Like a lot of people in these crazy times, I have spent a fair amount of time watching Netflix lately. (Hey! You can't practice ALL the time!) Anyway, one of the shows my wife hipped me to is "Sugar Rush", a baking contest show. I gradually got into it, which is doubly ironic since I've hardly ever baked and haven't eaten anything with refined sugar in it since last April!
Monday, December 28, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Friday, December 18, 2020
Saturday, December 12, 2020
This is a short post but I wanted to relay an old memory that came to me the other day while I was practicing.
First some background…..
In the mid-80s, after getting my Diploma in Jazz Studies after 2 1/2 years studying at St. FXU, I moved back to Regina Saskatchewan and tried to be a working musician as much as I could. Now, I was 20 years old, and I had leaned just enough to think I was pretty hot stuff, that there wasn't much an older musician could show me, and I was easily the best drummer in Regina at this point! (Yikes! I know, right?)
Anyway, I don't know who else was on the gig, or what it was for, but I have a memory of playing in the bandshell at Wascana Park with bassist Ken Coffey. Ken and I worked a lot around that time, and although he was much more experienced than me, he generally appreciated my youthful enthusiasm, and put up with a lot of the stupid b.s. that can often accompany it.
So, we were on the last tune, and I remember it was an up tempo swing number. About 1/2 way through, Ken comes over to the the drums and says, "I can't tell where 1 is". He probably said this 3 more times over the course of the rest of the tune. I want to make clear that while he said this, he didn't seem angry or upset. In fact, I remember him looking slightly bemused. We finished the gig, and I don't remember there being any weird feeling or anything between Ken and I, just the thought inside my head that Ken just didn't get how hip I was……..
There were SO MANY lessons in this that I was too ego-based at the time to learn!
I can't remember what I was (or wasn't) playing, but I'm sure Ken was right! And even if I had been doing something oh so clever and modern (which I wasn't) ], it doesn't matter if you've lost the bassist! HELP A BROTHER (or sister) OUT!
What I'm pretty sure what was going on was I WAS MORE CONCERNED WITh SATISFYING MY EGO THAN MAKING THE MUSIC WORK! Talk about messed up priorities and a missed opportunity. Not only to play the gig better,. but to learn from my folly!
You may surmise I'm looking back on this experience, cringing and feeling ashamed. Actually, I'm not. I'm thinking back on how young and experienced I was in those days ( as a drummer, musician, AND human being) and feeling grateful I've learned a few things since then.
Remember, any honest criticism of what you'er doing has the potential to make you better, and it's a gift!
See you soon! :)
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Once again, I am inspired to RANT! I recently viewed a demonstration on playing up tempos with brushes, and it had some good advice on how to develop this skill. My problem was that the person doing the demonstration said this was a way to play fast tempos without cheating. He never explained what he meant by that but I assume it's using two hands to play the ride pattern, even though many great drummers have done this. (Philly Joe would be a prominent example.)
But this is cheating, apparently….
So what happens when one "cheats"? Do the cops go into the recording studio and issue an ordinance for "2 hand ride usage"? Do they have a seance at your gig (when there is one) and Buddy Rich's ghost takes your snare drum away?
Okay, I'm being facetious, but I really don't understand this mode of thinking at all. I feel the end justifies the means when you're playing and the end is how it sounds and feels. Truth be told, the feel and sound of this person not "cheating" didn't kill me, and it could be that they could create a better sound and feel using 2 hands. Perhaps by dogmatically sticking to a technique as some sort of athletic display one might be "cheating" the listener out of the best feel and sound possible!
I've probably mentioned this before, but I have arrived to a point where I want to get the best possible feel and sound out of the drums with the least possible effort. If that means me lounging in a Lay-Z-Boy ( Pronounced Lay-ZED-Boy!) while I can do everything I want to at the drums, I would call that an achievement, rather than a weakness!
Saturday, December 5, 2020
We are coming to the end of a very challenging year for everyone, musicians included. Even before the pandemic hit, streaming was taking revenues from more traditional forms of music purchase, clubs were closing, and there were more and more talented people around for fewer and fewer gigs. There has been a great increase in online music performances, but people usually didn't have to pay for these, so it's debatable whether this has improved things or not.
