Sunday, January 28, 2024

Tresillo unit

For a couple of weeks I've been working with an area of stuff covering several different styles— grooves with a tresillo rhythm, or part of it, in the bass drum. I've been polishing it for a recording session today. 

That bass drum rhythm occurs most famously in New Orleans drumming, Songo and other Caribbean styles, and Baiao. All different things from different countries, but with jazz groups things have a way of getting mashed up. The chart we're recording is marked “samba”, but the bass line is based on this type of rhythm, and nothing else about the piece is particularly samba-like.   

We have there: 

Systems for New Breed
I've been doing a few ostinato variations with the reading in The New Breed— which I've decided I like a lot. The reading portion of that book is different enough from Syncopation to be worth doing— more space, fewer runs of multiple notes, and of course 16th notes are the main subdivision. 

The ostinatos are played by the right hand on a cymbal, bass drum, and hihat played with the foot. On a couple of them the right hand moves to the floor tom. 

Subtractive method
Practicing from the book Syncopation, I've been running a subtractive thing I detailed before (the item at that link would actually be good to include in this unit)— voicing the melody rhythm in the book corresponding with a BSSB-SBBS pattern

Songo variations
A couple of different songo grooves, with fills, making variations on the fly. 

Street beat / alternating singles
Played on either the snare drum or hihat, varying the accents/articulations, with a move to the floor tom.  

Get the pdf

And here's one loop I've been using, sampled from Eddie Palmieri— Azucar, from the album Azucar Pa' Ti:

And another loop, a little faster, a baiao groove from Airto— Papo Furado, from the album Seeds On The Ground: 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Chop busters: syncopated flammed 16ths

More rooting around in my archives, with a stealth from the zone item. I found this in one of my notebooks from high school, and it's worth playing, with some mixed 16th note rhythms with flams in funny places. So I wrote it up nicely so people can actually read it: 

There are accents on all the flams, and I believe the stickings alternate all the way through.   

...aaand as I look at it, it appears that this is just one pattern displaced by a 16th note from line to line. There are a couple of small variations, but those are probably mistakes. See my December page of flammed 16ths for something a little more challenging. 

Here's the original sheet scanned from my notebook: 

Get the pdf

Thursday, January 25, 2024

From the zone: Danny Gottlieb solo break

Another archive item— lots of action around here right now, and not a lot of time to write. And I just found some more of my old writing. I wrote a lot of drum stuff in school. 

Here I've bashed out a transcription of a four bar drum break by Danny Gottlieb, on the title track from his album Aquamarine. By the end of it I clearly lost patience with it. 

I haven't listened to a ton of Danny Gottlieb. This was released in 1987, when fusion was easing into what people started calling “fuzak”, and this record was a little light for me. It's difficult for me now. But I made an effort to listen to it. The break happens at 2:56 in the recording. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Pro vs. semi-pro

Another item from the archives— this is from Jack Wheaton (1932-2015), my jazz styles and analysis professor when I was at USC in 1988-89.

In some context or other he gave us this list of attitudes/characteristics of professional vs. semi-pro/amateur musicians. I imagine a few of these will be more aspirational than others, for some people. Some are certainly deliberately directed at common jazz student shortcomings as he experienced them in his decades of teaching.  

So, you read this then you know how to try to be. I put an arrow by high energy— I think I felt that was a weak spot. I was pretty intense about music, but felt I wasn't high energy enough. 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Very occasional quote of the day: feel gotten with respect

From Vernon Reid's Twitter feed

Funk ain’t easy. Many ASSUME  that it is. Swing is complex, but it doesn’t grant carte blanche over other styles. Every idiom has its nuances that demand respect & attention to detail. If the particular Feel isn’t gotten with RESPECT ? Not gonna happen.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Philly Joe set ups

Here's a tune involving a lot of isolated kicks on the & of 2, where we get to hear a lot of different ways Philly Joe Jones sets them up— Blue Roz the Milt Jackson / Wes Montgomery album Bags Meets Wes. I've had a lot of people asking about kicks and set ups lately— here you go:

You can practice those as part of a two-measure phrase like this: 

Also move the kick over to the & of 3: 

Add two measures to the front of that if you need a longer cycle. Get the timing accurate from the cymbal accent to the following beat where you get back to the time— from the & of 2 to the 4 in the first example, from the & of 3 to the 1 in the second. They're easy spots to rush.  

Get the pdf 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Nothing to do with drumming?

Dave Elitch (L) with Rational Funk's Dave King
There was a fascinating exchange on Instagram, starting with the drummer Dave Elitch (formerly of the band Mars Volta, done a bunch of big gigs), who gave a rather provocative reaction to a quote from Stanley Spector— which we talked about here before, you can read here. 

