Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More neural pathways!

Here's a couple of things using the melody to Monk's Oska T. We've used this tune before and it might be one of the first, if not only 4 bar Jazz Standards.

Okay, here's the first way I played it. Straight 8ths with a bossa pattern on the bass drum and played the melody with the left hand, dotted quarters with the left foot on tambourine. Once louder, once softer.

The second way I played it, the left foot went back to the hi-hat and I moved the melody around the kit with the left hand and also played with the way I was articulating it.

The last one has the hi-hat opening and closing every other dotted quarter note.

Look, I know I've posted a lot of this stuff over the past little while. It reminds me of an art exhibit I saw years ago in Montreal of Da Vinci's inventions. Now, I'm not comparing myself to him in any way. I just think that the sort of exhaustive thinking that leads to making 20 versions of a pulley (Seriously! They were in the exhibit!) can be very applicable to this stuff. I might not ever exactly use this on a gig, but I will have more flexibility and coordination!

See ya!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The drummers of XTC Part 1!

Hey there,
Anyone who knows me or this blog is aware I like a lot of styles of music.
I have always loved Pop music and one of the greatest Pop bands ever, in my opinion was Swindon's XTC.

There's a lot of info on the band online so I won't go into huge detail here.

XTC was a band that started in the New Wave era of the late 1970's. They had two main songwriters (Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding). Here's one of their first big hits, penned by Moulding, "Making Plans for Nigel".

Check out that beat Terry Chambers is playing! Killer!
(Confession, I quoted that beat on a version of "I'm Old Fashioned" on Kieran Overs' "Quartetto" CD. The Jazz police still have a warrant for my arrest on that one!)

Anyway, after several more years and albums they stopped playing live because of Partrige's increasing stage fright. In fact I saw them opening for the Police in Regina in 1980 as a trio because, presumably, Partridge wasn't well enough to do that gig. They were great anyway.

It's interesting how much great music I love ( by Beatles, Steely Dan, Kate Bush, XTC, and Glenn Gould, to name a few) was made by people that stopped or rarely played live.
It's a fact, regardless of the music you play, live playing will kick your butt in a number of ways!

So XTC gave up touring, their drummer Terry Chambers left, and they started concentrating on making recordings. Then something fascinating happened. The song writing quality keep improving. Also, instead of hiring different session drummers for each song, they tended to hire someone and have them play on the whole recording.
I loved when new XTC records came out because I knew the music would be great, and I'd get to hear another drummer's take on it as they tended to hire a different player each time!

One of my favorite album's is 1992's Nonsuch. It features the great Dave Mattacks on drums.
Mr. Mattacks was kind enough to answer my questions about this recording but first, a pic and some bio information.

Dave Mattacks {“DM”} professional career started in the UK with big bands before joining the influential folk-rock group “Fairport Convention”, freelancing extensively throughout hisDM circa 1967 tenure with the band. In 2000, Dave left the UK & moved to Boston, MA where he continues to enjoy a full career in Music spanning live & studio work, both as a Musician & Producer.
DM’s discography includes 5 CD’s with Paul McCartney & various CD’s / tours with – among many others – Elton John, George Harrison, Jimmy Page, Everything But The Girl, Sandy Denny, Chris Rea, XTC, Jethro Tull, Joan Armatrading, Brian Eno, Nick Drake, [“Procul Harum’s”] Gary Brooker, Peter Green, John Gorka, John Martyn, The Proclaimers, Cat Stevens & Loudon Wainwright.
Dave Mattacks Royal Academy of Music
Steve Smith, Charlie Watts & DM after Steve's gig @ Harvard Square's "Regatta Bar"
Pic' courtesy of Jim McGathey/John DeChristopher of Zildjian
DM successfully combined “ Fairport’s “ schedule with his freelance commitment for 13 years; however he finally left the band in March of ’98 & moved to New England in the US two years later. A few of his credits since then include recording &/or concert dates with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Richard Thompson, Juliana Hatfield, John Jennings, Teddy Thompson, Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez, Steeleye Span, Susan Tedeschi, Martin Sexton, Dennis Brennan & Rosanne Cash.

As well as his performance, recording & studio-production schedule over the last few years, Dave has given several Master-Classes @ London’s Royal Academy of Music, taught @ The Berklee College of Music’s “Percussion Week“ [which twice included delivering an afternoon Clinic / Master-Class with an evening Band performance @ Boston’s Berklee Performance Centre], taught @ Berklee’s “ 5-week “ Summer Programme [ three years running ] & has been the ‘house drummer’ @ Marblehead Arts Festival for the last seven years.

In the Spring of 2011 he performed with the Portland [ ME ] Symphony Orchestra during their “Motown Classics” evenings, & was recently the featured artist/interviewee on the front cover of the March/April ’11 popular “DrumHead” magazine.

Dave's answers to my questions were very much likely his playing. Brief, with no superfluous nonsense, yet displaying inventiveness and a good sense of humour.

1. Were you aware of XTC's work before you did the sessions or was it more of a "cold call" situation where you just knew you had to be at the studio with your drums at such and such a time?


2. Did the two songwriters, (Moulding and Partridge) have different working methods in the studio?


Did they have specific suggestions for drum parts, or did they talk in metaphor and you jammed until you found something that clicked?


