Sunday, June 26, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: Becken Deutschland - June 27-July 11

CYMBALISTIC:  Germany tour is happening NOW, from June 27 to July 11— I can't believe it's been three years since our last visit. 

Follow me on Facebook and/or on Twitter for updates and pictures from the road.

I'll meet a lot of drummers to hang out, deliver pre-purchased cymbals, and show as many extra cymbals as I can carry, for you to play and purchase. I'm bringing a couple of special discount items as well. 

I'll also travel to Istanbul, to visit Cymbal & Gong’s makers, and pick up two extra special MYSTERY CYMBALS, that are being created as we speak. To play them you can track me down in Berlin on July 8-10— use the email contact link in the sidebar.  

If you're in Germany— or Turkey, for that matter— come on down and hang out! 

We are meeting at: 

Berlin – Wednesday, June 29 – THOMAS RÖNNEFARTH PERCUSSION
Quitzowstraße 52, 10559 – 1-5pm

Dresden – Thursday, June 30 – Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber
Wettiner Pl. 13, 01067 – 11-1pm – percussion department 

If you live near Frankfurt and want to get a cymbal, we can meet in the Frankfurt airport on July 11 (evening, @ airport Sheraton), to deliver it to you. 

Here are the cymbals I'm bringing: 

22" Special Janavar "Vivian" - 2106g - RESERVED
22" Holy Grail Jazz Ride "Jasper" - 2293 - RESERVED
22" Holy Grail Jazz Ride "Prima" - 2405g - RESERVED
22" Holy Grail Jazz Ride "Calpurnia" - 2336g - RESERVED

20" Turk Jazz Ride "Seijun" - 1725g 
20" Holy Grail Jazz Ride "Beau" - 1675g 
20" Holy Grail Jazz Ride "Malik" - 1840g
20" Special Janavar Crash-Ride "Vera" - 1711g

20" Merseybeat Crash-Ride "Felix" - 2210g

19" Special Janavar Crash-Ride "Lev" - 1596g - RESERVED
19" Holy Grail Dizzy "Zhang" - 1352g - RESERVED
19" Holy Grail Jazz Ride "Curtis" - 1628g 

18" Turk Crash "Junko" - 1405g
18" Holy Grail Crash "Fox" - 1080g 
18" Holy Grail Crash "Huck" - 1282g

17" Holy Grail Crash "Doug" - 1090g - RESERVED
17" Holy Grail Crash "Jake" - 1172g - RESERVED

16" Holy Grail Hihats "Sasha" - 1008/1269g
15" Midnight Lamp (half Turk) Paper Thin Crash "Zak" - 669g

14" Holy Grail Hihats "Eugene" - 802/1005g
14" Holy Grail Hihats "Dexter" - 812/961g

13" Holy Grail Hihats "Jordan" - 624/785g - RESERVED

Go to the Cymbalistic site and hear most of these cymbals. Sign up for the mailing list to get updates.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Joe Chambers interview

I'm getting ready to travel on Sunday, and have other things on my mind, so here's a 2021 podcast interview with Joe Chambers. The interviewer seems like a pretty knowledgeable fan, but he doesn't talk too much and Joe gives him some good conversation. It's timely to the free jazz post— he talks about avant garde drumming, and is skeptical of it. Which is useful not to help dismiss it, but to understand what he fundamental aspects of drumming and music he thinks it's not fulfilling. And there's some other good stuff: 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Reassessing some free jazz drummers

There was a period of about five years where I was listening to a lot of early free jazz— Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp. Ornette (and his circle) is the only one I still listen to with any regularity. As an aesthetic and way of playing free music is still very much with me— a lot of it has been assimilated into mainstream modern jazz— but it's just one thing I do, and I don't listen to a lot of real out music. 

Here I want to revisit some players I listened to in that period, and decide if there's anything there that's for me, now. I'm only making judgments for myself. I'm looking for people who do this kind of playing effectively, in the traditional sense, and who have some kind of musical personality that is appealing to me, and who have something special to say on the drums. I'm not an avant-gardist— I don't listen to music for the purpose of processing my negative feelings about it, I don't accept absolutely anything as legitimate art. 

Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins
The first players to do what was termed free jazz, with Ornette Coleman. Both solid mainstream bebop players doing real gigs outside the avant-garde— they're almost not even thought of as avant-garde. I don't think Blackwell ever really breaks away from being a groove player. Higgins may be the most humane voice in drumming— he always sounds like pure music. I talk about them both amply elsewhere on the site.   

