Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Programming note

Well, November was a personal best in terms of quantity of posts but for the next little while the posts will slow down a bit and probably be a little less drum specific as I have a couple of gigs on piano and I really want to sound like I remotely have a clue, so .....I'd better get shedding.

The other day I did find a great post on the Cruise Ship Drummer blog on bass drum variations for Bossa Nova. You can check it out there. Thanks to Todd Bishop for this (and other material too) on his great blog.

Also here's more of Paul Motian's great trio playing Monk's "Misterioso".

The feel they get is like no one else! Also check out the new Lee Konitz "Live at Birdland" recording. Beautiful.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The price of tea in China....

Hello music world!
The title of this post is an expression I got from my Mother. When you are having a conversation with someone and they ask you "What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" they mean, "What does what you said have to do with what we talking about?" I find this is often an appropriate expression in the drumming world, where it's often easy to get sucked into thinking and practicing things that might not be so important and ignoring things that are. I will also admit that some of the things I post here are rather esoteric. Wacky stuff on the drums is great, but it can never take place of certain "immutable principles" that I think we all have to have together before we work on anything else. Let's look at them, shall we?

1. A good sound on the instrument (this would include pleasing tuning, dynamic control throughout the drums and cymbals, consistent attack etc.)

2. Good feel and even time in whatever style we're playing.

3. Knowledge and mastery of whatever music we're playing. This includes knowledge of melodies, lyrics, basslines, chordal harmony, and most of all the FORM of a piece.

There's probably more of these so this is just a short, starting list. An example of me ignoring some of these immutable principles would be if I play some super clever thing I learned at a drum clinic but lose the form of the 32 bar tune I'm playing it on. That's not of much use, is it?

A good way to think about what to practice and how long to spend on it is to place anything you're working on in 1 of 3 sets of goals: immediate, maintenance , and long term.
I'll discuss then briefly now.

Immediate goals:
This would include anything that you have a short time to get together and is required of you for a gig, ensemble, or a lesson, in that order.
So if you got hired to play on a Patsy Cline tribute on a Tuesday and the gig's on a Friday, you'd better learn the tunes (and make cheat charts possibly too) before you do anything else. If you get together a brilliant Brazilian beat together but mess up on the gig, that's not a very good use of your time!

Maintenance and improvement goals:
This would roughly include any sort of work that will be of benefit to you in the near future but there isn't necessarily a deadline on. This is a bigger list and changes from individual to individual, but might include such things as rudiments and their applications, listening to and playing with records of various styles, learning tunes, different world grooves and styles, funk, brushes, reading, etc. A lot of this stuff might not be as glamorous as learning a tune from a Punk band that you love but no one else has ever heard of but you'll probably never play it in public so again, your practice time could be better spent.
Try to gear this list to your weak areas and things that you would be asked to do on a gig. A friend of mine told me a very funny story about a rather egotistical fusion drummer he knew who could play all sorts of drum stuff but sat in with a band playing the tune "Cute" and played time through all the drum breaks! Prioritize folks.

Long term goals:
This would include anything you want to do. It might include lifting your favorite prog rock song's drum part note for note, one handed rolls, double bass drum, etc. With this stuff, realize there will be a lot of times you play with people where you won't be able to use it and NEVER try to fit it in just because you've worked on it a lot and want to justify that. You are justifying that at the expense of the music, and that's way too high a price to pay! When I started working on odd groupings I'd say a good 2 years went by before I approached anything like playing any of that stuff in public. I also sometimes spent months ignoring it while I worked on things I had to know sooner. If you're going to play drums your whole life (and I certainly hope that you do) some things can wait a while.

I think in general, it's good to realize that all the crazy drum stuff will only mean something if you can play the gig. Gigs, for most of us mere mortals, means playing musically and appropriately with good sound and feel. There's a handful of people who travel the world playing solo at drum festivals but they're not going anywhere anytime soon!
A really good local example of a player who can make your mouth drop open but who never fails to play for the music is Paul DeLong. He has the musicality ( as well as good old career sustaining common sense) to pick and choose the spots where his virtuosity will have the most impact. I know he's sick of hearing how much I enjoy this performance of his, but here he is on Kim Mitchell's "All we are" playing the CRAP out of a 1/2 time 3/4 shuffle type groove, complete with cool bass drum placement, and great back end of the beat fills.

