Monday, January 31, 2011

Sorry I've been so slow lately. Work has been crazy. Not that I'm complaining.
Here's a couple of videos. The first one is of Peter Hum 's quintet playing in Ottawa at the Cafe Paradiso (where I'll be appearing with Rich Brown and Mike Murley in March). The tune is Peter's "Unagi".

...And here's another one from Ted Quinlan's trio. The tune is called "Crowchild".

I'll be back soon, promise!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Victor Lewis

Hello folks,
I found out about an unfortunate incident that happened to drumming legend Victor Lewis near his home in Manhattan, New York.
He posted this explanation on his FB site.

I was "shoved" out of the way by two rowdy 20-something-ish guys probably leaving a local disco who were running to or from something. I guess I was in their way! It was early Friday morning before the sun came up and during the heavy ice and snow storm so I could not save my footing and I hit the ground.

I have a compound fracture in my right shoulder - from trying to break my fall - and the doctor says no drums for 2 months but I can still teach. Oh well . . . !

Let's all send positive and healing thoughts to this great artist who has inspired us all with his great music. The music world needs visionaries like him.

There are many great examples of his playing, but I've always loved his work with Woody Shaw.
Here's an example:

...And here he shares some insights.

Get well soon Victor!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More Ted Quinlan Trio

I'm posting another video from my gig last week at the Drake with Ted Quinlan and Kieran Overs.
I'd better chill a bit on the videos of myself this week or I'm going to have to rename this blog "Trap'd in my own Ego"!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Inside the Drummer's Studio Installment 2

Today we're going to be conversing (electronically, at least) to the great Jerry Bergonzi.
Here's a brief bio from his website:
Tenor saxophonist, Jerry Bergonzi, is an internationally recognized jazz performer, composer, author and educator. His music is renowned for its innovation, mastery, and integrity. Relentless drive, inner fire, total command, awesome technique, elastic lyricism, rich resonance, world-class, a musical visionary, are among the rave reviews credited to his sound. Bergonzi's music has been applauded throughout the world at festivals, concert halls, and jazz venues and his dedication to jazz music has been well documented by an extensive discography.

What isn't mentioned above is Jerry is a pretty serious drummer as well. Jerry was kind enough to answer my questions about drumming and music. His responses (like all aspects of his music) were brimming with intelligence, passion, and humour.

1) Can you name a particular live performance by a drummer that had a strong impact on you?

The first time I saw Trane in 62 (could have been 61) with Elvin I was blown away at the intensity and passion of Elvin. Everytime I saw Elvin I was mesmerized, not from a intellectual level but from another place. Something in his playing was beyond the notes. It was other worldly. That being said, everytime I hear great drummers I am startled. Being an novice drummer, I am fascinated with everyone's approach and feel. I went to see Charles Lloyd last night and Eric Harland was playing drums and he was amazing.

2) What benefits do you think other instrumentalists can gain from studying the drums?

I think that everyone should study drums as time and rhythm are the most important things in playing. As you told me once, "It is Harmony and Melody that have fucked up music" I really took that to heart and I try to play with as little melody and harmony as possible now. I have even stripped down my tenor so it only plays 5 notes now.

3) Who are some of your favorite drummers to play with?

I have always loved playing with you, Adam Nussbaum, Andrea Michelutti, Jack Dejonette, Roy Haynes, Tom Molito and so many others.

4) Is there something you frequently find lacking in younger drummers?

I think the only thing lacking in young drummers is experience. You can't rush that and they have a different world to play in and that gives you another sound. Jazz drumming is an evolution and it is still evolving.

5) You have studied your main instrument (Saxophone) very extensively and have written many books dealing with it, yet when you play you never sound calculated or cold. Did you consciously work on separating practice and performance?

When I play I do not think of any of the things that I teach or have studied. I try to think the least amount possible and be in the moment. If I don't feel anything I don't hear anything. I have to feel something and when that happens a whole world of sound opens up. When the conscious mind comes in the creative mind leaves. 90% of the stuff that I ever practiced never got in my playing but it help develop some other things. It is a work in progress. There is no end and we are lucky for that. What else would we do. Make Money?

Well, there you have it. There's a lot of information for us to chew on for some time to come. I can hardly wait to hear that Tenor with a five note range!

I thought I'd post some video of Jerry. I've always loved the way Adam Nussbaum and Gonz play together. Here they are with Mick Goodrick and Mike Richmond playing Jerry's tune "Dexter"

and since Jerry mentioned Charles Lloyd's band with Eric Harland (which I saw last fall and was awesome) I'll also include them playing , although in this case it's a slightly earlier band with Rueben Rogers.