There is a possibility that the sun is setting on not only my own career as a professional musician, but for the culture of live music in general. To be clear, I am not wallowing in this, just observing a possible passing of any era. I realize that in my 40+ years of playing, I have had many opportunities, met many people, and traveled many places, and feel very fortunate to have done so .I will always be involved in music, but my ability to survive financially from performing has decreased greatly in the last few years, and I am resigned to the fact that I will need other means to survive that may not involve playing , composing, or recording. Again, I do not feel bitter about this. In fact, I feel grateful for the many opportunities I've had. I do, however, like many of an older generation when looking to the future, feel sorry for all the younger players and the situation they are in. I also regret we haven't done more to leave them in a better place. They will, though, find ways to create no matter what, because that's what we do and are driven to do.
So, just for today, let's play, listen, write, and create, and be grateful….for the music itself.
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Sunday, November 22, 2020
Friday, November 20, 2020
Fairly recently, the leader in a big band in Montreal asked me to remotely record a tune with the band. I have certainly done this in the past, and since covid hit it's become a very frequent occurrence. I filmed myself playing the chart we were doing on my Zoom camera ( they wanted video as well ) . I checked it ( I was playing to a click track in headphones ) and it sounded good so I sent the file to the leader. A couple of days later he sends me a message saying that he would like me to record to a click this time. Confused, I checked the recording I sent him. It still sounded fine and I told him i had played to a click. He then sent me this:
Wow! I was flabbergasted! What's especially weird about this is that it sounds like I'm really dragging. Believe me, my natural tendency is to rush, not head the other way! :)
Anyway, other musicians have told me they've had similar experiences, and I've had it described to me as the different programs not being able to "talk to each other" . Apparently these syncing issues are not uncommon, so they're something to be aware of. Just another example of how we can think that a good take is an absolute "truth" and the time can't be messed with after the fact. But nowadays, anything's possible! :)
Stay groovy! :)
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Sunday, November 15, 2020
Like many life-long musicians (or really anybody), not everything in my career has turned out exactly as I wanted or expected, One gets gigs, one loses gigs, one isn't called for certain gigs, one interviews for gigs and doesn't get them etc. etc. etc. I don't think I'm alone in that I can get quite obsessed with the things that didn't happen. This is far from productive, so I decided to approach things differently when these thoughts come up. I simply switch my thoughts to "what am I grateful for?". It's easy to focus on the negative, and the music business can be extremely heartbreaking, but it's important to not let that paralyze our creative impulses. Feeling super down and can't think of anything to be grateful for? Here's some examples….
-your family and/or friends
-music you love to play or listen to
-the weather and the natural world
-your resilience in a difficult life-path
I could go on, but you get the picture. Also, often in hindsight, we realize that gig we wanted and thought would be perfect for us wasn't at all, and maybe something better came along (or we avoided something worse) by not getting it. Without getting into it too heavily, I feel that all of us have a higher purpose that we might not be aware of!
The fact that we have been isolation for so long is something that many musicians would see as totally negative, but even that has been very beneficial for me. For sure, COVID 19 is a terrible disease that has killed and compromised the health of many people, and I would never want anyone to think I wish the virus hadn't happened and the effects of the quarantine had been achieved some other way. The quarantine (again, not the virus itself) has changed me for the better in quite a few ways.
-My drumming and piano playing has improved a lot. I can't remember a stretch of time when I've practiced daily so consistently.
-My health has improved. As of this writing, I haven't had any alcohol or refined sugar in months and I'm down 2 pant sizes. I also have been regularly walking 10,000 steps and have also enjoyed swimming and bike riding.
-I have had a chance to listen to a TON of music of all kinds
-I have become somewhat more computer and recording savvy due to remote teaching and recording.
-I have had more time to blog, as my post-lockdown output attests to!
I think a big part of being a creative person is being able to see the potential in something that initially is negative, and like anything else in the arts, it gets better with practice. I implore you to try it. What do you have to lose? I believe we are all destined for great things! :)
Friday, November 13, 2020
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
I've never been one of those " I hate drum solos, I only want to support the band"-type people. I enjoy the challenges soloing on the drums requires.
That said, I don't like many of the drum solos I hear. Why? Because there's usually very little context to them, or the context is, to my ears, flawed….
let me elaborate on things a good solo (on drums or ANY instrument) requires…
1. Thematic material/storytelling
So much of what I see and hear these days involves playing something fast/technically difficult, and then moving onto to some other fast/technically difficult thing and THAT'S THE ONLY THING THAT LINKS THE TWO IDEAS! It's like telling a story that only has a bunch of different endings, or a joke that's only several punchlines! You have to get the audience from A to B to C, and sometimes that involves playing things that aren't necessarily hard to play!
