Sunday, March 31, 2019

This isn't about us......

I recently watched a documentary on a famous drum company. I may post about it in future but that's not what I'm going to discuss today. While watching the doc, the host/drummer, who obviously is a bit jet-lagged as the company he's visiting is in Europe, muses aloud if he has any "chops" left and if there's a possibility that one could use up owns allotment of technique for any one day. Now, it's readily apparent he's being facetious, but it did get me wondering about that manner of thinking. Is technique a limited resource? I don't think so. Once one develops a certain level of physical comfort with an instrument, that doesn't go away, unless one becomes physically or physiologically damaged because of some sort of trauma. At least that's what I believe. Okay, what about ideas? Is there a bank of ideas that one borrows from until your account is empty? I don't buy that either! Have you every listened to someone play and it seems like they never run out of things to say? To write? What causes that?

I think the answer, for me, is that it doesn't come from us. I really think there are higher creative forces, muses, whatever you want to call it, that send us information and guidance, in the moment, if we're open to it. Okay, this where all the atheists get annoyed at me and stop reading, but hear me out...
How do explain music, where it comes from, and the effect it has on us? I really feel it comes from something bigger than ourselves. I don't think we have to give it a name, read the bible, go to church or chant to receive this higher force's transmissions. ( Although if any of the former practices help you do that, by all means go for it. ) I think we just have to be open to it. We need to take the pressure off ourselves to create. To let go of the extremely egotistical idea that everything we do emanates from us. Instead, let's embrace the idea that we are a channel for this higher creative spirit, and work on preparing so that we can receive it's wisdom. How do we prepare? I believe there are a few ways.

1. Calm your mind

A big part of this process for me has been getting out of my own way. That means letting go of negative self talk and judgement, not only when I'm playing but in all aspects of my daily life. Any sort of meditative practice will help with this. There are many meditation videos online or Kenny Werner's great Effortless Mastery books and seminars are great resources. Don't worry if you're getting it right, just get started!

2. Practice your instrument

I think there's a tendency when there's discussion of higher creative forces to think the muse will visit you and present you with a brilliant idea even if you never spend any time with your instrument. Not so! You need to develop a relationship and get comfortable with whatever your physical conduit to the music is. You need to have a loose open mind and technique to receive whatever secrets the creative force is willing to whisper in your ear. Otherwise you won't be ready to hear it.

3. Build your creative appetites

When we're talking about music, this means LISTENING! LOTS AND LOTS OF IT! Listening to music of all styles, played by all instruments and vocals. Listening to the sounds of industry and nature, and finding music in that as well.

4. Be less attached to results

Be willing to accept whatever you hear in your improvisations and compositions. Don't worry if you think it's hip or not, just flow with it.

 5. No matter what happens, love yourself unconditionally

And i mean unconditionally. Not "if I play well" or "If I write a tune that merits my affection". Nope. Being kind and gentle with yourself is a prerequisite to all creativity, as far as I'm concerned, and non-negotiable!

Usually, at this point, I usually post some music, but I think in this case, I'll issue a challenge instead. If you feel this post has helped you, or even got you thinking slightly differently, then please go play, write or draw, etc. If you're comfortable with it, please send me link to the results. If I get some responses, perhaps I'll share some of them in a future post.

Thanks for being here, and celebrate yourself TODAY!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Pet Peeves

This instalment of Trap'd is brought to you by my assistant BartholeMEW MURRay Warren. As usual, he's working hard to make things happen around here......

Speaking of pets, I thought I would share a few of my most persistent pet peeves. One of the biggest has to be......