3. There's a great vibrant drum sound on "Nonsuch". How much input (besides your tuning and playing) did you have into that?


4. Andy Partridge claims you were a little "shy" about playing the shuffle beat on "The Disappointed". It's hard to believe because the track feels so great. Is there something about those types of grooves you find challenging?


5. The drum part on "Omnibus" is very unusual. How did you come up with that?


6. You've played on countless recordings over the years with a variety of artists but is there anything you learned specifically from the sessions on "Nonsuch"?


I thought I's add examples of some of the tunes that were discussed.

Here's "The Disappointed" and I think it's pretty clear that Mr. Mattacks plays a mean shuffle, then and now!

...And here's "Omnibus"

Finally, here's Dave Mattacks in a rare live appearance with XTC playing "Books are Burning" live on BBC's The Late Show.

Stay tuned, I'll have more XTC drummers in the near future!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The phone didn't ring again, or put those pigeons in their holes!

Hey fellow Batteurs!!!!

A good friend was recently talking about how he felt pigeon holed in the scene he was playing in and felt he didn't get some work because of some preconceived notions about the sort of player he is.

Wow! That sounds familiar!
I think the stereotyping and general underestimation of one's abilities is something that happens to most music professionals. There are many reasons people do this.

1. Lack of imagination.

Some people listen to certain musics (Jazz especially) to feel better about themselves, to elevate above the "unwashed masses" and prove how intelligent they are.
For folks like these, the fact that a great Bebop player may also be a Sex Pistols fan and play that music well may be too much for them to bear, because it destroys their way of worshiping one style while denigrating the other. They might actually have to listen to something and decide for themselves if they actually like it!

2. Jealousy

Unlike the first reason I mentioned, which tends to get deployed by music fans. This second reason is more the domain of fellow musicians.
Some musicians, upon hearing another musician do something well, will imagine that they are a specialist (even though there may be no solid evidence for this) and can't do much else. Why? Because they're feeling inferior and again trying to make themselves feel better. ( Previously guilty as charged, your honour!)
Someone may think something like, "Oh yeah, he plays a killer backbeat but he probably can't play brushes to save his life!"
Okay but...

a) Who cares? if they're playing the gig their on, that's what's important and...

b) if they've worked very hard on playing, they've probably gotten a lot of things together that they're not well known for. For example, I've never heard Simon Phillips play a Jazz Waltz, but he's so accomplished I would expect him to play a fairly smokin' one!

So there are some reasons people might underestimate us (or vice-versa).
What can we do about it?

I think the first thing is to not put limitations on ourselves. Play any kind of music you get a chance to. Learn about styles of music that you never actually play in public. (Certainly this is the case with myself and Cuban and Brazilian music, but I've learned so much I'm sure its helped EVERYTHING I play.)

If you want to broaden peoples opinions of yourself. You may need to make inroads into other scenes. If you want to play more blues, hang out at the blues clubs and attend their jam sessions. Or be wiling to be a leader to do a wider variety of things. Go to the Reggae club and be willing to pay the hot players in that scene decently even if it means you make a little less.

Finally, if you don't get called for something, try to just move on. The reasons why people get or don't get a gig are myriad, and you'll drive yourself crazy wondering why. (Again, been there, done that!) Try to focus on the music and tomorrow's another day!



Saturday, February 25, 2012

A song on the drums

I improvised this piece and dedicated it to Jon Christensen.
For now I'm just going to post it but I might talk about it in more detail at some point.
I'm going to try to post improvised drum pieces sporadically, so if you find them tedious, you can always skip them. (However, if YOU do Mom, I'm going to be very disappointed!)


Friday, February 24, 2012

Inside the drummer's studio, Installment 7!

Hey all,
Today I'm talking with Paul DeLong. A great drummer who has been inspiring me for a long time.

Here he is (at least in virtual form)....

...And here's a short bio for those of you not familiar with his work.

Best known for his multi-platinum success with rock artist Kim Mitchell, Paul has forged a career which encompasses funk, fusion, jazz and latin, working with such diverse artists as Tom Scott, Domenic Troiano, David Blamires, Lawrence Gowan, Carlos Del Junco, Carol Welsman, Dave Restivo, Nick "Brownman" Ali, Colm Wilkinson, Doug Riley, Hilario Duran, David Clayton Thomas, Roger Hodgson and The Canadian Tenors to name a few. As a Juno award winner and respected session player Paul has performed at P.I.T. and the N.A.M.M. shows in L.A., twice at the Montreal Drumfest and at the Cape Breton Drumfest. He is one of SABIAN cymbals most popular and effective clinicians. Always active on the studio scene, Paul has recorded numerous jingles and worked on TV shows such as Degrassi Junior High, Top Cops, Counterstrike, E.N.G. and more recently, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Paul has taught part-time at Humber College in Toronto for the past 24 years and written several articles for Modern Drummer magazine. He also taught and performed at KOSA 2010. His book "DeLong Way" To Polyrhythmic Creativity On The Drumset is now being distributed worldwide by Hudson Ltd. In 1994 Paul became involved in musical theatre, first subbing on shows such as Tommy, Joseph and Rent in Toronto, and then touring across Canada and the U.S. with those same productions. He was the first sub on the Toronto production of The Lion King for three and a half years and in 2004 was first chair for the musical Hairspray. Next came Hair in 2006 and Peter Pan in 2007.