2. A reason for the material to exist
This is crucial, and should probably be item #1. What's the reason for what you're playing? If the only reason is because it's difficult and impressive, that's not much to base your narrative on. I think that's why I often find drum solos and clinics ESPECIALLY boring, because they exist only to impress, and really don't take me on any sort of musical journey. ( See item #1)
3. Energy/Interest created from the solo itself
So much of what I hear is a bunch of drum "stuff" played against something, whether it be a (questionable) recorded track, or some sort of vamp. I don't hear a lot of soloing that is compositionally sound in and of itself. Remember, you can use the tones of the drums and cymbals themselves to make melodies, or you can abstractly "represent" a tune through thematic playing etc. Don't get me wrong, soloing over something can be very beautiful, but should never be an excuse to have poor architecture in one's solo.
Now, let's pause for a short intermission while I play one of the great examples of soloing over a vamp Chick Corea's "Quartet No. 2" with Steve Gadd singing/crying/wailing over the vamp! Fantastic! Listen to how it builds!
4. Space, the final Drum Frontier
Mr. Gadd, as usual, provided a perfect segue. The music/solo needs to breathe, so LEAVE SPACE. It makes everything played so much more powerful!
Okay, that's enough grumpy old man stuff for now. Remember when you solo, PLAY MUSIC!!!!!
Monday, November 2, 2020
Friday, October 30, 2020
Friday, October 23, 2020
From henceforth, individuals who play pads more than drums OR post more than 2 incidences of them playing said pads, they will be hereby referred to as "padders" and the activity they are involved in will be named "padding"……..
Thank you, carry on……..
Okay, this first update is sort of rant-y and slightly negative but I think it will be leavened somewhat by the next one. I wanted to talk about a couple of things I've heard lately. Firstly, it was of a young and very talented drummer filmed playing along to a movement form a Bartok string quartet. I've always loved Bartok's music, especially his string quartets, and actually have played with recordings of it as well, although I wouldn't claim to know any of them nearly as well as this drummer does. That's the good part. What I don't care for so much is that he seems like he's hearing it as a track to play to rather than a piece of music to interact with. He is always playing beats, and even fills I'm pretty sure he's memorized and doesn't deviate from, and the result to my ears sounds like a Prog-Rock duet for string quartet and drums…..
Item 2 that got me thinking is a young instagram drumming star. He has LOTS of velocity on the drums and in the first few videos I've seen of him, most of his concept and vocabulary seems to come from Buddy Rich, including his posture and the faces he makes while playing. In his latest video, he is actually playing along with one of Buddy's solos, note for note.
So, why am I complaining about these to particular items? Well, for one thing, no new content is being created. For another, these types of videos seem to be further evidence of a world where the drums are something that plays along to something else to create context, rather than context coming directly from the drums.
I can't help but feel that some of the great pioneers of the drums, including Buddy, Max Roach, Papa Jo, Tony Williams, Sunny Murray etc., would be disappointed by this turn of events, and at least in popular culture, the drum set feels like it's evolution is going a bit backwards. Of course, this is my opinion and my opinion alone…….
Between writing this post and it being published I found out that the great Keith Jarrett, after suffering a series of strokes has lost the use of his left hand and likely will never play again in public. While the news of this is undeniably devastating, it got me thinking about the act of playing music and how temporary in ultimately is for all of us……
Jarrett was arguably one of the world's greatest improvisors, and like many musicians like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins (who is also not playing anymore), and Elvin, seemed indestructible and it felt like he would always be around, playing at the same high level. Of course like all of us, he's human, and in a human body that eventually ages and weakens over time. This, on the quick heels of Eddie Van Halen's passing, is coming at a time when my practice on piano and drums seems at its most productive ever. Please don't get me wrong, I am not comparing myself in any way to the above artists I mentioned. I am, however, feeling like I am still growing and improving as a musician and look forward to every practice session/jam/(occasional)gig etc. I approach. With the events of the last couple of weeks I am also acutely aware that my playing music, and indeed my life, is finite. One of the things that creates beauty is that it is transient. I truly believe that. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring so I will endeavour to make the most of my remaining time as a musician and human, and I would encourage you to do the same. :)
See? First negative, and then positive! :)
Thursday, October 15, 2020
I found this on Linkedin. I generally find I don't get a ton out of this particular platform but I did like the following…..