Thanks, and go practice something practical!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ted's weekend of getting his butt kicked!

Hey everyone,
I meant to post this about a week ago, but....well it was a very strange week, to say the least.
Anyway, a week ago last Sunday I had the treat of seeing more high quality music in one day than I had had a chance to in years!

First, I got to see JPEC's latest concert presentation in Toronto. The Jazz Performance and Education Centre is committed to putting on concerts by world class jazz artists, In fact, I played one of their events with Seamus Blake last year. This event was Darren Sigesmund's band opening for Lionel Loueke's band. First Darren's band. They played all original music with a great mixture of textures and grooves. They had a very unusual fron line of Voice, Trombone, and Alto, which Darren's writing showed off beautifully. Great solos and wonderful music. Also worth noting is that although the regular drummer is Ethan Ardelli, (a great younger player that I've mentioned in past blogs) subbing in for him that night was Fabio Ragnelli .He played the music so beautifully. Please check out this talented, musical drummer when you have the chance.

Then the Loueke Trio played, and it was so great to hear them live after enjoying their recordings for so long. The three of them have such empathy, developed during 12 years of working together. Lionel Loueke deserves a lot of credit by sticking with Ferenc Nemeth and Massimo Biolcati in the early days when they weren't well known. I've talked about nemeth's drumming before and how much I love what he does, and he certainly didn't disappoint. He plays so sensitively, always the perfect thing at the right moment. A wonderful night of music.

I wasn't done though, I trundled over to the Rex where Sax player Ryan Oliver was finishing the last night of a 3 night run with Victor Lewis. I've been fortunate to have seen Mr. Lewis a few times over the years, but I don't think I've ever heard him play with as much authority and vitality. After recovering from a dislocated shoulder last year, he's playing better than ever!

This experience has also been very important for me to realize (again) the power of live music. I think many of us are lulled into think youtube or live feeds (great and handy as they are) are no substitute for being in a room with them and feeling them create. I am vowing to make checking out people live a priority from now on.

I had this pointed out to me on the weekend, it's long but do yourself a favour and check out this version of the Bill Evans trio with the dearly departed Paul Motian playing great, as he always did.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ted's Warren Commission at The Jazz Room

Just a short missive to let everyone know I am playing at The Jazz Room in Waterloo tonight (Saturday November 26th) from 8:30-11:30 EST with my band, Ted's Warren Commission. The line up tonight is: Mike Downes-Bass, Mike Malone- Trumpet, and special guest commissioner Kim Ratcliffe -Guitar. It's been a difficult week for me so I'm especially looking forward to the cathartic experience of playing with such wonderful musicians. Also the Jazz room will be debuting it's live streaming from it's website so you can also check us out there.


Friday, November 25, 2011

What we can learn from Paul Motian (if only we would listen),

I am actually so nervous as I write this I'm trembling. This has never happened before, but the matter I'm about to address is of such vast importance I feel the pressure to get this right.

Before I get into the body of this post I'd like to mention again that the loss of Paul Motian this week has affected me deeply. There's a sort of pool of melancholy that I feel underneath everything. People might read this and say, firstly, that he wasn't a young man (chronologically) and had a long and varied career. That's true, but if you look at the man's work I'm convinced he wasn't done yet and partially I'm mourning all the great music we'll never get to hear. More on that later. Also, others might say that I didn't know the man personally, had no interactions with him socially, he wasn't family. What's the big deal? I think my wife, Kate put it best when we had a similar conversation about the passing of Tony Williams (another great lost to us at one of his many creative peaks). She said "What he did touched you. and you know the hard work and sacrifice it takes to do what he did". That Kate, with that sort of sensitivity, she would have made a great musician.