1. Retro Snare-y Drum Solos

I think I've mentioned this before, but there's a real tendency among current Jazz drummers to play solos that sounded better in the bebop and post-bop eras, you know, WHEN THEY WERE CONCEIVED!!!
They feature LOTS of snare drum language, heavy on a very self conscious use of rudiments, and not much tonal or dynamic variation or independent coordination. Oh, and NEVER any non-Jazz references! That's clearly a no-no! Now, let me be clear, I'm not talking about people like Philly Joe and Buddy Rich etc. who played a lot of snare drum because that's what they heard, I'm talking about current players who play a lot of snare drum because they think  they're supposed to! I find this extremely tiresome! Let's listen to Philly and use him to inspire us to play something THAT HIP, not just regurgitate it!

2. Yet More Instagram Complaints

I discussed some of the many problems with drums-related posts on my "The Drummers of InstaHAM" rant. One problem I hadn't twigged onto then was the absolute dearth of anything remotely improvised on this social media platform ( or so it appears with the posts that come up when I'm searching for drum and music related content. ) I see a LOT of people doing their moves, looking like they were choreographed weeks in advance, with the stiffness of execution that comes with trying to be impressive. Not interested.

3. Cymbal Stands That Double As Tom Stands

To be honest, I seem to be seeing this a lot less lately, but that doesn't change my extreme dislike of this "inventor who has never played the drums" proposed solution to freeing up a minuscule amount of space in one's set-up. Once I can get the tom where I want it, I can't get the cymbal within 5 feet of me. Grrrrrrr!

4. Weird Set Ups

I should probably just quit ever looking at drummers on Instagram.
Saw someone playing one of the written solos from the Rick Latham book. Great, but this person had the snare drum down by their knees!!!! Um, what if you want to play a rimshot?  If you can't get at all parts of the instrument, change something. No cymbals covering up bells of other cymbals, etc......

Okay, enough ranting. Let's end with something positive.
Here's some video of Roger Taylor playing with Queen at Wembley stadium in 1986. Between seeing the Queen biopic and playing " Bohemian Rhapsody" with a choir as part part of my Masters, I've been appreciating Mr. Taylor's unique style. Note how he often opens his hi-hat along with his backbeat on 2 & 4, making it that much fatter. I can't think of another player who does this very often, if at all. Enjoy.

Monday, March 11, 2019

What's in your back pocket?

Recently, I got to play a bunch of great music with trumpet master Jason Logue's new 9 piece band. ( BTW Jason's arrangements are KILLER and we plan to be recording and playing more gigs soon. )
Before the gig,  Jason sent us the arrangements beforehand and after checking them out myself, I decided it would be fun to have some of my students take a crack at playing them. Here's the first page of one of the charts.

Sorry, it's somewhat cut off. I will include a full pdf as well. Now Jason writes very good charts that are very clear and don't need a lot of explanation. What was interesting is that some of the students couldn't get the first part of the chart. Not because they couldn't read, not because the chart was unclear, but because they didn't have a 12/8 beat that they could play without thinking about it.   
Granted 12/8 rhythms can be tricky, so that's even more reason to have one that's "in your back pocket' ready to go!
This got me thinking of how I often teach these rhythms. I usually get the student started on the general vibe of the beat and then give  them 12-16 variations to work on. The problem is, when the tune is being counted off with a band you don't know, a chart you don't know, you're feeling nervous , the sound is weird, etc., you don't have time to think about what you're going to do. You just need ONE thing that's reasonably appropriate and ready to go. If you don't, the attention you need to put on the 10, 000 other musical issues you're dealing will be used for trying to put a groove together you're not comfortable with. So, from henceforth ( Hear ye! Hear ye! ) I will give the student the 12-16 exercises, but I will ask them to pick one that they like the most, and they will have to have it memorized, be able to play it at at least 3 tempos and 3 dynamic markings ( Thanks Joe LaBarbera! ) and even be able to carry on a conversation with me, while still being able to play the beat steadily.
12/8 is certainly one rhythm we should be able to do this with, but what are some others? Let's make a short list.

Back Pocket Beats
Rock (8ths-based)
Funk (16ths-based )
Bossa Nova
Jazz Waltz
Ballad Brush Pattern
Medium Brush Pattern
Darn it! I forgot 2 beat swing, but definitely 2 beat swing!

