Saturday, December 24, 2016

Transcription: Ndugu Leon Chancler - Earth

Happy holidays everyone. Instead of finishing the other transcriptions I said I needed to finish, I started a new, really long one: Ndugu Leon Chancler playing Earth, from Joe Henderson's album The Elements. I don't have a lot of records with him, but Chancler is one of my favorite drummers in the world— I actually decided that based on his playing on one George Duke record.

This is how you're actually supposed to play funk. It's not loud, there's a strong pulse, the architecture of the rhythm is very defined, he's obviously very alert to what's going on around him— and there's some subtlety to his touch, dynamics, and sound. He's not playing for perfect evenness of volume, or for digital sample-like consistency in the sounds he's drawing from the instrument. Obviously that wasn't a thing yet in 1974, but it's very much a thing now, in certain sectors, to the detriment of people's musicality. I think. In writing this blog I listen to a lot of 70s funk and studio drummers, and there's always way more subtlety than I expect. These guys are listening, and are very attentive to the arc of the melody and the ebb and flow of the groove.

This is in two parts; the rhythm section enters at 0:55, then there's a board fade into an open bass solo by Charlie Haden, and some spoken word stuff, and then the rhythm section is back in at 8:45.

Except for notes in parentheses, everything is at a fairly even volume. I've indicated a few accents, but they're not huge. Housetop accents indicate a rim shot.

I haven't differentiated between cymbals— clearly there's a crash, ride, and swish cymbal. But he doesn't play them strongly, even on the accents, so you can just catch whatever's easiest. He does play the bell of the ride cymbal at one point, which I've indicated. I believe he's using three tom toms.

Things start to get really interesting on page 4— read the rhythms carefully there. I don't know what's up with the measure of 5/4 on the last page. Ndugu went an extra beat in his fill for reason, and everyone was with him.

Get the pdf

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Very occasional quote of the day: classical in jazz

“[T]hese days I think there can actually be too much 'classical' sounding stuff in jazz. In a master class I heard Paul Bley warn about this. Bley thought it was better for young jazz musicians to study Louis Armstrong than Alban Berg.

Indeed, it is important to remember that any Dexter Gordon record has so much more meaning and validity than most modern nerdy music-school jazz connected to formal composition.

Taking that a step further, in no way do I feel that the greatest jazz is lesser than the greatest 20th-century composition. Indeed, I’d argue the reverse. The best of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette Coleman with their most sympathetic collaborators is clearly the greatest 20th-century music.”

— The Bad Plus's Ethan Iverson

Inner Drumming

One of the more interesting drum books ever written is Inner Drumming, by George Marsh. Marsh is a big Tai Chi practitioner, and his linear drumming method, using a novel, artistic system of notation, is all about energy flow... the book is sort of like Four-Way Coordination, informed by Eastern philosophy:

I'd like to get those blow-ups of the diagrams. Someone should be selling those.

I spent some time with the book in the 80s, when there was a copy floating around the percussion department at the University of Oregon. I don't think I was ready for it— like Dahlgren & Fine, I think you need to be a fairly developed/mature player to get the most benefit from it. But any ambitious drummer— like someone who would be reading Cruise Ship Drummer!— should own it. For a long time you had to get it from George himself, now it's available from Sher Music. You can read more about the book and about Marsh at his website, and also friend him on Facebook.

UPDATE: Oh, Michael Vatcher! I spaced out for a moment. I once met him at a jam session in Eugene, Oregon, when he was in town on a Creative Music Guild show. It was very random, because he was on a John Zorn record, Spy vs. Spy, which I was listening to a lot right then. He said he and Joey Baron broke a lot of sticks on that session.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Daily best music in the world: Headhunters

A complete set by Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, with Mike Clark on drums, recorded in 1974. For most of the time I've been a drummer, there was no opportunity to see things like this— actually the first time I ever saw Mike Clark play in any capacity play was when my band opened for this group at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland in 2000. That tour was the first time they had played in 25 years. So we're very lucky as drummers to have documents like this now. If you've been spending any time with my Funk Control/Basic Funk Ideas series, you'll definitely want to see this, to see those ideas in action.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

End of year news

Wow, posting has really slowed down to a crawl here in December. Truth is, I got way too ambitious with some transcription projects, and never got them finished. We'll see if I can get at least one of them done before the end of the year. I'm also working on the 2016 Book of the Blog, which I'm hoping to have ready to order in the first week of January. I was busy with so many non-site-related projects this year I was afraid we weren't going to have much of a book, but it's still coming in at over 100 pages, including a very robust funk drumming chapter. I've also included in the book some of my Reed/Stone methods which normally don't have an accompanying download. I'm very happy with what I've got for you.

And it's insane— I have several other book projects, each languishing a few hours' work away from completion: my Book of Intros, a rock book and a funk book (each based on Syncopation), and this latest Funk Control thing, which I'm very excited about. Can I release five books in 2017? We'll see.