What we can learn from Paul Motian, and by"we" I mean myself as much as anyone, lest people feel I'm preaching.
1. Keep looking forward
Fairly early in his career Paul Motian (with Scott LaFaro and Bill Evans) basically started a whole new approach to piano trio. If he had passed when LaFaro did, we'd still be talking about his genius. Indeed, when I saw many postings about Motian's death a lot of people mentioned this trio. Sorry folks, but that's just the beginning of this story!!!! He later stayed in New York to be a part of all the new music being made in the 60s, played with Jarrett, formed many innovative bands of his own etc. In fact, I could be incorrect on this but I believe post-Bill Evans he never made a recording as a leader with piano, and didn't perform with many pianists other than Jarrett. (The wonderful work with great Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi would be a notable exception.) Mr. Motian could have probably spent the rest of his life playing in piano trios, becoming a shadow of his former greatness (it's a sad fact that many "jazz' fans would have preferred this) but he always followed his muse...forward, not back! A great example of this are two versions of the Bill Evans tune "Five". Here's the first from Bill Evans' debut as a leader "New Jazz Conceptions". Note how much Max Roach you can hear in his playing at this point. The year is 1956.

A great, great performance. But now let's fast forward to 1990 and hearing the version Mr. Motian records with his band (Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, and Marc Johnson. Johnson also played with Evans, although in a much later version of the trio with the great Joe LaBarbera.)

It's the same guy playing drums and he was almost 60 years old at the time!!!!! Talk about an evolution (or even a revolution) in one's playing and conception. New Jazz conceptions indeed. This also shows how great these people were at rubato playing, but more on that later.

2. Always be yourself.
He consistently stayed on his own path throughout his career. As was typical of Jazz musicians of his era ( he was born in 1931) the music that first touched him was bebop and post-bop. Asked who some his major influences were, he would often mention Max Roach, Art Blakey, Sid Catlett, and the like. This is not unusual. He also didn't site many of the major drumming figures that came after him (Tony Williams, Elvin, etc.) as formative influences, even though I'm sure he listened to and appreciated them. He was also quoted as not caring for Electric (fusion) Jazz or Rock music. This is also not unusual. What is unusual is he used these early influences as a basis for musics that most of the drummers of his generation and earlier (with the possible exception of Max Roach) never came near! Motian played with no tempo, played funky straight 8th grooves, and on and on. As great as some one like Art Blakey, for example, was, he never strayed too far from his hard bop roots. This is not to denigrate Art Blakey who had a mission to preserve acoustic Jazz and made a lifetime of beautiful music because of it. Motian though, seemed to have had a restless spirit and I for one am very thankful for that.

3. The drum set is ONE instrument.
Before many of the drummers usually associated with "breaking up" the time. Paul Motion was using the entire instrument as sort of "sonic generators' rather than just mindlessly playing patterns. By "Bill Evans at the Village Vanguard" he's sometimes putting the hi-hat on 1, or 3, or leaving it out entirely but never interrupting the flow of the music. He was also one of the first players to realise that the cymbal would sustain, and certain quarter notes on the ride could be left out to create more space in the music. (He would go much further with this concept later in his career.) His way of playing time never remotely suggested a "hey look at me, I'm so hip" attitude. Rather, it appeared to be part of his search for personal expression on the drum set. Here's "My Romance" from the above mentioned album as an example.

4. They won't be with us forever.
This pains and shames me to admit this, but I never got to hear him play live. I could say something like "didn't get the chance" but really I didn't make the chance. It's not like he was hard to find playing in the later years either. He stayed in New York and played often. We are fortunate to have outlets like Small's and The Jazz Room that broadcast gigs over the web, and Youtube with it's many resources. My recent experience of seeing Victor Lewis live (which I will post on in detail in the next few days) made me come to the realisation that there simply is no parallel experience to seeing musicians close up in a club. You see them, you hear them, you feel them. You experience how they change the energy in the room with the sound of the drums and the strength of their vision. Certainly it's a testament to Motian's vision that I was affected so strongly purely through recordings but I know I missed the whole picture, and that's something I will regret always.