Elitch comments on it: 

I had a student send me some quotes by Stanley Spector who was a drum teacher that’d I’d previously never heard of before. He sounded like an interesting character and I still can’t decide if he was nuts or not because it’s hard to find a lot of information about him other than secondhand blurbs here and there.

I did however, come across this quote circa 1980 from him in regard to his opinion about rudiments and I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve always thought that there has been far too much emphasis on rudiments as a topic of study and how they are fundamentally out dated and largely irrelevant in regards to playing the drum set in a contemporary music setting in the 20th, let alone 21st century. You want to play drum corps or pipe band? Go for it, just don’t fool yourself into thinking it has anything to do with playing the drums. It doesn’t.

It’s imperative that we make smart choices when it comes to what we choose to practice. So many times when I’m working with someone, they are working on things simply because they can’t do them and that’s not a good enough reason in my book.

Emphasis is mine all the way here. The drummer Dan Weiss, who is a hot item in New York, comments: 

Love you and I think what you say has some value. But I also think that the rudimental vernacular is one of the defining elements of drummers such as Cozy Cole, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones , Elvin Jones, Frankie Dunlop, Alan Dawson Tony Williams, etc. If I am teaching someone how to swing and play in this style I most certainly teach rudiments ( see my new course :) because it is part of the language. If I teach someone who is interested in something else I might not teach rudiments at all. Context is everything. There’s no one way, there’s no right way.

(I don't agree with him that rudiments are strictly for learning a vernacular style, though they are necessary for understanding those players.)  

Elitch then responds: 

This is more geared towards someone who wants to play contemporary drum set and contemporary music. If we’re talking about jazz and a certain approach to jazz that harkens back to when military drumming was a direct influence on it as an art form, then sure, absolutely. I’m just saying that someone thinking (or being taught to) play a triple ratamcue as if that will help them or have any relation to feel/pocket/time - that’s where it all falls apart for me

Digesting all of that, I have a number of comments. 

Looking at the key portion again:

 [Rudiments are] out dated and largely irrelevant in regards to playing the drum set in a contemporary music setting in the 20th, let alone 21st century. You want to play drum corps or pipe band? Go for it, just don’t fool yourself into thinking it has anything to do with playing the drums. It doesn’t.

I don't know what they have to do with if not playing the drums. I play them on a drum. And obviously the idea that rudiments were irrelevant to contemporary music of even the 20th century is ridiculous. As is the idea that 21st century drumming is some revolutionary new animal totally unconnected from what was done in the past. It is not. 

About the rudiments themselves, their packaging is old fashioned, but there aren't many of them you can just throw away, and still be a competent drummer. A lot of them are simply articulations, or ways of making a long tone, or they're standard short rolls, or forms of paradiddles— all of which are heavily exploited on the drum set, in this century even, even by unprecedentedly modern players like Dave Elitch. Some of them, if they are of no other use to someone, are good for conditioning the hands for playing layered rhythms. 

About his response to Weiss's list of players as harkening to military drummers, I have to wonder has he ever heard a Tony Williams record? I'm not sure he has. How deep into Elvin Jones can someone be to say that? We assume that everybody has studied everybody, but show me you actually know something about them, to be making a comment like that. [Since writing this I've learned he knows them very well, it's still a strange comment.] 

Some of the other comments there are fascinating. I wish there were more constructive conversation involving Mr. Elitch. Mainly there are a lot of people thanking him for freeing them from having to learn to play some elementary stuff on a snare drum. A few people helpfully point out that pursuing the rudiments in a monomaniacally monofocused way that no one actually advocates doing, will not make you groove. True that! 

It's weird to me. It's a strange form of communication that I'm not used to, from people involved in teaching. Ultimately, great teachers— e.g. Ed Soph, Ralph Humphrey, John Beck, John Riley, Peter Erskine— want to make people understand. They work hard to communicate openly. They write a lot and give everything up. They generally don't denigrate entire, widely used, bodies of drumming literature.

Oh, and I'm totally with him on the ratamacues, screw those things.

[h/t to Thomas at DW for sharing the quote]

Monday, January 15, 2024

Stick Control in 7 by Ralph Humphrey

A little item from an old issue of Percussioner International magazine, which I just found in my mom's basement— the Steve Smith issue, from November 1987. 

Here Ralph Humphrey shares some paradiddle-based stick control patterns in 7/8:

Humphrey says:

Practice each exercise with the written accents. But remember that when you begin to apply the patterns to the drum set, you might choose to keep the accents intact, or try a linear approach and set the hands off so that you hear the rhythm that each hand creates. This may change your accents and also change the way the rhythm sounds.

