Monday, January 17, 2022

EZ solo method: six stroke rolls with brushes

I was doing this easy Reed method with a student— it's a rare one for using the triplets-and-8th-notes pages of Progressive Steps to Syncopation,  pp. 16-17. This is good for brushes, OK for soloing with sticks. Let's bang it out: 

On measures with one beat of triplets play RRL and RLL stickings on the triplet, alternate the rest:

Swing the 8th notes, try some different accent possibilities: 

On measures with two beats of triplets, play a six stroke roll sticking: 

Or a reversed* six stroke roll sticking:

* - We need a name for this rudiment. Inverted SSR, Half Reversed SSR, something... 

Typically we'll accent the single strokes in those patterns: RLLRRL or RRLRLL.

On measures with three beats of triplets, extend either sticking by adding a RRL at the end:

Note that the result of that is a six stroke roll with an added RRL at the beginning or end. 

On the full measure of triplets, do either sticking, RLLRRL or RRLRLL

Play exercises 1-15 and the 16-bar exercise as written, then practice one measure of time, one measure of solo pattern: 

On exercises where the triplets run across the barline, you could play them as written— line 4, for example:

Or start the solo part where the across the barline triplets start: 

Note that the sticking is different depending on how you do that. It's up to you how you handle any remaining 8th notes in the measure— they're really not the critical part of this exercise. 

Add hihat on beats 2 and 4, add quarter notes on the bass drum if you choose. As with all jazz solo materials, it's important to finesse the dynamics so you don't play it too ricky-ticky. I retain much of my normal timekeeping motion with this type of thing, so this integrates smoothly with the ongoing texture, I'm not stopping my motion to execute some triplets. Since I play matched grip, it's easier for my left hand to do a lateral motion than a circular motion, and that naturally has an alternating 8th note motion to it. Much of brush playing is just doing it, so your personal natural motion emerges. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Most recorded jazz drummers

A list of the 134 most-recorded jazz drummers and percussionists, created by Mark Stryker, a Detroit jazz writer, which I'm pilfering directly, because it's not currently live anywhere. I had to look at it through Google Cache. This internet thingy is cool, but people need to take care that their stuff actually stays up. Save your work, people. 

It's a useful and impressive piece of research. I reached out for permission on a couple of different platforms— he's on Facebook, and Twitter— but, like me, he apparently never reads his messages. If anybody knows him, tell him I'm stealing his stuff. 

The list: These are the guys— the true elites of our trade. What they do and don't do is what a good drummer is. About forty of them I've listened to a lot. About twenty I never listened to at all. The rest of them, I can point to at least one record or thing about them that is/was significant to me. And I'm kind of narrow in my listening— I've mostly focused on a few people, and relatively few records.   

Here's Mark's original post:

A conversation with Ethan Iverson about Billy Hart led me to spend WAY too much time compiling statistics from The Jazz Discography by Tom Lord to see who are the most-recorded drummers in jazz. What follows is list of the top 136. The numbers represent total number of sessions, not individual records. They also include only jazz sessions as defined by Lord's inclusion — no pop, R&B, film, TV, jingles, etc. They do include broadcasts and bootlegs that have been released.

The results are interesting. The biggest numbers belong to top-call studio cats – Shelly Manne, Grady Tate, Osie Johnson, Mel Lewis. But there are surprises: Billy Hart is 5th(!) on the list, particularly impressive because his appearances are mostly single-session, modern jazz records dating back to 1961. Of course, he's still going strong at age 80. I went deep in my memory banks thinking of drummers whose numbers I should look up. I also looked at some online lists of jazz drummers and percussionists to jog my memory. Finally, after I posted earlier versions on Twitter, folks there pointed out a gaggle of omissions. I'm sure I've still left out some players, but this is fairly comprehensive.

