Thursday, August 31, 2023

CYMBALISTIC: Seattle meet wrap up!

CYMBALISTIC: We had a fun event at the Seattle Drum School on Monday evening. It was small but mighty, but we're a small but mighty operation. Response to the cymbals was very enthusiastic, as always.

Tim (of Cymbal & Gong) and I are getting our chops together for these types of things, hopefully we'll be doing more together. 

I got a little video, as I get it I'll share media from others who were there:  

The cymbals being played at the different times are: 

0:00 - 15" Holy Grail hihats / 17" Special Janavar crash-ride "Laurie" / 22" Extra Special Janavar "Donna"
1:21 - same as above, with 18" Holy Grail crash "Gene"
1:56 - as above, with 20" Mersey Beat crash-ride
2:16 - as above, with 22" Special Janavar crash-ride "Valentine"
3:34 - 22" Extra Special Janavar "Donna" / 18" Holy Grail crash "Gene" 

Also at one point was a little China cymbal "Xia", which was sold. 

The ones with names you can check out at Cymbalistic

Thanks to my brother John Bishop (who you see playing in the video) for pushing the thing along, and Tim Ennis of Cymbal & Gong, Steve Smith and all the rest at Seattle Drum School, and everyone who came!  

Frankfurt / Berlin / Munich

Stay tuned for details, visit to pick out and reserve your cymbal! 

Bishopdiddles - 02: double paradiddles to swing 8ths

Listen: do not show these to somebody and call them “BISHOPDIDDLES.” You're going to get both of us beaten up.  

One thing I like about this double paradiddle inversion is that it's possible to accent the first and last notes of a triplet (or beat of compound 8th notes) with it, so it fits nicer in a slower tempo swing 8ths environment, and we can make a Reed system for practicing it. 

Regular double paradiddles accent naturally on the first two triplet or compound 8th partials: 

This inversion puts the natural accents on the first and last partials, which of course coincides with a common swing 8th note interpretation: 

This, then, is a collection of drills for developing it fully:

You can use patterns 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12 (I don't know why 13 is there) as foundation patterns for practicing this out of Syncopation. Play p.38 all those ways. 

I mostly only use these patterns once at a time, not hand to hand like this, so this may not be much more than a technical drill, but I think it's a good technical drill. 

Get the pdf

Monday, August 28, 2023


CYMBALISTIC: Bumping this to the top of the site for tonight's event— if you're in the vicinity of Seattle, come on down, say hi, play some cymbals! 

SEATTLE: Monday, August 28th, 7:30pm - Seattle Drum School - Georgetown
1010 S. Bailey Street, Seattle, WA. 98108 – (206) 763-9700

Drummer hang with myself, Tim Ennis of Cymbal & Gong, John Bishop of Origin Records, Steve Smith of Seattle Drum School, and a lot of other great Seattle drummers who have been asking about these cymbals. I'll bring all the cymbals I have, and Tim will bring a few more things, so there will be a lot of cymbals to play! 

Visit the Facebook event page if you want to RSVP, or just show up! 

Oct. 11 - Frankfurt - Kelsterbach  |  Oct. 13 - Berlin - Brunnenviertel  |  Oct. 15 - Munich - Hbf
I will bring ONE case of cymbals— about eleven cymbals, several of which are already sold. Order in advance to be sure of getting the one you want, especially if you're in Munich!

The one serious meet is happening in Berlin at 12:00 noon on the 13th; Frankfurt and Munich will mainly be chances to meet people briefly and hand off pre-ordered cymbals. Contact me for details.

Here's my man in Berlin— friend, supporter, and great drummer Michael Griener, playing a couple of Cymbal & Gong sets he has assembled over the last 5 years:

Michael is one of the busiest drummers I know, and is constantly traveling all over Europe playing and recording. It's a big deal when someone like that decides an instrument is the one they want to use. Serious players love these cymbals. 

