Sunday, May 31, 2020

Tootie Heath brush lesson

True old school guys approach things a whole different way from the modern technocratic thing. Here's Tootie Heath giving a brush lesson:

h/t to Larry Appelbaum

Friday, May 29, 2020

Daily best music in the world: 1-5 of ten albums

Reprinting this from my Facebook page— I encourage you to head over there and add me as a friend. There's a thing going around where musicians list ten albums that were most important in their development. The idea of narrowing it down to just ten albums is absurd, so I'm not really trying. Mainly I was trying to do things other drummers had not already listed. These are all very, very important records to me, but there are 100+ more albums that are equally important. Here are numbers 1-5:

1. George Duke / Reach For It
My brother gave me a bootleg cassette of this that I listened to all through high school. It's got Ndugu Leon Chancler on drums.  Great 70s LA Latin/fusion/funk, with a couple of soul ballads. High points are Omi, a high energy Afro 12/8, which began my very long engagement with that type of groove, and Watch Out Baby!, a sort of quasi-pornographic funk epic featuring Stanley Clarke— here's my transcription of Chancler's playing on that.

Here is Omi— I made a loop of the bulk of this tune, which is included in my massive zip of practice loops, which is still available to download free.

2. Bill Frisell / Before We Were Born 
Got a cassette of this in a mall in Puerto Rico. I knew about Bill Frisell from the Marc Johnson Bass Desires record, but it was the first I heard of Joey Baron. Includes a pretty radical 13 minute John Zorn arrangement, and Arto Lindsay on one tune. I played these gigs in central Oregon, on the other side of the mountains, and would crank this driving home through the Cascades at 2am.

3. Thelonious Monk - Trio 
Knowing individuals inform me that this is a weak, poorly performed album. The vibe is casual, but I don't know what's WRONG with it. Like, tell me what you want. We'll go to the British Museum and rate the Constable sketches. Settle some accounts.

To me it's a perfect record. This is what jazz is supposed to be. There are ten tracks and ~35 min of music total, so it's tight; the tunes are featured a little more than the soloing. Everybody sounds engaged, people are trying some things, and the total package is like walking in on a Leonardo sculpture— you already knew the whole thing before you even saw it.

4. McCoy Tyner / Blues For Coltrane
I posted about this one before: Blues for Coltrane. I think it's considered a McCoy album. With Roy Haynes, Cecil McBee, Pharoah Sanders, David Murray. At USC I used to listen to this on my way to combo rehearsal with Dwight Dickerson, and arrive ready to kick ass. Pretty sure I made a lifetime enemy out of a bass clarinetist. I never understood why everyone didn't want to play this level of energy all the time.

5. Miles Davis / Water Babies
I only just figured out that I liked this record a few years ago— like 10-12 years ago. It's outtakes from the Nefertiti and In A Silent Way sessions. Compared to Nefertiti and Filles de K they really sound like ensemble sketches. It sounds unfinished, the tunes are not really strong in a normal way, but that's what I like about it. It still sounds like a record. Especially love Wayne Shorter's playing all the way through this.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

2/4 rhythms to triplets

Companion to the late three voice / four note patterns page, in case it wasn't challenging enough for you. This is to aid in playing those patterns as triplets in 4/4— as you play through, you can figure out how any particular part is supposed to lay in the triplet rhythm:

Get the pdf

Monday, May 25, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Jimmy Cobb

“Miles could tell me the things he wanted from the drums but I didn’t let him tell me how to play them.”

— Jimmy Cobb, 1979 interview by Rick Mattingly

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Practice loop: slow blues

A new practice loop sampled from Blues at Twilight, from Milt Jackson's album Plenty, Plenty Soul. Horace Silver is on piano here. Tempo is 75 bpm, so this is a good one for getting your triplet coordination together— with my recent pages of triplet patterns, for example, or Gary Chaffee's pain-in-the-neck jazz materials.