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
I think no matter what happened with money, fame, or possibly more negative influences in his life, he seemed to be somebody who was completely in love with music his whole life.
Thank you for the music Mr. Van Halen, you will be missed but not forgotten.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Recently I was able to attend an online clinic of Jeff Watts' put on by the Drummer's Collective in NY. it was hosted by fine drummer in his own right, Ian Froman, who did a great job, fielding questions for Mr. Watts, and asking some very intelligent ones of his own. I was only able to attend the first hour, but I came away with some concepts and exercises that I will "share with the class" for those that missed it.
1. On speaking generally about playing metric modulations, Watts stressed the idea of really knowing where own is in the home tempo, and creating a strong resolution when the modulation ends. Without this, he said it would be better to have played strong time rather than any resolution at all.
2. Specific idea for working on modulations. Play any sort of time feel, then the pulse off the half note triplet, halftime, and then dotted 8ths. 4 bars for each modulation (including the original groove/tempo) Play it while singing/hearing a blues form, and whatever modulation you play will show up in a different part of the form because it's a 16 bar cycle over a 12 bar form.
3. Play every rhythm/beat you play in its 8th note and triplet form. Playing Songs? Play it as shuffled 8ths. Triplets? Play the closest str. 8th rhythm you can figure out.
I'm sure there was lots more but, as I mentioned, I had to leave partway through.
I would recommend anyone check out the many online clinics being offered in our current environment. Inspiration is often just a click away! :)
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
I have never believed that some people are creative and others aren't. I do, however, feel that creativity is akin to a muscle, and muscles that aren't exercised atrophy. Now, if one hasn't worked on this before, it can seem a little daunting, but keep in mind creative thinking and acting is often done in small ways. We could apply this to our practicing by doing our routine ( if we have one) backwards, or out of the usual order. Another simple way to get us out of our usual patterns would be to change the placement of components of the drum set. Ride cymbal on the right, crash on the left? Reverse them! I guarantee your usual movements around the cymbals will sound different, and it will take some thought and physical shifts to do them the way you usually do! I recently set up a five piece kit at my practice space and, borrowing an idea I got from Max Roach, reversed the order of the tom mounted toms, like so…..
Once again, habits are broken and "regular" tom patterns take on a whole new challenge.
Other possibilities like changing dynamics, rhythmic grids, and tempos of anything I've gone on about at length before, but what about playing with two different utensils in your hands? Again, a beat you played using two sticks will sound VERY different with a stick & a brush, a mallet & your hand, etc. Along similar lines is using different parts of the drum set than we normally do as send sources. Ever played an idea using the shell of one of the drums? How about the cymbal stand? Moving the snares on and off? These sort of things can be very fun to explore and come in handy, especially in more open/free music settings.
Another really good way to begin a session at the drums is to play something, anything, at the drums and try to make a short composition out of it. By short, I mean it can be a minute long, if you like. The idea, is to take the first thing you played and then develop it so it has a beginning, middle and end. The main thing is not to judge the thing you played, just to work with it. I got this idea from Ari Hoenig, and it can be a great help to developing improvisational skills.
The whole point is, always ask yourself, " How could this be different/changed/varied"? As you make a habit of this, creative thinking and action will come automatically.
Have fun on your creative journey!
Friday, October 2, 2020
Filmed this awhile ago just exploring some sounds. I realize it's a little ironic, me playing on snare drum only, after I give a lot of people grief for their "retro-snare-y" solos, but sometimes it's nice to explore the colours in one part of the drum set, especially with brushes. :)
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
Friday, September 18, 2020
I have an article in the just published issue of Canadian Musician magazine. It deals with Ratamacues and can be found at http://online.canadianmusician.com/mag/0513753001600259540/p28.
Have a lovely day!
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Just a quick application of the classic Swiss triplet sticking ( RLL ) except with brushes. For all the Rs that are on the beat, we'll sweep to the right. For the 2 Ls, we'll sweep the middle note of the triplet toward us, and the last L away from us. I've also used taps with the Right hand to create the Jazz Ride Rhythm or shuffle, and have included some alternate sounds at the end. make sure all your swept notes are nice & legato.
The next example has me warbling "Blue Bossa" while playing a variation of the idea as well as the original 3 beat idea, all in straight 8th notes.