By the way, a companion (named “Spock”) of the 20" Extra Special Janavar “Kirk”, on the right side in the first part of the video, is in Berlin now, and available for purchase.  

Cymbals in the video:
First part:

Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail 14” hihats “Richie”
Cymbal & Gong Holy Grail 18” crash “Lyle” 
Cymbal & Gong XS Janavar 20” crash-ride “Kirk”
Cymbal & Gong Second Line Swish Knocker 20" “Melba”

Second part: 3:39
Cymbal & Gong Leon Collection Light Hihats 14" "Florent"
Cymbal & Gong - Leon Collection 18″ Thin Crash “Zénon”
Cymbal & Gong MerseyBeat Ride 20" "Alvin"
Cymbal & Gong  Project cymbal: Swish with cutout, drilled for 17 rivets 22" “Dizzy”

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Transcription: Peter Erskine - Duo

I don't know what younger drummers' current perception of Peter Erskine is, but when I was a student he was one of the top guys, always thought of as being exceedingly musical, with a great sound. And slamming, at times, like here— later on I got the feeling that he regarded overtly exciting playing as a kind of obligation to keep the punters happy. 

...I'm still a little annoyed that I didn't get to study with him when I was at USC. He was teaching a couple of the other drummers there, and later became regular faculty. I did get to drive him around and hang a little bit when he came to the U. of Oregon later. A bassist I knew at SC, Jesse Murphy, got to play with him a little bit, and his comment about his time always stuck with me: Where else could it be?  

This is from Bob Mintzer's 1992 record Hymn, and is titled Duo, with Mintzer and Erskine playing duo. I had a bunch of records with this group: Erskine, John Abercrombie, Marc Johnson. I missed this one— when it came out I was buying all the Joey Baron records I could afford. 

This is the head, the first 30 seconds of the recording. I'm going to try to do the whole thing, in installments. Tempo is 258— getting into the top end of the range where you'd swing the 8ths, and play many triplets.  

It's funny, this is all baseline modern vocabulary, but there's a specific thing happening here. I don't recognize it much in my own playing any more, I hear it a lot in my brother's playing— I need to think about it, I'll give whatever kind of analysis I can manage another time... 

Get the pdf

Blogger is not letting me embed the video directly, click through to hear the tune on YouTube

Saturday, August 26, 2023


Minor item, corralling some similar sticking ideas that have been floating around the site. I noticed that with paradiddle-like stickings, I like inverting them so the double is up front, right after the first accent. These all follow that pattern:   


DISCLAIMER: I don't want to mislead anyone with that BISHOPDIDDLES™© headline— I obviously didn't invent the RLLR-LRRL paradiddle inversion. The George Lawrence Stone estate would be working me over in court right now if I made that claim. My God. Or that RLLRRL sticking. The other two probably exist in some book somewhere*, but I got them from my own usage. 

* - I see now they're in Rudimental Swing Solos, with accents on the double, for some reason. 

So there they are as a single group of patterns. You can see them applied in this cool Reed system

Why do do this? When improvising with them on the drum set, you can hear the natural accents of the sticking, and they affect the way you can move around the drums. That's fine with me, it's natural texture, it's what I want. 

The double and triple paradiddles start with these strong singles, and end weakly with a double. They die at the end. However strongly you play the double, that's the structure of those patterns. 

With my wonderful stickings, the double slipstreams behind the starting accent— naturally a long sound— and the pattern finishes strongly, with singles: diga-diga-POW. If we accent all the leading singles, you can see how the natural momentum goes with each one:

I generally only use the double/triple paradiddle inversions once at a time, but they have some very interesting possibilities, I'll be writing some ways of doing them continuously. 

Get the pdf

Thursday, August 24, 2023

P. 38 canon

This is purely a writing experiment, pay no attention. Like, run away to some other web site right now

Actually this is a pretty good exercise for working up an Ed Blackwell kind of solo texture, if you played it on the tom toms. I just took good old p. 38 from Reed and transcribed it for two hands, with the second part displaced by an 8th note. This kind of coordination happens a lot in Latin drumming as well. 

