Thursday, February 27, 2020

Twitter Philosophy and Freedom 55?

Happy Birthday to me. Here in Canada, there's a series of bank ads about retirement that talk about "Freedom 55". Now that I have hit that particular milestone, I do feel very free. Not financially particularly, but I do feel free to express my opinions, musically and otherwise…..

I don't know about you, but I interact with various social; media platforms in different ways. I find Twitter is where I try to leave short nuggets of (hopefully) wisdom I have gained from being involved in music for almost 45 years now. So, here's a selection of my tweets that I particularly liked.

Drummers! The more you deal with melody and harmony in an active way the more you feed your ears, taste, and aesthetic. Challenging? Yes. Worthwhile? Absolutely!

Everybody's self taught, nobody's self taught.

Absolutism in music drives me crazy! I thought this is supposed to be a creative endeavour…….

We all possess an inner Badass. Patience, Perseverance, and Practice will bring it out. DON'T GIVE UP!!!!!

Don't just give us the carefully sculpted thing you worked on in the basement for 6 months, give us the moment!

Once one gets past the beginning stages, the best way to find out  the thing to play on the drums is to listen to all the instruments that AREN'T the drums, and they will tell you what the drums need to do..........

90% of the people who make fun of "the lick" can't even play "the lick" in all 12 keys.

All drummers seem to be able to play with so much velocity these days. Maybe the way to distinguish oneself is to play with NO velocity! Works for me!

Chops come in many forms

I love it when drummers sing songs on the drums. I don't hear a lot of that currently, unfortunately.

Let's try something novel, shall we? When you are contacting a musician to play, how about giving all the pertinent details ( money, gear, location ) and then they can tell you whether if they're free or not. Making them coax it out of you doesn't get things off to a good start.

It's not my game if I refuse to play………….

If you only love the music as far as your instrument is concerned, how much do you really love the music?

The future is always a mystery, so the work helps me stay grounded in the present.

Being complacent is even worse than being broke……

As you continue your musical life,  if you're true to yourself, your message gets clearer.

Roy Haynes should have a street named after him to recognize his contributions to music and culture, while he's here to enjoy it. Can you imagine living on Roy Haynes boulevard? Now, THAT would be the hippest address ever!!!!

Follow the sounds you hear. The will put you in the right direction.

Okay, That's almost 2 years worth. There's lots more if I go further back, so I might do this again.
Thanks! :)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Avi Granite 6 in Edmonton

Just posting some recent footage of Avi Granite's band at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton. I always love playing at The Suite and I think this captures the essence of the band very well. The irony of this showing up now is that I was recently in a situation where someone wanted footage of me and it was hard to find the combination of something that was recent, showed me clearly, and looked AND sounded good… Oh well! :)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Happy 10th and Rumours ( Not Fleetwood Mac Though! )

 NOTE: I have kept the earlier post I posted then removed intact. As far as I can tell, Jon Christensen is still among us. I heard a rumour he is currently unable to play, but, well, rumours are what got me in this situation to begin with! I do have some footage of him playing in 2018 (see below) and he certainly sounds great in it! Whatever his current state is we wish him joy, health and happiness…..

Happy 10th Anniversary to us! 

It's hard to believe I began this blog a decade ago. I have been through massive changes in my playing, teaching, and life and I suspect things will continue to evolve. I appreciate all of you who have been on any part of this journey for me. Thanks so much!

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, a rumour got started that the great European drummer Jon Christensen had died. This thankfully turned out to be untrue and I thought I would use this opportunity to celebrate Mr. Christensen's contributions to music! Here's some of the latest footage I found of him, for only 2 years ago, he certainly looks and sounds great here!

I woke up to today to the news that, as well as great celebrated keyboard Lyle Mays leaving us, that great European drummer Jon Christensen has died. ( This news about Christensen has now been proven false.) This hits very hard for me. Christensen was a massive influence, first with Keith Jarret's European Quartet, but also with the many recordings he made for Manfred Eicher's label. For me, he and DeJohnette epitomized the ECM drum sound and approach, and because Christensen did in a less obviously virtuosic way, it was easier for me to get into as a young player. On one particular Bobo Stenson recording I had on cassette, I remember thinking his drums sounded like a rainstorm, but the drops of water were hitting the drums in the most beautiful way. Playing grooves or completely free, he could do it all and always sounded wonderful.

Here's some early footage of him playing with Sonny Rollins….

