Monday, August 2, 2021

Philly's trades on "Gnid" and transcribing verses lifting

Hey Folks, we often see a lot of transcribed drum solos, trades, and grooves online. By transcribed, I mean the performances are written down in musical notation. While transcribing can sometimes help us analyze material and help to remember it or show it to others, it's not without it's drawbacks. I have always had the most success with "lifting" drum material, meaning I learn it by ear, then put it on the drum set. There are many reasons I think this is superior. If we leave the written page out of the process, we tend to learn it in a deeper way, and it tends to stay in out memory a long time. Also, the more we develop the ability to hear something on a recording and transfer it to the drums with no intermediary steps, we start to be able to move from our ears to our hands and feet much quicker.

Here's a great example of something I recently lifted. It's Philly Joe Jones trading 2 bar phrases on the tune "Gnid" from Tadd Dameron's Mating Call. It's cool in so many ways. Philly starts the trading. It's short because they are short phrases and they only trade on the first 2 As of the tune. Best of all, none of what Philly plays is super fast or difficult, just wonderful examples of the great swinging vocabulary he had. :) 
So, it's  actually only 8 bars of material. Learn it by ear, and then put it on the drums, I guarantee you'll get a lot of good out of it.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Us (Live At The Jazz Workshop, San Francisco / 1961) - Or, Art Taylor and his Wacky Left Foot!

So, let's check out this great tune by Kenny Dorham (also known as "Una Mas" on a recording from a few years later) with the great Art Taylor on drums.

Let's look at what Taylor is doing on most of the tune. Hi-hat on 2, and the + of 3 & 4. Rather unusual for him, so it really caught my ear! So, I started thinking thinking of and working on ways to incorporate this idea, and you can try them too!

1. Play along with the recording. This is a great way of going between Taylor's pattern and the figures played at the end of every chorus.

2. Experiment with the hi-hat lick plus 4 on the BD, plus various comping patterns in the LH like all the upbeats in the bar, last 2 triplets of every beat, first 2 triplets of every beat, quarter note triplets, displaced quarter note triplets etc.

3. Same as 2 but reverse BD and LH parts

4. Keep Hi-Hat pattern but play str. 8ths and play bossa in other 3 limbs.

5. Same as 4 but play cascara/salsa patterns in other 3 limbs.

6. Etc. etc. etc until death and even after! 

I would encourage anyone interested in Jazz drumming to check out a LOT of Art Taylor. He's a great time player and imaginative soloist. He always gets a big, beautiful snare and hi-hat sound and he's always swinging! :) 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Mick Fleetwood Variations

 My article on a set of exercises I developed from a Mick Fleetwood idea was just published in Canadian Musician Magazine.  (Pg. 62.) Check it out ! :) 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Seven Steps to Heaven (Tony William's solo) & Anthropology - Greg Lewis & Joe La Barbera

Here's a couple of wonderful drum duets from Joe La Barbera and Greg Lewis. Now, anyone who knows me at all would find it odd for me raving about 2 drum set players playing together but these pieces are so well arranged and played, with room for individual expression for each player, it's fantastic!

First up is "Seven Steps to Heaven" where the duo plays the intro, head and classic Tony Williams solo. They also trade phrases and give us a great feel for their individual styles. ( I have been following Joe for many years now, but getting to hear Greg Lewis' great playing is a real treat too!) Great stuff! 

Second on the bill is "Anthropology" with these two great drummers playing not only the head to the Parker classic, but a host of other Rhythm Changes tunes as well. They also do some great trades on this one too.

This really proves how musical 2 drum sets can be if approached musically. Also, Joe seems to improve every time I hear him. As much as he's done in music, he keeps evolving! Thanks gentlemen! It's been a pleasure…...

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

RIP Jerry Granelli

From the Granelli family's FB page…..

We are so sad to report that Jerry Granelli passed away at his home in Halifax, Nova Scotia around 9am Atlantic time this morning. This December, just before his 80th birthday, as some of you might know, Jerry suffered a near fatal case of internal bleeding. He was rushed to the hospital where he spent the next two months in ICU. After finally being stabilized, there were still more time spent in hospital as he slowly recovered while dealing with a number of other long term health issues exacerbated by his initial issue. He recovered enough to finally return home. He has been getting better, going out for longer and longer walks, going to the Y, making friends with a crew of scooter & walker users.

