Saturday, July 20, 2019

Max's rubadub - transcribed phrases

Some excerpts from a very large transcription I'm working on— Max Roach's entire performance on Freedom Suite, by Sonny Rollins, which I plan on releasing as an e-book. All 19 bloody minutes of it. These excerpts from the first section of the piece highlight Max's rubadub-like thing I mentioned in the linked post.

The concept and underlying pattern is almost exactly the same as Mel Lewis's thing*, except Max maintains the complete cymbal rhythm, which stays in 4, or shifts backwards/forwards once or twice in a four bar phrase— it doesn't have the running 3/4 feeling of Mel's thing. Max's thing really seems to hang off of a RLRR RLRR sticking pattern, in swing 8th notes; there are a lot of snare hits on the & of 1/3. Hit the link above to see that broken down.

* - That is, Mel Lewis's thing as we've been exploring it on this site— which is entirely based on Chris Smith's very helpful explanation of it. I need to make some transcriptions of Mel's thing and get a clearer idea of how he actually played it.

To highlight the idea we're studying here, I've removed all dynamics and articulations, and edited a few of them slightly. Many of the four bar examples can be played two bars at a time, repeating. On the recording there is very little audible hihat played with the foot; you can play it on 2 and 4, or leave it out.

I've been focusing on how this connects to Mel Lewis's playing, but also see Billy Higgins's playing for something very similar to this. Higgins was a generation later, and was very influenced by Max.

Get the pdf

Friday, July 19, 2019

Ten tunes: heavy standards

Ten more tunes. These are some standards that have kind of a serious aura, that are reasonably-to-very likely to get called. They're not necessarily very hard, but they demand to be approached with respect. It's a subjective thing. Several have unusual forms; I don't feel like any of them just play themselves. Maybe this category only has meaning to me, I don't know.

All or Nothing at All

Alone Together

Central Park West

Chelsea Bridge

I'll Remember April


Mr. PC

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

Old Devil Moon

Upper Manhattan Medical Group

For example: I'll Remember April is a commonplace tune with a deeper vibe happening. Alone Together has an odd form. There are several trio recordings of Joe Henderson playing long versions of Invitation that are very hardcore. Strayhorn ballads are very deep and always demand special treatment.

These tunes are most likely to come up with better players. I'll Remember April and Alone Together are the ones you'll mostly likely encounter first. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes also seems to be real popular these days.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Daily best music in the world: Bruce Ditmas

Honoring a new Facebook friend: Bruce Ditmas, an American drummer living in Rome.

Here's something he played on with Paul Bley, Jaco Pastorius, and Pat Metheny:

He's also on some Gil Evans records, including the Jimi Hendrix album, and this bananas version of the Brazilian tune Nana, from Where Flamingos Fly. He shares drumming credits with Lenny White on that album.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Groove o' the day: Philly Joe Afro 6

From the Sonny Rollins album Newk's Time, another individualistic version of an Afro 6/8 groove, played by Philly Joe Jones on Asiatic Raes, a Kenny Dorham tune.

On the snare line, the x is a rim click. It sounds like he's playing with just a snare and floor tom, no small tom. They continue the 6/8 feel for part of Sonny's solo, and it feels a little labored; you get the feeling that in 1957 it was still a pretty exotic style. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Page o' coordination: Max's rubadub?

This is a page of jazz comping exercises based on Max Roach's playing on Sonny Rollins's Freedom Suite, which I'm transcribing right now. There's a lot of interplay between the snare drum and bass drum, and there's clearly a concept happening; everything seems to hang off of comping notes on the & of 1/& of 3. It jumped out at me immediately like “this is a thing”, very similar to Mel Lewis's rubadub thing, but not.

How many pages of jazz coordination patterns does the world need? I don't know. This isn't about writing more patterns, it's about forming a concept. Max's playing on Freedom Suite, Mel Lewis's thing, those are concepts. Also with John Riley's thing, with all the things we do with Syncopation, there's a concept. You don't really get that by just playing through the endless junk in Advanced Techniques, or whatever jazz book.

Swing the 8th notes. Use patterns 1, 7, and 13 as your key. Think of them as a sticking pattern played in a swing rhythm: RLRR RLRR. Or RBRR RBRR. Or the two combined with ex. 13-18. Use those as your foundation, learn them well, and hang the added notes off of them.