Paul's fusion band The Code has 4 CDs, the last release being "Dreams Speak Song". Paul has recently been involved with various tribute acts including Heavy Weather (Weather Report tribute), Brass Transit (Chicago tribute) and You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor tribute). For the past few years he has also performed with Jeans 'n Classics, which pairs a rock band with a symphony orchestra.

Current endorsements include Yamaha drums, Sabian cymbals, Remo drumheads, LP Percussion and Vater sticks.

Paul was kind enough to answer some questions about music and drumming for me. He is as articulate and intelligent when dealing with words as he is with sounds!

1. Can you name a particular live performance and/or recording that had a profound influence on you?

Without a doubt it was seeing the Mahavishnu Orchestra live at Maple Leaf Gardens, May 4, 1973. I didn't know that music could have such a powerful effect on me, but by the middle of the first tune I was shaking and crying! It felt like an out of body experience and they did not seem like mortal men to me. I was 20 at the time so it had a huge impact on me. I have a recording of that show and it's still the most amazing music and performance that I've ever heard.
No matter what gig I'm doing I always carry that memory with me and try to instill some of that intensity...... which was difficult when I was playing with Sharon , Lois , and Bram!

2. In your excellent book "DeLong Way to Polyrhythmic Creativity" you mention times when you were younger where you might have not "played the gig" as much as you needed to. As someone who now definitely plays appropriately for every situation you are involved in, how did you work on this?

I didn't work on it. I had enough people tell me that I was ruining their day by playing that stuff, so finally I got the message! A certain amount of it is just growing up and wanting to sound like a pro instead of like a little kid practicing on stage. I'm still learning how to edit myself and I think that's a life long process. You learn to see the beauty in simplicity and the beauty in getting to the heart of the music. Someone like Steve Gadd or Peter Erskine exemplifies this to a tee. And from what I've read they both went through a process of realizing that they needed to address this problem. Some people never get it, and those people don't work too much!

3. As someone who plays in a Fusion environment frequently, you always seem to play so warmly, and with a lot of personality and soul, factors I sometimes find missing in that style of music. Do you have a particular way you approach this music to keep it from being stiff and cold?

Thanks for the compliment. Lenny White was my main fusion hero and he always made everything feel great. Billy Cobham always had a bad ass groove too and he applied that to odd time playing as well. But I think it's all about phrasing. Tony Williams was the master of that and I wore out several copies of Believe It checking that out. Also Gary Husband's playing with Allan Holdsworth really exemplified phrasing and musicality to the max for me. That first I.O.U. album has some beautiful drumming on it. But getting back to Tony, everything he played was always so clear and you could sing the phrases as opposed to someone who might play a lot of notes without any shape or form. There's a tune on Allan Holdsworth's album Atavachron, called Looking Glass, that demonstrates this to a tee. I've heard Vinnie and a few other drummers play that tune, but nobody ever captured the beauty and elegance of Tony's version. So that's what I try to emulate, to play with feel and musicality. I think also that because I've played so much commercial music, it's had a good effect on my fusion playing!

4. You've played in many sonic environments over the years, including stadiums and hockey arenas in your days with Kim Mitchell. Did playing in these spaces create any specific issues that are different from playing in clubs and small concert halls?

It was quite an adjustment at first. Everything, including the count-ins had to be larger than life. Early on I would listen to live tapes after the gig and realize that a lot of the stuff I was playing wasn't coming through. I realized that ghost notes had to be louder than I would normally play them and I really had to lay into the toms more...particularly the floor toms. I would start off a tour feeling a little weak but after a few gigs I would really be feeling strong. I had muscles back then!
When we were opening for Bryan Adams across the US in the summer of 1985 I got to watch his drummer, Pat Steward, every night. His nickname was the Axe, and I learned quite a bit about playing arenas and stadiums from watching him. He played loud but with finesse and great feel. Not unlike John Bonham who I saw with Led Zeppelin in 1971. He hit the drums hard, but was loose and had a beautiful swing to his playing.

5. As well as your busy playing schedule you also do a lot of clinics and teaching. Do you find there are elements of music that are getting ignored by the current crop of young players?

Well, I think because of youtube, and the gospel chop guys, and fastest drummer contests, a lot of young drummers are missing the boat entirely. If you took one of these guys and said to him, okay let's hear you play The Weight by the Band, and make it feel great and play tasty fills like Levon Helm did, they wouldn't have a clue. Don't get me wrong, I'm very entertained by the gospel chop guys, but just visualize one of them on a Rickie Lee Jones or Steely Dan session and they start whipping out those chops.....obviously they wouldn't last too long. I try to play a lot of music for my students at lessons and always include Little Feat, The Band, The Average White Band, Steely Dan etc. so they can hear the artistry of the perfectly orchestrated drum part.

6. In your book you do a great job of taking an idea and exhausting most of it's possibilities. Is this a similar approach you take when you're practicing and did you always approach material this way?

