Someone turning pages of someone else's music, or a reference to such. 
JK Simmons making an absurdly dramatic entrance. 
JK Simmons demanding something random from a student. 
Abuse of an instrument.  
An injury to a part of the hand that never touches the drumstick. 

That ought to get you started. That's just off the top of my head, having seen the movie one time. Feel free to add your entries in the comments. Enjoy, and please drink responsibly. Take very small sips.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Page o' coordination: anticipations — 02

Here's a companion to another recent POC in 4/4.We're doing pure coordination in a jazz idiom here, and not an actual groove— hopefully that's obvious— we're just strengthening some of the internal structure of our time feel and comping.




Swing the 8th notes. If you have any problem with the timing, count the entire rhythm, including the rest: 1&2, 3&4. And use a metronome. I haven't been doing the tom moves so much lately, because I've been impatient and covering more pages of junk, but I recommend doing them seriously for a considerable amount of time. It's not a bad idea to count out loud as you do that: 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4, 4-2-3-4— those things together can really multiply the benefits of practicing this.

Get the pdf

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quarter note-ism

The usual theory of practicing is that as you master really hard stuff, you'll be super-good at the easy stuff. What often happens is that hard stuff just starts sounding like normal drumming to you, and you don't take easy stuff seriously, never really learn to do it well, and it never becomes fully a part of your palette. But the easy stuff makes the music groove, and it makes it easier for other people to play with you, and makes the dense, advanced stuff more effective by way of contrast. It should also be exciting that this is an area of playing where there should be no technical barrier to fully free, creative playing.

So, I've written some four measure jazz comping phrases using all quarter notes and rests:





Play the exercises along with the standard jazz ride/hihat pattern, or whatever ostinato you like. The stems-up line is the snare drum, and the stems down are the bass drum. If you have any trouble with these, you can run all of the quarter note exercises in Syncopation as preparation— it's a good idea ot do that anyway. Here are some things I would try to incorporate:

1) Play four measures of time after each time through an exercise.
2)  Play the top line on the snare drum, no bottom line.
3)  Play the top line on the bass drum.
4)  Play the top line on the snare, bottom line on the bass.
5)  Play the top line on the snare, fill in all the rests in the snare part with quarter notes on the bass drum. So line 1 would be played like this: 




6) Accent the end of the exercise on beat 4, with a long note tied through the following downbeat. Come in with the time on beat two of the new phrase: 




7) Also play the exercises rock beat-style, with straight 8th notes on the hihat or cymbal. Play them along with recordings at various tempos. (Whoops— typo in the example, but you get the picture.) 




Get the pdf

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Brazilian 7

Here's a short method for getting your Bossa Nova/Samba in 7/4 together. Since it's not exactly an everyday thing, short is the only way to do it. We've discussed before the obvious wrong-seemingness of odd time Samba, but it is a real thing— not a folkloric style, but something that has been in the repertoire of modern Brazilian players for a good half century. For jazz musicians, the most frequent way we'll use this is when playing standard tunes as a “Latin” 7.




Play all combinations of rhythms: all of the LH patterns with each combination of BD/cymbal patterns. Start by playing rim clicks with the left hand, then play taps, rim shots and buzzes on the snare drum, then move around the drums with our standard left hand moves, or just improvise the moves. In playing music, you have some freedom with your left hand, like in jazz; as you listen to more Brazilian drummers and music, you can begin improvising with it, while staying within the idiom. Remember to keep a light touch, while being rhythmically aggressive, and forward-moving.

Get the pdf

And here's a good practice loop for this— sampled from Dom Um Romao's Dom Um Sete, a moderate tempo large ensemble piece from the 60s:


Practice loop: Eddie Palmieri 6/8

Here's a loop of an Afro 6/8 groove which I've been getting a lot of mileage out of, lately. It's a couple of measures of Pancho's Seis Por Ocho, from Bamboleate Eddie Palmieri/Cal Tjader. The complete track is good, but it speeds up quite a bit, and it's not great to practice doing that. You should absolutely own that record; it's got one of our main textbook examples of a New York style Mozambique on it, too.