Friday, January 21, 2011


Hey all,
It's been a busy week so I haven't posted much. I did want to say though at the end of a week where I got to play with Ted Quinlan's trio (with Kieran Overs), Kim Ratcliffe's trio (with Pat Collins) and Mike Murley's septet (with Tara Davidson, Kevin Turcotte, David Braid, Jim Vivian, and Ron Westray) I feel so lucky. I get to play with fantastic musicians who share their joy and talent with me. Thanks so much.

...and here's some of Ted's trio

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Up Tempos

Had a couple of requests to talk more about up tempos, so here goes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Couple of Vids

Hey all,
I was thinking that perhaps I was getting a bit on the brainy side the last couple of posts so I thought I would present a couple of great things I watched today. We live in an amazing era as far as finding all sorts of footage of great players that may not be with us anymore.
This is the great British drummer Kenny Clare who I personally have been remiss in not checking out more. Dig the snare with the wrinkled head and also check out the drum time keeping on this piece. Great concept!

Up next is one of my favorite classical pieces, Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man". I think I've mentioned my regret that I've never done any orchestral playing. This is one piece I would love to play any of the percussion parts on.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Modulated Classic beats

Hey folks,
Today I'm going to show you some well known beats but into odd grouping modulations. The tempo will always remain the same (that's why I'm playing them with a metronome) but they will appear to speed up or slow down. In every case I play the unmodulated beat, the odd grouping one, and go back and forth several times.

Here's Ringo's beat on "In My Life' played as if it's a grouping of seven.

Next up is Philly Joe Jones' groove from "Milestones" modulated into quintuplets.

....And for you children of the 80s (guilty as charged!) here's Larry Mullins' beat from "Sunday Bloody Sunday" played with the 16ths as quintuplets. (Bass drum stays on quarter notes.)

Next is the beat from "Pretty Woman" as well as most of the Four Tops' repertoire!

Finally, here's Steve Gadd's beat from "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" modulated into groups of 7.

....But then again, it always sounds the best this way!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ted's got the Blues!

Hi everyone, happy Monday!
I will post some more fast tempo stuff later this week but for now I thought I would talk about some stuff I've been listening to. For about a year now I have been working on learning the diatonic harmonica or "blues harp". The great thing about this is that I have discovered (or rediscovered) a lot of great blues because of all the great harp playing. This music is also very important to drummers too though. I think it's important to note, that like many musics from Africa, Cuba, Brazil, etc., Blues, one of the great American world musics, pre-dates the drum set. Early drummers joined blues bands and had to figure out how to best accompany this music with few examples to draw upon. (In fact, the drum set itself was very young at this point.) These artists used mainly their ears and creativity to set the drumming foundations for the Blues.

Here's a particular favorite of mine, Fred Below playing with Howlin' Wolf on "Back Door Man".
Check out the halfway between shuffle and straight 8th feel on this, it's killer!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quarter Note Comping

Hey everyone,
I was watching a performance from the great New York based drummer Steve Williams the other day, and couldn't help but notice how much he used on the beat quarter notes in his comping on fast tunes. These downbeats (especially 2, 3, and 4) can be very effective in moving the music along, and are easier to place than upbeats. A good way to work on them is to play a fast tempo, and be able to play any of these quarter notes with the bass drum or snare drum with the hi-hat on 2 and 4 and the right hand playing the standard ride rhythm. Then try it with straight quarter notes on the ride, and also the backwards ride rhythm (8th notes on 1 and 3 and quarters on 2 and 4). Finally, do this with the hi-hat comping on the downbeats as well.

I filmed myself playing a bit, using this concept. I'm loosely playing Charlie Parker's "Constellation" and then play a few choruses of comping before playing the outhead again. It took forever to edit, so I'm hoping my learning curve is as swift as the tempo! :)


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Harmony, the elephant in the room part 2

Sorry, I've been running around like a madman the last couple of days and haven't had any time to film any stuff yet. In fact, over the holidays I've been playing way more piano and (my secret love) harmonica. I had a rehearsal for a new trio with Kim Ratcliffe and Pat Collins. We were playing a bunch of new stuff by Kim and I was amazed at how much more I hear now that I've been working on learning and blowing over changes. For those of you that feel you're in a rut with your playing, this may help you the way it's helped me.

Here's a great example of Jack DeJohnette's piano playing. He's an inspiration as always!
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention this recording is with Eddie Gomez on Bass as well as the very underrated drummer Freddie Waits.

More video coming soon....I promise!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year

....I'm ready for my close up Mr. DeMille.

Sorry for mistakes with editing, lighting, and most of all um, er...talking but I'm a work in progress and I'm sure it will improve. In the meantime, dig Jeff Beck.