The main drum set application he suggests playing the patterns right hand lead style, with the R on the cymbal and the L on the snare drum (and moving to other drums), adding bass drum as follows: 

The choice of  bass drum placement depends on the style you wish to create, and/or helps to support one of the hands. Notice that not all of one hand's pattern is supported with the kick as this would create a heavy or over-active bass drum part. Learn to abbreviate the kick part so that it supports the hands and stands by itself. Experiment! 

Basically, he adds bass drum along with some, but not all of the RH notes. 

Also see my Stick Control in odd meters posts, and Dahlgren & Fine in 5/4, for some other possibilities for adapting those books into odd meters. And see my Stick Control related posts generally, there's a ton of stuff. 

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Feathering by not feathering

Here's kind of a funny video by Alvin Atkinson that was shared by a forum user asking about about feathering the bass drum in jazz— the technique for playing jazz time that includes running quarter notes played barely-audibly on the bass drum. It's a Jazz At Lincoln Center video, so this is officially approved doctrine, now that Mr. Marsalis has forced the existence of such a thing: 

Describing the technique: he proposes “feathering” by tapping quarter notes with your heel, with the bass drum beater buried against the head, rather than activating the beater and hitting the drum. The sound aspect comes from your heel hitting the foot plate, and probably causing some resonance from the stage floor. 

It's basically: “What if we didn't feather, but we called it feathering?”

This is funny to me because, as basically* a non-feathering guy, I've been doing that this whole time with my left foot— there's no good reason this technique has to be done on the bass drum— to the exact same effect. We had to pass it through the feathering filter and give it a name, and suddenly it's an approved technique.

* - I feather the bass drum— actually playing it— more than I used to, deliberately, for a specific reason. I still don't play it as part of my time feel routinely. I really don't do anything routinely, but  that's another topic...

I don't think I know any players who even think this way, with this focus on labeled, required techniques. The actual art form we're involved with is conducted on a different set of terms altogether. And that's another other topic...

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Buy records: a screed

Go to places like this and buy things.
I was half an hour early for an appointment with Tim at Cymbal & Gong— picking out a career ride cymbal for one of my students— so I hopped over to Music Millenium, the venerable SE Portland record store, for a few minutes, and bought some CDs.  

And, gang, buying records has really never been cheaper. I got used CDs of Sketches of Spain, Bill Evans with Joe La Barbera, and a Joey De Francesco record with Idris Muhammad, for $16. For $50 you could get enough of Miles Davis's catalog to occupy your listening for the rest of the year.   

For the rest of the year— that's how you're supposed to listen: to one thing over and over for a long time, until it occupies a corner of your mind, soul, and musical ear. There's a limited amount of music you can take in that way. For a relative pittance you get all the music you can realistically absorb, and you're supporting an economy that is healthy for music.  

And anybody serious about music needs to control their own library. You can't have your stuff be sitting on somebody else's server, with your access to it beholden to your internet connection, and the good graces of whatever corporate streaming platform. Beholden to the state of their licensing contracts, whether those are sufficiently lucrative for them. The streaming people don't care what business they're in, if they can figure a way of making more money without having to handle music, they'll take it, and you'll get stuck.  

See Spotify— offering up virtual ownership of all the music in the world for $0 was a good way to drive everyone else out of business, but— shocking everyone— they can't figure out how to make that profitable. Right now it's dawning on them that they can do better with inflammatory podcasts, and are paying millions to broadcast “Joe Rogan” doing what he does. While cutting royalties for music.  

They have a much better feel for that kind of “content” than for music, which is a more difficult product to predict. Listeners' attraction to music is less than tangible than a guy talking and deliberately trying to make you mad about nothing real in your life. Manipulating people to anger is a mechanical skill, and easily drowns out fulfilling, happiness-producing things like music.   

See also the movie streaming platforms: having driven every video store in the country out of business, they've decided they don't like being in that business very much, and are cutting a lot of movies:

No s***. 

“Consumers, the poor ridiculous saps, thought they'd be able to see what they want forever.”

No, they will screw you at the first opportunity, regardless of what promises they made about being “the future of movies” going in. The director Guillermo Del Toro recently made this statement

So there's a larger picture. They tried to sell you an image of a future reality that benefitted them, where there would be no physical media, but then they decided there are easier ways of making money than giving you the things they promised. Thus you become stuck— potentially or actually— without access to art that is an essential part of your life. 