Use this to practice the piles and piles of Afro 6 Pages o' Coordination I've been posting over the last couple of years. If you download the audio— there are browser extensions that will allow you do extract mp3s from videos— it repeats seamlessly if you set your player to loop it.





Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Transcription: Ed Blackwell — Happy House

UPDATE: Download link is now working! 

Here is Ed Blackwell playing the head of a fairly well known Ornette Colman tune, Happy House, with the band Old and New Dreams. The beginning of the tune is cut off on the recording, so I've only transcribed the second time through the head. The album is Live At Nervi, 1979— I'm not sure if it's a real record, or a bootleg, or what. It doesn't seem to be commercially available, and I got it through one of those bootleg/vinyl rip blogs, which seem to be much of a thing anymore, what with the authorities cracking down on Rapidshare, et al.


The tempo is ~half note = 149. Blackwell is playing three regular tom toms and a couple of bongos here. You could just play the bongo parts on the two high toms on a five piece set, or adapt them however you see fit if you're playing a normal four piece set. Look for some type of mixed sticking on most of the triplets; in measures 16 and 17 they may be played as singles, starting with the left hand.

Get the pdf

Monday, February 16, 2015

Stick Control patterns in 3/4, with flamacues

Another variation on the recent page of Stick Control-type patterns in 3/4, this time making a flamacue-type construction, with a flam right before the accent:




Read the description of the previous variation for some technical notes on playing the fast, one handed, soft/loud sequence of notes, which happens a lot here.

Get the pdf

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Transcription: Airto — Partido Alto

If you've been reading the blog regularly, you probably know that partido alto is the name of a rhythm used in Brazilian music. It's also a style of samba, a funk samba groove, and the title of a famous tune by Chico Buarque, and also a fusion-era tune... which uses that funk samba groove. There is some overlap between those things— an actual Brazilian music expert might be able to explain the distinctions between them precisely. We're transcribing the fusion tune, as recorded by Airto in 1979, on his album Touching Me Touching You. I've written it out just up to the beginning of the solos:  




The phrasing is ambiguous, and at first it may be difficult for some people to even find the 1— the “downbeat” of the groove lands on the & of 1, with the snare drum (do watch the rhythm video above for help with that). Each four measure phrase could begin at the start of each line, or it could begin on the third measure of each line— the melody does land strongly on the third measure, and the solos begin on the third measure. But the keyboards enter at the beginning of a line, and putting the phrase on the third bar puts a phrase break in the middle of the unison ensemble figure (@ bars 41-44, and several other places). And that puts the bulk of the melody in the second half of the phrase, which I just don't like. The way I've written it, it's a little bit of a fractal; the shape of the larger structure is similar to the shape of the (two-measure) groove. They each start weakly, and are strong in the middle; the groove has the solid down beat on the bass drum in the second measure, and the phrase has the melody of the tune landing on bar 3. Try feeling it either way, and see what works for you.

To master the basic groove, you could just play the second and fourth lines many times. Airto appears to be using five tom toms here— if you don't have them, it doesn't matter; just play the written rhythm on whatever drums you want. The break at measures 45, 53, and a few other places, feels a little weird; make sure you take a moment to actually count it out— you may be able to listen and guess at it and be close, but you want to know exactly what's going on. Airto is not guessing at it. The starting tempo is half note = 78, but by the end of the solos it has picked up to HN=88, and settles a bit to HN=85 when the tune comes back in.

Get the pdf

Thursday, February 12, 2015

New Mel Lewis biography

There's a book I'm reading right now, in preparation for doing a proper review, which a lot of you will want to buy regardless of what I say about it. It's a new biography of Mel Lewis, written by drummer Chris Smith, entitled The View From The Back Of The Band. It's a really outstanding scholarly work, written for a pro musician audience. It definitely belongs in every serious jazz musician's library— if you know the name Mel Lewis, you should probably just go ahead and  buy it. It's published by University of North Texas Press, and you can get it on their site. Review is coming as soon as I can get it finished.

