Friday, July 29, 2016

Transcription: James Black - Hook And Sling, pt. 2

This is something very special— it's probably classical music to anyone well versed in New Orleans music, and anyone in the sampling world, but I only heard it for the first time recently: James Black playing Hook And Sling, by Eddie Bo. It's an extended funk jam taking up both sides of a 45 rpm single, and the drumming on it is something else— very much in the Zigaboo Modeliste zone, and roughly contemporaneous with the early Meters stuff we know and love, though Black was a little older.

The record is one continuous recorded track split in two, and they chose a very strange spot to split it— take a look at the first measure. There's quite a bit of wiggle room in the hihat and cymbal parts; someone's playing some tambourine, and it obscures it to some extent. There's also a good amount of half-open hihat, and the cymbals in general are pretty rough sounding and not always easy to pick out or notate accurately. Do take some care where there's something linear happening with the hihats, but in general, the cymbals can be a suggestion— focus on the drum parts. The accents, too, are not critically important: all of the parts of the instrument are played pretty strongly all the time. You'd be more true to the original if you played everything the same volume than if you exaggerated the accents. The rolls and ruffs are played very closed; he really digs into the drum for them. Play the 32nd notes as singles.

As always with the transcriptions, if nothing else, give the track many listens through while following along on the page.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Page o' coordination: displacing a jazz groove

As the heading on the page says, this is a fairly ill-advised endeavor we're covering today: displacing a jazz groove, by shifting the cymbal and hihat rhythm over to the last note of the triplet. Not exactly a core thing. Jeff Watts very audaciously did it on Branford Marsalis's album Trio Jeepy. I also think it was covered in a book I don't own, Gavin Harrison's How To Crash The Band And Get Fired, For The Soon-To-Be-Formerly-Professional Drummer.

I'm sorry, I don't know where I got that. The title of that book is Rhythmic Illusions. Listen: I wrote this just to mess with one particular bass player I work with, a strong player who likes to fool around playing the middle of the triplet— which I take as a compliment, that he is comfortable enough playing with me to do that. Maybe it will end up helping the music go someplace new and special, or maybe it'll just be me messing with him briefly. Probably the only reason a normal person will want to do this is just to refine the internals of your jazz feel by shifting perspective. In that way it's a reasonable technical exercise, worth spending a few hours with.

Do our standard left hand moves— my full CSD! workout is to play each exercise 2, 4, or 8 times with each of those moves. You'll need to work closely with a metronome on this, and it's an excellent idea to count the quarter notes out loud, too; you never want to be guessing where the beat actually is.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

New Orleans street beat - Reed method

As promised, another method for developing a NOLA street beat, this one perhaps more musical than the last. Definitely. Here we'll be using Progressive Steps to Syncopation, by Ted Reed, pp. 33-44— the “Syncopation” section of the book.

Similar to the Stone method from last week, we'll be playing alternating 8th notes on the snare drum throughout. Following the music in the book (stems-up part only, ignore the written stems-down part), you'll add a snare drum accent on any written short notes (untied 8th notes), and add a bass drum note on all the long notes (everything else— quarter notes, tied notes, dotted notes).

Once you can do that fluidly, you can begin making two-measure phrases that approximate a real groove. On the last long note every two measures, accent with the hands (whichever hand the note falls on), and roll— just continue playing the running 8th notes, but play multiple-bounce strokes for the duration of that long note. Here, it's all on the page:

Instructions from before still apply, mainly: 1) Swing the 8th notes slightly. 2) Listen to recordings to get the feel, and to get an idea of the amount of variety professional drummers use with this type of groove. Actual bands from New Orleans may not do a lot of variations on the basic groove; jazz drummers playing it as a style may play a lot of variations.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kenny Clarke at 100

[Oh heck, this is from 2014— oh well. Just saw it on Famoudou Don Moye's Facebook feed today. Whatever.]