If you listen to the recording there's a lot more happening than is represented in this one little idea. I'll probably rewrite this page, or at least add to it, if I can deduce any kind of formula to Max's thing.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Ruff bossa on the drums

This is something I was working on with a Skype student* recently: ideas for practicing Alan Dawson's “ruff bossa” method on the drum set.

...first, nobody ask why it's called ruff bossa, because I don't know. It doesn't make any sense.

But, it's a really handy method for soloing, kicks and set-ups, and modern, textural playing in jazz, using Syncopation by Ted Reed. It has an easy hand-to-hand motion that that seems adapted to the snare drum, so it's especially good when playing brushes. Here I'll give a few ideas for practicing it. Hit the link above to get a summary of the basic method.

* - Did you know I teach lessons online via Skype and Facetime? I do. Hit 
the email Todd link in the sidebar to inquire. 

Anyhow, for the following examples we'll use the rhythm from line 3 on p. 34 in Syncopation:

Here's the ruff bossa pattern for that rhythm, as it would be played on one surface:

1. Play the accents on the cymbals:

2. As above, add bass drum on all of the cymbal notes:

3. As above, but add bass drum only on the accents corresponding with the long notes in the book rhythm— anything longer than an untied 8th note. The example rhythm has long notes on the 1, 2, and & of 3.

4. Play only the accents corresponding with long notes on the cymbal, plus bass drum. So the remaining accents are played on the snare. This is a way for playing kicks and setups, but is usable also in soloing.

5. Play on the snare drum, except the accent on the 1, and the last accent in the measure; play those on the cymbal and bass drum:

A lot of the patterns in the book don't give you an accent on 1, so obviously that won't work for all of them.

6.  Play the last accent in the measure on the cymbal/bass drum:

An obvious thing I didn't mention is to move the accents to the tom toms— or any part of the pattern to the toms. This method has such a strong RLRL motion (albeit with occasional doubles on either hand) that the possibilities for moving to the toms are kind of limited, and not real interesting to me.

You could play through the entire system all of these ways— running the interpretation while reading pp. 34-45 in Syncopation. Or just use this as a guide for different things to try while you work your way through it.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Protecting your business

Maybe not.
This is a situation I had recently, which is common for teachers working with music stores, teaching studios, or other services. Many of those businesses require teachers to sign contracts to keep them from poaching students, sometimes to stop them from competing with them generally.

I worked with a business like that, where I would get paid half my normal rate to teach at students' homes. Presumably it would be worth it if they were able to fill out my schedule a bit. During the two years I was with them, they never provided me with many students. They students they did refer to me were good kids, in supportive households, but retention was poorer than in my own practice. When the following thing happened, I was teaching one weekly half hour student through them.

The company owner called me for a meeting. I thought he was just checking in to see how I was doing, and that we would talk about how to get me more students. So we can all make some more money. When we met I told him my own teaching business was doing well, and answered all of his many questions.

Increasingly it became clear that the non-compete contract was the primary reason for the meeting. There were probing questions about my recent business activities, the relationships between my ongoing students and my new referral students; about me teaching piano to some beginner students, which we had discussed doing with his business. I had been keeping a marimba for them, which they had previously been paying to store— he wanted to know if I was teaching anyone on it. He wanted to know about my activities in “his” part of town.

Basically, he was taking a proprietary interest in things that were none of his business, trying to find out if I was taking money out of his pocket.

Obviously, it was way out of line. No rational person would expose himself to this kind of scrutiny, and possible legal action, in exchange for $17.50 a week— that's what I was making with him at the time. Him thinking that employing me for $17.50/week entitled him to do that was very troubling.