Last point: buy people's CDs— at shows, gigs, clinics. Pay the extra $10. Doesn't matter how many times you think you'll listen to it, just buy it. They lost money making this record and need a little encouragement that there is value in losing money making the next one. Thus this whole music making ecosystem is able to continue to exist. You can afford it— how many shows do you go to? 

You have to be a part of the money machine— you have to pay into it. 

Friday, January 05, 2024

Listening to The Musings of Miles

Listening to a Miles Davis record I never really heard before: The Musings of Miles. It's a lower profile item in Miles's catalog. These listening to albums posts are a test for me, because I normally don't feel I have a lot to say about what I hear. 

It was Miles's first LP album, recorded and released in 1955, with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones, who would soon be members of Miles's regular quintet. Oscar Pettiford rounds out the quartet recorded here. 

Will You Still Be Mine
One of those tunes I've played many times, but nobody calls the titles so I can hear them, so I never learned a lot of them. Half my reason for writing this post is so I can finally memorize the title: WILL YOU STILL BE MINE.


Bright little item, and they play it moderately fast, the tempo is about 256. They cruise through it. 

Form is a long AABA, 56 bars; A sections are 16 bars long, bridge is 8. On the head the last A has a four bar tag.  

Miles solos for two choruses, Garland plays a chorus and a half; Miles finishes his second chorus, then plays another chorus, and solos through the head out, finally playing the tune on the last A only. Pettiford pedals on the first 8 bars of the first two As of the head out.

Jones plays brushes behind Garland's solo; switching back to sticks for Miles to come in in the middle of Garland's second chorus, so I guess that was planned, or Miles signaled he was coming back in, and Joe was on it.

There's no mistaking his cymbal beat, is there? It's dominant on the recording, you don't hear the rest of the drums real well, though his left hand is very active— all his slick stuff is there. He seems more polished with that than players before him. 

I See Your Face Before Me
Lovely ballad I wasn't aware of, they really set a mood here. I'll have to dig up the Johnny Hartman recording of it

32 bars, form is ABAC, tempo 59 beats a minute. Walking ballad, Pettiford plays in 4 on all of it except the first 8 bars of the piano solo, where he plays in 2. They play two choruses total, all Miles except for the first half of the second chorus. Plus there's a four bar piano intro.

Jones is playing with brushes, obviously, mostly lovely long quarter notes, playing the bell of the cymbal with the metal loop especially during the piano solo. Skip note is present in his brush rhythm in a subtle way, and very late, suggesting double time— I think his skip note lands right before Pettiford's attack, and his downbeat right after. He double times the hihat briefly on the end of the C section.  

I Didn't
Cool Miles Davis tune based on Thelonious Monk's Well, You Needn't. I had to look that up, I figured it was based on a show tune, because Miles took it a whole different direction. But you can clearly hear Monk's changes happening on the solos. The title is a hip play on Monk's title. Form is 32 bars, AABA of course, tempo around 272. 8 bars of drums up front. 

At 1:10 you can hear a familiar cue Miles plays on later recordings. I don't know what the deal is with it, but you should recognize it. Like on Four & More Miles sets up Tony Williams's solo with it, and Tony cues the end of his solo with the rhythm figure. 

After the piano solo Miles and Jones do some irregular trading— Miles plays a chorus, gives Joe the bridge, Miles plays the last A; the next chorus they trade 4s, except Miles plays the tune on the last A. Then he solos for another chorus, and again plays the tune on the last A, and they're done.

Jones and Pettiford are kind of brawling in a nice way here— both playing very muscularly, not exactly together. Things don't have to be perfectly in unison to swing. 

A Gal In Calico
Kind of a mundane standard. Miles must have heard Ahmad Jamal play it. Maybe there's some interest in it for the horns, I find it a rather insipid, uninteresting tune. 32 bars, tempo is about 186. 

A Night In Tunisia
The centerpiece of the album, which it has to be. The tune is AABA with an interlude; the A sections are six bars Latin / two bars swing, the bridge swings. There's also a shout chorus that frequently gets played over the A sections the last time through, as it is here— I don't know where that originated. Tempo is about 174.  

There's a free time intro by Pettiford, with Jones playing jingle sticks, for a tambourine effect. On the head they do the normal Latin/swing switching thing, on the solos they swing, but it's pulling all kinds of directions. Pettiford's playing very independently at times.

On the solos they just play the AABA form— no interlude. Then they trade fours kind of roughly with Jones for 1 and a half choruses, sketching in the shout chorus line on the A sections. Actually on the last A of the first chorus, Miles plays the whole 8 bars— Jones doesn't get a break there. Then they play the head out from the bridge. The end gets drawn out, they're clearly winging it.