That's it. Nothing especially earth shattering here, but it is a nice chance to work on some motions and coordination with the brushes that might be new for some of us. :)
Monday, September 7, 2020
When I was teaching at Humber College, Michael Brecker was artist in residence. The head of the percussion department, Roger Flock, I think considered himself more of a percussionist than a drum set player, so performances with these guests would be famed out to one of the drum set specialists on the part time faculty. Mark Kelso was on the pat time faculty at this time, and with Mr. Brecker playing a handful of concerts during his residency, Mark was certainly keen to perform with him, as was I. The residencies usually featured the guest artist playing with various configurations of faculty and students, in a variety of musical settings. The faculty performances were to be Brecker with an acoustic group, an electric/fusion band, as well as some other things that escape me. ( I vaguely remember doing some sort of 2 tenor thing with Pat LaBarbera .) What was sort of cool was that because Mark was going to be away most of that week he wanted to play the first concert , which was the "straight ahead acoustic Jazz' one. So, I was to play the "Fusion" concert the next day. I relished the idea of both Mark and I playing "against type", and hopefully, yet slightly nervously looked forward to playing with Michael Brecker the next day. The next morning I got up early to make the hour long journey to Humber for the noon hour concert. I walked into the garage and realized I had a flat tire. There was a possibility of getting the motor club to fix it but, by the time they got to my place, time would be a little tight. So, I decided to change the tire myself. This was a while ago so, 1) the spare tire was an actual regulation tire so driving to Toronto and back on it wouldn't be a problem and 2) I used the owner's manual as my guide as this was pre-Google and Youtube. I followed the instructions carefully and methodically and soon I was on the road towards the college. I'd never changed a tire before, and i found the new experience satisfying and even sort of fun.
I got to the school, parked and then headed with my cymbals and sticks to the auditorium. Brecker wasn't there but the rest of the musicians were there going over the music, which leaned heavily on some of Steps Ahead's music, most of which I was familiar with. As I was setting in and discussing what we were going to play, I couldn't help but notice how nervous and uptight most of the other players seemed, and also how I wasn't feeling that way.. Then it hit me, I had just changed my own tire which I had never done before. I was now going to play drums. Something I had been doing for decades. What could go wrong? IT WAS GOING TO BE FUN!
It was fun! The concert was a success. Brecker turned around to me at one point and said loudly, "You guys can play"! As I mentioned, I played with him again later that week, with similar results. The takeaway for me? No matter who you're playing with, listen, have fun, and give it your all, without self-consciousness. it usually goes well after that………..Thank you Mr. Brecker ( and flat tire) for this great lesson.
To close, here's Brecker playing on Pat Metheny's Two Folk Songs" from then 40 Year old recording, 80/81. Still sounds as fantastic as the day it was released!
Saturday, September 5, 2020
Quick post. I just realized that since the quarantine began, most days I have practiced at least an hour of piano and an hour of drums. So, just to be on the conservative side, say I practiced 5 days a week, and started in earnest by April. That means by now I will have practiced at least a 100 hours of each instrument. I'm not telling you this to brag or anything. In fact, there are many people who practice WAY more than this, as I have earlier in my career. My point is, I have seen a lot of improvement in my flexibility and comfort with both instruments as of late. I've said it before, but if you spend enough time with an instrument, it will start to whisper in your ear, telling you its secrets. The thing is, this is available to everyone! All you need to do is put in the time.
What are you waiting for???????
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Thursday, August 20, 2020
1. Change the tempo
Whatever you're working on, play it after several different tempos, especially slow ones. That's where you'll find out if you really have something together or not…..
2. Change the dynamic
A very similar concept to #1, but now we're working on varying the volume of what we're working on, and not just playing it FF and then pp, but utilizing crescendos and decrescendos too!
3. Change the articulation
Okay, so now you can play the lick faster or slower and louder or softer, but how about the whole thing as dead strokes? Doubles? Buzzes? Or combinations of the aforementioned and the original idea? This will really kick your behind, believe me!
So, as we can see, there are many ways to vary any idea we're practicing to learn it in a more complete way. One of the other benefits of this is, the idea we've been practicing becomes much more available to us in a playing situation if it doesn't rely on a specific tempo, dynamic, or articulation. We can even revisit old ideas and breathe new life into them by practicing this way.
Have fun and good luck!