There are really just two major combinations at work here, which I've highlighted on the segments labeled “warm up pattern.” Practice those a little bit by themselves, and you should be good to go. To make an Ed Blackwell thing out of it, play your hands on two different tom toms, add BD on 1/3, HH on 2/4, or both feet in unison on 1/3. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Reed tweak: alternating cymbals on rock drill

Incrementalism is the word du jour around here— lately we've been all about supplementing/altering some basic Reed systems in small ways, to make a living, evolving thing out of it, and not just pure formula. 

Today's thing introduces some alternating stickings to a rock drill I wrote about in 2019:

•  Book rhythm = cymbal (with RH) + bass drum in unison
•  Fill spaces with left handed flams, or double stops, on drums

Here's the second line of Exercise 1 on p. 38 in Syncopation, played that way— for clarity, I put the filler notes as double stops, and given the sticking for the cymbal part only: 

For today's thing, we'll alternate the cymbal part when there are two or more notes in a row— always starting with the right hand. Single cymbal notes are always played with the right:  

We want to maintain it as primarily a right hand lead system— with left handed flams (rL), when flamming— because that gives you some options on the filler: 

Whatever you can do with one-three 8th notes worth of space, starting and ending with the right hand:  

If you're one of those “weaker hand” guys, you could always learn the baseline system so the left hand is doing all the cymbal hits, and then do all these same variations. 

Monday, August 21, 2023

Garrison soldier / combat soldier

There were four platoons in the company, and of them all, Second Platoon was considered the best-trained and in some ways the worst-disciplined. The platoon had a reputation for producing terrible garrison soldiers— men who drink and fight and get arrested for disorderly conduct and mayhem— but who are extraordinarily good at war. Soldiers make a distinction between the petty tyrannies of garrison life and the very real ordeals of combat, and poor garrison soldiers like to think it's impossible to be good at both.

- Sebastian Junger, War

I don't like drawing military/war analogies— I'm interested in that stuff, it's also the exact opposite of everything I believe in. I don't revere any of it. But teaching a lesson to an 11 year old recently I was reminded of that quote.

That student is making a good emotional connection with the instrument— he likes to play the drums, likes playing loud, he experiments, makes up his own stuff, and is naturally able to expand creatively with the things I give him. And he can also be pretty bad at being guided through the lesson, at being taught. 

For the most part this is what we want. The point of all of it is for people form their own idea about how to play, and enjoy the physical act of playing, of making sounds on the drums. We're not just making a box for people to get good at living in. As a teaching problem, I'd be hoping to get him to get him to hold the sticks the way I want part of the time, at least (in fact he has improved over time with this). I have to be persistent about keeping the lesson focused and productive, but that's up to me, not him. 

Being a little bit of an ape is good, being a full ape is bad. I'm talking about being personally disordered, engaging in real life mayhem, outside of music. Full apes can succeed as rock performers, for a little while, and then become some of our biggest musical losers. I've known people like that.  

But any form of engagement is good. You don't have to be an ape to play music well. Probably most musicians now are not apes. 

Also noting that I recognize some of that “garrison” type personality phenomenon from music school, and other settings with large groups of musicians— there are people who are very decorous and rule oriented about music, who get upset if anyone pushes that envelope, and who are basically oriented around keeping others in line. That's the essence of mediocrity, right there.  

I don't want to go too far with this— I hesitated even putting it on my site, even more than I did the rather explicit jokes in another post. But, the analogy was unavoidable with that one student.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Categories of what we're doing

Following is a very half-baked item that has been in my drafts for a long time. It's a broad-ranging subject, and not the kind of thing you can just bang out, and have it be fully thought through. Somebody could write a thesis on this. But my banged-out thoughts are worthwhile, so here we go: 

Ever think about what we're actually doing here with this drum stuff— what job are we doing, what's the purpose of the things we during a piece of music? 