Be sure to download my practice loop archive (it doesn't include this) while it's still available.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Three voice / four note patterns

Continuing in the vein of the recent three voice/three note patterns item. Let's call this series “things I have always been against writing that I am now writing.” I've been playing around with an online combination generator, making some Stick Control-type patterns for the drum set, including combinations of limbs. I'm trying to do it in a rational way; it would be easy to produce an insane collection of patterns that would be totally unusable.

This is a practice-able collection of four-note patterns, written for three drum set voices, including single notes and RH-LH and RH-RF unisons. It adheres to my usual rules for what makes something very playable: no more than two SD or BD hits in a row, and no more than three cymbal hits. It's similar to things found in Dahlgren & Fine, and Chaffee, but different.

So: what is this good for, and how do we practice it?

1. There are 120 patterns, so you have to move as quickly as possible. Try to cover all of the patterns in 15-30 minutes.

2. Use to develop an ECM-type texture, or as conditioning for breaking up a normal funk texture. Could also be played with a swing feel, addressing some possible coordination/timing gaps.

3. The patterns are written as 8th notes in 2/4, but you can play them on a four note or three note subdivision, as 16th notes or triplets. Doing them as triplets, it helps to know how the cymbal portion of the pattern lies in 4/4— a separate cheat sheet for that is coming soon...

4. Try these moves:
• Play the written cymbal/snare unisons as snare/tom unisons, or as flams on any drum— I suggest doing them left-handed, meaning the right hand lands first.
• Play cymbal/bass drum unisons on a different cymbal than the plain RH cymbal notes.
Doing those moves makes this very similar to what I do with my harmonic coordination improved system, except with more potential for speed.

5. Add hihat in unison with the left hand only notes, or the right hand only notes, or the bass drum only notes. Or add hihat in any basic rhythm suitable for the style you're playing.

5. Combine patterns from different sections to make linear funk grooves. Play patterns starting with a bass drum first, and patterns starting with a snare drum second. I arranged them on the page to make that fairly easy— sections A and B combine well, and C and D combine well. You can also do A/D and C/B. Section E could come first or second. That creates a vast number of combinations, which... there may be better ways of working on that sort of thing. I'm not a proponent of endless systems. But it's a possibility.

Get the pdf

Friday, May 22, 2020

RIP Thee Hippy Slayer

Sad news, Portland drummer Steve Hanford, aka Thee Hippy Slayer, has died. Best known for playing with iconic Portland punk band Poison Idea. I'm not a follower, but I have a lot of fondness for them; my friends and I, in our Iron Maiden shirts, saw them play in a basement in Eugene in 1983. We were not the coolest kids there. That was my first serious rock & roll experience.

In the late 90s Hanford produced a demo by my rock band The Raging Woodies— originally a very aggressive acoustic guitar-led project, it took a Black Sabatthian turn under Hanford's direction. He was having substantial drug problems then, but he was a skilled rock producer, and a fun, hilarious guy to be around. At about that time we saw him play a great show at The Satyricon with a short-lived band called Pink (formerly Slowface). He was a great rock drummer, and played with a lot of power.

Here's a groove o' the day from 2015, from Poison Idea's Marked For Life.

Here he is playing with Poison Idea in 1988:

Monday, May 18, 2020

Favorite albums: Trio Jeepy

Records that were important in my development, that might be in yours, too. Should be a major recurring feature, but very difficult for me to write. My problem is I don't have much intelligent or glib to say about most of these albums. Everything there is to say is on the record itself. I'm not into history, scene, or writing plaudits, or speculating about players' psychology, or grading performances. So this is just a way of directing you to the thing, and saying spend a lot of time with this, if you haven't already.

So: Trio Jeepy by Branford Marsalis, released in 1989. With Milt Hinton (and Delbert Felix) on bass and Jeff Watts on drums. I bought a cassette of this because Wynton Marsalis's Standard Time and Live At Blues Alley records were very hot then, and I wanted to get more of Watts. Most of us who were students in the 80s were trying to find a voice somewhere between fusion and the neo-classic thing, and at this time neo-classic was where most of the energy was. Fusion was declining into fuzak, but its major artists were edging away from that, towards a more acoustic conception. See Michael Brecker's first solo record, Chick Corea's Akoustic Band, Scofield's Time On My Hands, Metheny's Question & Answer.