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
I stumbled onto this great footage of Simon Phillips the other day. For me, he's my favourite of the post Cobham open handed drummers. I always get the feeling from him that he's using his impressive technique to serve a higher musical purpose and this well-constructed solo is no exception. Enjoy.
Wow! he even played the hi-hat with his RIGHT hand for a second there…… :)
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Thursday, August 6, 2020
I'm especially struck by his comments on paying homage, and also his ideas on bigger hi-hats. I have to admit, I sometimes thought that was just a fad, but he makes a lot of sense.
Hmmmmm…. anybody got a set of 19" New Beats? :)
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Great, right? It's so awesome to hear Art Taylor playing, and the great big sound he gets when he's comping but here's the thing, it's very easy in a swing situation to get obsessed with all the independent stuff and ignore our main voice in the situation. That would be the ride cymbal of course. Rewind to earlier today when Dan Weiss was talking on his instagram page about practicing only ride cymbal. I have done this as well, and I think if one is serious about getting their Jazz ride cymbal playing together, it's well worth doing.
Monday, July 27, 2020
Saturday, July 25, 2020
The second type of player tends to either work towards some specific gig coming up ( a lot of classical musicians work this way ) or sort of keep loose on the gigs, and listen to music to "stay in the game". This is a valid approach, especially if someone has been playing for a long time, or one's style of playing doesn't necessarily require a lot of velocity, or both.
Although I have spent most of my life fitting into the first category, about 8 years ago I found myself really not having any desire to practice. At the time, I thought I had "graduated" to this approach due to the fact I had been playing a long time. I later discovered my lack of interest in practicing had been due to clinical depression and that my life was in a shambles. As soon as my personal life improved, my desire to explore the drums, and piano, and even harmonica, blossomed to a level it hadn't been to in years. This is even in spite of the fact that in my current living situation, having access to drums and acoustic piano is limited, but even this has had the paradoxical effect of making practice even more precious and fruitful! :)
Why am I going on about this? Well, in this time of extremely limited gig opportunities, I think we all have to think of ways to keep the music in our lives, even if we're not performing. So here are some ways to think about keeping supple and close to the music.
1. Practice new, and maybe esoteric and challenging things…..
If you are a "practising" type, by all means, keep at it! You can also, however, use this opportunity to practise things that don't normally come up on gigs, and therefore you're too busy to work on them. Don't get a chance to work on modulations and odd groupings with your country band? Now's the time, baby!
2. Check out music you normally don't listen to.
This is something that can apply to both types of players I've mentioned. if you're a metal drummer, check out some Nat Cole. If you play Jazz, check out some music from a far-away culture. etc.
By this, I really mean, play along to recordings. This is the closest you can get to playing a gig without playing a gig and will help keep your instincts sharp, especially if it's improvised music.
4. Check out other forms of art and story telling.
Look at art online, read book, and watch movies and dance to get an idea how artists in those forms reach their audience.
5. Mental practice!
I won't go into detail on this because I've talked about it at length before. I will mention that for folks like me that have limited access to instruments, this can be a real aid to mental wellness and a positive outlook, as well as helping us feel fresh and loose.
In conclusion, I want to state that we can all view this "pause" on performing live as an opportunity. I'm not sure if I'll come out of this period necessarily a more financially successful musician, but I certainly will be a more sensitive and skilled one, as well as a better human being!
Finally, here's a short snare/cymbal solo I recorded in my apartment recently. :)
Friday, July 17, 2020
Monday, July 13, 2020
This is another sort of commercial, mainly for the many types of musical services I offer…
I have gotten my technology together and I am offering lessons on Skype, FaceTime, Messenger, or any platform you prefer. $60 an hour. Times/days negotiable
I have been recording for other people's projects, as well as a few things up my sleeve that I'll be announcing soon. Price negotiable.
Want to get your drum-related work published? I can clean it up, make it clearer, and help you get noticed by major drum/music publications. $60 an hour.
Send me your tracks, pre-production rehearsals, ideas to be arranged, etc. and I can help you make your recording the best it can be. Price negotiable.
Contact me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, July 10, 2020
Thursday, July 9, 2020
Just letting you know an article I wrote on developing a modern Jazz straight 8th note concept inspired by Jon Christiansen is in the August issue of Modern Drummer. My thanks to Mike Dawson for accepting and publishing it.
Thursday, July 2, 2020
Ted Quinlan's quartet, one of the most enjoyable musician aggregations I've ever been fortunate to be a part of, is playing live to air tomorrow ( Friday July 3rd ) on JazzFM 91.1. You can find it online, on your radio, or JazzFM's Facebook page. 5-6PM EST.
