Friday, December 17, 2010


That's all I can say. I'll be posting some new high-hat stuff in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Compelling Music

Hey everyone!
I thought I would post some Music I've found interesting lately. The now based in T.O. drummer, Morgan Childs, hipped me to this one. There's a couple of things about it I really dig. One, is that because so many of the songs are familiar, we can catch snippets of tunes we know through the "Dozen Billy Joels Arguing" sound. Also, it has a great shape because as more of the songs end, (most are around the 4 minute mark) the texture gradually thins out and we can discern more detail after that great sea of sound at the beginning. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I really like it.

Up next is Edgar Varese's "Ionisation", a great percussion ensemble piece that I actually played when I first went to university. I rediscovered the piece while reading Frank Zappa's autobiography. Again, this piece has a great shape and notice how many "melodies" in the piece are created by instruments of indeterminate pitch. Beautiful!

Finally, we have Steve Reich"s "Clapping Music". I love Reich's hypnotic/phasing type ideas.
So now I want to play 3 drum solos that sound like the music we just heard. That would be something!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ralph Bowen and Michael Stuart at the Rex

Just showing at little footage from last night's gig at the Rex. It also featured Jim Vivian and Brian Dickenson. We had a great time and I think it shows on this excerpt from Ralph's tune "Soul Proprietor". Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Proud Husband!

Hey everyone,
This is a little out of the realm of our usual discourse but I just wanted to let everyone know about my wife's patent. Kate works for RIM (they make BlackBerrys) and is, frankly, quite brilliant. Anyway, if you're curious you can view the patent here.
Way to go Kate. I don't think I'll be filing any patents soon.....unless I can invent brushes that dispense bacon!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dynamics in action!

I'm always amazed how much dynamics give life to music of any style. In the following example a relatively simple tune (this isn't a bad thing, in fact it's one of things that makes it great) is given extra form and excitement through sheer dynamics. The "verse" basically starts when the singer holds up his hands and the band responds by coming way down. The "chorus" happens right after the vocalist's scream and the band plays very loud. We can hear this structure even though the band is basically playing the same parts over the same chord throughout. Notice the intensity of the time and the groove doesn't change at all through these dynamic shifts.
Okay, enough said. Here's one of the greatest artists the United States has ever produced, Mr. James Brown.

Now let's all get together, in any kind of weather, and do....the camel walk!

Monday, December 6, 2010

One more time ( X 5 ) and other points to ponder

Greetings everyone,
I thought today I would discuss some things. Let's face it. I'm a geezer, and geezers love to talk!

I'm practicing slightly differently starting the past week. Whenever I get a new lick, example etc. together I'm making sure I play it correctly at least 5 times before I go on to something else. I've mentioned this to people before but when I was younger I was notorious for ripping through new material quickly. The trouble with that was, I rarely retained the new stuff or found a musical context for it. What made me do that? MY GIGANTIC EGO! I had to somehow "prove" I was practicing and learning, rather than getting the most out of any small thing I worked on. I now spend much longer on very small ideas, lifts, licks, etc. I'm not wasting time when I practice now, but I sure did then. Why? Because I had a) a very limited musical context for things I'd learned and b) no way of performing the new material under less than ideal conditions.

Let's explore my last 2 points. I say I had a limited musical context for what I learned because I usually learned to play the idea in a limited way. A great piece of advice the great Joe LaBarbera gives his students is to practice everything they learn at 3 different tempos and 3 different volume levels. Now, that's an easy concept to remember, but it does take some time and patience to carry it out. The benefit is we end up learning the lick much better and it will become more natural and will probably even come out in our playing organically. I know if I only practice something loud, I will only be able to perform it loudly (if at all) on the gig. If I only practice something fast, that's the only way I will be able to play it.
Imagine being able to play some speed metal lick really quietly with a piano trio. That would be very cool and we'd be getting the most mileage out of the practicing that's been done.

The second point is being able to play new material under less than ideal conditions. What are less than ideal conditions? Every gig you play baby! Think about it. In your practice room, nobody is watching us so we're not likely to be nervous. We are used to the sound of the drums and the sound of the room. We can stop whenever we want. We haven't had to get our drums somewhere and all the stresses that go with that. We don't have jet lag etc., etc, etc.
I would even go so far as to say that if we play something correctly once in the practice room once that we got lucky and it doesn't even count.

I've had some interesting experiences in the past year playing in public on piano. I remember learning a tune and usually when I start a play the chords from the root (bottom note of the chord) and move up the harmony from there. Now, in any band that has a bass player, there's not much point in playing that bottom note because it's already covered. So I worked on piano chord voicings without the root for the gig. At the gig, however, we played the tune at a faster tempo and I couldn't play the rootless voicings. I had to spell every chord from the bottom up. Why did this happen? Because I didn't know the material well enough!
All of you who have been playing for any length of time will have things that you can play under any conditions. That's why we practice. To get more and more things we play past conscious thought. Then we can fully participate in the music.

Okay the geezer is finished! For now.............