Jerry was a true force of nature, he will be greatly missed by his three children, five grand children and all of the countless people he touched through his music and spirit.

This past Sunday he put on a Workshop: Art In Everyday Life - The Creative Process, as part of the Creative Music Workshop program at this year’s Halifax Jazz Festival. It was attended by people, in person, as well as being simulcast- here it is:

 “One reason why people like improvised music is that it’s a direct reflection of life, not something we thought up. It scares you…makes you think you’re going to die for a moment…do you have the courage to play? Can I move out of my desires and wants, and into compositional choices?”

Jerry was already making plans for a number of new recordings, to produce a play about his life and of course he was looking forward to performing Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas this coming December in Halifax. Next year the plan was another cross Canada tour as well as a tour in Europe. His career spanned 60+ years and Jerry has had the opportunity to perform with the likes of Charlie Haden, Mose Allison, Sonny Stitt, Sly Stone, Ornette Coleman and Vince Guaraldi. Jerry has recorded over 30 albums, his last a tribute to mentors Mose Allison and Vince Guaraldi. His compositions have been recognized by institutions such as the ECMAs, the Junos, The Grammy Awards, the National Library of Congress Sound Archives, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Jerry has spent his life dedicated to the art of improvisation, helping young musicians see the connection between life and the art they create and the ordinary magic of living a spontaneous life. A long time practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism Jerry has been an important proponent for people in all walks of life of meditation practice and living one's life awakened and fearlessly.

A large network of both music and Dharma students will miss his fierce spirit and compassion.

His life and work live on through them.

The only thing I would add to this statement is that Granelli, like Paul Motian and Guy Nadon, was a drummer who pretty much lived the evolution of Jazz in his own playing. He started out playing fairly straight ahead piano trio, but went on to play very open form music.  No matter the style, he always played with taste and imagination. I saw him playing about 5 years ago, and he performed with the fire and energy of a person in his 20s. He will be missed, but not forgotten…….

Fashion show!

Thanks Four on the Floor blog  for the rad shirt! I will wear it with pride! :) 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Can't play something? Transform it!

 This was inspired by a recent post by Joe Farnsworth on Facebook. I can't post it here but I would highly recommend checking it out. He says he's demonstrating some ideas that Art Taylor was shown by Kenny Clarke. He then proceeds to play A LOT of brushes. :) A fair amount of it went by so quickly I just grabbed a couple of things. ( There was certainly lots more to learn but I had a limited amount of time to watch it.) 

So, the following 3 videos deal with what i got from it. Some of it might not even be correct. Mr. Farnsworth plays a different grip than me, has more together on the brushes than me and is much better dressed than me, for a start! Okay, here they are:

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Bits & Pieces ( doubles)

So, I've talked about this before. Don't feel you have to learn a whole ton of material from another player to enable you to create something interesting. This first clip is the results of me playing dotted quarter, dotted quarter and quarter note in a bar with a double stop between my feet. I heard Marcus Gilmore do this on a recording with Chick Corea and thought, "That's something I never do". Then I added doubles in 8th notes with my hands, Voiced between hi-hat & snare , it has a bit of a Tony Allen Afrobeat vibe (although it's significantly easier to play than most of his beats! ) 

Not only is it not necessary to lift a whole big idea, but even if you get the lick incorrect it can lead to some cool things. I saw a Dan Weiss post on Instagram where he was using broken doubles (double strokes where each part of the double is on a different surface) and playing "melody" notes on the snare. For this, I used the melody to Monk's "Oska T" on the snare and the non-melody notes with RH on floor tom, LH on small tom. Remember, the sticking is RR LL throughout, no matter where the snare melody notes fall.

And of course there are 10 bazillion ways to vary these ideas. Thanks! :) 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Al Jackson Jr.

 Here's some great footage of Al Jackson Jr. playing with Booker T & the MGs. 

A few observations:

Check out the big dynamic range! 

Even when he's chocking the cymbal on his left side, he switches hands and brings his RH to the snare to keep the backbeat going.

Even though it's a shuffle feel, he keeps his timekeeping to quarter notes and occasionally goes to triplets in his fills. Very elemental, in the best way! 

Also he's bending the pitch on the small tom near the end of the tune. he was a colourist while still taking care you the groove! Enjoy! 

Friday, July 9, 2021

E.E. Cummings inspiration...