Thanks again! I used to transcribe a ton of stuff when I was younger and I think writing things down is what made me think of other variations and possibilities. What if this triplet lick was played as sixteenths, and what if we picked a different starting point? And how about changing the original voicing? So that got ingrained in me and now I always ask myself those questions. You can get a lot of mileage out of one idea and also you can steal someone else's idea and make it your own.

7. Finally, what are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?

Well, we have a new Code CD out, so we're going to start rehearsing and attempt to play some of it live! I seem to be the tribute king these days, so I'm very busy with Brass Transit (Chicago tribute), You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor tribute), Heavy Weather (Weather Report tribute) and I'm still playing with Pretzel Logic (Steely Dan tribute). Still playing with David Clayton-Thomas too, and now I'm involved in a newly reformed version of FM with Cam Hawkins. I also work for Jeans 'n Classics which pairs a rock band with a symphony orchestra. I'm trying to get my own band going again too. We play our favourite fusion covers.
But my main goal is to try to get my theory stuff together enough to try to write one good tune before I die!! Kind of like the guy in RENT.....
I'm thinking about a new book too, but that's a huge mountain to scale!

Wow! Thanks Paul.
I'm just going to add a couple of things.
You can buy Paul's excellent book here.
Also, I think it's telling that so many of Paul's responses reference great players that inspired him. He's obviously checked out so much music and used it to forge his own thing.

Here's a great videos of the man in action,
Here he is playing the drum solo at the coda of "Aja" with Pretzel Logic

...and this is audio Paul playing the tune "Kids in Action" with Kim Mitchell from his first solo album

Rock n Roll that kills indeed!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

I've got a gig tonight and everything has gotten a bit fraught so I'd thought I'd post a few songs I love.

ALL music is awesome and I thank God for it everyday!!!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stickings and melodies

Hey folks,
Here's some examples of using accent patterns that run contrary to sticking patterns.
Most drummers that have been playing for any amount of time learn paradiddles and often accent the start of each set. RLRR LRLL. That helps us keep track of where we are in the sticking and it's also quite comfortable to play due to the double giving us time to set up the opposite hand for the accent.

There's no rule however, that we can't accent other parts of the sticking. George Lawrence Stone's follow-up to Stick Control (Accents and Rebounds) deals with this issue in depth.

We can also use the rhythms from the melodies to standard and Jazz tunes as accent patterns and apply it to different stickings.

For this, I'm using the melody to "Straight Ahead" by Kenny Dorham (from Una Mas), a great tune from a great recording. It goes like this:

YEAH!!! Anyway, here's me playing the melody in accents while playing singles off of each hand, (an A section each to save time) doubles starting with the RH in the bridge and doubles starting with the left for the last A.

That can be quite challenging in itself, but you gain lots of control over your accents that way, especially if the accent is on the first or second note of a double.

Here's the same melody in paradiddle sticking. The other great thing about this is it helps us commit sticking patterns to muscle memory while we concentrate on the melody....

Obviously, use any tune you like and also don't be afraid to work through the sticking/accent combos very slowly, and bar by bar if need be. I certainly have with many tunes!

Of course the stickings you apply to this can get as wacky as you want. Here's the melody with a LRR sticking which keeps circling over the bar line....

This gets very cool as you voice the sticking between 2 sound sources. Here is the same sticking between 2 toms...

Notice how the tonal pattern suggests one thing, while the accent pattern suggests something else!

Here's the same pattern between snare drum and hi-hat, which starts to lead us to Gadd/Garabaldi territory.....

Here's one more sticking (RLLL) and I've voiced this between rim of the bass drum and closed hi-hat with the left hand with bass drum on 2 & 4. It gives it a sort of "Kenny Dorham meets Kraftwerk" feel!

In closing, this can be quite challenging but you can gain tons of flexibility in your accents/stickings this way!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More thoughts on Harmony

Hey folks,
I've been working on some more tunes on piano.
I'm not sure that anyone's interested in how I got into this but to slightly quote Lesley Gore, "It's my Blog and I'll be boring and self-serving if I want to!"
I have been working on learning the melodies and forms to Jazz tunes (but not dealing with the chords at all) for a long time. This is helped me immensely. I feel that I can contribute on a very musical level to any compositions I'm involved with. After a point however, starting in the last 10 years or so, I was starting to feel I had gotten as much as I could from this approach. There is also very "harmonic" music I play with people where playing off of melodies and forms just really doesn't represent the music. In short, I wanted to be involved in all the music.

Then about 2 years ago I experienced a fairly significant professional set back. I wasn't feeling great about it so I decided that one of the things I would do with some of the extra time I had would be to start learning tunes. learning all the chords, work on decent voicings, work on blowing on the changes etc.
I can tell you that this far down this road ( and I'm aware that I haven't begun to even scratch the surface of this stuff) that I am becoming a completely different musician than I was before.
I hear so much more, I understand so much more. Recordings and tunes I have heard countless times over the years have taken on whole new meanings.

Currently, much time, press, and effort is given to musics of the world. That's awesome, but one side effect of this I believe is the tendency of a lot of drummers who have so much rhythmically together to not really deal with the harmony at all. Now most ethnic musics (at least in their purest forms) don't have much in the way of chordal structure. There's nothing wrong with this. It's still great music. Just as a lot of the music of the Classical, Romantic, and Baroque periods in Europe isn't particularly rhythmic, but is great music and well worth studying.