Friday, December 3, 2010

Scott Marshall's band in Calgary

Top o' the season to everyone.
Today I'm posting 4 videos from a recent gig in Alberta. Scott hired a pro videographer to do this so it has some nice production values as well as sounding pretty good. I realise that posting all 4 seems a bit excessive but certain viewers (read my Mom) would like to see all of it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wear your (hi) hat proudly part 2

I was watching some of the drummers at Mohawk play in performance class today and that got me thinking of hi-hat "splashes" (playing the hi-hat with one's foot and releasing it quickly, creating a ringing tone.) One thing I think we want to do is be very aware of that sound and not to overuse it, or it will lose its effectiveness. Also, many players don't release the hi-hats all the way after the attack ( or sometimes the hi-hats are set too close together, see the earlier post on this.) and it creates a buzzing or sizzling sound between the hi-hat cymbals. This is a nice effect,. In fact, I'm working on this to give myself 2 kinds of hi-hat splash sounds. I think, however, many players haven't a) thought about the kind of splash sound they want or b) aren't listening to the sounds they're making. make sure whatever sounds are coming from the kit that they are the sounds you intend to make and not accidents. So all you hi-hat sizzlers, please work on sometimes getting a nice open sound from the hi-hats. To this end let's check the master at this, Mr. Jack DeJohnette:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Inside the Drummer's Studio

Hey folks,
I'm starting a new feature at the blog today. Frequently I will talk to fellow musicians and ask them questions about things I'm curious about, and hopefully you will find the conversations edifying. I've got quite a few interesting guests lined up so I'm very excited about this. Maybe I can talk to some of them in person too, but that'd mean I'd have to clean the house!

Anyway our first guest is the wonderful Jon McCaslin. He looks like this:

Jon is a tremendous Drummer/Composer/ Bandleader/ Educator. He also hosts the great Four on the Floor blog that I have mentioned before in this space. Check it out for incredibly informative ideas and videos from the world of drumming. You can also see his detailed bio there. I asked Jon a few questions via email and was very pleased, though not surprised, by the eloquence and thoughtfulness of his responses.

1) As well as working frequently as a sideman, you also lead bands and compose for them. What do you think other instrumentalists can learn about these disciplines from drummers?

I feel very fortunate to find myself in so many different musical situations these days as both a leader and as a sideman and as a performer and a teacher. The reality of the music business as it is, you really have to wear a few different hats to make it work. As the old saying goes: “The more you can do, the more you can do!” But overall I think that having the ability to go many different musical directions makes for a very well-rounded musician/individual and just gives you that much more options to musically draw from. Ultimately, I think we are all trying to develop our own unique musical “voice” as a jazz artist and part of that process comes from playing other peoples music, checking out the history of music and studying the masters. However, at some point you really have to make the leap and seriously try to write/find your own music, make your own musical decisions, commit them to a page of paper and then organize musicians to get your music played. I think it’s all about the process of discovering who you really are as an artist.

2) Can you name a recording that was particularly influential to you?

Max Roach’s drumming on Clifford Brown’s “Study in Brown” and Klook on “Kenny Clarke Meets The Detroit Jazzmen” were both very special recordings to me during my younger years when I was first getting started around early high school. They both really inspired me to learn about the legacy of jazz drumming (keep in mind this was during the early 1990s when most of my peers were listening to Nirvana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden!)

3) Can you name a profound live performance?

This is a tough question as there are many! I’ve been fortunate to have seen many of the masters play live over the years. Even just lately I heard Bela Fleck and the Flecktones perform here in Calgary and it was inspiring on so many levels. Jeff Coffin (saxophones) is a force!

But one performance that does really stand out for me was attending a drum clinic in 1993 at the IAJE conference in San Antonio, Texas. I was performing there with “The Classics” (drumming with my school’s vocal jazz ensemble) and I was fortunate to attend a drum clinic with none other than Tony Williams! It was just awesome. He played (on his drum set of yellow Gretsch drums with the big black dot drum heads and no less than three gigantic floor toms!) and he talked about his approach to drumming. About half way through his clinic in walked....Max Roach! Of course everyone gave Max a standing ovation and Tony introduced him appropriately (Max was, of course, was Tony’s hero). Tony proceeded to answer a few more questions from the audience in almost a witty/comical sort of manner (for example: when asked about his brush technique Tony replied that he really didn’t like the brushes (!), that he made a better spaghetti sauce than he played the brushes and that he thought that the brushes were invented by someone who didn’t like drummers very a club owner!) Then, Tony Williams invited Max Roach up on stage to play. And of course Max launches into “The Drum Also Waltzes” and from then on I was hooked and there was no looking back....

4) What are your current goals in drumming, teaching, and music?

Well, I’m currently researching and writing towards my DMA dissertation through the University of Toronto and hope to have that completed in the next year or so. I’m interested in how contemporary jazz drummers conceptualize and deal with melody in their playing (whether in the context of playing time, soloing or anything really...) My inclination is that traditional definitions of melody aren’t really broad enough to accommodate what we drummers can do in terms of creating melodies on non-pitched instruments or instruments of indeterminate pitch. There are many musical examples of drummers who do this so well (Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Ari Hoenig, Jeff Hamilton, Matt Wilson and yourself are great examples) and I’m also interviewing as many of the masters as I can to solicit their ideas. I’ll be giving you a call soon Ted!

I’m also working towards a major recording project next spring in Vancouver and plan to have another full-length album of my original music released later next year with a subsequent tour to follow. So I’m busy writing and editing my tunes for that and trying to figure out the logistics necessary for such a project. As you know, it’s a lot of work but a labor of love. I released my last album in 2003 so I’m due for my sequel! It’s going to be a good one.

