Friday, September 7, 2018

The best drummer for the gig?

Perhaps, it's Griffin,  the main character in The Invisible Man.

                   Anybody seen my hi-hat, or for that matter, my face?

This might be the quirkiest intro to this blog ever, but bear with me.  My band is playing at the Brampton World of Jazz Festival this Saturday. Because there was a sub in the band, as well as that I had written some new tunes, I called the dreaded "R" word! ( Rehearsal, shudder! ). After much hemming and hawing about where to rehearse, because the band all live in different cities, it was decided that the bass player's abode was the most central. After we agreed to this location, he informed me he didn't own drums anymore, and I would need to bring my own. I told him I would conduct instead. He thought I was kidding, but I showed up at the appointed time with the charts of my tunes, and I stick bag that I didn't end up using! Now, because I'm the leader I was able to get away with this. What was I going to do? Fire me?!

 Now because everyone in the band had lots of experience I knew they weren't going to be thrown by playing with no drums. It was actually a great way to hear the tunes and imagine what the drums should do to support what I was already hearing. So, if you want to rehearse new music of yours, fire yourself and you'll be amazed at what you might hear!

My only concern is if the band will sound even half as good with me on Saturday night!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Man of a Thousand Voices

Here's a great ( what's up ) doc on Mel Blanc. Why is this important to us? Because he painted in sound with his voice. Just as we paint in sound with our drums. Observe, and learn!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Gone Campin'!

Bonus points for the image looking like the cover of  And Then There Were Three !
Anyway, I'm off to teach at IMC near Parry Sound. I always have a great time. The food and accommodations are excellent, the young people are awesome to work with, and it's a wonderful chance to reconnect and perform with members of my extended musician family. I'm also going to be recording with Peter Hum's band near Ottawa after that, so the live-in cat sitters will be busy!

Here's an idea that has nothing to do with camping, except for the fact this hi-hat idea has been camped out in my playing and psyche since high school! This time I'm using the three four idea against a five BD/SNARE thing.

Have fun, and don't get too much sun!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


I played a gig recently and two separate parties mentioned that I played with passion. i was extremely pleased with that assessment as this is what I'm hoping people will feel when i perform.

 What is passion?

Well, some of the elements for me personally are...

I want to mean everything I play. I never want to phone it in. I never know when my last gig might be and I want everyone in the audience to feel, whether they like the music or not, that I'm giving it my all.

2. Craftsmanship
Although I'm sure this isn't a part of the textbook definition of passion, I feel that passion itself isn't enough. One has to be able to get a good sound with solid technique and swinging, grooving time feel, or the passion along won't get us very far.

3. Awareness
Just plain old listening, to ourselves and all the sounds around us. It's inescapable!

Okay, true confession time. About five years ago I was in a bad personal space and had lost my passion for music, and frankly, almost everything else. It was a struggle for me to do the very thing I had spent most of my life learning how to do. Fortunately, I was able to reignite my passion for drums and music once i got out of my negative situation. So, if you momentarily lose your passion, it's okay, you can get it back. Remember, music is a life-long pursuit and your relationship can ebb and flow like all relationships. If you truly love it, it will work out!

Now let's listen to ( appropriately enough ) McCoy Tyner's " Passion Dance " with one of Elvin's many great recorded performances!

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Something else has come up in the aftermath of Aretha Franklin's untimely passing. Namely, sloppy journalism. Some of it is major, and some of it relatively minor. In the major department, Fox news displayed a photograph of the very much alive Patti LaBelle in their tribute to Franklin. You can read the whole story here. This is simply unforgivable. To mess up on a tribute of a major star like this, not to mention all the racism it implies ( it's interesting to note it was Fox, and not, say, the BBC that made this error ) especially with all the racial tension currently going on in the states, is unacceptable.

The minor case of lack of due diligence comes up right here in the blogosphere. In course of discussing Franklin's career, a fellow blogger brought up Bernard Purdie. He's certainly a legendary drummer and an important musician in her musical life. Unfortunately, this blogger then brought up several hit songs as examples of Purdie's playing that he definitely did not play on! 
I see this as problematic in several ways. Firstly, in this day and age, in takes mere minutes to verify facts, as they are now at our fingertips. Secondly,  we are dealing with Purdie, whose talent for exaggeration and myth building is second only to his massive musical talent. ( Remember, this is the man who for decades has been claiming he played on over a dozen Beatles tracks without offering any proof, or even tune titles! ) So, when writing about and/or quoting Purdie, I'd say an extra amount of due diligence is required. Finally, I think there is a tendency through both hero worship as well as laziness to present the musical world as one in which a small number of players (e.g Gadd, Purdie, Porcaro ) did everything and no one else is worth talking about. I feel this approach leaves out many important but lesser known figures. ( Update: The blogger corrected the error, and was quite gracious about it. )

Okay, my latest rant is almost over, but I'd like to conclude by sa theying that large right-wing broadcasting conglomerates may be beyond reach as far as affecting change to responsible journalism, but for those of us mere mortals on the ground, we have a responsibility to get the facts as accurate as we can, and to acknowledge when we goof. ( To see an example of me eating crow around this, see my post on Paul Motian's death when I claimed he didn't play with many pianists after Bill Evans! Oops! )
Anyway, keep practicing, writing, and looking for the truth.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

RIP Aretha Franklin

Woke up today to the sad news of Ms. Franklin's passing. A true original and American treasure. There are so many great performances to post here but I thought I'd go with " Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You )" with Roger Hawkins playing that majestic shuffle in 3.

Rest peacefully Ms. Franklin, and thank you so much for the music.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Instagram Karma Gonna Get You

Hey all,
As a sort of response to a lot of the drumming dreck I see on Instagram, I've been posting little clips there of me working on ideas. Here are four of them. Please note that this blog is the best place to check out anything I post ( rather than social media or youtube ) because I provide the most explanation and context here! So, congratulations for being in the right spot!

Here's a short clip of me playing Swiss army deadstrokes. It's the normal lRRL ( or rLLR ) sticking but I'm making the flammed stroke ( the "little note " )  a deadstroke. As well as muffling the drum, it also raises the pitch, so it's a nice tonal variation.

Next is a RLR sticking with all the first Rs as deadstrokes and all Ls buzzed.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that buzzes and deadstrokes are given so little attention in rudimental literature. I'm sure it's because most rudimental pedagogy comes from drum corps, and these types of strokes don't work very well when one has ten or more drummers playing in a field on drums that are tuned so they feel ( and sound ) like table tops.

See? I got yet ANOTHER rant in!

The next two clips are of brush patterns. The first is a 12/8 that makes use of pushing the lefthand brush across the drumhead.

Finally, here's an example of using brush flams ( both hands circle the same direction in circles and the left hand " runs over " the right )

So, have fun and be a great person!