Ornette Coleman - Art of the Improvisors / This is Our Music / Change of the Century

Sunny Murray
Sunny is a strange case— I feel like there's some kind of personality disorder at work. He's the originator of that no-time white noise approach to free playing. There's some warmth there, I get a feeling of Baby Dodds around some of his later playing. See the record I posted yesterday.

Albert Ayler - Spiritual Unity
Cecil Taylor - Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come  

Andrew Cyrille
A great presence as an artist and creative percussionist. I've mainly listened to his old records with Cecil Taylor and a few newer things, and seen him play in person, but I don't have a real good idea of what he sounds like. It's strange. He's done a ton of creative music and I need to listen to him more. Cecil Taylor's Conquistador! is a free jazz classic. 

Cecil Taylor - Unit Structures, Conquistador! 


Milford Graves
Uses the tom toms a lot, with a strong African, polyrhythmic feeling— that's a feeling you can actually try to copy, and I do. 

Paul Bley - Barrage
David Murray - Real Deal 

Playing here with John Zorn in front of a painting by Jackson Pollock:

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Daily best music in the world: Sunny Murray

Getting ready to head to Germany in a week, so content will be a little light. Here's a cool record by Sunny Murray— usually the outest free guy in the world, here doing some swing tunes and some free stuff with some great, unique players. Monnette Sudler is an interesting guitarist I had never heard of. She's still around, making music.

I always assumed everyone was working together and feeling good when playing this kind of music, and in agreement that it is what it is— that effect they're getting is what they want. Or at least they accept and embrace it. Now I wonder more. The swing grooves here have a unique, loopy kind of feel, but not everyone enjoys playing with that— it would be hard frustrating work for a lot of people. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: travel set, 11th Anniversary rides

CYMBALISTIC: I paid a little visit to the Cymbal & Gong warehouse (aka, Tim's basement) to play some cymbals for Michael Griener, a great drummer, friend, and supporter in Berlin. Michael is very active playing all over Europe, and needs a set of small cymbals to travel with. Here I hit some 17" crashes, 19/20" Chinas, 13" hihats, and a 19" Special Janavar crash-ride: 

I also hit some 11th Anniversary Holy Grail cymbals— jazz rides drilled for six rivets, a sort of tribute to Elvin Jones. I'll be getting a couple of these to sell on Cymbalistic. C&G's normal weights for jazz rides are fairly robust, and these are actually at the heavier end of their normal weight range— ~1850 for the 20s, ~2325 for the 22s— but when I played these I thought they were much thinner. Great traditional K. sound:  

If you're in Germany, come meet me in Berlin or Dresden and play these things! Anyone who wants to buy one can also meet me in the Frankfurt airport to pick it up. Get in touch, let me know. 

Bill Frisell's advice to musicians

Posting this article from Guitar Player in it's entirety, because it's too important to be permanently entrusted to their little site: Bill Frisell's advice to guitar players, which applies to all musicians, and all humans to some extent.

Most musicians who have performed a decent amount will recognize everything here instantly— as things that happen, or that they believe, or try to do, or struggle with: 

1. Listen

Listening is the number one thing – taking your attention away from yourself. 

In one way it was good to get back to practicing and being in my own head during the Covid lockdown. But when you’re playing with a band, that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.

You need to have your attention away from yourself. I don’t want to be thinking about what I’m doing. I want to be as focused as I can be on the people around me.

It helps me so much to just look at the other people in the band. It sort of opens everything up. It’s such a simple thing but it really helps the music for me.

Listening is such a huge thing. It sounds simple, but it’s a lifelong struggle to really, really listen.

2. Don’t Judge Yourself

What we perceive we’re doing when we play often has hardly anything to do with what’s coming out the front. 

At the time you might think, This is the most badass shit I've ever played in my life! And then you listen to a recording and go, "What was I thinking?" 

Or, you could be having some crisis in your head like, I just can’t play anything! But when you listen back it’s beautifully formed.

All that stuff in your head – you have to shut it down. The idea is to get rid of all that and just be immersed in the music. 

Try not to attach yourself to whatever just happened. You have to be constantly shedding off the idea it was good or bad.

3. Be Present

If you have a really great night, like you’re all high off the gig, you can’t think, That was so great – let’s do that again at the next gig. 