Most of the time we don't— we just do what is done, and play the music the way people play it. It's mostly non-verbal, and we pick it up through a lot of playing and listening and watching. It'd be nice to know what things are, so we know what choices are available to us, and know what we're hearing. 

This is a list of some aspects of drumming, that is certainly incomplete. They're not hard and fast, and not necessarily mutually exclusive. They may happen at different times in a piece in a piece of music, or at the same time, or not at all.


Simple time
A straight beat or pulse, maybe emphasizing the down beat or strong beats. Few or no variations or fills, starts and stops only.

Examples: Motown, traditional Country, Native American

Genre time feel
A time feel with a flavor specific to the style of music— a repeating “stock” beat. 

Examples: Connie Kay, Getz/Gilberto, most music generally 

Composed time patterns
Playing made-up non-generic drum grooves.

Examples: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Cissy Strut

Extemporaneous time feel
Any of the above, with significant variation and improvisation. 

Examples: “ECM” feel, modern jazz generally

Friday, August 18, 2023

Time economics of drum videos

Taking a break from a whole lot of teaching, business related emails— there's a Seattle cymbal meet coming up, and a Germany trip in October— and whatnot. I get irritable when I don't get to practice and work on my own stuff, so I'm blowing off some steam* writing, with great hostility and in the most annoying style possible, a script for a 20 minute YouTube video, DECODING STICK CONTROL, that will be CRUCIAL to CHANGING YOUR LIFE, drumming and otherwise. 

...for the worse. Oh my God, greatly. I think what follows accurately conveys the average time:benefit ratio of >95% of drumming videos on YouTube. This is what it's like for me sitting through those things... if I have to suffer, so do you.  

* - UPDATE: Ehhhh I wrote this a little more EXPLICIT than I normally do on this site, I went back
and toned it down a bit. Sacrificing some primo comedy material to preserve the dignity(!) of the site. 


[user innocently types into his web browser, searches “how to practice stick control”, list of videos comes up, the following is at the top of the list, with 6 million views]

[title card, we see the words DECODING STICK CONTROL at a crooked angle, photo of presenter brandishing book STICK CONTROL by George L. Stone, with look of inane, inappropriate surprise]

[30 second intro graphic for production company of long suffering video team]

[90 second intro montage of guy apparently wailing on the drums, with elaborate facial expressions] 

HEY [edit for blown take] EVERYBODY!!! it's JJ, Jim Jackerson comin' atcha again, and [90 seconds of blather, introducing himself, his dog, and his Pontiac, which he calls “The Squealer”, etc] and working the camera today we've got Stevo, known as The Hairball, say hi to everybody Hairball! [camera view vigorously nods hello] 
So in today's lesson we're going to CRACK THE CODE [makes Rubik's cube-like gesture] of one of the GREATEST DRUM [edit for blown take] BOOKS OF ALL TIME, STICK CONTROL by George Lawrence Stone, which [2 minutes of superlatives]. Now, George Lawrence Stone was [2 minutes of superlatives]

[2 minutes of superlative blather about what brands of drums/cymbals/heads/sticks he's using]

SO LET'S GOOO here's the WORLD FAMOUS EXERCISE 1. [goofy montage of guy at a practice pad experiencing various stages of perplexity / frustration / exultation] 

Now the kinda notes you see here are called [edit for blown take] AYT-TH NOTES which you count ONE. AND. TWO. AND. THREE. AND. FOUR... AND.

[looks significantly at camera]

Now you may be saying [begin funny voice] HURR HOLD UP JJ, WHAT DO ALL THOSE Rs AND [edit for blown take] Ls DOWN THERE MEAN, [affects southern accent] AH'M CONFEWSED [end southern accent, end funny voice]

[well known drum teacher who spent the longest 50 minutes of his life with this guy] AND HE SAYS THE R MEANS RIGHT HAND [hits pad slowly with right hand] AND L MEANS— THAT'S RIGHT, YOU GOT IT, AHH, HAHAHAHAHA YOU'RE WAY AHEADA ME, I GOTTA WATCH YOU GUYS... LEFT HAND! 