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Also, please check out Four On The Floor today for a special Canada Day post featuring some of the best of this country's Jazz Drumming talent. I was very pleased to be involved, and I think it turned out great! Thanks Jon!
Here's one of the "outtakes" from my contribution to that video. Here I am playing my version of our national anthem….
And here's the Boss Brass playing "O Canada' some years ago. Maybe doing an arrangement of this song was Rob McConnell's way of making sure we got a standing ovation! :) Seriously though, Rob was a very proud Canadian.
One of my great memories of playing that chart is playing it on Canada Day. Everyone stood up, I locked eyes with great bassist Neil Swainson in the audience from way across the tent we were in ( because he's so tall) and I tried desperately to get him to sing and him finding this incredibly funny.
Have a great and safe day everyone. Wherever you are!
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
I think what has been going on for me, is I think you can be a capable, maybe even good musician if you have hate in your heart, but I don't think it's possible to be a great one.
I mean, listen to Elvin Jones' performance here with John Coltrane on "Song of the Underground Railroad". Talk about joy and love emanating from the drums!
Let's conclude with wise words from a Baby Dodds interview from the '50s
Now I know that sounds very funny to a drummer to hear me say spirit, but drummin’ is spirit! You gotta have that in your body, in your soul. You gotta have it even in your drumming that go along, you gotta have that spirit. And it can’t be an evil spirit—it’s got to be a good spirit. Now I know it puts you way back to thinkin’, why? Because music is no good if you’re evil. That’s no good. If you are evil, you going to drum evil. And when you drum evil, you goin’ to put evil in somebody else’s mind. Now, first thing you know somebody put the evil in somebody else’s mind, well, what kind of band have you got? Nothin’ but a evil spirit band. That’s what I mean by spirit.
Monday, June 22, 2020
I couldn't agree with him more. As far as his opinions on Jazz are concerned, that's another story! :)
Saturday, June 20, 2020
I made a few notes, especially since I don't know Basie or Sonny Payne's work nearly as well as I should….
Totally swinging at all times.
No matter what happens, everything Mr. Payne plays feels so amazing!
HUGE dynamic range
Payne gets so much drama out of the drums!
Four on the Hi-Hat all the way through ballad version of “Stella By Starlight” ( and all the other ballads)
Just like Donald Bailey. he was doing this way before Tony Williams made it a "thing".
Hi-hat cymbals VERY open for big dynamic range w/foot
He really controls that band with his left foot!
Often playing same things in both bands or 4 on the snare during swing
This results in a lot of clarity. I often feel I'm comping too much in a big band setting.
Playing articulations w/horns always at the perfect volume
He really is a master at playing ensemble hits with the horns.
Showy but never at the expense of the music
If you heard this performance on a record, it would be just as fantastic. The visuals just add to it!
Switches cymbals for different soloists
It's interesting how he manages to do everything he needs to do, yet retains a small group feel and looseness, another thing i have struggled with in big band playing.
He has all the music memorized
This is huge! He's listening rather than reading!
Lots of closed hi-hat for quiet sections
I think this is something players avoid nowadays because they feel it isn't "hip! IT IS HIP!
Okay, everyone listen to tons of Basie. Only good can come from it! :)
Thursday, June 18, 2020
Monday, June 15, 2020
The great Paul DeLong hipped me to this recently. It's a great video on taking John Bonham's tracks and making them "perfect". Very enlightening! :)
Saturday, June 13, 2020
A week ago I attended a Black Lives Matter march here in Guelph. There were 5,000 people in attendance. ( I have been quarantining and have gotten tested. Negative results. Yay! ) It was very positive and well-run, and the experience gives me hope.
What gives me even more hope is on a visit to the aforementioned Ms. Jones' site she has eliminated all references to any endorsements, because I'm sure they have all severed any ties with her. I want to thank everyone who took her to task and showed her these types of statements are completely unacceptable.
Yes, it's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless……..
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Thursday, June 4, 2020
How wrong i was……
I recently became reacquainted with Ms. Jones in another way, mainly due to her racist rant originally published on her facebook page.You can read it here, but be forewarned, it is really quite disturbing and vile. I also found out that, within the music/drumming industry, her views have been known for some time.