1. Shelly Manne - 902
2. Grady Tate - 698
3. Osie Johnson - 692 (among the most impressive because his recording window was an insanely short 17 years, 1949-1966). 
4. Mel Lewis - 690
5. Billy Hart - 646
6 Gene Krupa - 620
7. Buddy Rich - 606
8. Sonny Greer - 589 (Ellington made a LOT of records – all but about 25 of these are with Duke)
9. Don Lamond - 569
10. Steve Gadd - 554 (and God knows how many pop records, TV/Film dates, and commercials)
11. Papa Jo Jones - 539
12. Peter Erskine - 536
13. Kenny Clarke - 535 (woulda been higher had he not moved to Europe in the late ‘50s)
14. Jack DeJohnette - 502
15. Larry Bunker - 500
16. Billy Higgins - 498
17. Alvin Stoller - 497 (if you didn’t call Manne on the West Coast, you called Stoller).
18. Harvey Mason - 479
19. Louie Bellson, 472
20. Alex Acuna - 469 (percussionist)
21. Victor Lewis - 442
22. Lewis Nash - 421 (at 62, he’s obviously going to keep moving up the ladder.)
23. Elvin Jones - 417
24 (tie). Roy Haynes - 410
     Ray McKinley - 410


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Listening to Clifford Jarvis

Clifford Jarvis was always best known to me as Sun Ra's drummer, and as the drummer on a number of records I saw in the store, but never bought. A hard bopper turned free guy. I spent all my money on records with Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Philly Joe Jones... on and on. All my attention was on those guys, and probably fifteen others, and I never really got around listening to Jarvis closely. 

He was killing— as good as anybody. Here he is on Jackie McClean's 1965 record Right Now!. I would transcribe this, but I would have to do the whole thing. Very inventive playing all the way through. He was from Boston, and according to Alvin Fielder, Tony Williams listened to him a lot when he was young, which makes a lot of sense, hearing this recording: 

...I got a chance to meet Tony, before I had a chance to really hear him play. He didn't talk very much then—he was like fifteen or sixteen, very young—and every spare dollar he got, he bought a drum book. He was studying Kenny Clarke, Philly Joe Jones, Max, and he was listening to a lot of Clifford Jarvis. Clifford Jarvis was the hottest drummer in New York—better to put it this way, he was one of the swingingest drummers in New York, along with Philly Joe Jones.


He kills it on this whole record— to me it's real similar to what we hear Tony doing on Four & More. By this point it's not totally clear who's influencing who, but he and Tony seem very connected. Jarvis certainly more bass drum chops than anyone before Jack Dejohnette, and is more bass drum centric, if you listen to his solo here:   

There was a funny moment just pre-COVID, in a master class with Billy Hart— Hart mentioned the Freddie Hubbard record Hub Tones, and for a moment couldn't remember who the drummer was. Nobody in the room, the very accomplished instructors/professors included, knew it was Jarvis. I didn't remember either. Mute embarrassment all around until Hart remembered. We're supposed to know this stuff. This was recorded in 1962: 

One more, from Hubbard's 1960 record Open Sesame— Hubbard was 20, Jarvis was 19. Jarvis plays straighter, but still very active, very aggressive at times. There's a lot of air between the timing of the bass, drums, and Hubbard— the first couple of listens through I thought Jarvis was way in back of the beat. I think the bass is holding it down, Jarvis is actually way ahead, and Hubbard is even more ahead than that. When he's trading with Hubbard, he's using mostly his hands— there's none of that dense bass drum stuff we hear on the Jackie McLean record. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

8/8 rock method

An easy little two-part system for rock and funk drumming. It's a way of livening up a rock groove without breaking away and doing an actual fill— using an 8th note texture, played between the bass drum and snare drum. It's a highly effective way of playing, and I've never seen it discussed as a thing to do. Drummers with jazz background may do it because it relates to their regular training, pure rock drummers may do it by accident. I've heard gospel/R&B recordings where this was virtually the drummer's whole time feel. 