[hits pad slowly with left hand]

SO TO PLAY THAT YOU GO: WWON [hits pad slowly with right hand] AND [edit for blown take] [hits pad slowly with left hand] TOOO [hits pad slowly with right hand] AND [hits pad slowly with left hand] THREEE [hits pad slowly with right hand] AND [hits pad slowly with left hand] FORRR [hits pad slowly with right hand] AND [hits pad slowly with left hand]

[90 seconds of superlatives about the myriad ways this is going to change your life, 2:1 ratio of words:edits for blown takes]

[two minutes of “critical” instructions on how to practice it in the wrongest / most mind-numbing way possible, emphasis on using “free stroke”]

ONCE YOU CAN DO THAT, IT'S TIME TO J**K IT [frenetic graphic text to that effect, with high speed background video of host jacking up his Pontiac, brandishing wrench at camera] and LEVEL UP TO JACKERSON LEVEL and do it... A LITTLE FASTER. [crazee montage of drumming mayhem, funny camera angles] SO YOU READY, HERE WE GO, JJJ-STYLE:

[plays exercise at a medium tempo]

NOW THE REST OF THE BOOK [riffles pages at camera] IS A LOT OF STUFF YOU PRAHHBLY DON'T NEED, I MEAN EVEN I HAVEN'T DONE IT. [flings book off-camera] 
BUT [90 seconds of earnest, near religious superlatives about how it has changed his life, opened the gates to a paradise of freedom of creativity going dooga-dooga on the drums.]

[3 minutes of entreaties to “like” video, ways to follow on social media, ways of contributing, etc etc] 

End scene

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Solo transcription: Ben Riley - Bemsha Swing

More Ben Riley! From the same record as yesterday— Thelonious Monk Live At The It Club— and in fact this is the very next tune they played at the gig, Bemsha Swing. So, two drum solos by Ben Riley, that he played within within 10 minutes of each other. 

Bemsha Swing is a 16 bar tune, a miniature AABA— a four bar tune played four times, played in a different key on the bridge. He plays three choruses— 48 bars— in real clean four bar phrases. 

The solo starts at 6:37: 

Once again there are a lot of abbreviated 16ths, and some triplets. Hihat is spotty, often played on 2 and 4, but not really integral to the main idea. There's also not so much bass drum feathering activity here— often on the longer runs of singles it'll be there. 

Lots of phrases start with that 1 &2 & figure with the cymbals. And a lot of obvious paradiddles happening there— anytime you see those lone notes on the floor tom on an e of the beat, and probably elsewhere with the 16th notes.

Get the pdf 

Again, Blogger isn't letting me embed the video, so you'll have to open it up in YouTube or get out your record to listen.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Solo transcription: Ben Riley - Blues Five Spot

Solo by Ben Riley on Blues Five Spot, from the Thelonious Monk record Live At The It Club. Great record, and core literature. I think of Ben Riley's playing as maybe the cleanest shot we get at pure, classic-form modern bop drumming. Everything's real clean and worked out, and not idiosyncratic. Still, he plays creatively and has a nice musical sound, and he's real enjoyable to listen to. 

The tune is a 12 bar blues, and Riley solos over four choruses— 48 bars. He doesn't seem to be outlining the choruses strongly— especially as he gets into the long roll— but if you sing the tune over the solo, it all makes sense. He does make the end clear by playing rhythm stuff on the last four bars before the head out. 

Riley feathers the bass drum basically all the way through this. It's very worked out— if he makes an accent on the & of 2, he probably feathered it on 2, and was back into the feathering on 4. We see something like that in bars 22, 46, and 47. There's very little audible hihat, so I left it out. Occasionally I'll hear it on a beat 2 or 4. 

The 16th note moves around the toms are a little unusual, he moves on the es and as— clearly there's some kind of mixed paradiddle type sticking there. Figure out a sticking that works for you, and pencil it in. 