After discussing it with my wife, I decided to email Ms. Jones through her website. While the condemnation of her ( especially through the music community ) has been swift, I decided to offer her my take on what seem to be particularly hypocritical statements on her part, especially considering the instrument and styles of music she plays.
I am a drummer living in Canada. Like many, I was shocked and saddened to read your recent comments on Facebook. If these comments were not yours and you got hacked or something. I hope you are able to do everything you can to get the truth out, But, if those indeed are your comments, I am writing to you to ask if you don’t see the irony in some of your statements.
You refer to Africa as a “sh*thole”. Do you not understand or ever have studied where modern rhythmic music comes from? That very sh*thole you describe. Now, I understand many countries in Africa have many complex problems, but referring to that continent that has given us so much in such a disrespectful way is, in my opinion, akin to disrespect of one’s parents, especially as a drummer!
And speaking of parents and lineages, don’t you also find it ironic that you share a surname (even though many of the people I am about to reference got that name from a slave master, and yes, many of people of colour are STILL slaves, even though their chains are hidden) with many great African-American drummers such as Elvin, Papa Jo, Philly Joe, Harold, Rufus, etc.People who developed the instrument AND the music that you currently play? Don’t you think you owe them and their people (who still struggle ) at least a tiny bit of respect?
All I am saying is that as musicians we need to bond together, respect one another, and give credit where credit is due. If it wasn’t for the ancestors ( as well as the current practitioners ) of the people you speak so disparagingly, you and I would be limited to playing, symphonic music, marches, and polkas, and our instrument would be basically unrecognizable.
I sincerely hope you think about these things.
I have to admit I have very little hope that my letter will even be read, much less replied to or thought about in any meaningful way. i just feel that all of us, musicians and drummers especially, have to attempt to engage in dialogue around the unacceptability of racism. We owe music and humanity that, at the very least.
P.S. AND UPDATE FOUR ON THE FLOOR did a great tribute to the recently departed master Jimmy Cobb. Please check it out.
Saturday, May 23, 2020
Friday, May 15, 2020
I played an online solo drums concert a couple of nights ago and it involved a fair amount of specific work towards it ( mainly involving, harp, piano, and performing tracks with myself ). Once I had completed my online gig, I decided i wanted to do something different. I have been fascinated for awhile now with people who drum along to speech patterns. Dan Weiss, for example, has done quite a bit of this.
When I was deciding what to play along with, I realized I wanted something short, but also iconic. I started by looking at a John Lennon quote about how most of the drummers that he met in his early years were idiots, but I found his dry, laconic Liverpudlian delivery wasn't very dramatic, and thus didn't lend that well to the drums. But drama I found, in the form of actor/firearm enthusiast Charlton Heston, in one of his most famous performances. Check it out!
I've already learned a lot around following freer rhythm, and applying drum pitches to match vocal inflections. I also had a lot of fun, so I see myself doing more of this in the near future. Stay safe!
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Monday, May 11, 2020
It also seems as a musician one increasingly is metaphorically outside people's door with a cup in one's hand but the Canadian government's support to artists may be a fleeting thing. In this spirit I have started a Patreon page. Please help support me and my projects if you feel so moved, and stay healthy and safe. :)
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Sunday, May 3, 2020
Among his many other gifts, Allen could come up with these great grooves that were hooks and signatures of whatever tunes he was playing. Super thematic!
Here's a great example of that featuring the jazzier side of Allen's playing….
Saturday, May 2, 2020
In the first video, I'm playing only hi-hat, while singing the melody to Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow". I sang the bridge to "I've Got Rhythm" in the B section because either the bridge to "Ow" is just blowing or I've forgotten it. I start in 1/4 time, go to 1/2 time, then playing the time off the dotted quarters, then to the actual tempo, time off the quarter note triplet, and finally (barely) double time!
Note that it's a little loose in spots, but the important thing is I'm keeping the original tempo in my head, so no matter what happens I can find my way back. This principle applies in ALL modulation situations!
Here's the same idea but this time I'm starting by playing the original tempo, I'm spending less time on most of the modulations, and have also included a modulation that's using 2 & 4 as the "phoney" quarter notes. I believe I stole that from Jeff Watts…….
In the next example, I stay in the modulation (or maybe this would be described as just a displacement?) for awhile. I am singing the Mingus tune "Nostalgia In Times Square/Strollin'" and that is the actual part of the bar I'm in. Written out in the crudest manner possible, this is what my RH is doing…..