The reason it was great is because you were all in the moment and you were responding to whatever was going on around you.

You just have to be as present as you can at all times. It’s the most amazing thing when the whole band is in the moment. It’s like you’re not thinking.

Gigs can be completely different to what you expect, no matter what you do before to prepare. 

You get there and there’s like a loud refrigerator motor going over here and a bunch of people yelling over there or whatever – just nothing like what you had been planning for.

But you can’t hold on to what you hoped it would be. It’s about acceptance and letting go. You just have to be there, present.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Chaffee linear phrases in other rhythms/meters

In the comments of the recent Chaffee linear phrases in 4/4 post, someone asked about other rhythm possibilities for the same phrases. The phrases there were ten notes long, so basically any rhythm and meter with ten notes in a measure would work. 

Here are some possibilities for a 3/3/4 note pattern phrase— RLB/RLB/RLBB:  

Of course there are other possibilities, but part of the point of linear patterns is continuity— introduce too long of a space to the pattern and the deal breaks down a bit. It also shouldn't be so complicated you can't figure it out on the fly with a lot of different phrases without writing it out. 

We could also do this with partial measures, but that's a whole other post. 

Get the pdf

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The big 7

Please pardon the lack of content. I've been occupied with other things this week, like our upcoming cymbal meets in Germany, and those couple of gigs with all the odd meters.  Which worked out well— I learned a lot from it. I'll do a full run down of what we did, but first let's talk about one angle on playing odd meters. 

Usually, when playing odd time signatures with an 8 as the bottom number— 5/8, 7/8, some forms of 9/8, 11/8, etc— the measures will have a lopsided feel, with long beats and short beats: 

Which you play from a foundation of groups of two and three 8th notes: 

Often that will be counted in 2+2+3/8: 1-2-1-2-1-2-3. 

Several of the tunes we played were written in 7/8, but were better felt in 7/4, with a steady quarter note beat, instead of the uneven quarter-quarter-dotted-quarter beat. A couple that were written in 5/4 strongly suggested a 5/8 phrasing. So there was (almost) always a strong feeling of */8 and */4 versions of a meter happening at the same time— 7/8 and 7/4, or 5/8 and 5/4. 

Because of that, many of the grooves had a partido alto-like feel to them— with several quarter notes in a row, alternating with several &s in a row: 

Part of one arrangement was in 6/4, with a similar rhythm: 

There was also a section of a tune in 9/8: 

Which I played like: 

And if you transcribe the main pulses of two measures of the 7/8 rhythm at the top of the post into one measure of 7/4, you get this: 

A notable thing about how you play that, and my main point here: when the tune is written in 7/8, with chords changing on the 1, but you're playing it in a 7/4 feel— the chord will change in the middle of the measure, on the & of 4. So you need to build that anticipation into your main groove. So this will be your rhythm framework, rather than steady quarter notes: 

Playing the big 5 in 5/8 doesn't seem to help much— or it didn't with this music. The problem with 5 generally is that it turns around so fast you're never get fully grounded. More on that later. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Ben Riley on musicality

Extended excerpt from Ben Riley's Modern Drummer interview from 1986, by Jeff Potter, in which he talks about melodic drumming, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, and his other influences: 

JP: You have been called a "melodic drummer." Do you think of your playing in those terms?

BR: There are theatrical players, and there are melodic players. I think I play the melodic style, because I worked with a lot of trios and singers. Also, in the era I came from, there were more "melody" songs.

In order for a drummer to be really involved, he had to learn the melodies and verses to really be in tune with what everybody else was doing.

JP: Even your soloing shows this melodic structure.

BR: I think listening to Max Roach caused me to start doing that. If you really listen to Max, you'll notice that he plays the melody all the time. Many drummers who have experience with melody play "melodic" even if the tunes are more abstract. For instance, in Elvin's playing with 'Trane, there was a melodic structure set up. Even in Ornette Coleman's music—which a lot of people say is just "out"—it's all melodic if you listen to the rhythmic structure of the horns and rhythm section. I have always been conscious of playing with structure. Some people just go "out there" with no way of getting back. Sonny Rollins used to say, "When you play, it's like driving on a highway you've never been on before, but there are always landmarks. You have to make those marks."