An aside: ...did you know, you can sign up for lessons with me to learn ANY of this stuff on the site? It's true. That's what I'm here for. Hit the EMAIL TODD link in the sidebar. 

Here's how to do it: 

The beats
Use the grown-up part of Syncopation, pp. 34-45. Ignore the bottom line rhythm in the book. The top line rhythm is your bass drum rhythm, except notes sounding on beats 2 and 4— play those on the snare drum instead. If there's no 2/4 sounding in the rhythm, add snare drum on those beats. Play 8th notes or quarter notes on the cymbal. This gives you some ordinary sounding rock beats, for example:  

8/8 texture
Play the complete book rhythm on the bass drum, but fill in the gaps on the snare drum, to make a full measure of 8th notes. Continue the cymbal as before:  

Alternatively, you could play the book rhythm on the snare drum, and fill in with the bass drum. This will make the one-line exercises more interesting when we do the practice phrase in a moment: 

Practice phrase
Reading from Syncopation, play one measure of rock beat, one measure of texture. The first example above would be played like this— oops, a slight error— the first measure below is the first beat example, the 8/8 measure is the first 8/8 example. I'll correct that later today... 

You can make some more interesting two-measure phrases reading from the full page exercises on pp. 38-45. Repeat any two measures several times. All of these examples have the bass drum playing the book rhythm on both parts:

Of course you can/should also play the full page exercises straight through. As with all of these methods, learn the system well, then improvise.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Groove o' the day: Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit

Alphonse Mouzon's groove from McCoy Tyner's Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit— as he plays it in the live video below, from 1973. The tune was originally recorded on Tyner's album Enlightenment— a 24 minute spiritual journey.  

As it says, he's playing with the snares off, stick in the right hand, mallet in the left hand. He's playing the bell of the cymbal, with the tip of the stick— it's not that piercing shoulder of the stick sound. The bass drum part varies to fit around what the hands are doing; it's there to provide a pulse, it's not really a featured part of the groove. 

Here are some variations in the left hand part he plays near the beginning of the video below: 

The concert video: 


Monday, January 10, 2022

10 and 11 stroke rolls in Wilcoxon's Rolling In Rhythm - continued

Continuing with this nerdly topic of problems with roll notation in Charley Wilcoxon's book Rolling In Rhythm; it should have been the authoritative book on rudimental rolls, but is compromised at times by some very sketchy, archaic notation. Last time we looked at 11-stroke rolls on p. 24, until I got tired of it. Today we'll do the 10-stroke rolls on pp. 25-26. Also check out my old post on 7-stroke roll notation in Wilcoxon

Here's the 10 stroke roll in “triplet” / compound meter form. That's it's native form, probably most familiar to everyone as it occurs throughout the rudimental piece Three Camps:  

And here it is in 3/4: 

I'm going to try to find literal interpretations of the following notational weirdness, but most likely, those are the intended forms for all of them— maybe in double time, or in a different time signature, but with the same rhythmic structure. The barely-literate rudimental drummer attitude about notation basically goes ehh just fit a 10 stroke roll into this space. The 1s need to be in the right spot, and that's about it.  

So let's blast off into la-la land, with the next thing on the page:   

With that second ruff of each measure, the book repeats the most problematic thing we saw last time; I believe the double is meant to fall on the beat, and the main note (the last 8th note in the measure) is played a 16th note later than it's notated, like this:

Thus violating the modern universal rule of ruff notation, which is to play the main rhythm precisely, and add the ruff strokes to it— the ruff strokes will fall before the beat, and are usually unmetered. Or course there's no way to squeeze that ruff stroke in between the written 32nd notes and the following 8th note. 