I now believe though, that if one is going to play Jazz, you need to deal with the Harmony as an active participant. This is actually an opinion I would have not agreed with in the past, so I certainly don't expect other drummers to necessarily agree with me.

I understand how difficult and time consuming it feels to take on this huge part of the music. It's something I've struggled with ever since I started studying music in university.
I really believe though, that without this third crucial element of music (along with rhythm and melody), that we will be experiencing music in black and white.
So let's all play piano or guitar, sing or play a horn, and experience the music in the glorious technicolor it's mean to be in!

Monday, February 20, 2012

In praise of Philly Joe

I recently did a gig with Cory Weeds where he was doing a tribute to Hank Mobley. I really like Mobley but there's a lot of his recordings I don't have. I wanted to do some "defensive listening" so I picked up the 1963 recording (on iTunes, $9.99! Believe me there's nothing better you can spend your money on.) "No Room For Squares". Here's a quick taste, but definitely buy the recording!

Philly Joe is on this recording, and he's another drummer I find is an endless supply of ideas and inspiration.
I find influences are a fascinating subject because I think we all have a lot of choice in terms of not only who we listen to but what we do with the material that inspires us.
In this respect I often find Philly seems to be a polarizing figure.
Sometimes I get the vibe from some players that really want to "carry the torch" that nothing Philly did can be molded or changed in any way.
The reason I listen to Philly are the reasons I outlined above, not because I think he's a paragon of Bop virtue and should be treated like a museum piece.
My ultimate goal when I check out musicians like him is to eventually play things that are as hip, beautiful, and creative as what he does, not necessarily play the same things.

I also find with the "hip and modern" folks that Philly is often seen as something older and less "now" somehow and if one is to listen and learn from him too much one is destined to sound "old school".
I also listen, check out, and love Philly, because I find his creativity, killing time feel, and huge musical humour and personality are timeless and part of a continuum. Things he played sound as fresh today (to me) as the day they were recorded. I think it's telling that drummers as different from each other as Jon Christianson, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette all site Philly as a major influence.

I believe that once we're dealing with master drumming on this level, it will help you no matter what style you play. It is transcendent!

I also think that some of these players of Philly's level have something to offer us that most "drummers of the moment" do not. There are very few people in their 20s or 30s that are going to have that amount of depth in their playing, at least yet.
(A notable exception would be Tony Williams, who as a teenager was a master drummer, a creative visionary, and a musical architect of the highest order!)

A couple of specific notes on Philly on this album.

-he seems to be playing a lot of time on his hi-hats throughout the recording. I find him similar to Tony in that he often focuses on certain parts of the kit at certain times, almost seeing how far he can take certain orchestrations.
Again, creativity at this level comes along very rarely!

In the example I posted above he plays backbeats for several of the soloists.
Now, if I was talking about this in the abstract, I would discourage people from playing that, but it sounds great!
This is a great example of how if the player's time feel, sound, and attitude are strong enough, it will support any idea they wish to play.
How many people have enough cojones to play that on a gig these days?

Anyway, enough ranting.
Check out Philly Joe, it's drumming for all time!!!!!!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rudiment of the moment or it's been a long time since we Rock n' Rolled!

Hey all,
I thought I'd talk a bit about backward Flams and Ruffs. I found out the idea of a backward Flam from a Modern Drummer interview with Lyle Lovett drummer Dan Tomlinson.
They felt a bit weird to play at first. I kept my hands in the same position as a normal flam but I had to move the main stroke hand before the grace note hand (unlike normal flams where you drop both hands at the same time) to have the grace note hit slightly later. The same technique applies to the backward ruffs. In both cases there's sort of a cool echo quality they have.

Here's 2 different solos demonstrating the concept.

These sort of ideas fit into my basic philosophy of the rudiments. When we first start playing, they are ways of building strength and flexibility at the drums. Later on though, I view them (and most elements of music, for that matter) as clay that I can play with and form into any shape I want. We can create a beautiful statue, or more likely in my case, a cheap looking lopsided ashtray, but we"re still all using the same basic materials.

Until sometime......

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Open vs. Closed Rim Click Sound

Hey folks,
This is an idea i got from watching a video of Papa Jo Jones.
In the clip I saw he often took his hand off the drum immediately after playing a rim click, creating the sound of the click but also with the drum ringing. Usually when I play a rim click I keep my hand on the drum afterward, which mutes and shortens the sound. Here's a clip of me playing around with the open and closed rim click sounds in a variety of beats.

Try it yourself, it creates some interesting textures.
I think it's important to note that even though I got this idea from Papa Jo, I used it for very different beats than I heard him apply it to. I've said it before, but whether you're into Punk Rock, Reggae, or Death Metal, as someone who plays the drum set, you should check out people like Mr. Jones. He was a serious pioneer, ( hi-hat might have been a passing fad had it not been for him) a sonic explorer, and his approach to the instrument is an unending fountain of ideas and textures.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Just thought I'd post this great Dave Grohl speech from the Grammys. I rarely watch award shows so I got this off of a friend. It perfectly sums up my feelings as well...