This is a nice, loose little recording with a lot of blowing and a lot of great featured drumming. They included some outtakes and talking in between tracks, which adds to the spontaneous vibe. Marsalis is doing his Dexteresque thing that is nice to listen to. The record introduced many of us jazz neophytes to some tunes we would play a lot in coming years: Doxy, Makin' Whoopee, UMMG, Three Little Words, The Nearness of You. Now I realize that it took some nerve to put Doxy on a record in 1989, and present it with an attitude of THIS. IS. THE. SHIT.

There's always an element of doctrinal pronouncement in recordings by any Marsalis; you come away feeling like you've been told how you're supposed to play. I don't know to what extent mainstream jazz was actually dead when the Marsalises came around— but they needed to declare it so, so they could bring it back. There was still jazz education, and a professional culture where people were still playing old tunes. But maybe all the big records were in the fusion arena, before they came along. 

Jeff Watts is fantastic of course. He has a much deeper, more muscular sound here than we're accustomed to today. Similar to post-60s Tony Williams, but less outrageously aggressive. Listen to Watts if you want to find a sound different from the current twitchy, trebly thing. There's also a great example of “melodic” drumming, with his playing on Housed From Edward— hearing that was an unavoidable instruction to get a concept of playing blues.

On that track he does a big time displacement thing, which is a pretty audacious move. It doesn't add anything, and is kind of crass, showing off his fearlessness of blowing a take— and also Milt Hinton's unshakability. I wrote a page on how to do it. Good luck ever finding musicians you can do that with, or on having the courage to actually attempt it in a critical situation.

Here's Housed From Edward— listen to the video, but the proper way to do this is to buy the physical record, and play it many, many times.

Friday, May 15, 2020

What's with resting the sticks on the drum?

Item just in from the pet peeve department: there's an extremely slovenly practice, apparently done by half the drummers in the world: resting the sticks on the drum head before playing. I have students who do it, and I see it done in many drumming videos by players of all levels: they're getting set to play, and before they start, they let the sticks go drzz on the drumhead.

It's very strange— like resting your hand on a basketball on the floor before dribbling it. It doesn't compute. It's not an organic component of playing the instrument, or of being at rest at the instrument— it puts an unnatural pressure on your hand, and you have to grip the stick harder to hold it there. Can you imagine a violinist dragging the bow across the strings when getting set to perform— screet. What? Does a pianist push the keys down before playing? 

Where I come from, the sticks never touch the instrument unless you're playing it. Standards are looser on drumset, but generally, anything you do with the sticks that is not actually playing the instrument should be done silently, or at least discreetly. In all of concert percussion, and in drum corps, silence and no contact is an absolute rule. Yet I still see those guys doing it in their videos. 

Look here: a student of Buster Bailey, king of the world in concert percussion, doing it (in an otherwise very good video):

Here's an old school rudimental guy doing it. And technique god Bruce Becker— granted, he appears to be doing it silently. In a video I can't re-locate, Gordy Knutsen does it— also with delicacy, like Becker.

Often you see people doing it on a practice pad— it's silent, so maybe they're just not aware of what they're doing. But here's a pipe band drummer doing it on a drum.

Here is how it is done: not only does Shaun Tilburg never touch the sticks to the head when he's not actually playing, when he sets the sticks on the drum, he takes care to do it very discreetly. With his demonstrations here he makes some preparatory motions very close to the head, but never touches the head:

If you're Bruce Becker you can do whatever you want— well, everyone can do what they want— but if you're any normal person, try to break this habit. It suggests a lack of performance discipline, and may well bite you on the butt if you do it unthinkingly in a sensitive situation. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Three voice / three note patterns

The sort of thing you write when you're under quarantine— a library item strictly for maniacs, in the same ballpark of extremity/uselessness as Gary Chaffee's jazz patterns, from Patterns vol. 3. In fact that's exactly what I'm working on right now, and what led to this.