On the next line on the page we have this: 

If that were meant to be played the same as the previous example, it would be a real atrocity— there's not even the ruff notation as a cue that that last 8th note should be played late. Without any other context, I might guess that this was meant to be played with a 16th note triplet pulsation. We see a lot of 8th note length 7-stroke rolls in these studies— this would simply be that, with an extra double at the beginning:

But that would be too fast for the indicated tempo, and there are no other studies using that interpretation— I only suggest it because I'm futilely trying to find a precise interpretation of the notation. 

This also illustrates the ass-backwards (and tempo-dependent) nature of rudimental writing in general. Normally, a musical part indicates a roll, and the performing drummer decides what type of roll should be used, based on the tempo, and other musical considerations, to get the best quality roll. Writing into a part ok, monkey, now roll super fast is peculiar to rudimental writers. 

Now look at this: 

Lots to unpack there. The “open” 10 is played as 16th notes and ends on beat 4; the “closed” 10 ends on beat 3, so we'll have to play it faster to fit it in. They're using the archaic definitions of  open and closed to simply mean slow and fast. In my training, open meant double strokes, and closed meant multiple-bounce strokes— those are the modern meanings of the terms, around here. 

The closed example is a complete mess. First, it violates the note values big time— here is that measure of music without the roll: 

But if you look at the way the roll stokes line up with the bass drum part, the roll begins before beat 2, right in the middle of that dotted quarter note. Going by the previous interpretations, you could play that either of these ways— as 16th notes with that 8th note played late:

...or as 16th note triplets, with the 8th note played as written:

Either of those interpretations put an unnaturally large space between that opening accent and the roll itself, which, again, we don't see anywhere else. Normally with a 10-stroke roll, we expect the starting and ending accents to be at the same pulsation speed as the body of the roll, like in the first two examples.   

And of course playing either of those interpretations at half note = 96 doesn't work at all. So probably what's actually intended is to just play this, or something close to it: 

Clearly we have to relax our modern standards for precision with some of this stuff. Hit the 1 and 3 accurately and get the right number of notes and you're golden. That's close enough, apparently. In fact, these posts seem to have been a very long winded way of saying “traditional rudimental notation was shamefully imprecise, slovenly, and often misleading.”

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Jorge Rossy is stealing my stuff!

Here's a funny one for you— check out the tune Post-Catholic Waltz from this 2021 recording by Jorge Rossy. 

Now compare with my tune Headlights from this 2000 recording by my group Lower Monumental. 

What the hell! Too bad Rossy isn't Taylor Swift, I could have lived off the proceeds of the lawsuit forever. 

Of course my tune was inspired by inspired by Charlie Haden's tune Song For The Whales, which is distinctly different, and better.  

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Mel Lewis master class

Here's a one hour master class lecture given by Mel Lewis in the early 80s at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas). Embedding on blogger is weird now, so you'll have to follow that link to watch it. 

Lewis extremely opinionated as always, going into detail about everything that's wrong with everyone and everything. It's good to hear this stuff, without resisting it, whether or not you run with all of it for the rest of your life. He makes an important point around 44 minutes in, that listening to old music is about education— he's not telling you to play like it's the 1930s. You take him seriously, while understanding it's not just about accepting opinions, it's about paying attention to the things the opinions suggest. 

There's an extended sequence about keeping time with the bass drum— “feathering.” This is one thing Lewis says that has become an article of faith today. I still have a more nuanced view of it— soon I'll revisit my old 2012 post on the topic.  

I talk about about the drum set as being a very right handed oriented instrument— Lewis's solo break near the end of the video is a graphic demonstration of that.  

Timely reference: there's a question about Joey Baron— this is early in his career when he was with Carmen McRae. I just played a session with Ed Bennett, who was the bassist in that band. There must have been a buzz about Baron then, that I wasn't aware of. I was younger, and only learned about him later, when he played with Bill Frisell.  

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Plain talk about fast tempos

“Billy, can we talk?”
Henry Fonda time. I see we need to have this talk again. Everybody wants to talk about ride cymbal technique for blazing tempos. A little perspective on the subject:  

About 15 years ago a couple of friends of mine were moving to New York, and were intimidated that they would not be good enough at playing playing really fast tempos— and a list of whatever hard tunes— so we did some regular sessions to work on that. 