...and here's a great Foo Fighters tune I've been planning to post for a while....

Monday, February 13, 2012

More Cory Weeds at the Pilot

Here's a quick and LBE (lazy but egotistical) post.
It's another tune from Cory Weeds' Pilot gig a few weeks ago,
Check out Reg, wow!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brief brush thing....

here's a vid of me explaining 3 different ways to get accents while playing circles and staying on the drum head. I forgot to mention that the amount of brush surface touching the head while playing makes a huge difference in the sound and feel. Elvin's rough, sort 0f raw sound comes from the fact that he used all of the brush surface on the head. Use less of the brush and you can get a more transparent, almost gentile, sound. I've heard people like Peter Erskine use this very effectively.

Okay here's the vid......


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cory Weeds Quartet at the Pilot last week

Here's some video of Vancouver based Saxist, Club Owner, Record label owner, and general force of nature Cory Weeds and his quartet at the Pilot tavern. Also in the band were Neil Swainson on bass and Reg Schwager on guitar. All 3 are people I wish I played with more often. We always have a lot of fun.
Couple of notes of the vid. I was giving folks a ride to a gig at the Jazz room that night, so I thought I'd forgo the toms on this gig. Always a good challenge to keep things interesting and varied.
I also decided I'd mainly comp with the snare on these gigs and use the bass drum for very light four on the floor. Again, a good challenge for me to not comp with the bass drum so much. Finally, I decided to get my sizzle cymbal out. Often it feels like a lot of players overuse that texture so I was attempting to be judicious with it.
BTW. we're playing that oft neglected standard, "On a Clear Day".
I hope you dig it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Large ensembles and their issues

Hey folks,
First off I would like to tell you about a really fun experience I had recently. I was playing in Windsor with Ron Davis, Mike Downes, and the Windsor symphony. Now, any drummers who have worked with an orchestra knows that these situations can be quite fraught, but our experiences playing with Windsor (as well as Thunder Bay) have been great, and I think I can offer some reasons why.

1. The conductor/musical director. Windsor's conductor, John Morris Russell, really knows about all kinds of music, especially styles with a rhythm section that don't use the pulse so much as a means of expression. What I mean is, most of the music I play, once the tempo is set up it rarely (in theory, anyway) changes. In fact, I've always maintained that most drummers could learn a lot from playing rubato more often.

Another thing about John is he's secure enough in what he's doing that he doesn't feel he has to control every second of the time. This has been a very contentious issue for me in the past. The thing is, most drum set players function like a conductor in any band they play in. John trusts me, therefore I am quite willing to cede to him when it's needed as well.

2. The orchestra itself. In the last 20 years or so, I have found that more and more musicians playing in symphonies are very aware of the sort of music with bass and drums and the sort adjustments they might have to make. I find the time feel is much better, they really understand swing feels etc.

On another note about the orchestra, the bassist and I were situated right in the middle of the ensemble, with the strings in front of us and the percussion behind us. Ron was up at the front, where I have been in the past but when I'm that far up all I can hear are the strings, usually.
The percussion section was great and my proximity to them made me feel like I was a functioning part of the section. The timpanist, Jean-Norman Iadeluca was right behind me! He's easily the best timpanist I ever heard, let alone played with, but the other two in the section, Julian Jean, and Timothy Francom, were very strong and easy to play with as well.

Here's a pic of my perc. homies and myself:

They were also great to hang out with and I learned a lot from them.
I would certainly suggest to anyone who has a chance to get orchestral experience. It can't help but change your playing for the better!

Okay, on to a slightly more common animal that the aspiring jazz drummer runs into, the Big Band. This is an area where I see very talented small group players fail to make the necessary adjustments to play with this type of ensemble effectively.

Let's look at some general principles regarding big bands. (And by big bands I tend to mean more traditional settings. The Kenny Wheeler/ Maria Schneider etc. bands are situations where you will find exceptions to these loose "rules" more often.)

1. It's got to groove, above all else.

It's easy to get bogged down by reading a chart and let that affect the time feel, but your first priority is to the time feel in conjunction with the rest of the rhythm section. It's much better to dump all over the reading and be grooving than the other way around.

2. Keep your place in the phrase and the bar.

Again, even if you don't read that well, if you can feel a 4 or 8 bar phrase and keep your place in 4/4 no matter what happens, you have a good chance of starting and ending in the same place in the tune as the rest of the band, and that itself will cover a multitude of sins in between! Practice sight reading on your own without stopping. This will get you used to the "damn the torpedos" approach needed to keep your place in the chart, even if you're making a lot of reading mistakes.
Of course, if you are a lousy reader, if you can even get to the point where you can recognize more quarter note and 8th note figures, you are covering a lot of the material you'll have to read.

3. Clarity is the name of the game.

This is something I hear quite often. Vague, indistinct stuff that doesn't help the band. You want to play set ups and fills leading to accurate rhythmic figures that leave no doubt, even to the the 4th trombone player that has crummy time and never plays with drums any other time, where the figure is supposed to be. If I play something so "hip" that the band clams all over the ensemble figures, who looks like a moron in that case? Yes, the man staring at me from the mirror. I sometimes think of a large ensemble as a semi trailer truck I'm driving down a foggy road at night. The truck can't stop on a dime, can it? So I need to give the band warning of potential "hazards" in the music. I also need to take on more of a leadership role as far as keeping the time than I would in the case of the little sports car that is small group playing.