In terms of the drums, above all else, I’m always trying to work on and deepen my sense of swing, time and groove at all tempos. I spend a lot of time playing with recordings (sometimes just with my ride cymbal) and with play-a-longs (like Allan Cox’s “Meet The Bass Player” - a great resource to practice wacky or oblique ideas without imposing them on other musicians on the bandstand!) Sometimes I’ll record myself playing time (with and without other musicians) and then go back, listen to the recording and try to make my comping figures more relevant and musical (I’ve got a lot out of Peter Erskine’s “Comping Game” exercise in that regards). Groove-wise I’m trying to expand my phrasing in 3/4 and playing really fast, break-neck swing tempos. I’m also big on snare drum technique and have been checking out Joe Morello’s and Tommy Igoe’s technique DVDs lately. I spend a good deal of time improvising on the drums using different set structures and have been exploring the use of space, melody, dynamics and different textures on the drums as well. I also spent some time with John Riley last summer and he gave me enough things to think about with regards to odd meters that will last me for a lifetime and then some...When I get bored on the drums (which doesn’t happen often!) I’ll pull out and work on some pages from Billy Martin’s coordination book “Riddim” or Bob McLaren’s hand written book and those always keeps me “out of the mall” (as Bob used to say). Oh yes, I always find time to work on my brush technique. You can’t forget that.

I’ve also been dedicating a significant amount of time to playing the vibraphone over the past few years. This has really forced me to apply my knowledge of jazz theory in a seriously different way. Before I really only applied my theory skills as a composer and arranger (on the piano) but dealing with jazz harmony as a real-time improviser on the vibes changes everything! I’m really digging the musical path this instrument has taken me over the past few years and I’m hoping to make the leap to another level on the vibes as well in the years to come. I even have my first gig booked on the vibraphone on April 30th of next year (yikes!) Thinking about melody and harmony from another perspective has also significantly changed the way I hear those aspects and relate to them when I’m sitting behind the drums. It’s interesting that more drummers don’t consider the vibraphone as a means to apply or learn about those elements of music.

As a teacher I’m doing a fair amount of private teaching these days and a great deal of clinics and workshops at various schools across Western Canada (and at all levels too from elementary and high schools to colleges and universities). I’m trying to develop myself as an effective communicator/motivator and hopefully inspire other drummers to learn about the great legacy of jazz drumming, percussion and the joys of improvised music on the drum set. I’m really big on fundamental technique and exploring the creative options that the drum set offers. I’ve had a great number of great teachers over the years and sincerely hope that I can continue that lineage and pass it on...

5) Has your blog changed your approach to playing or teaching?

I started blogging during the spring of 2009 as a means to share all the random tidbits of jazz drumming (and otherwise) that I came across on the web that I really enjoyed and found inspirational and thought the world needed to see and pay attention to.

How has this changed my approach to teaching? When I started posting my own thoughts and opinions on the internet (especially in the form of drum lessons) I sure had to think twice and make sure that I was clear, accurate and really believed in what it was I was writing about. Because once it’s out there on the web, it’s for the entire universe to see! Sometimes I’ll occasionally receive some flak from some anonymous internet troll but I’ve also received some great feedback from many high-profile jazz drummers so I think I’m on the right track.

How has my blog changed my approach to playing? Well, I post a lot of video clips of my favorite jazz drummers and I suspect that sometimes many aren’t even aware of the footage until it hits (whether the footage is homemade or otherwise). When one realizes that anyone with a camera on their cell phone or an iPhone can record your playing (even if you don’t know it!) it sure makes you aware that you never know who’s watching (or recording!) so it’s always best to be professional and play as though everyone is watching...(I know sort of “Big Brother’ish” isn’t it?)

6) Why is everyone from Regina, Saskatchewan obsessed with football and pizza?

Good question. I have no idea. Must be something in the water.

Go Riders!

Go Western!

(the sauce is the boss...)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The instrument and our physical relationship with it

Oh, it's all right. I'm sure that we can handle this situation maturely, just like the responsible adults that we are. Isn't that right, Mr... Poopy Pants?

RIP Leslie Nielsen.

Okay, on with our regularly scheduled blog.
When I first started playing, I was trying to get out what I heard any way I could, and didn't think much about how I was using (or usually fighting) my body to create the sounds at the drumset. As I got older, I became a lot more aware of how many aspects of my physical approach to the drums hindered the progress I was making, and could even lead to injury if I did not deal with these issues. I still see these issues all the time with younger players.

Let's look at few....

Posture: it's just like all our Mothers tell us DON'T SLOUCH! Seriously, not sitting straight up at the instrument can easily lead to lower back problems. Elvin mentioned that earlier in his career he tended to sit lower and crouch. if you check any post 60s Elvin however, you can see he's raised he seat height and is sitting straight up. Here's Elvin from earlier:

....And here he is after he adjusted his posture.

Notice how is neck is craned and his spine is curved in the first example. In the second video his whole torso is basically straight and his neck isn't nearly as far forward. Now, of course the playing is incredible in both videos. Sometimes to play at a high level our whole careers we have to reassess how we approach the physical act of playing. If someone at Elvin's level can do it, the rest of us have no excuses.

I think the main way to avoid playing related injuries is to be as relaxed as possible, both physically and mentally while playing the drums. Physical relaxation involves loose muscles and body movement (at least in the practice room) only used to create sound. In other words, don't move your left foot unless you really want to play the hi-hat. we all need to get out of the habit of moving unless we're getting a musical result.
Mental relaxation would include barring any negative self talk while we're performing. Believe me, I know from personal experience that beating oneself up while trying to create music just causes tension and worse performance. Always be kind and gentle with yourself when performing. That is non-negotiable!

I'd like to conclude one more video. This is of Vinnie Colaiuta. I find it interesting that he's always mentioned in terms of his monstrous technique but one of things I love about him is how at home he looks where he's playing. it looks like the drum throne is the comfiest place in the world. If we all practice diligently while staying relaxed we can also feel like we've come home when we're playing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

New Rudiment and Just the Pasics!