Good of NPR's Kevin Whitehead to take notice of Kenny Clarke's (“inventor of modern jazz drumming”) 100th birthday. He doesn't quite accurately describe the nature of Clarke's innovation:

Before him, jazz drummers kept time lightly on the bass drum. Kenny Clarke used bass drum sparingly, often tethered to his snare, for dramatic accents in odd places — what jazz folk call "dropping bombs." He drew on his playing for stage shows, where drummers punctuate the action with split-second timing. Clarke kicked a band along. 
With those twin innovations, Kenny Clarke invented modern jazz drumming. 

Before Clarke— I'm not going to call him “Klook”, like I knew him— drummers kept time often quite heavily on the bass drum, and the snare drum, too, with a swing-style march rhythm. They also played the familiar thing on the hihat— that was Papa Jo Jones's thing. You can get a more detailed idea of what he did in his Modern Drummer interview with Ed Thigpen— I've excerpted the relevant passages. This post about Charley Wilcoxon's Drum Method, as well as the Mel Lewis's history of jazz drumming interviews, and, hey, records, can give you an idea of what swing-era drumming was in the early part of Clarke's career, before Bebop.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Transcription: Airto - Black Narcissus

From Flora Purim's album Encounter, here's more Airto— this time playing a jazz waltz: Black Narcissus. I've transcribed the head of the tune, and the first couple of choruses of his playing behind Joe Henderson's tenor solo, after which there's some out-of-time blowing. There's a long free intro, and the transcription starts at 0:56. His playing here is modern, but quite simple, with some interesting triplet runs. Always interesting to hear someone playing jazz on a 70s studio-sounding drum set— not that it's some big novelty.

Swing the 8th notes. The cymbal pattern is largely a shuffle rhythm, with running swing 8th notes— though it doesn't sound like a shuffle the way he plays it. Not a lot of action on the snare drum, you'll notice; a lot of single notes, a lot of &s of 2. The rolls are generally played closed, as multiple-bounce rolls; I've indicated where one of them should be played as unmetered singles.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

New Orleans street beat - Stone method

This is the first of two pretty-easy methods for developing a New Orleans-style street beat— or rather, for expanding on it, and playing it in a “modern” way. They'll also be good for getting a type of coordination into your playing which is normally not systemically developed— I haven't seen another system for it, anyway.

With this type of groove there will be lots of snare drum accents in unison with the bass drum. Here's a classic, straightforward way of playing it, as done by Zigaboo Modeliste on Hey Pocky A-Way, performed by The Meters:

It's extremely effective, and more people should play the groove that way, but where it gets a little more interesting, with more musical possibilities, is when you separate the bass drum notes and snare drum accents, so you get a two-tone melody going between the drums:

To begin developing this, we'll make a technical study using the book Stick Control. Based on the patterns from the book, we'll add accents and bass drum notes to a basic, alternating-sticking snare drum rhythm. We'll add a bass drum note where there's an R indicated, and add a snare drum accent where an L is indicated. Don't change the sticking for your hands— you maintain a constant RLRL sticking for the entire method.

Swing the 8th notes slightly— listen to that Meters track above about a thousand times to get a feel for it. As noted on the pdf, Stone exercises starting with RLRR, RLLR, and RRLR, and also exercises 65 and 67 will be most useful as actual performance vocabulary. Pay attention to how the parts interact. Go for accurate unisons between the bass drum and unaccented snare drum, and get a solid lock between the accented snare drum and the bass drum— they should fit together to make a solid, swinging steady 8th note rhythm.

Burn through this warm-up fast— coming next week is a Reed-based method which is much more musical and realistic for actual playing.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Grooves o' the day: three street beats by Fred Staehle

Kicking off a little series on playing New Orleans-style street beats, here are some grooves by Fred Staehle. These are from Dr. John's Gumbo, a very famous album of classic New Orleans tunes, recorded by, hey, the pianist Dr. John, whom Staehle played with for many years. We've got the main grooves and a break from “Big Chief”— here a percussionist is playing the traditional tambourine part— and the complete transcribed drum intro from “Junko Partner”, and the main groove from “Iko Iko.”