When you first start playing, you idolize certain players. So, at one time, I tried to play like Max Roach, and then I heard Art Blakey and incorporated that into my playing. Then I heard Philly Joe Jones, and that impressed me. But the biggest impression came the night I heard Kenny Clarke. From then on, I tried to be everywhere he was working. I loved the way that he was not over the top of anyone, no matter who he played with. He was always right underneath and would always build.

He uplifted the music without overpowering anyone, and that is what impressed me about him. I decided that was the way that I wanted to play. But most important, I wanted to be a well-rounded player.

In the era I came up in, there was always someone around to inspire you or say something to you that would help you to think about what you were doing. They would make suggestions without making suggestions. The first time I met Kenny Clarke was at Minton's. I was playing, and I looked out in the audience and saw him. I tried to play as best as I could and as much stuff as I could think of. When I got off the bandstand, I went over to meet him and he said, "Yeah! That was wonderful. Let's go downtown and hear so-and-so." I said, "I can't. I have to stay here and work." He said, "Work? You mean to tell me you're going to play something after that?" [laughs] It made me stop and think. He was telling me that I had to take my time and use my space—put it in order. You can overplay without realizing it. You have to learn what not to play.

Monday, June 06, 2022

5/8 control, part 2

Hastily scribbled practice notes
It has been an interesting journey this week, preparing this challenging music— moderately challenging, I guess; there are a few grooves in time signatures I'm not used to, but I'm being ambitious about how I want to play them. When it's all over I'll give you a complete rundown of all the tunes, how I handled them, and how it worked out.

If you're in Oregon, you can come see us at the 1905 Club in Portland at 5:30 pm on Friday the 10th, or the Old World Deli in Corvallis at 7pm on the 11th. Antonio Sanchez is playing with Thana Alexa right after us at the 1905, so you can make a night of it.  

Yes, it is a little intimidating knowing King Kong may be in the house while I'm playing this stuff. But whatever, if I eat it somehow, and he's even around, I'll remember Frankie Dunlop

The 5/8 thing is coming along nicely. I needed to figure out a way to vamp on it, and learn a few key rhythms— claves, almost. Generally learning a lot of simple variations on basic things.  

Here's another page of 5/8 patterns based on the notes above, that I wrote while I was practicing, and some practice notes— to myself, they may make no sense to you.  

You can fudge it 
You don't need to play a perfect 5/8 subdivision all the time. This is not prog. In fact, if you're playing off the 1, a lot of almost-normal stuff can happen in the middle. 

And 5/8 rhythms can resemble normal things, pushed around a little bit, for example: 

But increasingly I've found I can just stay on the quintuplet groove— it just requires a focused and deliberate approach. Which is not my forte— as a musician I'm actually kind of a feral individual. Just playing the notes feels like cheating to me.   

Recovering from mistakes. 
I'm learning to bail out fast when something lands in a way I didn't intend— without immediately hitting something else, which will also be very wrong, to try to save the continuity. 

You also have to have the 5/8 in your ear well enough that you can drop in a note, and know where you are from hearing it. 

Playing free
It's also possible to just play free over the vamp— but there's a right way to do that. You have to listen, and you can't lapse into playing patterns that fight with the vamp. It's also nice to be able to play four measures totally free, and land on the 1 with the band, which I can do.    

The actual parameters
You look at a chart like that and you think oh my God I've got to learn to play 5/8, but really, it's one six minute tune, and one tempo. On the 5/8 portion of the head the drums are doing a light percussive background thing. The middle of the tune and the horn solo are in 6/4. The drum solo in 5/8 is really equivalent to an 8 measure break in 4. And the other players are used to holding it together with different drummers who don't know their music real well— or they better be. They won't be relying on me to be their foundation. 

Get the pdf

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

CYMBALISTIC: two bargain used Holy Grails

CYMBALISTIC: Two more bargain used Cymbal & Gong cymbals came in. Both were lightly used by an endorser for a tour.   

A 24" Holy Grail Jazz Ride “Vishal”, a lush, complex light ride, still with good stick definition — $340.00 plus shipping. 

And a 19" Holy Grail Crash Ride “Geraldine”, an outstanding all-purpose cymbal — $225.00 plus shipping [EARLY AFTERNOON UPDATE: ...aaand it's sold] 

I seriously considered keeping both of them for myself, but they tell me I'm “running a business”, so... no. I offer them to you. 

And a reminder that my Germany tour is coming up at the end of June, and most stock on my Cymbalistic site will be going away. If you've been pining for one of those cymbals, you should get it now.