 In an interesting example of serendipity, I was listening to an interview with Colin Moulding ( ex-XTC ) where he mentioned the quote below as inspiration for his newest single and the same day Dan Weiss featured the quote on his IG page. Great minds think alike. Anyway, here it is…..

To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.

- E.E. Cummings

There you go. Lots to chew on there……………..

Monday, July 5, 2021

Levels of Interaction

 Peter Erskine's Infinity Drummers List is the gift that keeps on giving. recently, he posted this great track from The Yellowjackets featuring the incredible Will Kennedy on drums…….

Cool groove, huh? And here's Mr. Kennedy explaining the main beat he played…..

Also worth mentioning is how Peter Erskine described the performance on the recording.  please note how Will keeps things bubbling and interesting without ever losing focus or the groove. He is a master at improvising within the "fusion" rhythm section arena ... exciting without blowing his cool.

Of course Mr. Erskine is absolutely right, and that got me thinking about how we as drummers have balance different amounts of keeping the form, groove, and interaction with the soloist depending of the style/situation we're in.

Let's take a look at a very different example. Here's Rashied Ali playing with John Coltrane on Trane's tune "Ogunde"

Now, there's definitely a "Head" in the sense that there's a melody that's played at the beginning and end, but the band plays rubato throughout so they're not necessarily thinking of a groove, more like keeping the momentum going while filling up the sonic space. And as far as the blowing goes, they're playing off the spirit of the melody, but otherwise it's definitely open….If you don't generally play styles like this, it's good to play along with open form music to figure out ways to support the soloist and create variety without necessarily playing in a strict tempo.

Now, here's an example that plays against type. Although Tony Williams was very at home in Avant Garde  musical situations, he also knew when a tune needed a relentless groove as a "hook". I won't tell you what the tune is, but if you've heard it more than once, you will recognize it from the first couple of bars….

Also note that Tony doesn't really deviate much from that groove the whole performance through. Certainly he follows the dynamics inherent in the tune and the soloist's needs, but for a drummer who could play lots of crazy things, HE DOESN'T. Why? Because that doesn't suit this tune…….

I think what we can conclude is that we as drummers are constantly navigating how attention we're putting on the form/arrangement, the groove, and the soloist and/or vocalist. There is no "one size fits all". it totally is situation dependent. As always, use your ears, both when enjoying other's performances as well as when you're in the driver's seat! 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Today is a day to listen, learn, and reflect

It's no secret that the first people who lived in the land we now call Canada (and still do. See diagram showing percentages of population by province/territory)) have been treated horribly by the Europeans that "settled" this nation. 

It is time for the descendants of the settlers to listen, learn, and make reparations. We have to do so much better………

UPDATE: Please join me in this course (you can take it for free online) from the University of Alberta). I started it a few days ago and I've already learned so much!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Extreme Listening

 Extreme listening is probably a misnomer, but I wanted to talk about focused listening today. Simply put, it can be as basic as listening with no distractions. I like to practice listening (to recordings) at home as intensely as I would on gig, and try to give it the same sense of responsibility. Try to learn everything you can each time through the recording. As an example, I randomly pulled up this recording from my library.

Wow! Fantastic. Louis Hayes is someone I really have slept on, and I'm going to address that! But here are some brief notes I made on one pass through the recording. I can't say I'd never heard it before, but I don't think I'd listened to it in such an active way before. Okay, here goes…

Notes on Phineas Newborn Jr. “Juicy Lucy” 

Trio, Pno, bass, drums,

4 bar piano intro

AABA tune, 

2 feel on the As in head, 4 to the bar on bridge

higher dynamic on bridge in head

4 feel for solos

Piano solos first

plays 8ves, busy stuff too 

four on snare and  piano comping in second chorus of piano solo for first 2 As

bass solo 2nd, dynamic in piano and drums significantly lower 2As

“Shout”in B section

Last A back to the head

2 bars tagged 3xs

4 choruses in total

So, not bad. As you can see, the first listens are about a lot of the macro issues of the recording. These include things like form, how many solos, instrumentation, overall dynamics etc. But this is just the beginning. In subsequent listenings you can get to things like dynamic curve and interaction between soloist and drums, and specific drum things you want to lift, is the tune a contrafact of another tune, listening to each player individually all the way through, etc. This is where the real deep learning takes place and of course, can be a great alternative to physical practice as it's easily as, if not more important.