Sorry, the Rudiment of the Week is becoming the Rudiment of the Week and a half, but here goes!
Ah, yes. I randomly chose this one at a clinic last week. A couple of things before we begin. The amount of strokes in the roll mainly denotes it's duration, so don't get too hung up on that. If you have a decent double stroke roll then it's just a matter of stopping it and starting it.
Okay here goes:

Couple of things I should mention. First, I'm sorry about the 32nd notes. Believe me, just looking at them myself gives me vertigo! Just remember all of that stuff is just 16ths doubled.

Now, the other thing I wanted to mention is that I will be submitting soon to present some clinics at the Percussive Arts Society's annual convention (PASIC) next year in Indianapolis. If you like what you're seeing here, please feel free to mention to them that you would like me at next year's convention. Email them here. Thanks for your help and I'm sorry about the delays between posts.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Hey folks,
Anyone who has studied with me has received some exercises on crossovers. I'm of the opinion that they're very useful. Yes, I'm aware of the whole Gary Chester "territorial rights" thing (right and left hands stay on their respective side of the drum set) but using single strokes rather than stickings affords us more power and volume. Furthermore, when we're improvising we may have a tonal pattern in our head but not be able to pull the appropriate sticking out in the moment.

Here's a couple of newer exercises. My apologies to my master class at Mohawk as you will be seeing these again on Thursday.
Please play the following examples with only single strokes and practice them starting on either hand. If the example doesn't have anything written for the feet, by all means add the foot pattern of your choice.
One last thing, the first person to correctly identify the tune the large tom is suggesting in example 5 will receive a free Ted's Warren Commission CD. (Hint, it's a Monk tune.)
....And for those of you that think this is strictly showbiz and doesn't have artistic value, let's groove on Papa Jo Jones!

In fact let's groove on him playing brushes as well.

There's an expression that goes " For every 4 beats a drummer plays, 3 of them come from Papa Jo".
I think this is a way too conservative estimate!

The rudiment of the week is coming up next. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What makes a musician good?

Hey everyone,
After a lively debate about the Beatles on Facebook recently, I started thinking about my opinions about what qualities make for a good musician and how it's changed over the years. Inevitably when the Fabs come up, people say things to me like, "It's too bad they had Ringo", or "He wasn't a very good drummer. was he?". When I first started playing I was 10 years old and was very impressed by technical flash. For anyone who thinks that way, yes he's not a good drummer. Over years of playing and listening, however, I have come to realize that for me it's not that simple. Nowadays my assessment of a musician's abilities has more to do with many things. Does the musician make me feel anything emotionally? Do they have imagination? Do they have a distinct sound and ideas?

So as far as I'm concerned, Ringo isn't a good drummer.
He's a great one.

Exhibit 1
exhibit 2

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wear your (hi) hat proudly!

Happy Monday everyone. I just came back from Fort MacMurray where I was doing some adjudicating and I thought I would address a common set up issue with the hi-hat that I see quite frequently. Young players tend to set their hi-hat cymbals too close together, sometimes to the point where they're almost touching. There are a few problems with this. The first issue is that it doesn't give us any dynamic range with the left foot. I often tell people to imagine wanting to play a huge loud backbeat with the snare drum but only being allowed to lift the stick 1" off the drum. That's the same thing we're doing when we don't give the hats any play.
Also, if we set up that way we don't develop and strength or flexibility with the hi-hats. If your hi-hat cymbals are less than 1" apart, please open them to at least twice that width. It will feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but be patient and experiment with it as your foot adjusts.
Being able to play your hi-hat loud and clear is an important way of controlling the time in certain situations, as well as a nice colour. Don't ever let your physical set up limit your ability to make effective music.

Now go listen to some Art Blakey!!!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rudiment of the week! Part 2.

Hey everyone,
A couple of things, sorry to have been so long between posts. I had a crazy week of work and just couldn't find the time. Also, I realize I have titled this post rudiment of the week but any of these you could literally work on for years and still find new stuff to do with it. Don't feel you have to rush through practicing things. like I used to do. You'll get a lot more out of the work by really examining the rudiment and trying to assimilate it into your playing.

Okay, on to the Rudiment.

I randomly picked this one.

Ah, triple strokes. I first started working on this one in first year university, many moons ago. It's excellent for the chops. As with the first rudiment, work on it slowly as is before attempting to put it into different rhythmic groups or voice it on the drumset.

In the following examples I have started moving the sticking around the drums (all examples.) I have all four limbs playing the rudiment ( Ex. 2, 5 and 8). In Ex. 3 we are "breaking" the triple strokes between 2 drums. In Ex. 4 we are "breaking" between 3 drums. In Ex. 5 and 6 we are playing the rudiment as triple stops verses single stops or buzzes. In Ex. 7 we have moved the rhythmic grid to 8th notes to create more of an over the barline feel. Finally in Ex. 8 we have taken the over the barline feel even further by moving the rhythmic grid to quintuplets.

Obviously these are but a few examples of where we can take this rudiment. Please use your imagination and have fun making up your own variations.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

....And now, a word from my sponsors.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention two of the great companies I work with, Zildjian and Vic Firth. They have been wonderful about supplying gear, sponsoring clinics I do, etc. In both cases I was using the products for many years before I endorsed them, so it's easy to talk about both companies because I ardently believe in what they do. I'm not currently working with a drum or drumhead company, but have been talking with some interested parties and hope to have something worked out soon. You'll hear about it here first!

I would also like to link you to an excellent Adam Nussbaum video on Jon McCaslin's Four On the Floor. it's great for many reasons, but two that particularly stand out for me are his great use of space, and the idea that the tune is separate from the feel it's played in. At one point he starts playing a bossa/str. 8th type of feel but he's still definitely playing "Doxy".

