Sunday, June 30, 2019

Very occasional quote of the day: random factors

“Life is a cut-up; consciousness is a cut-up. Every time you walk down the street or look out the window, your stream of consciousness is cut by random factors.”

— William S. Burroughs, The Adding Machine

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Page o' coordination: 3/2 over 12

Adding to our already-voluminous background for playing an Afro feel, or any 6/8 or 12/8 feel. Here we're phrasing in 3/2 and 12/8 at the same time, using a common cymbal pattern.

It's easier to see what's happening when we isolate the cymbal and hihat:

It's a natural rhythm for any jazz or funk drummer to lapse into when improvising. I've put the normal bass drum leading into the 1, plus the basic left hand coordination parts based on the 4, and on the 3:

Learn the patterns, then work out with them doing all my basic left hand moves. Use my practice loop in 6/8 sampled from Eddie Palmieri.

Get the pdf

Friday, June 28, 2019

Daily best music in the world: what it is

Slow getting back into regular posting, but here are two great tracks that are better than anything I could write. If you don't have a good jazz radio station in your city— you probably don't— you can listen to KMHD online.

This came on the radio yesterday in the middle of a lot of contemporary stuff, and it didn't register as being an old recording. I thought, finally, someone who gets it. Of course it turned out to be Smoky Robinson, recorded 45 years ago. What the hell.

Another thing that came on as I was running around like a maniac getting ready to fly to Germany, deeply stressed about some flight issues. I found it to be very centering:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hemiola funk - repeated beats

More of this hemiola funk idea, putting the two basic 3/4 patterns into 4/4 by repeating each beat of the pattern... starting on each beat of the pattern. I don't know if there's a special need for anyone to play through all of these posts; I'm just developing an idea live on the site, running it through some logical permutations and seeing what I get. A lot of it ends up being primary funk vocabulary, and it's not hard, so maybe you want to play through it once. Do it with one of my practice loops to hear some context.

I'm not into writing materials just based on mathematical logic, but with this particular idea, much of what you get from that turns out to be actual things that somebody played in real life. So I'll continue developing it, and hopefully end up with a more concise HEMIOLA THEORY OF FUNK DRUMMING.

Get the pdf

Monday, June 24, 2019

Ten tunes: oxygen

What a lot of people used
to learn this tune.
A professional drummer friend wanted to get my take on ten essential tunes to learn, for drummers playing jazz. It's a hard question, because an actual practical essential tune list would start at a couple of hundred things long. I thought I could do it more realistically by narrowing it to several lists of certain categories of tunes. So let's do this as a series.

These are ten extremely familiar tunes, that still get played a lot by players of all levels, that are still fun to play. You may know them so well the tune structures tend to vanish while you're playing them— there's no distance between you and the tune, and they feel more like playing free. Or maybe a better way to say it is that you experience them as pure music, rather than as external structures to be performed. Playing a 12-bar blues form is the same way. That's my experience with them.

Most people who have played any jazz gigs at all will already know these. If you don't, you can learn them by playing them, without a lead sheet. Solar is a little more rhythmically specific, so you can use one for that.

All of You

Beautiful Love


In Your Own Sweet Way

Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise

Stella By Starlight


There Is No Greater Love

What Is This Thing Called Love


Note that I haven't included a rhythm changes tune, even though it's one of the most common forms in jazz. To me that falls in a different category— it's more like playing Sweet Georgia Brown. Horn players will have endless things to say on it, but as a drummer, it feels a little formulaic. There's always the pat little move to the bridge. During the blowing you have to know where the top of the form is, rather than be taken there. Playing it often has a chaotic edge as the younger players forget which A they just played, and the bridge starts coming up in all kinds of unexpected places. So, no rhythm changes on the oxygen list.

More lists coming— I'll try to do one a week.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Transcription: Art Blakey - The Egyptian

Here's a drum intro... hey, this could go in my Book of Intros, which HAHAHAHA is still languishing a few hours of work away from completion... a drum intro, played by Art Blakey on The Egyptian, from the Jazz Messengers album Indestructible. I was checking this out for the cymbal sound; he's using a rather famous 20" K. Zildjian ride that he also plays on The Big Beat. But what he's playing is a little Art Blakey microcosm— it includes several little stylistic things he does quite often.

Some of these things don't resolve exactly the way they look in the transcription. In bars 13-14, what Blakey plays is actually somewhere between these two things. There's also a second cymbal note at the end, right before the following downbeat, which I didn't even try to include.

Something similar happens in bars 19-20— six notes seemingly evenly-spaced notes, like in the first example, except he starts it on the & of 4, like in the second example:

I actually think he plays it the second way, and that my ears were just fooled into hearing the fill as six evenly spaced notes— he does play the extra space as in the second way.

Get the pdf

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Groove o' the day: Like Sonny - alternate version

An Afro 6 feel recorded in 1959 by Lex Humphries on an alternate version of Like Sonny, from the John Coltrane Alternate Takes compilation. The master version of the tune was released on the album Coltrane Jazz with Jimmy Cobb on drums, playing a straight-8th Latin feel.

On the early (late 50s-early 60s) recordings of this type of triplet-feel Latin groove, the drummers generally seem to be making up their own way of playing it. I don't know how it found its way into the jazz idiom, if there was a particular recording, or what. I imagine it was just through general exposure to Latin musicians in New York. There's more of Lex Humphries playing an Afro 6 feel here.