5. Chops (in the conventional sense) doesn't necessarily mean great art.
Currently, drummers win wrestling type belts for their speed. I wonder how many of them will still be playing when they're 80. Being known in music for your speed is sort like being famous for your looks, it's not sustainable. Many of these individuals as well as some well known artists took Motian's playing to task, saying "he can't play". Certainly he was never flashy. In fact, one of the great things about his playing is you never got an empty display of technique to try and dazzle the audience. He always played the music honestly. As well he forged a completely original sound and time feel. Isn't individual expression the point of Jazz? If that's what it means when you "can't play", sign me up! I'd love to "can't play" half as well as he did!

5. Encourage and nurture young talent.
He consistently hired younger players to give them wider recognition as well as challenge him. A great example of this is the Electric Bebop band clip I posted a few days ago.

6. Get writing.
Motian came late to composing, but quickly amassed a number of beautiful, often simple, quirky tunes that often suggested folk or classical music as much as Jazz. Again, he didn't try to be anyone but himself. Here's his trio with Lovano and Frisell playing "it Should Have Happened a Long Time Ago".

It's also to important to note that this is yet another revolutionary trio he was involved in. Bass? What for?

7. Don't be afraid of sentimentality in music.
I often hear young musicians playing music that sounds like it was written with a calculator for no other reason than to prove how clever they are. If you're only goal is to be hip, there's not going to be much room to be tender and lyrical. Here's a hauntingly beautiful version of "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" found on the "Paul Motian and the E.B. Big Band" album.

In conclusion, we live in a world that celebrates spectacle, of style over substance. Where people's dream of a "life in music" consists of warbling a Celine Dion tune on a TV talent show like the sonic equivalent of a summer blockbuster gone wrong in hope of becoming famous. Where so-called "jazz magazines" feature musicians who look like fashion models with instruments. (In some cases I suspect they sound like fashion models with instruments.) Where young musicians decide to confuse audiences as mentioned before, or the alternative, play the music and lecture about it like it's some museum piece, ready to be put in mothballs and stored frozen in time, harkening back to the good old days of "real jazz".
Throughout all this, for over 50 years, Paul Motian fearlessly followed his vision. Trends and critics be damned. He made music that was thoughtful, playful, joyous, and challenging. He made people laugh and cry. In short, he was a true artist. True artists are an endangered species, I'm afraid. Anyone who picks up sticks, or any instrument for that matter, owes him a debt that is incalculable. We were indeed fortunate to have him around creating truth and beauty through his drums and melodies.

God bless you Paul Motian, and rest in peace.

Influences and aging

I recently had a conversation regarding influences with another player and I thought I'd write down a few of my thoughts. In music, there are always new talented players that come along and how they affect you will change as you go through your career. For example, I can still remember where I was the first time I heard Tony Williams, Elvin, and Monk. Partially the reason these experiences are still so clear to me is that I was young and just starting to find out about the music. That excitement I felt was created by this information coming at a formative time when I still hadn't heard very much music, so every time I heard something, it was completely new to me. Cool as this feeling was (and occasionally still is) it's pretty hard to sustain. So as much as I love Brian Blade, for example, I'm not going to hear him in the same way as someone who's just starting to check out Jazz and improvised music. His influence can't be as strong as some of my earlier listening. Plus, at this point in my life, I can't devote all my energy to checking out the latest thing and immersing myself in it to the exclusion of all else.
Plus, with a lot of the newer artists, as great as they are, I'm more likely to hear things that I feel are missing, as opposed to when I was young and just heard the new, cool parts of things.

It's interesting, when I studied at Banff in 1988, I feel I was very impressionable and was likely to get sucked in and completely "blown off course" if you will from any strong player I heard. Originally, when Dave Holland was heading the program he wanted DeJohnette to teach there, but it didn't work out. I think if he had, it might have been problematic for me (ironically) because I loved ( and do love) his playing so much. In fact, for awhile I had to not listen to Jack because I was becoming a very lame copy of him. As it was "Smitty" Smith was there, and it was great hearing him and checking him out. It was also impossible to even attempt to copy him because not only could I not begin to approach what he was doing technically, I couldn't even figure out what most of was he was playing was!!

So enjoy those first glimpses of what's possible on the drums, they will stay with you for a long time!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

....And we're back!

