Wednesday, June 24, 2020

You play what you think……..

In the course of discussions around my post about Hilary Jones' racist rant,  I started thinking about reasons i didn't like her playing in the first place. BTW, I would never normally mention a player I didn't like by name, but I make exceptions for hate-spewers! Anyway, while doing research for this, which wasn't easy because many websites have taken her videos down. Thank you  drummerworld!  Anyway, while watching her play a sort of quasi-African groove  (oh, the irony upon irony) I found it to be not only stiff feeling, but also cold and distant sounding. I surmise this came from her distance from the actual musicial materials she was dealing with, as well as her prejudice towards many of it's innovators and practitioners. I'm not even sure if she notices this herself, but I heard it loud and clear!

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

Stewart Copeland: Setting Yoursel Up For Success

Be prepared, I have a bunch of these short posts coming out soon that feature footage of someone offering the wisdom of their experience.. Here's the first of a few of them.  In it Stewart Copeland is giving some very solid advice on being a complete musician.

I couldn't agree with him more. As far as his opinions on Jazz are concerned, that's another story! :)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Count Basie '62

Thanks to great saxophonist Steve Kaldestad for hipping me to this. The Count Basie band killing it!

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

Rex Story Sessions # 16

Short post today. I did a short interview and solo as part of a series called " Rex Story Sessions". For those of you viewing this from far away, The Rex Hotel is Toronto's main venue for Jazz performance. It's challenging to accurately convey how important The Rex is to musicians and the music scene in general. I have been very fortunate to perform there hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years and I have never enjoyed a more respectful and encouraging relationship with a club as I have with Tom Tytel, Bob and Avi Ross, and all the great Rex staff. We are lucky to have them. Enjoy.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Bonham quantized and the beauty of the human element

Hey all,
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

My Letter to Hilary Jones Update

Hey all,
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

Loops, and I'm not talking Froot

Follow you nose!
                                                      So, this isn't as much a rant as much as personal confusion. I increasingly see all sorts of people recommending "loops" to play along with. I get that they can be good for working on a specific beat or idea in a sort of isolated way, over and over. Or, although this is a practice method that needs to be used sparingly, a way to practice technical things in time, with the loop taking the place of a metronome or drum machine.
There's a few problems I see with this:

1. FORM!
Navigating the structure of a piece of music is an essential part of playing it. Marking the ends and beginnings of phrases etc. A loop removes all these musical challenges.
A loop will always be the same volume, or in the case of a longer loop, always have the same dynamic curve. A whole piece of music helps us make decisions around item number 1 by using dynamics, or discovering how the person on the recording portrayed this..
If one plays along with a whole recording that wasn't done with a click, the time will have natural,  sometimes almost microscopic "dents'" in it that the person playing along with it will have to deal with. I recently played along with Weather report's " A Remark You Made" and was amazed at how far back on the time I had to sit to match the recording. What was extra interesting, however, is that the feel didn't lay back the same amount throughout the tune. This is nuance that one only gets to experience with the entire tune.

So, in conclusion, just as I say to not bother playing on a pad unless a drum set  is unavailable or its volume unacceptable, I would recommend working on a whole song rather than a loop, unless the tune isn't available.

Now, because I mentioned it earlier, and more importantly, because it's a beautiful piece of music, here is the aforementioned " A Remark You Made". See you soon and stay safe! 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

My letter to Hilary Jones

I was vaguely aware of the drummer Hilary Jones through sites like drummerworld. To be honest, I wasn't a massive fan of what she did, but realized in an endeavour not exactly teeming with women   ( especially then. This was 15-20 years ago) that  she could be a good influence.
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.

Ted Warren
Guelph, On.

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.

Stay safe,

P.S. AND UPDATE  FOUR ON THE FLOOR did a great tribute to the recently departed master Jimmy Cobb. Please check it out.