Happy EXTREME listening, but don't be chicken about it! :) 

Friday, June 25, 2021

4 (On The Floor ) Way Coordination Variations (To go with summer libations!* )

 So, why create content when you can just steal someone else's hard work? :) 

Seriously, before you read any further you need to go to this recent 4 on the Floor post.

Now, check that out and get that together, which is a tall order in itself! As I was doing that myself , I came up with some variations on Mr. McCaslin's thought-provoking and challenging material. Let me be clear, this is not about "one-uppersonship", but rather a demonstration of how the creative process is often a collective one, where ideas are shared and discussed, even if it is only in an online fashion.

Okay, so once you've got Jon's exercises reasonably well in hand you can…..

1) Make all LF notes splashed hi-hat. 

2) "      ""     "       alternating splashed and closed hi-hat.

3) Make all non-cymbal or bass drum notes either buzzes or dead strokes.

4)  Make all bass drum notes muted (sticking the  beat into the bass drum head).

5) "" "" "" alternated muted and open notes.

6) Divide the triplet ideas between RH and LH. Snare plays dotted quarters. BD plays quarter notes.

7) "" "" "" Snare and bass drum alternate dotted quarter notes, either start w/ snare or bass drum.

8) "   ""       """     Snare and bass drum play dotted quarters in unison.

9)  "" "" Snare and bass drum play dotted quarters in doubles.

10) Same as 9) but sn & bd play the pattern in paradiddles.

11) As originally written but left hand moves to another drum or cymbal every stroke

12) As any above but sing any blues head while doing it. You will notice that the dotted quarters work out over a blues evenly, so it's also a way of checking if you're playing it accurately.

13) Oops! Lucky 13! I almost forgot. Practice as is but experiment with different ride rhythm articulations. i.e. Accent on 2& 4, accent on the skip beat, more of a dotted 8th/16th feel etc.

Obviously, these are just a small sample of the mischief one can get into with these.

Also, I realize these coordination exercises can be very challenging, but just stick with them, and as Jon rightly mentioned, play slow and steady. I often compare coordination on the drum set as like a series of rooms with doors at either end. One struggles to get a door open, you then get comfortable with it, and then the next door appears! 

Rinse and repeat for the rest of your life!

Much thanks to Jon for these great exercises. Remember, when another musician gives you a challenge, it really is a gift! :)

* I haven't had any alcohol or sugar in a year and a half, so please enjoy whatever refreshes you! I highly recommend one of the naturally flavoured soda waters currently available! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

And now a word from our sponsor, ME!

 Just a quick note to let everyone now I am continuing to offer lessons, both online, and in person with the correct social distancing. You can contact me through here, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (drumjoywithted) 

Monday, June 21, 2021

Ostinato Bravado ( Mmmmm…I'm craving Gelato!)

 Hey all,

If there has been theme to my drumming practice the now year and a half of weirdness we're experiencing, it could be foot ostinatos. I have used this time to work on left foot clave, over the bar line foot patterns etc…..but I was recently reminded of a great clinic Ian Froman did and that inspired this latest group of exercises.

In a nutshell, Ian has a concept of opening up and making one's time feel more modern through subtractive processes. In other words, he talks about leaving notes out of the ride rhythm, and interrupting the constant 2 & 4 on the hi-hat. This is what the first two exercises are demonstrating. I then added in the bass drum, and the rest is various combinations of the 2 feet. 

I feel we sometimes overly complicate things with foot ostinatos. They don't have to be super busy or complicated. In fact, one of the cool things about a repeated foot pattern is it allows us to leave space with our hands, but the actual ostinato can sometimes have space in it as well. These can be used as grooves or solos. I view them as like a good soup base or pizza crust. Once you get started , you can add anything you wish! :) 

Friday, June 18, 2021

What's My Motivation?

 As we're nearing the year and a half mark of no to minimal work for music-makers, I'm reminded of the cliche acting line, "What's my motivation?". This is apropos for all musicians as this time as we have to balance, even more than usual, the void between art and commerce. I recently compared re-heading and putting new snares on, accessing all my cymbals etc., to the owner of a bus company who has all their fleet in the garage for maintenance, but is unsure if the the wheels will ever roll again. I got some very heartfelt and kind responses to this, but most people thought that meant I was giving up music. Nothing could be further from the truth, but I am harbouring doubts about whether I ever will make even a meager living from playing the drums anymore. Perhaps because I have never made much money from playing,  I am quite prepared to find another way to pay my bills, and in fact this process has started already. If some sort of" live music boom" ends up happening when things open up and more people are vaccinated, nobody would be happier than me, but I'm not counting on it. Perhaps I'm fortunate, but I studied music for  at least 10 years before I became a "professional" at it. During my early years of study, I developed a love of learning about music for it's own sake, and that has helped me immensely during this time. I'm currently working on soloing on "Giant Steps" on piano. Is anybody clamouring for me to do this? Definitely not. But I'm having a great time and learning lots.