One more thing before I go. The other day when I posted about some of the early music I listened to, it got me thinking of iconic drum parts, and drum part composition in general.
I sometimes think Jazz drummers feel that they always have keep changing textures, feels, etc. all the time. On the contrary, many great performances in music are founded on drum parts that don't change much. I thought I'd list a few of my favorites, along with the drummer that played them.

Milestones- Philly Joe Jones
Cathy's Clown-Buddy Harman
Sister Cheryl- Tony Williams
When the Levee Breaks- John Bonham
Inflation Blues- Jack DeJohnette
In My Life- Ringo Starr
Sugar Pie Honeybunch- Benny Benjamin

Definitely check these recordings out if you haven't heard them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rudiment of the week!

Hey everyone,
There has been a lot of talk back and forth about rudiments lately with my fellow bloggers. In honour of that, I have decided every week I will take one of the 40 international drum rudiments and try to see what I can do with it. Everyone can follow along at home, or try one of your own.

This week I picked the double drag tap.
It looks like this:

I picked this for a couple of reasons. One, I hardly ever use drag or ruff ideas and two, I feel that mine could use a lot of work.
I worked on it for about an hour today. First I played it as is, being careful to play it marching style (ruffs as 2 distinct notes) and classical style (ruffs as short buzzes).
Then I tried playing light four on the bass drum and high-hat on 2 and 4, sung a standard tune (Softly as in a Morning Sunrise if I recall correctly) and played the drag as:
-continuous 8th notes, creating a 3 8th note figure.
-quarter note triplets, so the above example would take 1 bar to complete.
Next I moved the accented note to the toms and played the rest on the snare.
Then I put the accented note on the bass drum, rest of drag on the snare.
Then accented note on hi-hat, rest on snare.
Accented note on open hi-hat/bass drum double stop, rest on snare.
Right hand on floor tom, left hand on snare or small tom, ruffs on bass drum.
Same as one before it but ruffs on Hi-Hat with foot. (I had to play the rudiment as quarter notes and at a medium tempo I could still barely manage it.)
Accented notes on bass drum and cymbal, rest of drag anywhere I felt like.
Finally, i started to try to play the ruffs between bass drum and hi-hat but ran out of time. Again, this will be a lot easier to explain once I can film it. Stay tuned!

Music I'm digging!

Hey folks,
I thought let you in on the sounds that are turning my crank these days.

The first is an Art Pepper recording Brent Rowan hipped me to.

The recording is from '57 and it also features:
Russ Freeman, piano
Carl Perkins, piano
Ben Tucker, bass
Chuck Flores, drums
I'm ashamed top admit I hadn't heard any of this wonderful rhythm section before. Great swinging stuff!

The next one is George Adams' s "Sound Suggestions" from '79. Although there are many, many great recordings of Jack DeJohnette, this album is definitely in my top 5 or so!

It also features Kenny Wheeler, Richie Bierach, Dave Holland, and another tenor sax player (besides Adams) named Heinz Sauer. This personnel create a great America meets Euro sound.
Check out this bluesy track with Adams singing. I can't believe this is on an ECM album. (Producer) Manfred Eicher must have been on a bathroom break when it was recorded!

I'd like to post a few things by Friendly Travelers. This is a duo with Brian Blade on drums and Wolfgang Muthspiel. Boston guitar guru Mick Goodrick once described Muthspiel is the most talented guitarist he'd ever encountered. As for Brian Blade, what can I say? He has such a beautiful touch, sound and time feel, and that's just the beginning. Some years back, I lent him some drums and got to hang out with him and watch him perform on a TV show. He's a truly kind and gentle soul as well as being a monster musician.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jazz - Winnipeg Free Press

Jazz - Winnipeg Free Press

Hey folks, a nice review of Michelle Gregoire's latest release. As a bandleader myself I'm aware of how difficult it is to get recordings reviewed, so it's nice to see someone who gets Michelle's music and have it published in a major newspaper.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Another brush pattern and Videos with Doug Riley

Hi everyone,
First here's a new brush pattern. It's called Double Underhanded.In it, you're playing doubles (two legato strokes per hand). On the downbeats we're heading towards ourselves and holding our hands the normal way, with the knuckles facing up. On the upbeats we'll head away from ourselves with our hand upside down so we can see our fingernails.

Here's 4 clips of my band, Ted's Warren Commission playing with the late great Doug Riley. It's hard to describe what a positive force Doug contributed to any project he was involved in, and I'm very thankful some of his work with us was documented.


Roots of Inspiration

Hi folks,
I wanted to talk about the subject of what music inspires us to make music of our own. I have never said to anyone they should only listen to Jazz, or any other music exclusively. I think it's important, especially when we are first starting, to listen and enjoy any music that turns us on. I also run into young players sometimes that are trying to deny and suppress the music they first listened to. I don't think that's a good idea. If the first music you got into was Nirvana, then by all means let it be a part of your aesthetic. I'm always a little surprised and amused when someone tells me I play Rock well. I was born in 1965, did they think I grew only listening to Count Basie or something?

So, with that in mind I thought I'd post two early influences for me.

The first one is Devo's cover of the Stones "Satisfaction:. Devo's drummer, Alan Myers, was one of the first people to imitate drum machine patterns on an acoustic drum kit. The drum part demonstrated here is almost a deconstruction of Charlie Watts original pattern, just as the whole version is a deconstruction of the Stones' classic. Simple? Yes. Appropriate? Without a doubt. Iconic? ABSOLUTELY!