Hey all,
The computer is fixed. Thanks to the fine folks at Synergenics in Guelph!
A lot has happened in the last few days, not the least of which is the untimely deaths of Paul Motian and Robert Spizzichino, I will be devoting a whole post to Paul Motian soon but Peter Hum has has some great posts on this. I haven't been this affected by a musician's death since Tony Williams passed, but more on that later.

Here's the two cascara articulation vids I promised. The titles pretty much tell the tale.


Saturday, November 19, 2011


Hey folks,
Super quick one today. I will post some video related to this in the coming days but right now I'm having some computer issues which are limiting me. Hopefully they'll be fixed soon.

So quickly...

Take any beat you normally play (say some sort of standard rock beat) and on the back beats try buzzing one of the strokes on the snare rather than playing it straight up, Try it on 2 only, then four only. Then try it on the downbeat strokes on the hi-hat (you'll probably want to take this at a pretty slow tempo).

Okay, try the same thing except use a deadstroke ( pushing the drumstick into the head and leaving it there). Again, try it on different parts of the bar or on the hi-hat. The cool thing about this (at least on a drum) is it will deaden it yes, but also raise the pitch a bit.

Finally, mix and match this stuff. Remember, changing how you articulate any rhythm is a great way to create variety.

Okay here's some footage of Paul Motian's Electric Bebop band. It doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but it's awesome, and you should see it! :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cascara part 2

here's a few more exercises using the Cascara rhythm. Please note, these aren't supposed to be in any way folklorically correct., although i would certainly hope that you're all trying to work on playing the music of Cuba (as well as other musics of the world) as authentically as you can. I've spent a lot of time working on "world" music (although I hate that term) yet never really have done many gigs playing it. This work , however, has helped my drumming and overall musicality in so many ways.

Okay here's the stuff:


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Hey all,
Today I'm going to show a couple of things I did with the Cascara rhythm. Cascara is found in Cuban music. It means "shell" in Spanish, referring to the shell of the timbales this rhythm was originally played on.
The rhythm goes like this:

This rhythm is easily as important as the jazz ride rhythm or the basic rock beat and it's important for us to become very familiar with it.

Here's 2 current variations I've been playing around with:
The first one is the Cascara in the right hand, dotted quarters (played as flams between the rim of the small tom and a rim click on the snare), quarter notes with the hi-hat and the tumbao ( + of 2 and beat 4) with the bass drum.

Note the right hand part on the edge of the cymbal gives it an interesting quality, I think.

Next, I'm doing the cascara in the right hand, filling in the rest of the 8th notes with my left, same as above on the bass drum, and putting the dotted quarters on the hi-hat. This is also an interesting example of "Proactive Interference", which is "forgetting [of information] due to interference from the traces of events or learning that occurred prior to the materials to be remembered". The interference comes from me learning left foot clave which is a close but slightly different pattern. Ah, we're never short of challenges, are we?

Happy trails!!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

20 km Jazz diet

Hey folks,
Here's some footage from a recent house gig I was doing in home my town. (Unfortunately now it conflicts with an ensemble I'm running.) I've been trying to be a part of a weekly regular playing situation for a long time now. It's a great way to work on repertoire and develop something with a band as a unit. Even being guaranteed one night of playing a week helps when the phone isn't ringing and my lowly piano and harp playing have improved quite a bit. (In fact I would have played piano on this version of "Autumn Leaves" but Brent likes playing it in E flat! Pathetic I know, but I'm working on playing stuff in different keys....) Anyway, here's Brent Rowan, Jessie Turton, and myself.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hey folks,
This is related to my earlier post ( Q. Who's that great drummer on that recording? A. You.) but I thought I'd mention it briefly. Today I was playing along with the great Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden recording "Jasmine". Now this recording is mainly ballads, 4/4 time, just bass and drums, so there's nothing to playing along with it, right?

Not so fast (literally) Sonny! And I don't mean Rollins, Greenwich, or Clark!
There are many choices to make when playing drums along with this, and because there's no drummer on the recording, they're yours to make. Let's list some of them.