Daily best music in the world: Mozambique

Melao Para El Sapo, a New York-style Mozambique by Eddie Palmieri. I'm finding that my page of Mozambique from 2013 is holding up pretty well as a method for getting some basic fluency with this groove, which also serves well as a generic Cuban-style Latin groove when playing jazz. I suck at identifying Cuban song styles, but NY Mozambique seems recognizable by the bell pattern, the tumbao (the & of 2 and 4, especially on the 3 side of clave) played strongly by the timbales, and the vocal “Mozambique” riff.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Three minutes

Following our “3½ minutes” playlist, here are some recordings of songs/tunes that are three minutes long. We are definitely into more of a pop format now, though there are a few jazz examples— mainly vocal numbers, and mostly-melody arrangements with little improvising. A lot of old 78s are around that length. It's enough time for a pop song to feel fully-developed, though it leaves you wanting more; jazz recordings definitely feel very tight.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Transcription: Airto — Earache My Eye

Cheech & Chong's Earache My Eye is just an eternal piece of American teenage rock & roll culture, along with Smoke On The Water, Iron Man, Sunshine Of Your Love... like that. On hearing it for the first time in a long time, I think this is what I've been really been trying to play like all these years— with rock & roll, anyway— like this, and like Jim Gordon on Zappa's Apostrophe.

It turns out the drummer on the recording is Airto, which surprised me, but I can dig it. To understand how great he is, just check out a few of the many covers of the song; the tom fills really make the whole track, but nobody else does them especially well. And none of the guys beating the f__ out of their drums plays as effectively as Airto does here— they rock less.




I went ahead and put in everything I could hear, including the hihat played sporadically with the foot. If you actually want to work this up, you can safely ignore the left foot, for the most part. What's significant about it is that he will sometimes play it on the &s, Brazilian/jazz style, and other times he'll play it in unison with the bass drum, emphasizing the rhythm section line.

Get the pdf

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Stick Control patterns in 3/4, with flams and accents

A little companion to the page of Stone patterns adapted into 3/4, from the other day— here I've added some flams and accents to the sticking patterns from that page:




Quite a few of the exercises have an unaccented note followed by an accented note on the same hand, a common, difficult sequence of notes. Put in a very deliberate upstroke after the little note— pick up the stick fast to get it into position to play the accented note. A lot of people will try to make the two notes into one “whip” stroke— which is often executed more like a “jerk” stroke, which is as wrong as it sounds— I'm not in favor of that, at first. Start by separating the strokes: little note+fast upstroke, then accented downstroke. You can streamline that sequence into one motion after you have the individual parts well under your hands.

Get the pdf

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Transcription: Al Foster — Pannonica

Oh, what the hey, hot on the heels of our Frankie Dunlop transcription of Pannonica, here's Al Foster playing the same tune, the way I like to play it, in the original slow 4. It's from the McCoy Tyner album 4x4, and the transcription is from the piano solo, starting at 1:54 in the track. McCoy plays it a little slower here than Monk recorded it.




Foster is playing in a functional, modern mode here. He tends to accent the & of 2 and & of 4 pretty strongly, a la Elvin Jones, and maintains a triplet-based swing feel all the way through. McCoy and then Bobby Hutcherson do play some fast stuff over it, but almost all of it with a triplet foundation— little the soloing is actual double-time. During the more complex passages he will play straight triplets on the ride cymbal, which builds the intensity, and is a good way to keep from breaking the groove with that stuff.

Also noted that he likes to accent with the crash cymbal by itself— with no snare drum or bass drum to support it. And much of the comping— the things that are not obviously interactive, or marking a phrase— is for texture, and to keep the groove together.