Green Haze 
12 bar blues, tempo about 78 beats per minute. Miles gets composer credit, but there's no tune that I can discern, it's just a blues. 

Piano plays two choruses, then Miles plays four, then Pettiford. Double time feel in 2 on the second chorus of Miles's solo, back to the slow 4 on Pettiford's solo, back to double time on the head out. Jones plays brushes all the way, except he plays time on the cymbal on Miles's solo. Again, his feel suggests double time even while he's playing the slow 4. 

Pettiford is doing hip stuff at the end of the first chorus of piano, and into the second and then third chorus of Miles's solo, where he forces the double time. He's playing like an arranger, and leader. To me he's the star of this record. 

There you go— you'll notice a lot of it simple description of what happened. It's important information, knowing the parameters of what happens when people play, and knowing what's out of the ordinary. You could ask for deeper insight to what they're really doing, beyond he's doing something hip here, but that's on the record, that's not translatable into words. Or if it were it wouldn't be communicable. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Transcription: Ahmad's Blues - fours

Hitting the ground running with this 2024 business, here's Philly Joe Jones trading fours with Red Garland on Ahmad's Blues, from the Miles Davis album Workin'. Joe sounds quite beautiful, hand made, and direct after a couple of days of listening to all that Dave Weckl polish

Tempo is about 118, and the first break is at 4:09.

Note that several of the breaks start with a partial measure— he gets into them before the 1. A lot of them are in double time; swing the 8ths on the first solo, on the rest of them any 8th notes will likely be straight. 

Some other unusual things: in the second break the triplets are played with the left hand, with the grace notes of the flams played with the right. On the 8th break he muffles the drum with his hand— you'll have to figure out a logical way to do that, that gets the sound. I offered a possible sticking on one of the sixtuplets, you could probably use that, or part of it, on many of them.   

Hey, how come I haven't put out a Philly Joe transcriptions e-book to go with all the others

Monday, January 01, 2024

Groove o' the day: Dave Weckl Afro 6

Hey, happy new year— let's roll in 2024 with a snazzy Dave Weckl groove, which inspired some conversation. It's from 1994— hey, 30 years ago now— and Weckl is in his zone. He's been writing a lot, doing big gigs, he's fully world class: 

A lot happening there— so many syncopations that it's hard to get fully oriented. 

Having never heard it before, and me being a smart guy, I made a hasty, crappy guess about it being in an odd meter. On second listen it seemed more clearly to be in 6/8, or 12/8, seemingly based around 3-2 Rumba clave:  

With the first few bars of the track going: 

...incidentally, I believe the hihat part there is played on two sets of cymbals— the regular hihats, and some x-hats on the right. I'm pretty sure the right hand is doing a normal “long” or “short” bell rhythm there, and the left hand filling in the other notes.

David Crigger, an LA pro who has done a ton of stuff, decided that the tune was in 3/2 (the time signature*, not the clave rhythm), with the downbeat an 8th note later:

* - 3/2 time is a time signature with three beats per measure, each a half note long. 3-2 Rumba clave is a Latin rhythm, so called because it's comprised of groupings of three notes and two notes.

So the opening of the track would go: 

It may be hard to hear that, so he made an mp3 with a click giving the 3/2 pulse: 

It actually sits really easily that way— at least for that part of the tune— I just don't think that's what they're doing. I think they're doing an Afro 12/8, and getting cute with it rhythmically. It's part of the nature of this feel that there are cross rhythms other than that of the main “actual” time signature, that are strong enough to plausibly be an alternative time signature. There's a lot going on, a lot of major accents not happening on the 1.  

Those would seem to be totally opposed interpretations, following quite different major pulses, and putting the 1 of each measure an 8th note apart, but they're actually not. 

Notice that the beats in 3/2 time, when added to my transcribed groove in 12/8: 

Are quite similar to 3-2 Rumba clave: 

So if a player were orienting around the clave rhythm, rather than the dotted quarter note beat of the 12/8, they would actually be doing both things— putting the 1 where it obviously seems to be at the beginning of the track, and playing the rest of the major orienting rhythm agreeing with 3/2 time in Crigger's orientation.  

I think that's what's happening. Who knows whether they're observing clave throughout, or if that's just a rhythm he used in writing the main groove for the arrangement. 

Part of the deal here is, it's not difficult to confound even an educated listener— we're not privy to all the information they had making the recording. If you write some ambiguous/deceptive stuff and then don't show people the lead sheet, it's going to be hard for people to figure out what you're doing. Obviously they're all really sharp players, and don't have to put down a lot of auditory markers that are apparent as such without being able to see the chart

So, Weckl: 1, everybody else: 0, I guess...