Another band I loved when I was first starting to play was the Cars. I always loved David Robinson's low tuning and stripped down approach. This tune. "Touch and Go" would be fairly unremarkable except for the fact that Robinson plays in 5 during the verses while everyone else is in 4. Again, interesting but serving the music.

Enjoy! More brush patterns to follow soon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rudiments! Don't leave home without them!

Hi folks,
I was checking out Vancouver drummer Jesse Cahill's excellent blog and I was very impressed with his thought provoking post on rudiments, In Defence of Rudimental Drumming . I'm going to share some of my ideas on the subject and although it may seem that my opinions on the subject differ from Jesse's, rest assured I also feel that most drummers do not fully exploit the language found in rudiments.

Now as far as I see it, there aren't many BASIC ways to strike a drum.
-Single Strokes
-Double Strokes
-Dead Strokes (pushing the stick into the drumhead)

I really see the listed rudiments (when I started there was 26, up from 13, and now I think are 40) as licks based on any combination of these basic ways to make sound with two sticks and a drum. What's a paradiddle? A single and a double, followed by a single and a double starting with the opposite hand. What's a ruff? A double and a stroke or ( the classical way) a buzz and a stroke.

I'm not saying you shouldn't work on the standard rudiments. In fact we should all be able to play the crap out of them (like Jesse) and then work onwards to create our own hybrid rudiments.
For example, you could play paradiddles but buzz the first note of each set of 4.
I think part of the idea with applying rudiments to the drumset is:
a) personalizing the language.
b) Taking some of the symmetry out of them to create patterns that better fit with modern music.
I know originally this stuff came from marching music, and it's also designed to build hand strength but once we learn some of these patterns it's good to either put them in another rhythmic grid ( 8th patterns to triplets or vice versa) or to either add or subtract a note to make them not divisible by 4 or 8. This will make them more applicable to the open phrasing used in a lot of jazz, fusion, progressive rock, etc.
c) Voicing them on the drum set in whatever way appeals to us.
d) Fully exploring dead strokes and buzzes. It's interesting that, because most of the rudimental literature comes from marching players, these two important and valid drum textures don't get their due.

I'm going to get into greater detail around this stuff in future posts but one great way of using some of this language is to take any exercise from "Stick Control" and do the normal stickings but play them in an odd grouping, like quintuplets or septuplets. Make sure you do this with a metronome. So if you're playing 1 quintuplet for every 2 quarter notes and you're playing doubles the first measure would be this (remember in this case there will 10 strokes, or two sets of quintuplets).
RR LL RR LL RR then the sticking will reverse...
LL RR LL RR LL. To really hear the off kilter effect this creates, put each hand on a different drum. The reason this (and any other normal sticking) starts to sound so weird is that even though the notes don't go over the barline (two sets of quintuplets per bar) the sticking does go unresolved..

Phew! Anyway, I hope that's clear. This will definitely be another exercise I will return to when I have video capability.
In the meantime, practice those 13....or 26..... or 40..........

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Harmony, the elephant in the room

Hey everyone,
I just wanted to talk about something I've been working on the last year or so. I've been working on piano, attempting to learn some standard tunes, working on voicings, and trying to blow over the changes.
For a long time I've been trying to avoid it, but I think to throughly participate in music (especially jazz) we drummers have to tackle learning about the harmony. It's a vast world and there's tons of stuff to do to even be mediocre, but I think it's vital. Jerry Fuller, Andre White, and Jack DeJohnette are just 3 examples of drummers who actually know the changes, and I think it's positive effects are shown in their playing. One interesting result for me is when I'm jamming with other drummers while I'm playing piano, I think I appreciate how they contribute and support the music, rather than just listening to their 'drumistics". Certainly an eye opener for me.

Alright, I've got to get going. One 2 5 1 lick isn't going to cut it.......

Then I have to learn how to play the drums!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The "You'll Never Believe This _____Year Old Drummer" Email

Hey folks,
Almost weekly, someone sends me a video of a young drummer. In fact they get younger all the time. I rarely actually look at these because:
a) They ALL play better (technically) than me, and I'm already aware of that.

b) The videos are usually circus sideshow drumming things without a lot of musical context and I tire of that pretty quickly.

I did look at the following video and I really like it. Why? Because this kid:
a) Is only interested in keeping time and playing appropriately for the song. A lot of adult drummers who have been playing for years never get that together.

b) Even when he messes up a bit, he just corrects himself and gets on with it. He's showing a healthy attitude and humility that will get him through the ups and downs of the music business. Again, a lot of seasoned professionals could learn from this.

Check it out.

Now that's someone I would like to hear in 10 or 20 years from now! Plus the hat is a nice seasonal touch.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The case for Phil

Hey folks,
I thought I would post a couple of videos of the great Phil Collins. Yes, I know for many years he's made music better suited to dentist's offices, but he is a great drummer.

Here is explaining a couple of beats from "Face Value' Dig those toms!