This was my response to that meeting:

Hi [the business owner]— 
I was very surprised at the nature of our meeting yesterday— I was not expecting an interview about contract enforcement, and was very surprised to learn what you were construing as possibly infringing on my contract with [the business].  
It made me wonder if I understand our relationship correctly. I believed our arrangement was that I provide services at a substantially discounted rate in exchange for a) students in bulk, b) reduced office work. At present, with you offering a) negligible employment, and b) interviews about contract enforcement, it is objectively little more than an agreement for me not to compete with you (interpreted sweepingly) in exchange for very little. 
I sympathize with your business needs, but there is obviously no incentive for me to agree to a relationship on those terms. I can't conduct my own business while worrying about whether anything I do could be construed as conflicting with my contract with you. It would be very difficult if you were providing substantial employment for me; it is obviously impossible when you're giving me nothing.  
I am happy to continue offering my services as a feature of [the business's] product, with a verbal agreement to work ethically and respect that [the business's]contacts/clients are not my contacts/clients; I can't do it under the cloud of a sweepingly-interpreted non-compete contract. 
Please let me know how you want to proceed.  
Todd Bishop

His response was to refuse to continue the relationship without a contract, and I responded to agree to end the relationship. I have a fairly robust teaching business of my own, and it was not difficult to walk away from the speculative income they offered, but showed no sign of being able to deliver.

Just because there's some small amount of money involved, you do not have to tolerate any conditions people want to impose. Especially when it involves a contract— which always carries a background threat of legal action.

At some point, you have to move out of the just-out-of-college mindset, where you will take anything, and start acting like a professional, and protect your own interests. You are the talent, without whom they have no business. Beware of people who see you as simultaneously their employee and their competitor.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Transcription: Jack Dejohnette - Tennessee Waltz

Jack Dejohnette plays Tennessee Waltz! One of the most cursed tunes in the standard repertoire. I don't know what's going through his head here— maybe he's having a wonderful time. I know a couple of guys who will confidently tell you what Jack Dejohnette or anybody else is feeling based on what he's playing. I find that annoying, so let's leave it at this: for me it would be a bit of a struggle making a jazz performance out of this tune. There are a lot of funny tunes on Sonny Rollins's records. This is from Falling In Love With Jazz— made in 1989, which certainly has to be the low ebb for that tune as far as jazz musicians are concerned.

Here he's playing behind Jerome Harris's guitar solo, starting at 2:03.

There's a good amount of variation in the dynamics on the ride cymbal— quite a few accents with the shoulder of the stick. To me, that's a modern, post-Tony thing— I feel like I don't hear as much of that with drummers in the 50s. I notice at the end of phrases he'll accent before the 1, but still play the 1 with the bass drum. Not a lot of independence happening here; usually he's playing one foot or the other. There are a couple of standard Dejohnette licks near the end— similar to what he plays in this very old John Scofield transcription.

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Ten tunes: solid standards

Continuing our little ten tunes series of often-played tunes to learn— today's theme is solid standards; standards that are called a lot, that everyone still likes to play. Some things you play a thousand times and you want them permanently flushed (a list for another day?), but these are extremely durable— inherently pleasing and rewarding to play, for players of all levels.

There are multiple great recorded versions of all of these:

All the Things You Are

But Not For Me

Have You Met Miss Jones

I Could Write A Book

I Hear a Rhapsody

If I Should Lose You

If I Were a Bell

My Romance

The Song Is You

There Will Never Be Another You

There Will Never Be Another You may draw out a few whiners— it has to be one of the half dozen most played tunes ever— but it's still great. I get a little tired of playing All The Things You Are, but nobody else seems to.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Everyone has seen things like this polluting the internet:

What fun. I get that I'm the only person who thinks these are the trashiest possible associations to attach to anything musical— judging from the delighted responses that always accompany someone reposting them. I just don't get the concept of this as a teaching aid. What, the student is going to remember to associate particular rhythms with a laundry list of quasi-food items, and then remember the notation like it's a hieroglyphic? And this is easier than just teaching them to count 1&2&?

And who says “grape, soda” anyway? “I'll have some cheese. Ravioli, please.”

Come on. If you're going to do this, do it right with this fun and educational, non-inane, CRUISE SHIP DRUMMER! approved “rhythm guide”:

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

3/4 rhythms - a special set

See, this is what I'm talking about: no matter how much drum stuff gets written, no matter how many thousands of pages of drum books I have in my studio, and even after having written a book on this very subject... I always need something else.

I was playing with a rumba practice loop in 2/2, doing a basic thing out of Syncopation, and began playing some variations in three-beat groupings— a basic meter-within-meter thing I/we do all the time— and it occurred to me that I could use a page of *all possible 3/4 rhythms with a note on beat 1, and no more than two notes in a row on consecutive 8th notes. It's easiest to do this one thing, at the speed I was doing it, with rhythms with those parameters. So:

At the bottom of the page there's a summary of the thing I was doing. I also marked with an * the patterns that have no more than two filler notes in a row. That's helpful when playing a rhythm on the cymbal, and filling in with the left hand. Another thing we do all the time.