Don't get me wrong. I miss so many things. The camaraderie with the band, waitstaff, and audience, the team effort of making music, hearing a band and peers develop, recording, etc. But there's more to it for me. I'm on a path, and will continue on it for as long as I'm able.

So, ask yourself, "What's Your Motivation", and decide. It's your choice and your choice only……..

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Yes, it is another rant but it's short!

 I get that drum, cymbal, and stick companies are trying to sell product. They are  in business after all.

However, the sound, feel, and concept of what happens to those objects comes from YOU!!!!!!!!!

Case in point, the first time I saw Elvin Jones play, he was playing borrowed cymbals he'd never seen before, and it sounded like it always it. It didn't matter!

And speaking of Elvin, here's his trio with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison playing "Keiko's Birthday March" on the BBC. Enjoy!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Thank you, yet again, Peter Erskine

 I'm not going to lie to you. Recently ( this was written in mid-May) life has been challenging. I have had a very slow recovery from a knee injury, there are no gigs of course, and I haven't been able to play a full drum set in over a month due to the current lockdown. What's keeping me sane? LISTENING! And to that end, I have decided to listen to ( and eventually play along with) every tune on Peter Erskine's Infinity Drum Playlist. Here it is on youtube….

And here's the Playlist spreadsheet with Mr. Erskine's illuminating notes on each track…..

Phew! 300 and some recordings, with new ones being added every day! I am about 80 or so in, and again I'm not going to lie to you, I was amazed and how many recordings (drummers) I didn't know! Rather than beating myself up for this, I instead am enjoying all this great music I was previously unaware of.

It's also interesting to observe my reactions to the different tunes, styles, and drummers. There's a lot of "Wow, I slept on that" exclamations to a lot of the small group pieces, a great appreciation of a lot of the fusion and big band recordings, and some tunes that really GET to me emotionally (The James Brown, and Michael McDonald tunes, in particular). There's also occasionally things that I probably wouldn't have gone out of my way to listen to, which makes the playlist even more handy as there's something to learn from every tune on the list. It's also cool to see how the tunes reflect Erskine's own experience and demographic (he'd be about 10 years older than me, I suspect) through the inclusion of the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson big band stuff, for example.

So, thank you Peter Erskine. Not only for so many of your own great drum performances, but for sharing these recordings with us and will keep me engaged, sane, and learning until we can play again! :) 

Friday, June 11, 2021

The music is where the music is

 Hi folks,

It must be all the time off, but I find myself extra rant-y these days. Today is no exception. I continue to be bombarded with warm-ups, chop builders, practice pad etudes, etc. I think it's important to stress that all this-physical-functioning-at-the-instrument is just a MINOR part of what we do!

We absolutely need to

-be able to read music

-know forms and melodies of many tunes

-be able to interpret and memorize new compositions quickly

-listen deeply, not only to the other musicians around you, but yourself as well

-have a sound that you desire, and not just play any old way (see above)

-be able to shape a band's sound and vibe with our playing

-groove, in every sense ( this includes rubato music)

There are so many people out there that constantly play at one dynamic, or one style, or always play the same stuff behind a soloist. Do yourself a favour. learn a standard tune ( if it's a great American Songbook tune, learn the lyrics as well ) and CREATIVELY apply it to something you want to do on the drumset. Making exercises out of drum books is okay, but it really is then just taking you a step further away from the music.

Thanks, and happy musicality!

Monday, June 7, 2021


 I hear a lot of musicians complaining about the tunes they are required to play. Yes, I agree some tunes seem "hipper" than others, yet when we blame a lacklustre performance on the material we are playing, we abdicate a lot of our personal responsibility and power. Bill Evans described tunes as "vehicles". In other words, we can inject whatever we are playing with as much life  (or death) as we want.