Be careful with the abbreviations here— remember how those work: total slashes/beams on a note = note value you play for the duration of the written note. Two slashes and/or beams on a note = play 16ths, three slashes and/or beams = play 32nds, or actually, roll. 

Notice some of the abbreviated rhythms have tuplet indications above them— several 5s and a couple of 3s. The 3s indicated a 16th note triplet, likely sticked RRL. The 5s indicate tap five stroke rolls, played in a quintuplet rhythm: RLLRR LRRLL. It's not that unusual a thing. I see I haven't written about abbreviated rhythms yet— see Podemski for a complete breakdown of how that works. 

Get the pdf

Blogger isn't letting me embed the video, so listen to the recording here, or dig it out of your record collection, you should own it. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Very occasional quote of the day: loud and meaningless

“A drummer can be very, very loud and that can be just totally meaningless. Sometimes it can be very, very loud and it can be extremely exciting.

So, it's really not a question of how loud or how much, but really the intensity under the conditions of what's happening.”

Eddie Gomez - Modern Drummer, July 1981

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Cymbalistic: videos are up - event dates

CYMBALISTIC: Videos and descriptions of the new cymbals are up, check them out at Cymbalistic.

I'm putting a lot of ears on them ahead of upcoming events in Seattle and Germany (see below), so many/most/all of them will be going away in coming weeks. So if you want one, speak now. 

Here's a Special Janavar that caught my ear: 

I mean, they all caught my ear, that's why I got them to sell, that's literally the point of all of this. Like here's a 22" Holy Grail Jazz Ride with a heavy patina, definitely in the neighborhood of a Tony Williams cymbal: 

Here is the current state of information on the in-person events: 

SEATTLE: Monday, August 28th, 7:30pm - Seattle Drum School - Georgetown
1010 S. Bailey Street, Seattle, WA. 98108 – (206) 763-9700

Drummer hang with Tim Ennis of Cymbal & Gong, John Bishop of Origin Records, Steve Smith of Seattle Drum School, and a lot of other great Seattle drummers who have been asking about these cymbals. 

GERMANY - BERLIN / HEIDELBERG / ELSEWHERE?: Travel plans are forming, I will visit Germany in late September / early October. I will bring ONE case of cymbals. That's only about eleven cymbals— and I've already sold three. If you want one you probably need to order in advance.   

 Updates coming soon! 

Friday, August 04, 2023

Sidebar: it's things you do with rhythm

It is funny, I find myself typing the words SYNCOPATION and REED an awful lot, but this entire category of thing is not owned by that one book and that one author. We really talking about things you do with rhythm. 

Say it again: 


It just happens that Ted Reed's book is a convenient and widely used practice library for that type of thing. We could just as well slap Louis Bellson's name and book all over this, except I hate Louis Bellson's book. There are some other books you could use (and I see that list is in dire need of updating)— I really like Chuck Kerrigan's book. 

Anyhow, this whole field of study is nothing but common ways (and ways that are personal to me) professional drummers interpret rhythm

Carry on... 

Reed tweak of a tweak: ending a solo phrase

Here's a very small but useful tweak of a tweak: remember the Reed system with alternating triplets, hitting the accents on cymbals + bass drum... except we'd leave out the LH cymbal hits? It's a good little system, creating a bridge between linear materials and ordinary alternating triplets. I recommend learning it. It's good for jazz, good for 12/8 settings. 

A student and I figured out a good way to end a solo phrase or fill: Do hit the last left hand accent of the phrase. 

So: line 3 from p. 34 of Syncopation (look it up), which would be played like this* the normal alternating triplet way: 

* - I've put all the cymbal hits on one line, but use two cymbals— hit a cymbal on your right with your RH, and a cymbal on your left with your LH. 

