Friday, July 31, 2020

Grooves o' the day: Art Blakey Latin

Two very similar Latin grooves recorded by Art Blakey in 1960 and '61. On both of them the bell pattern has that little syncopated move across the barline that we see a few years later in the Mozambique rhythm. There was a lot of Latin music happening in New York in the 40s-50s, but I'm nowhere near informed enough about it to try speculate on where Blakey and others got that motif; it does also happen in Cuban conga de comparsa, from which the Mozambique is derived. 

Johnny's Blue, from the Jazz Messengers album Like Someone In Love:

There's no audible bass drum on either thing. On both tracks when Blakey comes in he starts with an accent on the high tom on beat 1. Note that he swings the cymbal rhythm when he first comes in.

El Toro, from the Jazz Messengers album The Freedom Rider:

A little brighter tempo, using two tom toms, with a broken rhythm on the cymbal in the first measure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Very occasional quote(s) of the day: consecrated and desynchronized

A couple of quotes from the pianist Ethan Iverson.

From blog post Rhythmic Folklore:

“Consecrated jazz drummers have less accurate time than rock and fusion drummers for a reason. The beat is connected to the cycle of life and playing with an ensemble. It has warp and woof and slip and slide.”

Article from The Threepenny Review, Hands & Feet:

“Magic happens at the drum kit when the four limbs are slightly desynchronized. Any truly swinging or funky drummer does not always place the articulations of the two hands and two feet at exactly the same time (even though it may look simultaneous to a lay person). These complex techniques are not covered by the European tradition of music notation; the groovy result is often simply called 'feel.' The tradition of 'feel' is at its most exalted in various hand-drumming languages of Mother Africa, the continent where most of the rhythmic motifs in American music come from. A drummer with 'good hands' may not have exceptional 'feel.' Naturally, the very greatest drummers have both.”

Monday, July 27, 2020

Transcription: more Max Roach comping

Posting lots of 50s stuff these days. Here is Max Roach playing on Infinity Promenade, from the Miles Davis Lighthouse All-Stars record, At Last! In 1953 Miles was living with his father in East St. Louis, trying to get a handle on his heroin addiction, and Max Roach and Charles Mingus picked him up and took him to Los Angeles for a few months. Max was working in LA at the Lighthouse, and Miles sat in, and the record got made. There are some good stories about this period in Miles's autobiography, about fighting with Mingus and whatnot.

I've transcribed Max's playing during the tenor solo, starting at 1:06 in the track. Infinity Promenade is a cool West Coast-y tune by Shorty Rogers. I don't know what tune it's based on, but the soloing changes have a bright Duke-like feel. There's a nice groove happening, which is what attracted me to this track.

Max uses a few basic comping ideas here, and plays very crisp four-bar phrases without being too obvious about it. You can get a sense of what he's thinking phrasing-wise by checking out the bass drum— he plays it sparsely, mostly on downbeats, and doesn't put it in the same place in the phrase all the time. He often plays the busier things at phrase endings a little louder, acting like a conductor. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Reed tweak: adding 16ths to a basic method

Another tweak to the same basic method we used with the tweak I posted last week: right hand plays rhythm on cymbal + bass drum / left hand fills in. That basic method is a super-standard piece of modern drumming language, useful any time you're improvising, soloing, or doing more dense, textural playing. So we want to be able to go some different places with it. The thing we're going to do today will be good for adding some texture when playing at moderate tempos.

To summarize the basic thing, we're interpreting a top-line “melody” rhythm from Ted Reed's Syncopation thusly:

• RH plays book rhythm on cymbal, plus BD in unison
• LH fills in remaining 8th notes on SD

So when reading this rhythm:

You would play this:

Here we will make some of the 8th notes in the melody rhythm into two 16ths, played on the snare drum, with a RL sticking. We'll do that on any 8th note right before a quarter note or tied note. In the above example, that would be all of the written 8th notes in the 2nd-4th measures:

Written without the LH filler for clarity, that would be:

It's not a real easy to just make that complete interpretation while reading on the fly, so you might want to approach it in steps.

Here are four rhythms from the book:

The normal RH/BD part would be:

Plus the normal LH filler:

For this tweak, voicing the plain rhythm with cymbal/bass drum, and the 16ths:

This complete tweak with the LH filler added:

You can work out for yourself (or hey, write me for a Skype lesson) how to approach learning to sight read this. The two major goals for any Reed method are to be able to apply it to the full page syncopation exercises, and to be be able to improvise a texture based on the method. It's up to you how far you want to take that for your own playing needs. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Alternating triplets displaced

Developing an independence idea that has been happening spontaneously in my practicing— triplets alternating between the snare drum and bass drum, with odd breaks.

Play the foot part with the bass drum or hihat. These are not necessarily intended to be played in the written time signature— that just indicates the length of the complete idea. You can play them in 4/4 or 3/4, running over the barline. You can also start them on any beat of the pattern. Add hihat and vary the cymbal rhythm however you like. 