Get the pdf


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Listening: Miles Davis — In A Silent Way

This guy's copy is in a little too
good condition for my taste.
Following another Twitter conversation begun by Ethan Iverson, I listened to Miles Davis's album In A Silent Way, always one of my favorites, three times in a row while having my coffee. My comment there was that it really is a perfect album, as much so as anything else in jazz— Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, anything else you'd care to name. The improvising is sort of backgrounded, and the writing is extremely minimal, so, famous as it is, it's not necessarily put in that kind of company. Some historically-minded people just regard it as transitional, others want more blowing and are bored by it.

If you spend a little time with the record, the reasons it is great are self-evident in the sound coming off the vinyl, and I'm not going to try to state them in English. It is a totally unique album; for all the “jazz/rock” and fusion that followed it, nobody (except for Miles, occasionally) does quite the thing that is on this record. Maybe Gil Evans comes the closest, here and there.

The background lore isn't really necessary, but you might want to read guitarist John McLoughlin's comments about playing his famous rendition of the track In A Silent Way; also, via Iverson, there's an article from Downbeat discussing the album, and some bad feelings between Tony Williams and Miles surrounding the recording session. One writer on Iverson's feed suggested that Miles whole purpose with his music in this period was to impress Betty Davis (née Mabry). While I don't believe that, it would be great if it were true, because it would prove that it doesn't friggin' matter why people do things.

Embedding for the YouTube video of the album has been disabled, so you'll have to follow this link to listen— or go to your record collection. Everyone is supposed to own this one.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Transcription: Frankie Dunlop — Pannonica

Here's Frankie Dunlop, playing a walking ballad— maybe it's a little fast to call it that?— by Thelonious Monk, Pannonica, on the album Criss Cross. I've transcribed just the accompaniment for the Charlie Rouse's saxophone solo. There's a typo in the pdf regarding the start time— the transcription starts at 1:40.




Dunlop maintains the slow, triplety swing feel, with sticks, all the way through the piece. On other Monk recordings of this tune, the drummers Max Roach and Ben Riley suggest a double-time feel much of the time, and play it with brushes. Personally, I prefer not to double-time this tune. Another version with Al Foster on drums, has the feel I like. Dunlop plays the drums strongly during the comping, and tends to play more quarter notes than do a lot of drummers.

Get the pdf

Monday, February 02, 2015

Sharing information: two views

“Those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know.”
— Timeless wisdom from the East, attributed to Lao-Tzu.

“All the pros I know freely share their prime locations, techniques and business practices.”
— Photographer Ken Rockwell, who has a website


I said two views, but they are not mutually exclusive, actually. I don't want to put words in Lao-Tzu's mouth, but he was not talking about how to erect a pup tent, or about the correct procedure for operating a table saw safely. He was talking about enlightenment; ultimate understanding in the cosmic sense, but his line is sometimes abused by people who want to undercut someone else's authority to speak on a subject, without engaging them on the specifics. Rockwell is really talking about sharing merely all the things that can be shared. Which is not the same as everything, period. His point is that sharable information is not enough to make a person a successful artist and professional.

More after the break:

Triplet bell patterns

Here's a nice video by a British percussionist, cataloging a whole lot of mostly-folkloric, triplet-based/compound meter, bell patterns from around the world:





It's always good to use caution trusting people's interpretation and scholarship with these things. I certainly don't agree that the jazz ride pattern falls under this list's category— it's arguable, anyway— and the way he plays it, with an accent on the 1 and 3, is just wrong. One viewer who seems knowledgeable left this comment:

several of those forms are not right at all. These are foundational rhythms for these forms of Folklore. If you dont get the foundation correct to start, you are heading off in the wrong direction big time. 

He's right: if you're planning on using this video as your jumping off point for studying twenty different folkloric styles from different parts of the planet... that might not be a great idea. That would be a crazy endeavor regardless of the video. But, with reasonable caveats, it's nice to have a loosely-correct survey of similar rhythms that have a history of human usage.