...and played like this with the LH cymbal hits omitted: 

...would be played like this as a two measure solo break, catching only the last LH cymbal hit: 

Instead of hitting another accent with the RH on 1 after the solo part, you could tie that last LH accent, and come in with the time feel on 2: 

Often that final LH cymbal accent will fall on beat 4, and there are some possibilities for that. Here's line 6 from p. 34, the normal alternating way, and the no-left accents way: 

Hitting an accent on 4 and an accent on 1 is a little hokey— not that there's never a reason to do it: 

You could just end the solo with an anticipation, accenting the 4, without completing that triplet: 

Depending on the tempo you might come in with the time feel on 1, as written there, or on faster tempos, come in on 2.  

For the sake of illustrating the system I've used the one-line exercises— and you should be very clear on all the rhythms individually with this system— but you'll get more plausible sounding solo ideas using excerpts from the full page exercises— you could trade 2s, or 4s. Play 2 or 4 measures of solo/fill this way, then 2 or 4 measures of time. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

RH lead triplets - useful excerpts from . 38

This is a little bit of a half baked item, illustrating something we did in a lesson. Should be useful for teachers, may not make a ton of sense if you're not familiar with this system. I'll probably think of a better way to communicate this idea. 

When doing the highly useful right hand lead triplet method using Syncopation, there are a few measures from p. 38 that are good to play in isolation. Some of them can be used as templates for improvisation, if we freely repeat parts of them, a couple are just good to play as repeating practice rhythms: 

Those are: 

  • Third line, third measure— repeating those running &s. 
  • Fourth line, first two measures— repeating the quarter notes, or that three-note figure &3&.
  • Sixth line, first two measures— repeating the quarter notes, or the running &s.
  • Fifth line, first six beats of the last two measures, hihat added every two beats.
  • Seventh line, first six beats of the last two measures, hihat added every two beats.

Let's start with the bottom two: they can simply be played as a repeating meter-within-meter pattern in 4/4. Each of those six-beat excerpts played twice = three measures of 4/4. Good rhythms for any practice system, actually. 

With the first three, you can play the repeated portions as many times as you want— really just repeating the triplet sticking pattern.   

It's simpler if you think in terms of the triplets with the RH lead sticking, we can pare those three excerpts down further:

Play each of the repeated portion as many times as you want— one or more times. That sets us up with an open, freely developing triplet solo texture with no hiccups— all the parts connect easily. Once you're fluent with that, you can worry about staying in 4/4 time with it, and playing four or eight measure phrases. 

I could have just gotten into Finale and written that in the first place, but I'm a traditionalist— I'd rather take a good old graphite pencil and mark it into the book itself. There should be some other unique opportunities for this type of thing— look at the one-line patterns on pp. 34-37, and see how they flow repeating any 1-3 beats of the pattern. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Listening to Somethin' Else

Somethin' Else is a very famous record by Cannonball Adderley, that really belongs in that “the one jazz record I know” list, along with Kind of Blue and Moanin'. When I was in school nobody could afford to own everything, so between the 4-5 of us that were hanging out, we had an OK record collection. 

Recorded in 1958, when Cannonball was in Miles Davis's band— shortly after Milestones was recorded. Somethin' Else has Miles as a sideman, and Hank Jones, Sam Jones, and Art Blakey on drums. Miles basically produced the session, evidently. 

I don't know how insightful these comments are— I'm putting down what strikes me that I'm able to put into words, in a reasonable amount of time. The first thing you do in writing about any art is to say what you hear, or see. 

Autumn Leaves
This tune has been so beaten to death in school and in jam sessions, it's really hard to play it without feeling this heavy existential dread. This is a very cool rendition, and one of the classic renditions. Composed intro/outro a la Ahmad Jamal, that makes me think of Gil Evans. No stop time— the popular way to do it at jam sessions. Outro is slower than the original tune. 

As a player, I want people to be ready to do intros/outros like that spontaneously, to have ideas for doing that. Blakey just plays time throughout, sometimes doing a Latin percussion effect on the snare drum and tom tom. He does that often on this record, simulating a conga player.   