I've probably mentioned this before, but the first time I saw Ray Brown's trio play, they opened with "You Are My Sunshine" with Ray playing the melody. It's probably not the most amazing composition ever, but it sure sounded great when they played it! Sure, they could have played some more obscure original tune, but they started with "Sunshine". Everyone knows that tune, and it got the audience on board IMMEDIATELY.

Even if you're playing tunes that don't include improvisation, do what actors in the theatre do and create "the illusion of the first time".  You want to make your performance always sound fresh .

As well as Ray Brown, Sonny Rollins always has played music familiar to all and added the hipness himself! Here's a concert he did in Montreal where he opened with the Dolly Parton hit " Here You Come Again". Sonny sounds great of course, and check out DeJohnette's serious badass shuffle! 

In conclusion, if you find yourself disliking a certain tune, find a way to rearrange it, or change what you're playing, or change your attitude to what you're already playing etc. Accept your boredom/frustration with a tune as a challenge, and as a creative person you will find an innovative solution! I look forward to hearing it! 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Interview with Pat Labarbera: A Tale of Two Drummers

Wow ! Check this out. Noted Bassist/Educator/Author Ronan Guifoyle interviews Pat Labarbera about his work with Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones! 

It's a fantastic interview and even offers some insight into possible tensions between Elvin Jones and Tony Williams.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

The 14-Year-Old Aesthetic

 When I was 14 years old, I had been playing the drums for 4 years. I hadn't really played with a band, other than concert bands. What did I appreciate in drummers I saw and heard? Flash, speed, volume, and spectacle. That was about it. As time went on  I learned about what it takes to be a team member and make a band sound great. I listened to music and tried to learn why the drummers (and other musicians as well) made the musical choices they did. I tried my very best to serve the music the best I knew how, and still strive for this everyday.

Why, do you ask, do I bring up the idea of a 14 year old boy's aesthetic?


Everywhere I turn, social media is filled with stick-twirling, no dynamics playing, self attention seeking, frankly….IDIOTS! 

And the worst part is, most (but not all, mind you) of the industry, from publications, to instrument companies, etc. is ENCOURAGING AND CELEBRATING THIS!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean, if I was just starting out, I would probably feel if I didn't have blistering hand/foot chops and some sort of gimmick, that I wouldn't have a place in the music world. As well, I probably would have ignored all the things that have kept me working as a musician. Things like reading, brushes, blending in an ensemble and dynamics, various feels, and listening, to name a few.

I sometimes feel worried about where the drums are headed these days. I believe the pioneers of this instrument didn't give their whole lives to developing the modern drum set so self-centred kids could do circus tricks in the pursuit of "likes". There has GOT to be more to it than this……..

Okay, rant over. Throw away your practice pad and learn how to make a band sound and feel great…...

Saturday, May 29, 2021

David⚡Bowie - The Last Five Years, BBC documentary (2017)

I just saw this great documentary from the BBC about David Bowie's final years. I think his late work is some of his best, and it was interesting to hear about his Broadway show, Lazarus, which I was only peripherally aware of.
It was also strangely personal to see someone in the doc whom I had worked with, and frankly didn't like my playing that much. This has been coming up for me lately. Situations where teachers and or fellow musicians don't like what I'm doing. The doc is great no matter how one looks at it, but here's a few things that I learned from Mr. Bowie and was reminded of…

-Be brave
-Take chances
-Trust your instincts
-The fact that not everyone loves what you do is a good thing
-Challenge yourself, and your audience

Thank you Mr. Bowie. Your artistic approach to life is a great example to us all……..

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Charles Mingus Sextet, at the Konserthuset Stockholm, Sweden, April 13...

 Thanks to my fellow Avi Granite 6 bandmate Neal Davis for hipping me to this killer footage of Mingus' band in the 60s!               

Got to listen to WAY more Dannie Richmond! :) 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Legends of Jazz Drumming Part 1 & 2

I am frequently amazed by the discographical and historical knowledge of many of my peers. It seems fairly ridiculous, but i have never seen either part of this documentary all the way through. I find part 1 especially illuminating because of how much pre-bebop drumming I feel I have yet to learn. Anyway, check these out and I have made a few notes that you can peruse after…..

Okay, here are my impressions. You may have completely different ones, and that's not a problem. You may also see/hear things differently after repeated viewings, which I certainly recommend.