Get the pdf

Friday, July 17, 2020

CYMBALISTIC: Five 24" rides!

Does anybody need a sweet 24" ride cymbal? I'm checking out four OUTSTANDING Cymbal & Gong jazz cymbals, plus a monster medium ride. I will have these around for a couple of days, then they'll go back to C&G, so ACT NOW if you want one. The Holy Grails (patina finish) are $520 and the American Artist (bright finish) is $495. 

These are all great. The three lighter Holy Grails really show off Cymbal & Gong's consistency, and are classically awesome; they're true jazz cymbals, with an airy complex sound, they crash well, but they're also controllable, with good stick definition and a good bell sound. I would be hard pressed to choose one for myself. The American Artist, with the squared 50s “A-type” bell handles very similarly— those tend to be a little more intense, but this one is beautifully mellow. It's also a great jazz cymbal, the equal of any of the HGs. The medium ride is quite a beast. It has a lovely overall sound and accents well, but never fully opens up when crashing. It would be a great big band cymbal, but I believe it would handle softer playing really well, too.  

I have some other new Holy Grails in stock, too— visit Cymbalistic to check those out. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Stick control exercises, mixed rhythm in 2/4

A page I'm using with some of my students, to learn to fill, and develop basic facility on the drum set. We've been doing a lot with parts of my harmonic coordination method— which is proving to be a lot more of a universal thing than a mere advanced coordination system. You could do these on snare drum as in Stone, but I think that would be a little dull. They're written to be played on drum set, en masse.

Play the exercises a few times on the snare drum, then move the accent(s) to a cymbal, with the bass drum in unison, then improvise moving the non-accented notes around the drums. Speed is not important; timing, sound, and movement around the drums is.

Get the pdf

Monday, July 13, 2020

Daily best music in the world: Tony Williams solo

I'm still having a hard time writing anything, so here's a really great open drum solo played by Tony Williams, in a concert video with Jean Luc Ponty and Stanley Clarke. This is in 1972, and he's doing his power thing, but he's not using the 24" bass drum and three floor toms yet. Later on his playing seems very “set”, here you feel like there's still some exploration going on. Tony's solo starts after 7:00.

[h/t to notvinnie @ drummerworld for this]

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Drum heads!

This. Just get this. 
Did you know that it's rather hard to write about drum stuff while your country is being dismantled and driven into the ground by a narcissistic criminal psychopath, who is certainly compromised by a hostile foreign power, and is apparently hell bent spreading disease and sacrificing the lives of hundreds of thousands of your fellow countrymen and women, nominally in a futile bid to revive the economy, and his electoral prospects along with it, but actually just a mass-suicidal gesture of fealty to his boundless, pathological vanity? It is. Hard to write under those circumstances. Or to do much productive work at all.

So let's talk about DRUM HEADS today. This is by no means a complete overview of what's available, it's just my personal impressionistic idiosyncratic list of what I've played and recommend, and for what purpose. Or what I recommend against.

Remo Ambassador
Remo's medium weight general purpose head, and the Coca-Cola of drumheads. The one correct answer that is always correct for any music, tuned high or low. These are just what drums sound like. Use them top (coated) and bottom (uncoated or coated), for all drums, including bass drum (no muffling, if you dare), and be done with it. Easy to get a sound, pleasing character.

Remo Renaissance Ambassador
A hazy medium weight head, with a slightly textured, matte finish. They handle well in a range of tunings. Sort of a “natural” look and sound. Possibly slightly lighter than regular Ambassadors? They “play” a little lighter, more responsive, slightly less body. Since about 2000, these have been the tom heads on my Gretsch set, and have been excellent tuned high or low. I used them more recently on my Sonor set and they didn't work so well.

Remo Pinstripe
Drumhead of the 80s, for that full-on post-Gadd fusion sound. They have a particular timbre that sounds quite dated. But they also have a promising full sound tuned high, and I do know one or two jazz drummers who still use them. I used them on my Sonor set recently, on a lark. In the 80s they were the standard tenor drum heads in drum corps, and sounded great tuned extremely high.

Remo Emperor
A two ply head in case you need more durability, but you don't want to go full Pinstripe. Similar sound, with less of that Pinstripe character, and less character overall. It's a blunted sound. Bass drum head is acceptable, if you want a semi-live sound, without going for the full unmuffled Ambassador experience.

Remo CS Black Dot 
For an edgy 70s sound. Like the Pinstripes they have a distinctive sound that is dated— see mid-period Tony Williams— but it's been quite awhile since they were popular. Standard head for concert toms, if anyone is still using those. It's not a pretty sound, but it has an energetic edge to it. Right now I'm using one on my bass drum with a felt strip, and I like it a lot. I probably would not use them on regular toms, definitely not on the snare drum.

Evans coated medium single ply
The RC Cola of drum heads. They're fine, they sound pretty good, but characterless. Characterless as the name they gave the line, which I can never remember, and am not going to look up. Acceptable, but to me not a great sound in any tuning.