1. Implements. Brushes? Sticks? Mallets? Hands? A combination?
2. How are you expressing the ballad time? 12/8? Straight 8ths? Double time feel? A combination?
3. How are you changing colours between the piano and bass solos?
4. Are you playing empathetically yet strongly during the bass solos? Mr. Haden plays the time very freely, especially when he's blowing and it's easy to get off the rails.
5. Are the dynamics and amount of space in keeping with the spirit of each piece?

All of the above questions (especially no. 5) you will have to answer with the taste and good judgement you have developed through countless hours of listening. This may not get you a gig at a drum festival but it will certainly help you become a tasteful and supportive small group player.

Here's a brief doc on the making of the recording. Check it out, then go buy it and then play to it and raise your level as an aware musician!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Carrying the Torch" vs. "Hip and Modern"

Hey everyone,
I wanted to quickly talk about the divide in Jazz circles that seems to be going on forever. It's the divide caused by the crowd that wants to "carry the torch" (play only standard tunes, play only in 4/4 time, etc.) and those that want to be "hip and modern" ( play only originals, never play in 4 etc.). I feel that both these "camps" are illusions and can be traps as well. As far as carrying the torch goes, there's been original music written throughout jazz's history, from Louis Armstrong's Hot 5 on. From Ellington, to Monk, to Wayne Shorter and Steve Swallow and beyond, writing new music has and always will be part of the tradition. Conversely, I find I know run into people that almost brag that they don't know any standard tunes. How would you play with new musicians you've just met in Italy? Would you bring your books and teach them one of your own tunes? No, you'd use what Keith Jarrett calls "the tribal language" and play a standard tune. (This works even if the musicians you're jamming with don't understand english!)
When you actually look at a lot of the musicians that are out there really playing right now, most of them perform (and often record) their own tunes and standard tunes. I think it's incumbent for us to work on both types of vehicles. So if you're someone who only plays other people's tunes, try writing a contrafact. This is a fancy way of saying write a melody on an existing set of chord changes. It could even be a blues. Conversely, if you haven't dealt with learning tunes, get started. A lot of them aren't very hard and memorizing them will help your musicianship in general.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Stephen King and music.

Hey people,
Just heard a bit of the great writer Stephen King being interviewed on CBC and it reminded me of a book of his that I found very inspirational.

Here it is:

Here's the blurb about it:

In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft--and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade--how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Right, so what does this have to do with music? Well, once you check it out, everything.

For instance, here's a quote from the book, regarding getting input for inspiration.

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

If we substitute the words "listen" for "read" and "play" for "write" you'll see what I'm getting at. One of the things you realize from reading this book is what a voracious reader King was and is.He's getting input all the time. Same goes for us. If you want to learn how to trade 4s, play Ska, or anything else, you need to listen to someone do it well.
King also talks about inspiration from both sides. He mentions reading stuff that wasn't particularly well written and thinking to himself "I can write as well as that". That's also important for us to realize. There are some people playing that aren't that strong, and that may give us the courage to get out there and start doing it. He also talks about reading great writers like Steinbeck and thinking in that case, "I'll never be able to be able to write anything that great." Same for us musicians. Listening to Coltrane's 60s quartet make us realize how high the bar is, and what we should strive for, even if we don't make it there.
Read this book and you'll realize how the process of imitation and assimilation transcends all art forms. Highly recommended!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

5 Beat figures in triplets

Hello people!
Today I made some video of me playing a groove I stumbled upon last week.
It starts by using this sticking in triplets: RLRLL, it's 5 notes long so it circles around the bar lines in a fun way. Then I started playing it as a sort of Afro-Cuban 12/8 with the right hand on the cymbal and the left hand doing cross stick on the snare and going to the small tom for the left hand double. The first version is with the hi-hat on all 4 beats and bass drum on 2 and 4. Like so:

Next, the same thing with the hi-hat opening on the last triplet of the bar and then closing on the first triplet (with the foot). All quarter notes on the bass drum.

Finally, here's the same idea but with open and closed jazz hi-hat pattern with the left foot.