And here's him playing with the celebrated Jarrett quartet……

Thanks for the music Mr. Christensen, you won't be forgotten.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Teachers and Teaching

Thanks goes to my great friend and musician, David Restivo, for hipping me to this great Bernstein doc., focusing on his teachers and teaching.

Some of my takeaways?

We are all students and all teachers.
Strong personalities in music giving you seemingly opposite messages is good, and we need to reconcile them and work them out.
Intent is everything.
Be honest with your fellow musicians and students ALWAYS.

But, as all things in music, check out yourself and come to your own conclusions. That's an hour very well spent.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Working on audience chops

A very old joke goes, Q: How many drummers doers it take to screw in a light bulb? A: One, but there are another 20 hanging around thinking about how they could do it better.

I'm afraid I used to be very guilty of this sort of thinking. One of the many problems with this attitude is it leads to not hearing how the drums work with the music in it's entirety, just what the drums are doing, and if it's sufficiently mind blowing in a technical, chops-based way. We also don't appreciate the unique qualities the particular drummer with a group is bringing to the music. They are not doing what we would do? GOOD! We're not up there, that particular drummer is! Could it be they have a very different conception than ours, and we're just not "getting it"? I saw Peter LaRoca play years ago, and didn't like it very much. After checking him out a lot on recordings some years later, I realized that when I had seen him live, my ears were not advanced enough at the time to fully understand what he was doing.

Yes, sometimes we will hear musicians that probably need more experience and craft, but even in that case, let's try to focus on what IS working. If something isn't working, let's try to discern if it's something that's occurring in our own playing, or how we as teachers would address that issue. We can be creative with our listening too.

The other thing with being in an audience and being really judgmental is that it's something coming from our egos, and spreads negative energy. When I'm in an audience now, I'm am listening because I love music, and try to be just as dedicated a listener as I am a performer. I try to focus on what's happening onstage,  how I can learn from it, and how it affects me emotionally. There are just as many lessons from actively witnessing and listening to a performance as there are from playing somewhere.

To close out, here's two contrasting but great performances. The first is Pete LaRoca playing with Jackie McLean on McLean's "Minor Apprehension " . I was fascinated to find out from Scott K. Fish's  Blog that this is the first "free" drum solo on record! Enjoy…

And here's something equally great. I got a chance to see William Prince play two tunes at a variety show last night and was totally blown away. He has such a beautiful warm voice, writes beautiful songs, has a great, honest stage presence, and his band is killing! Check out the title tune from his new recording, "Reliever".

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Combining ideas

Today I'd like to discuss taking 2 or more different ideas and combining them in the practice room. For sure, it's essential not to work on too many things at once, especially when first learning a beat/idea/concept. Shortly after one starts to get it together, however, can be a great time to try and join seemingly disparate ideas together. This helps with thematic thinking as well as making each separate concept a bigger and more accessible  part of one's musical vocabulary.

 Let's try it shall we?

Say I've decided to memorize the standard tune "Alone Together" . Here's a nice example of the tune I haven't heard before.

It's not a super complicated tune, but the form is a little unusual AABA, but the first 2 As are 14 bars each. DO NOT TRY TO READ THIS OR COUNT BARS! Learn to sing the melody by heart ( find a vocal version with the lyrics too, if possible, and learn them as well ) and it will make perfect sense. If you don't, it will NEVER make any sense at all.

Okay, once we have the tune memorized, what's next? Well, how about taking a great, simple idea I just recently saw in the "Four on The Floor" blog,  Triplets & Bass Drum in the Middle  Because this example is short and uncomplicated ( at least in theory, execution is another matter ) it works well to be combined with something, because it can be easily memorized. Again, please work with each idea to get it under your hands and ears before you do anything else. Once you do, try singing "Alone Together" to yourself while you play this exercise. What do you notice? Did you not remember or not represent the tune accurately in any way? Then you need to go back and learn the tune more completely. Did you mess up the triplet/bass drum lick? Then maybe you need to spend more time working slowly on that alone and getting more comfortable with it.

Okay, we've got those two things together, what now? Well, we could really relate it to anything, but here's 2 things I've been adding to whatever I'm working on lately.

1)  Dynamics. One bar pp, one bar FF. Again this is a simple idea, but to do it without changing the lick at all or losing where you are in the tune may be challenging.

2) Making the hand strokes in the bass drum/triplet idea into buzzes.

Obviously, you can combine any number of initially separate ideas in any way you can imagine. My hope is this helps you see the similarities between all the things we practice rather than the differences, so we can use them musically in a variety of situations.

Best of luck and have fun! :)