4. As soon as there are 3 or more horn players in the band, you have to be very vigilant about the tempo!

As opposed to playing in a small group, where there can be an on going "meeting of the minds" and mutual consensus about the time, there will be occasions when you feel like you aren't playing with some sections of the band. This is unavoidable, so get used to it! (It also can create a cool sort of tension sometimes when you are used to it.)
My great friend and compatriot Mike Downes, who was on the symphony gigs I mentioned earlier, was once on a gig with the great lead trumpet player Arnie Chycoski. Arnie probably had more big band experience that most people on the planet, so at one point, Mike told Arnie that the time felt funny and asked him advice on what to do. Arnie's response was telling. He replied. "Of course the time is funny, it's a big band!"
What I'm getting at is that sometimes we as drummers sometimes have to be a bit more adamant (more like stubborn) about the time and insist the tempo be maintained!

5. The roles of the components of the drumset are much more prescribed than in small group playing.

This is again an area where I see good small group players fall down when playing with a large ensemble. Here I'll go through what generally happens with the roles of the drumset components in a big band setting. (Found an exception? Good! It proves you've been doing some listening!)

Ride Cymbal- Generally the main voice in most time keeping. Even if you're playing a Rock chart, you're generally more likely to play more ride than hi-hat because it blends better with the horns.

Crash cymbals- Tends to be played with either the bass drum or snare drum to reinforce long articulations.

Hi-hat- Ridden on during two feel stuff, soft ensemble sections, quiet bossa passages.
w/foot it is almost always on 2 and 4 in this environment. This is another thing I see a lot. Don't muck around with your hi-hat on odd parts of the bar or splash it if you're playing a Basie style chart. it's not stylistic and lessens clarity!

Snare drum- plays short figures on it's own (or with ride backing) for short sounds (especially sounds good with higher brass) or with the cymbal (see above) for long sounds. Can also be used to play backbeats, which for many shout sections is completely appropriate.

Bass drum- Can be used for light four on the bass drum "feathering". You can get away with this a bit louder than with a small group but beware, this is a very easy way to incur the wrath of the bass player! Also used for short (or long with cymbal) figures, especially with low brass.

Toms- Almost always used only for filling. Rarely used for figures unless we're trying to imitate some sort of ascending or descending tonal pattern. Floor tom also for timekeeping in "Krupa-like" situations.

It's interesting, between the more direct approach one tends to use and the very clear roles of the parts of the drumset, I tend to find big band drumming sometimes closer to Rock drumming than small group Jazz playing.

In closing, I'd like to mention that my attitude towards Big Band playing has changed a lot over the years. I saw it as sort of hip when I was younger to tend to underestimate the skill needed to drive a Big Band, and saw small group as "where the action was". I now see both styles as slightly different disciplines that call on different parts of my personality, and I enjoy both. If I "tapped into my ego" with a trio the way I do in a big band, I'd be out on my ear pretty fast. Conversely, if I approached a large ensemble like a small group, I would sound wimpy, vague, and undecided. Again, try to get big band experience, even if it isn't your favorite music at the moment, and watch your confidence, dynamic range, and rhythmic strength grow by leaps and bounds!

Monday, February 6, 2012

4 and 5 letter words

Hey all,
There's been a lot of controversy about some remarks made about the word "Jazz" and what it means. I must admit I used to really hate that word and dance around the subject when people asked me what music I play. ( I suppose when someone asks that they really mean, "What sort of music do you play most often?" because when someone asks me the former question, what I want to say is something like "All of it", or "Whatever someone hires me to play" but I think that response would be perceived as rude or flippant.) After a while, however, I realised that although "Jazz" isn't a very descriptive word for a lot of music I love, neither are most names of musical styles.
The problem is when we're naming music we're trying to describe something so deep it's beyond description. Most words representing God, Love, or Joy don't cut it either, but we've got to call them something!
Let's look at some musical style terms and how inadequate they are.......

Classical- This a word used to denote over a 1000 years of music, from Bach to Bartok and actually also refers to a small era in the music as a whole. it also doesn't say anything about the size of ensembles.

Rock or Rock n' Roll- Originally derived from a slang word for sex (as Jazz was as well). I dunno, I guess these terms are to indicate that the music is supposed to feel good, like the word they're slang for.

Anyway, I think we just need to accept these terms for what they are, a way to market music, I don't think there's any point in giving them attention for anything else.

I am now going to talk about a word I"m having a lot of trouble with lately............Chops!