Certainly there's many different foot combinations we can all torture ourselves with! :)
I think it's important to note that I kept the "voicing" with the hands the same because I tried different ones and that's what I liked the best. Whenever you're working stuff out, take note of what appeals to you and develop that further.

(Mr.) T.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Odd groupings in 3/4!

This is something I've been working on as part of my commitment to get more odd groupings into my playing. I wrote about doing this in 4/4. It's in The Jan. 2010 and March 2010 issues of Percussive Notes and can be ordered here. (BTW, I have an article on crossovers in the current issue.) Although we're dealing with waltz time, the concept is the same. Take rhythms you're familiar with in 3/4 that are 5 notes long (a quarter note triplet and two 8th notes, for example) and after you've played that for awhile, start working towards slightly slowing down the 8th notes and speeding up the triplets until you have 5 equidistant notes in the bar. Now I had one fellow who worked with me who preferred to figure out where each note of the quintuplet worked out in 16th notes in the bar, and probably for some folks, it's a good method. I found for myself however, if it got too "mathy" it was hard for me to access and I also didn't think subdividing 16ths helped the feel too much if it was a swing setting. The same individual tried to tell some folks later and out of my presence (I know, classy huh?) that my way of doing this was baloney and I was just guessing at the grouping. Nothing could be further from the truth. As drummers, we're always working on ideas that are based on equidistant beats in the bar (Quarter notes in 4/4 time anyone?) so all I've done is worked on hearing this with 5 and 7 note groupings to find the groove in them and be able to play them as naturally as possible.

Here's me first counting in 3 and playing 5, then counting 5 and playing 3, then I repeat the whole process with 7.

Now I sing "Someday My Prince will Come" while tapping out 5 and then 7. Hollywood is going to be calling. I can feel it!

Finally, here I'm trading 4 bar phrases in 3/4 using only 5s and 7s in the trades. (Near the end I'm leaving more rests for extra wackiness!)

I have also sometimes doubled and tripled the odd groupings, BTW.
So... you may not use this stuff tonight, next week, or next year even. But I have found all this stuff has improved my time immensely. If you can divide 3 into 7 equal parts, dividing it into 3 is like a vacation!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inside the drummer's studio, Installment 6!

Today I'm extremely pleased and proud to present a mini-interview with the great Adam Nussbaum!

He looks like this:

....And here's just a few things that he's done.......

Nussbaum grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut and started to play drums at age 12 after studying piano for 5 years, also playing bass and saxophone as a teenager. He moved to New York City in 1975 to attend The Davis Center for Performing Arts at City College. While there he began working with Albert Dailey, Monty Waters, Joe Lee Wilson, Sheila Jordan and he played with Sonny Rollins in 1977 in Milwaukee. In 1978 he joined Dave Liebman's quintet and did his first European tour with John Scofield. During the early eighties he continued working with John Scofield in a celebrated trio with Steve Swallow. In 1983 he become a member of Gil Evans Orchestra and played with Stan Getz as well. He later joined Eliane Elias/Randy Brecker Quartet, Gary Burton, and Toots Thielemans. In 1987 he began touring with the Michael Brecker Quintet. In 1988 they recorded the Grammy winning "Don't Try This At Home" During 1992 he was part of the Carla Bley Big Band and that same year John Abercrombie hired him to complete his organ trio.

Since then he has kept active in a wide variety of groups. Among them a recently formed quartet 'BANN' with Seamus Blake, Jay Anderson & Oz Noy, A co-op quartet "NUTTREE" with Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi & Gary Versace, The James Moody Quartet, 'We Three' w/ Dave Liebman & Steve Swallow, Eliane Elias Trio, 'Playing in Traffic' w/ Steve Swallow & Ohad Talmor and also busy maintaining an active freelance schedule. Adam has taught as an Adjunct professor at New York University, the New School and State University of New York at Purchase. He also does clinics and master classes around the world.

I'd also like to thank Adam for doing this interview while he's on tour in Europe. He's currently playing with The Impossible Gentlemen. Do yourself a favour and check out this band. Great music! Once again this is a case where the artist's responses are very much like their playing. Adam Nussbaum is known for playing in a direct, empathetic, and above all passionate way and his answers definitely reflect all those qualities.