Centerpiece of the record. The intro figure is really part of the book of this tune that everybody should know, especially piano and bass players.   

Love For Sale 
One of the first tunes I learned— we played the Blue Wisp arrangement of this in high school. The tune's not a blank slate, it's a little journey, with some events for the rhythm section to support. 

Listening here, it feels like there's a lot of action. There's a rubato solo piano intro, then a brief Ahmad-like Latin vamp (again, cop that figure, pianists). Blakey plays a strong accent when he comes in there. Swing 2 feel with brushes on when Miles comes in with the tune. Latin vamp comes back before the bridge— Blakey uses sticks briefly there, before going back to the brushes for the bridge and last A. At the end of the form there are some arranged kicks and four bars of the Latin vamp. Apart from the Latin parts, Sam Jones plays in 2 for the whole head. 

Cannonball is the only soloist, and he plays two choruses. Rhythm section swings in 4 the whole time, except in the first chorus Blakey momentarily plays the Latin groove going into the bridge. Blakey plays sticks, with a bongo groove with the left hand. They play the straight through the form, none of the added kicks or Latin parts. 

Back to brushes on the head out, Miles plays the A sections, Hank Jones plays the bridge. Sam Jones walks until the last A, where he goes into 2. None of the added Latin parts happen, except at the very end, as an outro. It seems to come as a surprise, because Blakey plays the first few bars with brushes, and then switches to sticks.     

There's a lot of power to having everything clean and in its place like this. These changes like going from brushes to sticks have a big impact when there aren't a lot of distractions. 

Somethin' Else 

Bright tempo blues written by Miles, with an oblique kind of melody and some funny changes— somebody with more harmonic knowledge than me could tell you what's happening here. There's more comping activity from Blakey here, but it's all balanced to be softer than the ride cymbal. There's a tight little dynamic envelope happening there.  

There's a little air between the attack on the cymbal and Sam Jones's attack on the bass. It's fooling my ear a little bit— I think Jones is in front, Blakey in back, and could totally be wrong. They're both absolutely solid and come off as being right on the beat, and driving. There's just a little space between their attacks. 

Around 3:57 Blakey double times in a way I don't hear much any more. Dick Berk, a great drummer I used to see a lot in the 90s, used to do that a lot. 

One For Daddy-O
Slow blues in 2, again with the conga beat on the drums, brush in the right hand, stick in the left hand. The brush is beating quarter notes out of a circular motion, from the sound of it. 

Blakey goes to sticks and the bass goes into 4 as Cannonball's solo starts. Blakey continues the conga beat through the rest of the tune. On the head out, the bass goes back into 2, Blakey continues that beat. 

Dancing In The Dark 
This is a Cannonball feature, he plays the head and has the only solo. Bass walks during the solo, Blakey plays a basic time feel with the brushes all the way. Like on the rest of the record, it takes a lot of patience to play that way. It's its own effect, just playing time and not doing anything else. That doesn't even register as a way to play for most ambitious players today, it's off the table. Change it up.  

In my years working the titular gig of this site I played this tune a lot, with several excellent, though young, tenor players, and this was the type of tune they always hated play, and they could never do much with it. Listening here, obviously the problem was not the tune. They were prepared to do a lot of modern improvising and playing hip stuff, but had a harder time just playing a tune and making that good. They all learned, because they were good, but it took some time. 

Alison's Uncle
Bonus track, a loose medium up bebop tune. Blakey plays a little more, and gets to solo— he gets a chorus, and the bridge on the head out. He plays a hip variation on his conga beat for part of Miles solo. You could pull a lot of clichés (that's not a pejorative) out of Blakey's solo, if you were inclined that way. Not a lot happening with the bass drum, he's mostly using his hands, with the hihat strongly on 2 and 4 all the way through. One of these days I'll check out more closely how he phrases his solos— here they're basically neat little four bar phrases that develop nicely, they take a little turn in the second two measures.