Play all at at least  3 different tempos and dynamics

Now, there's certainly a lot more beats it would be good to be able to do this with, but this is a good start. Remember, you just have to have just ONE of these beats together at first, but by together, I mean you have to know it inside and out, so there's no situation you can't play it smoothly and effectively in. The source material can be from books, or learning beats by ear from recordings, but you've got to have them be as second nature as breathing. :)

And to conclude, you couldn't do much better for a rock beat or two than from the great Jeff Porcaro, shown here playing, as always with great time, commitment, and taste.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bill Evans Beautiful Love

Just stumbled onto this online. Bill Evans playing with Niels Hening Orsted Pedersen on bass and Alan Dawson on drums playing "Beautiful Love" in Berlin in 1965. 3 great artists at the height of their powers. Check it out!

This is why we play music.
This is why we listen to music.
This is why we practice music.
This is why we love music.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Ed Bickert RIP

 He was a favourite of guitarists, musicians, and just plain music fans in the know. Master musician Ed Bickert passed away several days ago, announced in a statement as understated and self effacing as the man himself. I was a huge fan of his music, and loved his approach as demonstrated here on "Easy To Love". ( Standard tunes were Ed's canvas )

Note also  the fantastic empathy and support both Don Thompson ( Bass ) and Claude Ranger ( drums) provide.

I was fortunate to work and spend time with Ed when I joined the Boss Brass in the early '90s and was always blown away by the richness of his knowledge of harmony, the economy he played with ( which frequently caused me to question the meaning behind things I did or didn't play ) and his dry wit and gentle manner. Ed didn't say a lot, but everything he did say was deep in either a thoughtful or funny way, and was frequently both at once.

Here's a cut from the album he made with fellow Canadian guitarist Lorne Lofsky.  The great rhythm section on this is Neil Swainson and another great I miss a lot, drummer Jerry Fuller.

As great as it was playing with Ed in a big band, it's a great regret of mine that I never played trio with him. I always felt like Ed was like a friend I only saw when I was inebriated and screaming at him!!!

He was also very true to what he was musically, as demonstrated in this excerpt from an interview he gave.

Like all great musicians, Ed created a sound and atmosphere around him every time he played. Other musicians always played quieter, listened harder, and generally upped their game, just by his example.

There will never be another like him.

Thank you Ed, for the inspiration and all the music.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Works in Progress

Hey! The original title for this post was " 2 Brush fills and 7 beat thingy". Not the catchiest moniker!
I don't know what it's like for most musicians, but I stumble onto fragments of ideas all the time. I often jot them down on whatever is handy, so I can remember them for the next time the drums and I go dancing. Here's a current example....

Oh yeah! There's the "natural font" for ya! I didn't say it was pretty!

Anyhow, here's some explanation. The first two things closer to the top of the page are brush ideas alternating a sweep and a "rim buzz" in the left hand. The latter technique doesn't have a name, as far as I know, and " rim buzz" certainly isn't a good one. It involves hitting the drum"s rim at almost a 90 degree angle and then bringing the brushes bristles down to the drumhead as it bounces. Way easier to see and to play than to explain. Don't worry, I made some video. The second brush idea ( sorry, both are in 4/4 but I think the end of this one got cut off ) is using the same alternating technique in the left hand except as the middle note of a triplet. Sort of a "Purdie Shuffle meets Papa Jo " perhaps? Anyway, you could use both ideas as beats, although they strike as more applicable as fills. I think it's just a matter of taste.

Okay, here's both of the brush fills demonstrated....

The other idea is related to the 2 brush fills in that it occurred to me at the same practice session and therefore ended up being written on the same page. I suspect I subconsciously was thinking about a recent Four On The Floor post on something similar. As usual with this sort of stuff, the applications are myriad. Here's me playing the 7 beat lick in triplets with hi-hat on all the upbeats. I'm singing a blues to myself, although I end the idea a bit into the next chorus. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it!