Evans coated single play bass drum head with the changeable muffle rings
Again, give your heads a name I can remember, please. Excellent head, with a nice tonal sound; they sound too pretty to me. It's a mannered sound. Younger jazz drummers will love them. I need more edge. I'm sure it's an easy head to record. Comes with three sizes of muffling rings, I never used any of them. The ring holder alone muffles the drum enough.

Evans ST Dry
You know these muffled heads don't sound to the audience the way they sound to you, right? Specialty snare drum head, with an extra ring around the edge on the inside, pinholes around the edge. I normally don't muffle my drums at all, but I have this on one of my drums, and I liked it for low volume playing. Good for maintaining definition if you play a lot of dense stuff on the snare drum. Probably great for recording, once again.

Not recommended

Remo Fiberskyn
These came installed on my first drum set back in 1982, and I've tried them a few times since then, and they just don't make it. They have a stiff feel, and I could never get a deep sound with them, or a good high sound— any good sound at all. It's a very surface sound, with a funny slap, and a strange kind of papery roar.

Remo Diplomat
The thinnest general purpose head by Remo. They don't quite handle the way you expect them to. Strange trebly, papery sound, they choke easily. It's a choked sound generally— lighter weight does not equal more resonance. Some potential as a snare drum top head if you're doing a lot of brush playing, and use light sticks— they have a very bright, edgy sound. If there's any funk in your touch you'll kill it. I've had one on my hammered bronze Ludwig drum for about ten years. I don't like the Diplomat snare side head— again, a thin, papery sound.

Powerstroke bass drum heads
And their copycats— that is most “modern” bass drum heads. Anything multi ply, anything with built in rings. I hate 'em. It's a “thick”, long sound that people interpret as “full.” A lot of lows, I guess, and mediocre attack. People hear them as having a full, “funky” sound, but they're mediocre. Poor response, difficult to produce much volume.

All other heads
I've gotten to use Aquarian heads in various settings since before they were even commercially available, and I've never been particularly impressed. I used one of their vintage-style heads a few years ago, and did not dig it. Multi-ply Evans heads never made much of an impression on me— basically they're flavorless Pinstripes, even-more-flavorless Emperors. The no-name heads that came with your mid-line drum set suck, replace them with Ambassadors. There are some new calf/goat/???-skin heads being made I would like to try, but the manufacturers never respond to my requests for free stuff.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Very occasional quote of the day: Roy on time

“Mingus use to say the damndest thing about me years ago. He'd say, 'Well, Roy Haynes. You don't always play the beat, you  suggest the beat!'

I didn't know what the heck I was doing. But I know that the beat is supposed to be there. If I leave out a beat, it's still there. If I'm playing 8 or 12 bar fills and I play four and a half bars then leave out a bar and a half, that doesn't mean I don't want it to sound like that! But if I'm playing with a horn player sometimes they may get confused. They get hung up because I didn't fill in that bar and a half.

You've got to use a little imagination in there. That bar and a half still counts. I'll come out in the right place, where it should be to make the fill even, and the other players are somewhere else at that point. I didn't always play the beat, which I thought was very good. You don't always have to say ding ding-da ding ding-da ding, you know. It's there! So, if one of those saxophone players has to depend on that, then you know he's not right.

You've got to have that ding-ding-da-ding within yourself. Coltrane had it! Pres had it. Miles has it. So, it's beautiful to play with them, but there are so many other people who don't have that thing and you've got to carry them. How you gonna be inventive and create when you're trying to lift them up?”

— Roy Haynes

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Reed tweak: adding flams to a basic method

This is a small tweak on a common funk practice method for Ted Reed's Syncopation, adding flams to the method in which the right hand plays the book rhythm on a cymbal, and the left hand fills in. To me it's a 70s funk flavored thing, and brings this method a little closer to my Heavy Funk Drill, and my harmonic coordination-type methods.

For the examples we'll use line 7 of the well-known full page exercise on p. 38 in the new editions. As always with Reed, we're interpreting the top line rhythm, ignoring the bottom line rhythm.

The basic funk method we're using is: play the melody rhythm on the cymbal with your right hand, with bass drum in unison, fill in the 8th notes on the snare drum with the left hand. Which gives us this:

So, today's tweak: where there is more than one left hand note in a row, add a flam on the last one:

In the p. 38 exercise there is that situation where there is a quarter note followed by a quarter rest— that happens in the first, sixth, seventh, and eighth lines. When that happens you could alternatively put the flam on the middle left hand note— that will be on the 4 or on the 2. Another musical possibility.

I do the flams left-handed— that means the right hand plays the grace note, and falls first. Usually the grace note is only a little softer than the main note; I don't try to make them correct concert snare drum flams. The left handed flams convert easily to RH-lead 16th notes, with a small adjustment to the timing.

Exercise 4 on p. 41 of Reed is a good one for this method. Also use these linked reading exercises of mine. And my book Syncopation in 3/4, for that matter.