Anyway, on to the questions......

1. Can you name a live performance and/or recording that has had a particularly profound affect on you?

Countless hours of listening to recordings and absorbing the music when I was able to be in the room with it and feel it.
Right now I can mention seeing Dizzy when I was eight. Hearing the original Tony Williams Lifetime. Digging Monk and so much great music at the Vanguard. Going to Boomers. Lots of great music in NYC!

2. As a younger player, did you do specific things to develop various types of feels (e.g. Playing on the back of the beat for some medium tempos) or did these things more develop through osmosis from careful listening?

Osmosis would be it. also playing with great players. I'm always trying to stay balanced with focus and relaxation. Intensity, not 'tense-ity'

3. Do you feel there are certain elements of the music that younger players of today might be missing?

There are so many adept young players now. If anything, with all the information so easily available there seems to be a lack and belief in the importance of some of the primary foundational basic elements.

4. How much preparation goes into the average recording session you do?

Sometimes you get a short rehearsal, sometimes not....

For example, did the band the played on Steve Swallow's "Deconstructed" get a chance to play any gigs before you recorded?

Yes. We were fortunate to have done a short tour before that date and it was wonderful to have that opportunity.

5. Do you have a favorite recording of yours and/or a recording you've done that you wish more people have heard?

This is a hard one to answer. I can't really think of one off hand..... mmmm.
Some have a had more visibility that others. I generally feel good about the projects that are musically honest valid statements. It's nice when the music, the band and the sound are all happening. I always try to do my best with what the music tells me to do. You have to play well with others (-:

I can't think of a better way to conclude except with some footage of the man himself.
Here he is playing in a killing trio with Dave Liebman and Steve Swallow. (If I ever win the lottery I'm hiring these guys to play at my birthday party!)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The gig triangle

Hey folks,
I'd like to talk about a concept around deciding what work to take as a musician. This comes from great sax man and educator Dave Neill. Dave talks about the "gig triangle". Basically there are three points (or corners) to consider when taking (or not) a gig. The first corner would be good, satisfying music, the second is decent people you want to be around, and finally the third is money. The concept is that after a certain amount of professional playing ( when you're young and inexperienced, you should take EVERYTHING that comes along, and this wouldn't apply to you) two of the three corners should be present for it to be worth your while to come out and play. For example, if you're getting to play interesting and challenging music with people who are fun to be with, then it's probably still worth doing the gig, even though it probably won't make much of a dent in your retirement fund. or, if you're with nice folks and you're making a decent taste, you can probably live with the fact that the music is a little wanting in quality. Finally, if you're getting well paid and it's good music, you can probably put up with almost anyone (especially if it's only one night!)

Occasionally you run into a gig that satisfies all the corners of the triangle. I ran into one of those tonight. In fact, it was extra cool because it was a quintet, and that particular 5 people had never played together before, but almost from the first note there was a very great vibe about that combination of people. A great feeling, almost a bit like a first infatuation with someone. We'll definitely work together again!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Yet another rant!

Hey folks,
Just something quick I've been thinking about. I like to think I'm quite generous with whatever knowledge I've gained (I like to think about the blog as an extension of that spirit.) Yet occasionally I sometimes feel like people are trying to get something for nothing. I remember a friend of a friend coming by and casually asking me to "show him some licks and stuff on the drums". I told him no and said if he wanted to hear me he could come by a club I was playing and check out that. Maybe that seems harsh but it felt like he wanted a free performance or clinic. Musicians struggle to make money, so for someone who I have no relationship with to ask for me to basically dole out stuff at will, well, that doesn't seem reasonable to me. I certainly will chat about ideas with students and peers etc. when there's already a rapport either professionally or in an already established learning environment. If however, I'm made to feel someone's trying to get a free lesson or performance, I will definitely take umbrage!

Okay, I don't want to end on a grumpy note so here's the great Howlin' Wolf with "Smokestack Lightning". (One of my many harp heroes!)

....and here's some music that Tony Williams once remarked about, "Now THAT'S drumming!"