The rolls here are all multiple-bounce. I would probably stick the triplet and break on Big Chief RRLR. You could practice every two measures of Junko Partner as individual grooves— except the last two measures which are kind of a tag. And note the optional accent in Iko Iko— sometimes he plays it, sometimes he doesn't. No big deal.

These all swing in a special way, so don't neglect listening to the tracks— actually buy the record, and play it a lot. Variations and fills are fairly few, so they should be easy to hear if you listen as much as you should.

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Audio after the break:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

EZ Reed method with flams and 16th notes

Another “EZ” Reed method for rock/funk fills, similar to our recent triplet method, this time using pp. 24-27 from Syncopation. I won't break it down completely, but you can figure it out by looking at the page. Basically we'll flam the 16th notes, except the last one in a series, which we'll play on the bass drum. So, if there are two 16th notes, the first will be a flam with the hands, and the second will be a bass drum note; if there are four 16th notes, the first three will be flams, the last one on the bass. The first 8th note after the 16ths will also be a bass drum/cymbal hit. For the rest of the measure— at first— we'll play bass drum and cymbal together, with an alternating sticking. Once that gets a little boring, you can improvise whatever you like during that part of the measure. But the basic lick is one or more flams with the hands + a bass drum note + a bass drum/cymbal note.

Play exercises 1-25 on pp. 24-26, plus the 40 bar exercise on p. 27. I do all of the flams left-handed— the big note with the LH, the little note with the RH. Where there are multiple 16th notes, you have the option of playing them alternating between the hands and feet, as you see in a couple of the examples. You're really free to do whatever you want for the rest of the measure— go ahead and fill it out with an improvised time feel or solo/fill-type ideas if you want.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Transcription: Airto — Hot Sand

Why am I not always talking about Airto? I've spent fewer hours listening to him than most other drummers at the top of my personal influences list; I never had a period of chasing down everything he ever played on. But he's really, really great, and very influential, and I love his playing a lot. Jazz would not be what it is today without Fusion, Fusion wouldn't have been the same without Brazilian music, and Airto is the most influential Brazilian drummer in the USA. Bada bing, he's a big deal.

That's a little glib. Here's a transcription of his drumming on the head of Hot Sand, from his 1974 album Virgin Land. It's pretty straightforward: samba over a vamp, baiao-type groove on the B section, with breaks at the end of each section, plus a few fills:

The A section has the hands doing some minor variations on a basic two-measure samba groove in 2/4. Listen for the accents— lots of 'a' of 2s of the first measure (matching the rhythm of the bass line) and 'e' of 1s of the second measure. The B section (most of page 2) is pretty repetitive, with a quasi-Baiao groove happening with the bass drum and cymbal. The fills are largely played by the right hand, with the left hand filling in softly. As with all good Brazilian drummers, there's a lot to be learned about touch here.

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Friday, July 08, 2016

Deep Blues

An excellent Mississippi Blues documentary featuring Fat Possum artists R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough (my favorite), along with a good fife and drum group, and others. I had a bad VHS dub of this in the 90s, which I used to watch a lot. Author Robert Palmer hosts— worth it to seek out his book Deep Blues, too. You'll just have to mentally block out the many goofy shots of the Eurythmics guy...

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Practice loop: Ronnie Foster - Mystic Brew

Please forgive my continued very, very light, almost-not-even-there posting these days. We'll get back to the usual torrents of stuff very soon. Until that happens, here's a new practice loop: the vamp from Mystic Brew by Ronnie Foster. Use this for any medium tempo funk, rock, or Latin stuff you want. It will definitely make those dismal hours spent with Dahlgren & Fine more fun and productive.

If one is so inclined, one could use one of those quasi-legal YouTube audio-ripping browser extensions to get the mp3 onto your player— if you set it to loop, it will play seamlessly all day.