Also check out this duet with Chester Thompson. That's it! I'm taking the bottom heads off my toms! Not really, but it is interesting the sort of attack he gets.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Weeds/ Senensky/ Schwager video

This time it's from the Rex. Enjoy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Elvin Jones Trio

Perhaps some of you have seen these before but I consider them the best live Elvin footage anywhere.
Watch and revel in the life affirming beauty of one of the greatest drummers ever.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cory Weeds/ Bernie Senensky Pilot Video

Hello all,
Today I'm posting of a video from a recent gig at the Pilot tavern with Cory Weeds, Bernie Senensky, and Reg Schwager. We played about four gigs over last weekend and had a great time. Cory is a great tenor player as well as running the wonderful Cellar club in Vancouver. As well as playing together, it was great to talk to Cory about matters relating to the club owner's side of things. It just further strengthened my belief that in these tough times especially, musicians and clubs have to work together.
Couple of notes about the vid.
1) Reg, Bernie and Cory all play great.
2) The reason I'm not using any floor tom is that I'm using it as a music stand because Cory borrowed mine.
3) I cuffed the ending but Cory saved it like a true improviser.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Thanks and soloshapes

Hey everyone, I hope you got over the incredible seriousness of my previous post.
First, a quick thank you to my friend and great drummer Jon McCaslin for his mention of this site in his excellent blog, FOUR ON THE FLOOR. My day usually starts with checking out what Jon is up to and his mind blowing selection of videos and articles.

Speaking of articles, this next set of exercises stems from my work on melodic soloing. These exercises are to be used on song forms and if you don't have any tunes memorized, you need to learn some before embarking on this journey. These will help with structuring drum solos as well as playing any ideas that come to mind while still keeping the form of whatever tune we're playing.

Solo Shape Examples
In this set of exercises we’ll practice predetermined solo forms. This isn’t something one would do in a playing situation. One would improvise based on what has occurred before the drum solo, general mood, size of room etc. It’s important that we work on these concepts on our own. If one looks at a typical evening of music from a jazz quartet (Tenor Sax, Piano, bass and drums), the band plays three sets, that’s somewhere between 12 and 15 tunes. There will likely be a tenor solo on every composition. Ditto for the piano solos. The amount of bass solos can vary, depending on the openess of the leader (especially if it’s the bass player!). Let’s say they’ll be bass solos on half of the tunes. How many drum solos will there be? The average would be none to about 2 at most. (Trading 4s and 8s can be fun and a good challenge, but it isn’t the same thing.) What I’m getting at is that drummers have to get their soloing chops together on their own because we don’t get enough chances to do it on the gig. If we practice these examples, we can start to build solo architecture in the moment because we’re used to thinking this way in the practice room. Another thing you’ll notice in the examples here are that there are a great number of solo shapes that don't use all of the drumset. An important part of creating drama and interest is orchestration of the drumset. We don’t have to play all of the kit all of the time. How many times have you seen a symphony play with all members of the orchestra all the time? I would hazard the answer is never. If the trombone plays only in the fourth movement of a piece, it means that colour was appropriate for that part of the music. They’re not there for show. The same thing applies to the drumset. If you want to play a gong once in an evening because it’s perfect for that one section of that one tune, GO FOR IT!
. As you go through these solo shapes, you will find if one part of your vocabulary is limited by the dictates of the soloshape, (e.g. limited palette of drums to use) you will start to use the other options available to you (dynamics, use of space, variations in density of texture, etc.) that you previously haven’t exploited. You will also notice that these solo shapes generally ask very little of you in terms of content (nuts and bolts drum stuff). That’s because if the architecture of a solo is solid, the content isn’t all that important. That’s why both Jack DeJohnette and Paul Motian can play solos that are moving and interesting, even though the Paul Motian solo probably has a quarter of the notes in it that Jack’s does.
Now on to the shapes:

1.As many choruses as you can stand. This is a type of solo to get one to explore all the possiblities of a tune. It’s the sort of practice where one plays through ones cliches. Usually when you’re really bored and ready to give up on the solo, that interesting things start to happen. Try anything.
2. Half chorus. This is the opposite of number one. We’re only going to solo on two A sections of a tune (AABA tune only) and then play the bridge and last A as if we were –playing the out head. This is excellent for really developing small statements that make sense. These are the solos one does if one ever plays on televsion, where two minutes is a “very long time”
3. One chorus Similar to 2 but we get one whole chorus to express ourselves.
4. Play one chorus only using rhythms of a half note or slower.
5. Same as number 4 but using rhythms of eighth notes or faster.
6. Solo for 3 choruses playing only one voice at a time.
7. Solo for 4 choruses using the foot ostinato of your choice.
8. Play two choruses playing only during the rests in the melody. For further insight into this “counterline” please listen to “Nefertitti” by Miles Davis.
9. Play 3 choruses of two bars solo, two bars space (absolute silence) Do this with four and eight bar lengths as well.
10. Play four choruses of solo playing hi-hat on 2 and 4 ONLY on the bridge while still soloing with the rest of the kit. If the form is a blues, play hi-hat only the last four measures.
11. Play 2 choruses, starting at pp and gradulally crescendoing to FF.
12. Reverse 11.
13. Play five choruses of keeping time with the right hand on the cymbal while the rest of the kit solos.
14. Play six choruses, using only large tom and bass drum.
15. Play one chorus snare drum only.
16. Same as 15 but play 3 choruses with the snares turned off in the second chorus, turned back on in the third.
17. Play four choruses of trading 4s of solo between brushes and sticks.
18. Same as 17 but trade between brushes, sticks, mallets and playing with your hands.
19. Two choruses trading 8s between cymbals and drums.
20. Four choruses at dynamic p, cymbals only.
21. One chorus using only deadsticking, pushing the sticks into the drumhead.
22. Two choruses hands play constant buzz roll at ppp. Feet solo underneath at FFF.
23. Four choruses at tempo of quarter note equals sixty or slower.
24. Two choruses of only being allowed to play on the and of 3.
25. One chorus of quarter note equals 240 or faster.
26. Play six choruses, starting at the sparsest texture you can play, gradually ending up at the thickest, busiest you can play.

As you can see, some of these can be quite challenging but I feel they can be very beneficial towards making us more dynamic, exciting soloists.