* - I see I left off straight quarter notes. Oh well.

Get the pdf

Monday, July 08, 2019

Transcription: Mel Lewis fours

Here is Mel Lewis trading fours on Stoppin' at the Savoy, from Bob Brookmeyer's album The Blues Hot and Cold. These are pretty interesting. Lewis isn't anybody's idea of a chops guy, but he's not dumb. The fours begin at 3:49 in the track.

There are a couple of funny items— at one point he's throwing a stick down on the floor tom, hitting the rims. The part on the sixth line with the ruff right before the stick shot will take a little practice. Play this by itself, a lot, and work it up to speed:

It's a natural motion; you have to get the left stick onto the head to make the stick shot, so you just press it into the head on that note. We're not going for a quality buzz stroke there. I have a feeling Mel didn't practice it, but just played it on the job a few tens of thousands times.

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Page o' coordination: Simple 3:2

Coming at that 3:2 hemiola polyrhythm from the triplet side— all of our recent hemiola funk stuff has been using it in a duple subdivision. Here we'll use the 2 side as the primary pulse, played with both feet in unison, and the 3 played on the cymbal, felt as a quarter note triplet— the 12/8 rhythm here is equivalent to a quarter note triplet in 4/4.

I've written a hundred pages like this, and if you've done one of them, you know the method: learn the whole page as written, then drill it with my set of stock left hand moves.

Get the pdf

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Groove o' the day: John Von Ohlen - Love for Sale

A Latin groove played by John Von Ohlen on Love For Sale, arranged for the Blue Wisp Big Band by Carroll DeCamp. From their famous album Butterfly. This was one of the first serious big band arrangements I ever played, in high school. It's funny, I barely remember working out a Latin groove for this, but I must have played something.

The groove is another quasi-Mozambique— at least Von Ohlen settles on that standard bell pattern by bar 5. He plays the bass drum lightly throughout; I've only written the accents. By the third measure he's playing half notes, then quarter notes around the fourth measure. The ending fill is played with both hands almost in unison on the same drum.

There's no YouTube link for this, but you should already have it. If you don't you'll have to scrounge it up from somewhere.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Q & A: Turned around

I received this question in the comments a while ago:

I wanted to ask you a quick question about listening to (not playing) up tempos. I find that sometimes my brain shifts the hi-hat 2&4 so that I am hearing them as the downbeats 1&3. I find it hard to correct this once it “settles in” and the music is flying by, unless there are some clear accents on the 1, for example. Do you have any tips for correcting my brain if this happens? Also, should I continue to listen if I know I'm not hearing it right? I know that sounds strange, but I feel like listening in the “wrong” way is training my brain to hear in the “wrong” way.

It's probably not a good idea to just go along hearing it wrong.

Although it's not a wrong instinct, if Michael Longo's book is any authority. Those are the accented beats. The problem is how we resolve what you're hearing with the real agreed-upon rhythmic structure, which says those beats are the 2 and 4.

You can try actually saying “2” (or “2, 4”) along with the hihat. Hopefully your counting instincts are developed enough to tell you that the 1 is therefore somewhere else. Or you could say “&” along with the hihat. That should really drive it home that these are not the downbeats. That would be counting the fast 4/4 in 2/2— 1 & 2 & instead of 1 2 3 4, both at the same rate. You could also try saying 4-1 or &-1 out loud.

I find that lapses like that happen to me less often as my rhythm and time improve— a not-insignificant part of which has centered around developing a healthy relationship with the 1 and 3. And with quarter notes in general. For many years I thought myself too hip to be thinking about that, and it ended up being a point of weakness in my playing.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Practice loop: slow blues

Here's a loop you're going to need this week, as I finish writing the 6/8 prep for my patented(?) Harmonic Coordination Improved™ method. Sampled from Melvin Sparks's Blues for JB, the tempo is a stately 66 bpm which should give you ample space to work out the coordination— for my thing, or anything else you need to do slow with a triplet feel.

The drummer here is playing a Midnight Special-type groove, with the hihat on the &s of the shuffle— on the skip notes. Maybe that beat has a name, I just know if from that tune.