Tuesday, August 21, 2018


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

 What is passion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018


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

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

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

RIP Aretha Franklin

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

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Instagram Karma Gonna Get You

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

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

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

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

See? I got yet ANOTHER rant in!

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

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

So, have fun and be a great person!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Electronic drums then and now

 I am a middle aged musician, so I came of age in the music scene of the 80s. It was, admittedly, a strange time of shoulder pads, MTV, and lots and lots of hair gel! It was also a time of electronic drums. In fact, Simmons ( along with a few others ) had a convincing argument that acoustic drums were going the way of the dodo. It certainly seemed like it with musicians like Bill Bruford embracing this new instrument.

Or Terry Bozzio using it in a somewhat more commercial setting.....

Fast forward to today. Most drummers have all but abandoned electronic drums ( except to enhance acoustic drum sets ). Electronic kits are mainly used for silent practice and a small amount of dance music type situations......

So, what happened?  

If I may relay a recent experience, I might have a partial answer.

I went to a local fair in a park near where I live.. There were midway rides, games of chance, food that's terrible for you, you get the idea. Anyway. I heard some music coming from a tent in the distance. It was a selection of classic Rock and since it was obvious it wasn't the original vocals, I thought it might be some sort of karaoke contest. As I got closer, I realized i was hearing live guitar and bass but because the drums sounded so processed and distant I assumed they were playing along to a drum machine. Nope! There was a live drummer, and a decent one to boot. But he was playing an electronic kit so it had that weird combination of slick sounds but turned way down in the mix. I was trying to figure out why everything sounded so cold and sterile, and it wasn't just the studio-esque drum sounds. Then I finally realized that acoustic drums are omni-directional. The sound from them radiates out everywhere! In fact, I suspect this is the reason they were electronic drums in the first place. I get that electronic drums can go directly into the soundboard so they're easy to work with. The problem for the drummer is there's nothing coming back while one is playing. ( When i used to play Simmons drums on gigs, I had to have my monitor CRANKED, whereas with acoustic drums, I rarely need to hear any, other than what's coming off them naturally. ) The problem for the audience, is that it's boring!!!! Whether it's the likes of Mark Guiliana gently caressing at a low volume, or John Bonham slamming, the relationship between stick height and loud/soft is very exciting. Electronic drums tend to neuter that relationship, and it's a drag! Plus, electronic drums sound very cheesy when they're turned way down. My advice to people that are worried about the volume of a drummer would be to hire one that's dynamically sensitive.

Ha! I guess I just posted another rant! Anyway, until next time and acoustic drums rule! 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

One piece at a time Part 3 Toms

I once read a quote attributed to John Bonham that he thought drums sounded better than cymbals. I'm not sure I agree with that, but i would say, to my ears, I generally like the sound of toms more than snare drums or bass drums. There is a very "snare-y" component to a lot of the keeper of the flame type drummers I hear these days, and I  find it tiresome. ( That said, I am NOT referring to people like Buddy Rich,  Philly Joe Jones or especially Kenny Clarke who got so much mileage out of a snare he really didn't need toms! )

So let's hear some examples of great tom playing and sounds.

Here's a great example of some fine tom work from one of the original pioneers of the modern drum set, Baby Dodds. Note how he creates great melodies between the drums.

Of course, one can't talk about toms grooves and solos without mentioning Gene Krupa. Here he is later in his career playing his signature tune.

Here's Elvin Jones demonstrating the depth of Krupa's influence on his use of toms in his composition " 3 Card molly ".

There are so many great examples of tom use in Pop and Rock as well. Here's  Motown masters Pistol Allen and Uriel Jones on Marvin Gaye's " I Heard it Through the Grapevine " . Backbeats on a tom? Who needs a snare drum?!

Finally, here's Jack DeJohnette playing against type and keeping time with just toms, bass drum and hi-hat on Dave Holland's " African Lullaby ".

Now let's get out there and enjoy some tomfoolery! ( Ha! Dad jokes r' me ! )