I've written some three-note sticking patterns for three voices: R, L, B. Then I wrote them out for drumset, with R on cymbal, L on snare drum, and B meaning either Both hands or Bass drum. Then I did some additional patterns including right hand/bass drum unisons; and some more patterns including both hands unisons. 

Like Chafee's thing, these are ordered by a mathematical logic, not the way a rational person would use them. Very useful patterns are mixed in with not very useful ones, and normal vocabulary items are mixed in with not at all normal ones. It limits how fast you can do the complete system, and doesn't lead you directly to normally-useful material. So the only people who should be using this are hardcore practicers, or lifers like me who can already play, but who want to fill in some gaps. It should be helpful for developing a triplet-feel version of a ECM feel, or a ballad in the manner of Tony Williams playing Fall, maybe. 

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Transcription: Roy Haynes comping

UPDATE: Download link is fixed!

Did you ever transcribe 72 bars of Roy Haynes, just to realize that all of the really cool stuff was in the NEXT 36 bars? I wanted to do an easy little comping transcription, but with this one I just had to keep going. And that was after I wrote most of a page of another track, before I realized this is the one I wanted to do: Blues For Liz, on Paul Gonsalves's album Cleopatra Feelin' Jazzy. Not obviously a record to immediately grab on seeing it in a record store, but it's great.

The transcription is from Gonsalves's solo, starting at 0:47, and is nine choruses long— 108 bars long.

You could make a serious comping lesson out of this. Most of it is playable, and conceptually clear; there are some things on the last page that would not make sense to try to duplicate. The parts are mostly non-independent— the hands are largely played in unison, both feet are often played in unison. The bass drum is sparse and subtly handled, with relatively few big accents. He often splashes the hihat with his foot— they have a soft sound that blends nicely with the overall sound. His handling of the snare drum is very nuanced, much more than can be communicated in a transcription. He frequently punches the & of 3, or & of 3/& of 4 with a buzzed stroked on the snare drum. He plays that “single stroke four” item quite often.

Get the pdf

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Hemiola funk series: S3B

Another variation on the hemiola funk thing, with the main pattern ending with a double on the bass drum— a snare hit + 3 bass hits. I continue to tweak the basic template to cover the major rhythmic possibilities, with some practical variations, while still being playable for younger students. I have a couple of students under age 10 who are sounding great with these materials.

Ex. 1 is simply the hard part of the pattern isolated— play it a few times with a long pause after, to get the coordination. The main potential problem with this system is if students play the ideas by feel and accidentally lapse into 3/4 when they're supposed to be playing in 4. I have the students count the overall rhythm of the patterns before playing them, and this has not been a problem— my students can improvise variations on these ideas without getting lost.

Get the pdf

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Four on the floor: Stone meets Ghana

Here's something very rare, an idea to base your whole life on: Stone-type patterns based on Ghanaian bell patterns. This is from Jon McCaslin over at Four on the Floor, given to him by the percussionist Russell Hartenberger. Just go over there and get them, and print them, and keep them in your notebook forever.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Practice loop: Dexterity / Bird's chorus

UPDATE: If you want the loop archive, you should get it fast— my ISP is complaining about the large files stored on my account, and I'll probably have to delete it soon.

I assume everyone is busy rifling through my practice loop archive, which I recently posted online. Most of the samples are quite short, from vamp sections of tunes, and there isn't much regular jazz in 4/4. So lately I've been making more loops from whole solos. I'm starting with Bird— probably every jazz musician in the world between 1945-1960 beat their Charlie Parker 78s to death playing along with them.

This is sampled from Dexterity, written and recorded by Charlie Parker. Nobody ever plays this tune, despite it being massively available to jazz students forever, through the original Real Book. Sample is of Parker's 32 bar solo. Tempo is quarter note = 217.