I believe this term originally was derived from brass players when discussing their ability to play their horns with strength and endurance with their facial muscles. It eventually became an almost universal term for technique on any instrument. Now, as a player who strives very hard to "sing" on my instrument, I actually quite like that this term comes from a wind instrument, just as I like to refer to soloing on the drums as "blowing". Unfortunately, I find more and more that the term chops really should be replaced with "velocity" because that seems to be the only technique that people are referring to when they use this term.
I don't understand why people tend to categorize things like "feel", "solid time", "creativity", "listening" as separate issues from how fast one can play. Hopefully, when I'm practicing I'm working on all these concepts. Do some people really believe that playing behind the beat, for example, isn't a skill that has to be worked on and acquired through hard work and patience? I think this is part of the reason I believe people should only play on a practice pad if drums aren't available. It's great to be able to play fast and clean, but if it's separated from it's context (the drums and the music itself) it's not that useful.
Think about it, what are the first 2 things people hear when they hear you (or anybody, for that matter) play? They first hear the sounds you're making, and 2nd hear the time feel. So if I'm some sort of mega chops guy with a crummy sound and feel, by the time I dazzle you with my "velocity" (not chops), I've probably lost you because I haven't made you want to dance!

Chops includes everything, as far as I'm concerned. Dynamics, reading, memory, knowledge of tunes and styles, even taste! So when we're practicing, let's work on all the music not just the stuff to impress drummers!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Keep building those neural pathways!

Here's a couple of ideas using a 7 beat on again/ off again pattern and mixing it with dotted quarters in 4/4 time.

The first example has me playing a fairly garden variety samba/surdo pattern with the rest of the kit while the right hand plays the on again/ off again 7 thing.

The next one is the same except I'm also playing dotted quarters in the left hand.

Finally, in the last one I'm playing a Rock beat with my hands, dotted quarters with the bass drum, and 7 beat figure on the hi-hat. I lost it a bit near the end. I, as always, remain (as a musician, as well as a Father, Husband, and citizen of the planet) a work in progress!!!


Friday, February 3, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T plus the whippersnappers

Hey folks,
I just wanted to talk about the issue of Jazz and respect. I was reminded of this recently when an individual was being quite disrespectful of a pioneering musician, and I felt I had to say something. On the other hand, when I hear someone do something I think is great, I try to let them know. There's a lot of hard work and sometimes few rewards doing this, so I feel it's crucial that we support each other.

I have to say too, on the positive side, that I have a very good relationship with most of the younger drummers in town. By younger, I mean anyone more than 15 years younger, which actually isn't super young anymore. :( By a good relationship, I don't mean they kowtow toward me or anything, just that they've shown they're very serious about the music.
I've mentioned Ethan Ardelli and Fab Ragnalli before, but there's also people like Sly Juhas, Riley O'Connor, Larnell Lewis, Morgan Childs, and Adam Bowman as well as bunch I can't recall this minute, who are playing beautiful drums in the Toronto area. 3 of these people studied with me, and I mention this just because it gave me an opportunity to see them in their more formative stage. What's interesting is that the 3 drummers weren't necessarily the hottest players in their class or had a ton of stuff together. What they all did have, however, was a certain glint in their eye. You could tell with all of them that they loved to play, that they needed to express themselves through the drums. I also had students that, although they could do a lot of things on the drums, I could tell it didn't necessarily mean that much to them, and a few of them don't play anymore. I think that desire is really important, probably the most essential thing in becoming a musician, because it will help you through all the crap we have to put up with sometimes.
I have said this before, but when I started I wasn't even the best drummer on my block, but my love for music and my stubborn tenacity kept me going all this time. In fact, I would count the 2 aforementioned qualities as the only "natural" musical qualities I was born with. Everything else I've had to work on (with great joy generally, mind you.)

So, if someone's doing something great, tell them you dig it. If someone's not respecting musician. well, they should know that too.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ted's Warren Commission live

Here's some video from a recent hit at The Jazz Room with Kim Ratcliffe, Mike Malone, Mike Downes, and myself playing "Long Ago and Far Away". Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Katie Malloch

This post is about the retirement of Katie Malloch, the host of CBC's JazzBeat, as well as more recently, Tonic.
There have been some very good posts regarding this at Peter Hum's and Jessie Cahill's blogs, however I do feel I would like to add some of my personal experience of Katie and what she's done for Jazz musicians and fans alike, in Canada as well as all over the world.

I first remember listening to Jazzbeat in high school with my friend Jeff Weafer, who came from a family that was always very hip. We heard so much great music (Canadian and otherwise) for the first time there. As I worked on developing as a musician in my teens, I dreamed about someday being recorded for the show, and as Jessie mentioned in his blog, it was a rite of passage for many musicians over the years. As well as being a great, knowledgeable, yet not intimidating host, she was a great friend to musicians. In fact, my stock and credibility as a musician went WAY up with my extended family once I had been on the show a few times.

She was always up on what was going on with musicians. One time when I saw her at a festival gig in summer 1997, the first she did was say. "Ted Warren's getting married", in a sing-song voice. Like a favorite relative that we wish we could see more often, she always wanted updates about pets and kids. I think her manner put musicians at ease, and they often opened up to her in ways they wouldn't to other radio personalities. She once related a story about Tony Williams telling her about the origins of the tune "Sister Cheryl". From what I understand, Mr. Williams wasn't always the most talkative individual, but Katie charmed him like she did the rest of us!

All good thing must come to an end, and I'm hoping Katie will enjoy her retirement with her family and friends. If you're in Toronto tonight, come by the Rex where Mark Eisenmans' band will playing at a tribute to her. I, unfortunately can't attend. I just wanted to say, thanks Katie for your support, dedication, and love of the music. We'll miss you.