The first measure by itself is the actual repeating groove; the second measure is a fill he plays in bar 8. You can play it as a two measure groove, the way I've written it, or play just the first measure, and use the second measure as a fill/variation as on the record. The bass drum is played very lightly.

Friday, June 21, 2019

I'm back

As you know, I just made another cymbal demo-and-delivery tour to Germany, with a side visit to Istanbul to meet Cymbal & Gong's production team... which is just a bunch of guys working in a really grungy metal shop in the city's vast outskirts. It's insane, the cities I slept in the last four days of the trip: Saturday - Istanbul, Sunday - Berlin, Monday - Reykjavik, Tuesday - Portland. Taking a flight a day for four days, going to and from the airport, is itself a little silly, but by the end we were traveling light, and it worked out OK. Visit my Facebook feed to see pictures and video from the tour.

A few notes from the tour:

Cymbals in Turkey
One thing I realized on this visit to Istanbul is that Cymbal & Gong cymbals— consistently the finest traditional handcrafted cymbals in the world, I believe— would not exist without proprietor Tim Ennis.

Obviously, it's his company, so yeah. And he does rely on master Turkish cymbal smiths to realize them and produce them.

BUT: Having met Cymbal & Gong's smiths, and played a few dozen of other Turkish brands' cymbals: the C&G product is unlike anything they are producing on their own. Creating a traditional 50s-60s sound could not be further off their radar. In the shops, a lot of what I played seemed to be designed to stand out in a drum shop environment. As musical instruments, I found maybe three things I could actually use... if I didn't know C&G was out there, and was better. Even the things with a famous jazz drummer's name on them, I get the feeling they're getting it right (occasionally) by accident. There's a large disconnect between what is being produced, and why, and what I want/need as an artist.

So, for Cymbal & Gong to happen, somebody who knew what a good, normal cymbal is had to go to Turkey, find the right guys, get them to make it, and have it be consistently excellent. Not a simple process in itself, considering the distance, expense, a significant language barrier, and music-cultural difference. Try it some time.

I knew Cymbal & Gong was a big deal because I always had a hard time finding cymbals I liked, but yeah: what they are doing is a really big deal.

Cymbal & Gong vs. Ks and others
I did get to play the C&G Holy Grail cymbals next to some Istanbul K Zildjians, and a Spizzichino, and several cymbals by a boutique shop in Germany which modifies 30th Anniversary Agops. Both Ks were interesting; one very nice, one a little funky, but playable. They were both clearly in the same family of cymbals as the Cymbal & Gong, but a little mellower; the C&G had a slightly brighter edge, with more highs present. The Ks sounded a little prettier by themselves; but I, and others I've spoken to, find that their sound tends to get lost. The C&Gs have a true traditional sound, but cut better.

And both of the Ks were idiosyncratic; there were things about the way they handle as instruments that I would have to work around when playing music with them. There were aspects of the sound that I would have to handle with care— to varying degrees. To me the Cymbal & Gong cymbals are better realized; they do all the right things when you want them to do them, with any kind of stick. Soft ride sound, strong ride sound, explosive crash, accent, bell sound. There may be some idiosyncratic examples, but I don't select them for sale on my site.

The Spizzichino is owned by Michael Griener, a great drummer in Berlin who has been extremely supportive and helpful in getting these cymbals and me to Germany. To me that cymbal had a sound
like a Paiste 602 version of a K[???]— a clean, very pretty K-like sound, distinctly different from what Cymbal & Gong makes. It had a certain quality that bothered Michael, and I believe he now mostly uses a 20" Mersey Beat instead.

The German modified Agops were clearly specialty items— extremely rough and dark sounding, for me barely controllable as musical instruments. The player who owned them was having a hard time with them, too. I think this is a problem in the cymbal-fetishist world: we get these “amazing” sounding cymbals because they sound amazing in a drum shop, and then take them onto a job or session, and they just don't work right.

Let's talk a little more about the cymbals I played in Turkey: there were a lot of “fascinating” cymbals, three or four that I normally would have considered buying, one that I did almost actually buy (a 20" lightish Mehmet Turk). They weren't terrible. Generally speaking, they all had a “dark”, distantly K-like sound. A number of things seemed to be going for a Chris Dave-like noisy, dry, trebly, rattly sound, which I can't really use. The qualities that made me reject most of them were that they were interesting-sounding in a way that detracted from their usefulness as an instrument; or they clearly would not do the things I listed above the way I want (soft ride, strong ride, explosive crash, accent, bell); many of them had qualities that just sounded wrong— something about the tonality is not what I want in an instrument. You can tell when you crash something, and the crash sound is just off. There was a lot of that feeling of not quite making it.

After the break are a lot of thank yous to various people and entities:

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

I'm in Germany

Wow, after weeks in airline booking hell, we actually made it to Germany-- to Berlin, the city I actually bought the tickets for, and only a day late. I'll tell you the story about what an amazing miracle that is another time. Basically, as late as the morning of our flight I didn't know if the trip was even going to happen.

Today we're heading to Dresden for our first cymbal meet, then back to Berlin for another meet tomorrow, then to Munich on the 10th, then to Istanbul to meet Cymbal & Gong's smiths, and to visit some other foundries.

So we'll be on very light posting for another 12 days or so, making this a fine time to pore over our voluminous archives.