Houston, We Have a Problem!

Hello folks,
I wish to report a tragedy in pizza related news. A band recently played in Regina and asked for food recommendations. I suggested the pizza joint of my youth that will remain nameless except for the title of this post and the logo above. The band responded that the quality of said food product was somewhat lacking. Oh the shame! C'mon pizza joint named after a certain large city in Texas, get it together! Or else where will students of Sheldon Williams Collegiate go to skip classes, as I did? (I didn't say that out loud, did I?) Are you going to force me to go to some WESTERN location where I will TRIFON my own feet because there's no room? Or will I feel like I've been hit over the head with a COPPER KETTLE at my friend SAMMY'S place?

Okay Ferg! You've won this round. But this isn't over yet..............

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Brushes in 3/4

Hi folks, a pattern (and two variations) in 3/4 on brushes today.
In the main pattern the right hand is constantly circling quarter notes in a clockwise direction.
The left hand is playing a ride pattern by sweeping 8th notes, starting at the top of the drum on beat two going back down to the next beat one. Remember, the left hand will sweep all downbeats to the right and all upbeats to the left.
Here's how the first one looks:

In the first variation the left hand remains the same, while the right hand circles in dotted quarter notes.

Finally, in the last variation. The right hand now circles dotted half notes.

I hope you enjoy these 3/4 patterns. As my skill (and resources) improve I plan to add more notation and video to help clarify these. Until then, play for the music and be good to yourselves!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ted Quinlan Trio

The post today is video from the recording of Ted Quinlan's "Streetscape" with myself and Kieran Overs. The tune is "Go West' and we're actually recording the take that's on the CD as we're being filmed. I have no idea I looked so geeky while recording, but I should have guessed!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Someone we should all be thankful for

For thanksgiving, I thought I would post this great footage of Tony Williams, whom I am eternally thankful for. This is a clip from late in his career because he didn't play Drum Workshop until pretty close to when he passed. I see this and am sure that, had he lived, he would still be kicking the crap out of the drums and showing all us young punks how it's done.

Thank you Mr. Williams.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Couple of brush patterns

Hi Folks,
Just posting a couple of the brush patterns that will be in my upcoming book.
The first one divides up the ride pattern between the two hands. On beat 1 and 2 the hands alternate sliding towards us (starting with the right) and on beats 3 and 4 the hands alternate moving away from us. The right hand taps the skip beats of 2 and 4. In the second one I got the idea from Art Taylor on a Red Garland recording. The right hand is playing legato quarter notes sliding to the right and tapping either the skip beat of 2 and 4 or all four beats to create a shuffle. The left hand is sliding 16th notes, heading to right on all the downbeat 16th and going left for all the es and ahs. This creates a nice tension between the swung 8ths in the right hand and the 16ths in the left. The left hand stays on the drum surface the whole time.

Hope you enjoy these. They'll be lots more in future posts.

Here's a video with me playing brushes (along with other weapons of my choice) with Charles MacPherson, Bernie Senensky, and Mike Downes a few years ago.

First Video Post!

Hey everyone. I thought for my video post I would share my dog Jackson and I doing a bluesy duet. I know I got totally upstaged. What did W.C. Fields say again about working with dogs and children? :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

My students this year.

I just wanted to quickly say I'm very pleased with my students this year. They are a hard working bunch and generally show a lot of drive, self-direction, and talent. Bravo!

See, I told you the next one would be positive.


Hi folks,
I would like to discuss a personal pet peeve. I hate the term "kick drum". In fact, I rarely respond when it's called that. It's a bass drum folks, and I'll tell you why I feel that way.
Kick drum is a term I associate with live sound engineers. These are well meaning folks but their concept of the drum set I often find quite disturbing. Part of the concept is that drums sound one way. That there's one way for a BASS DRUM to sound. When I hear Tony Williams', John Bonhams', or Dave Grohls' bass drums, they all sound great to me even though they sound totally different. The other problem is the sound people view the drum set as a collection of disparate instruments. The drum set has many components but it is indeed one instrument. When does a soundperson say to the bass or guitar player, "Let's hear your E string, now play your A string". They get the musician to play and balance the WHOLE instrument as they play it. That's the way the drums should be listened to. In fact, I've been on a few recording dates where the engineer listens this way, and the drums have sounded like they were a collection of different instruments. Sometimes they don't even sound like they've been played by the same person!
Lastly, Kick drum sounds derogatory to me. Jack DeJohnette doesn't kick his bass drum. He plays it, just as Glenn Gould played the piano or Charlie Parker played the saxophone.
Sorry to get a bit rant-y folks. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

I promise the next post will be very positive.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's day

Hey folks,
Moving slowly on this blog but wanted to put a couple of shout outs. One is to Dave Campion and all the percussion students at Laurier. I did a drum clinic there last Friday and had a blast. Also did another clinic for Long and McQuade March 16th and Iain and Andy from the store took great care of me.
The drum clinic thing is an interesting challenge. I really enjoy playing solo and creating shapes, textures, drum melodies etc. It is difficult, however, not to long for something that will be really impressive technically. To "dazzle" everyone, if you will. I'm not really that sort of player though and I think part of what I can offer in a clinic setting is that you don't have to get one of those fastest drummer belts (although if there is a slowest drummer belt, I'd like to go for that!) to contribute musically and work as a musician. I've often said that I'm somewhere in the middle ground between Ringo and Vinnie Colaiuta. (No disrespect to either of them.) I've learned to be happy in that place technically, even though I continue to practice and try and improve.
Oh yeah, one more thing. I'm almost done my brush book. I'll keep you posted.