We concluded, after a few months of this: half note = 150-160 was manageable and playable, 165-175 was getting frenetic, above ~ 175 was getting ridiculous and we could barely keep it together. That's the approximate range of tempos on Four & More

Many people never play anything faster than about the highest traditional metronome marking: quarter note = 208. They'll say “let's burn one” and then count off ~200 bpm. Most other people rarely get much above ~ Passion Dance / Chasin' The Trane tempo— let's say quarter note = 240. 

Roy Haynes's magic tempo, around half note = 143— the approximate tempo on his famous recordings of Matrix, Have You Met Miss Jones?, Reaching Fourth, All The Things You Are— is extremely fast for most people. I think it's a tempo at which every ambitious player should be able to really kill it— I'll call that normal fast.   

A little above that, we're getting into the high range where the subdivisions are playable and sound like regular notes, fast but not hyperactive. 

At the very high end, half note = 200 is a nice round number, and John Riley mentions it in his book The Art of Bop Drumming, so a lot of  us think of that as the number to strive for as our upper limit. And it's truly absurd. You'll hear things in that vicinity on records occasionally, and usually everyone sounds bad except maybe the guy who's session it is. As fast as those 60s Miles records are, they never get that fast, and they never sound bad like that. 

But I don't know, here's Woody Herman's band playing Caldonia, the tune Riley mentioned, and they keep it together at around 400 bpm. They were a touring band, so they were doing this together every night. And the rhythm section breaks it up by laying out a couple of times, and playing some half time. Bob Leonard is on drums, watch carefully what he's actually doing. Watch what everyone does at these tempos— most often they're not playing a complete, perfectly composed bebop drum part.

More often where those numbers come up in everyday life is when people get called to play with a touring performer, who calls at least one absolute barn burner. That's where normal players get burned— normal excellent players. It's an unfair situation, because they're probably just playing with the guy the one time.  

My principled objection to insane tempos is that they're BS. Speeding something up to the point that “the beat” is really a subdivision, and you're supposed to be creative in a subdivision of that— it's BS. It's not music, it's a jazz-cultural terror weapon.  


...which is totally irrelevant when you were called to play with Godzilla and he's making you do something insane, and you have to do it because you took the gig and you're on stage and this is happening. You get no opportunity to get up and debate the merits of it. There will be no opportunity to rationally present your position that your priorities were directed at more substantive musical pursuits.

So, I'm not saying don't work on this, just keep it in perspective— who are you going to be playing with, and when. If you want to do ordinary jazz gigs and jam sessions locally, just be very good within traditional metronome range, up to about 208. As a broad rule, everyone should be able to do that. And there is a lot of work to do just learning to play well in that range. That's the point of this entire conversation.

If you're a serious college level student, be pushing that up into that Passion Dance range— sounding very good at quarter note = 250+. You may be called on to hack through something faster than that. 

If you're very ambitious about your playing, and want to play with the very best players in any region of the country, you want to be able to kill it at Roy Haynes tempo. Check out the Pat Metheny record Question & Answer, which has a lot of fast tunes on it— you want to be able to hang with everything on there. When you can do that, that's when you should be thinking about how will I survive when thrust into a super-fast situation.

In fact you'll want to be able to hang and sound good in the full Four & More spectrum— say, half note = 145-175. At least be able to survive at the upper end of that. 

The absolutely absurdly fast range... if you can do these other things, you can probably survive, somehow. I don't know if anyone has that perfectly worked out in the practice room and ready to go in a fully finished state when called upon to do it. Max Roach had to learn to do it on stage, and most of us do not get the opportunity to do that any more.  

POSTSCRIPT: Oh, when my guys got to New York nobody they played with was playing fast, either, and they were all playing ordinary tunes.