- Louis Bellson is a great host, and his, Roy Haynes', and Jack DeJohnette's insights are very illuminating

-Lot of early hi-hat players play 4 on the hi-hat w/foot (early coordination).

-Also lots of four on snare drum, four on everything!

-Papa Jo seems to be the first major drummer to start developing independent coordination.

-Also playing open handed, almost 100 years ago!

-Papa Jo is a BIG part of the large ensembles moving from that sort of stomping style to the time being much more nuanced and sensuous.

-Ray Baduc really can get around the drums at a relatively low dynamic level.

-Sonny Payne is never anything short of spectacular.

-I think one of the keys to Shelly Manne’s fat snare sound with brushes is that he seems to be using all the bristles, yet he has a very different sound than Elvin, who tends to do the same thing. 

Sunday, May 23, 2021

NEW! Analog Geek Podcast

 Hey all,

I've have just started a podcast, you can find it here.


RIP Roger Hawkins.

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Drummer

As I have said recently, the net is such a strange place. I started one evening trying to figure out who the drummer was with Woody Herman when I saw the band play in Regina in the early 80s. I didn't find out for sure, but I came across the name Dave Ratajczak on a Thundering Herd record released around the same time. This research into Mr. Ratajczak's work lead me to a short film he starred in, entitled The Drummer . ( Sorry, I can't seem to embed it, but just click on the link. ) Dave Ratajczak, as well as being a great drummer, has real presence on the screen. So many elements of the movie ring true, especially the weird social experience of playing a wedding where you haven't met any of the band before and are assumed to be the leader because you got to the gig first and that you and the rest of the group live together like the Beatles in the HELP movie! Also worth noting is the sexism directed towards the female vocalist as well as the economic realities of trying to survive as a musician in a big urban centre. Most films about musicians I find incredibly phoney and inaccurate, but  Bill Block (director) did an amazing job!  I would encourage all musicians to see it.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Terry Chambers - Episode 35 - The ProgCast with Gregg Bendian

Yay! Gregg Bendian has just interviewed XTC's original drummer, Terry Chambers. Fantastic! 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The revenge of Mr. Taste!

Here's some GREAT footage of Ed Thigpen playing with an all-star pickup band for a TV series in 1958.
As I've mentioned before, the Oscar Peterson trio stuff with Mr. Thigpen, as great as it is, really doesn't show a lot of what he can do. The trio really doesn't represent what a fiery, swinging presence Ed Thigpen  was. This video along with the live big band recording with Oliver Nelson are a great place to check out this more aggressive side of "Mr. Taste". :) 

Monday, May 10, 2021



Blast Beats                                                              

Instagram/Tik Tok Fame                                         

Massive hi-hats                                                       


Super obscure world music beats                           


Drum Festivals                                                       

The latest hip drummer                                         


Playing on vamps                                                  

Odd time signatures                                              

A particular grip                                                     

Playing like a drum machine                                  


Being clever                                                            

Gospel chops                                                         

Latest IG Hero/Heroine 



 Sunny Murray/Allison Miller


Communicating clearly

 Classical snare studies

Playing dynamically

A loose, comfortable grip

 2 feel on the high-hat

 Playing on form of a tune

 Slow Bossas

Open solos that tell a story

 Fred Below

Long running music venues

Stick Control/Accents & Rebounds

 Knowing melodies/forms of tunes

 Playing gear you think sounds best

 Presence and Respect from musical peers

 Papa Jo Jones

Keep in mind, these are just my opinions. Go develop your own.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Legato Brush Exercise

This is a pretty simple exercise that I believe originates with Jeff Hamilton. Check it out.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The 3 Bloggers Part 3 : technique

 Hi and welcome to part 3 of the series where Four on The Floor, Cruise Ship drummer and I all write about a given subject. This time we're talking about technique, specifically on how it relates to the drums.

What is technique? Well, one definition of technique I found states that it's a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure.

I bring up this definition because often technique is equated with "velocity". I suppose speed is one tiny aspect of technique, but there's so much more to it than that. I'm now going to take us through all the things that, for me, define technique.

1. Time feel

I have never had a " you got it, or you don't" philosophy. To play good time at various tempos and styles, is challenging, and must be practiced! Sure, everyone has tempos and feels they gravitate towards, but to truly fill in the gaps, we have to work on this tempos that are challenging to us. Case in point, I am naturally a very ahead of the beat player, so to learn to lay back better, I had to practice playing behind the metronome, and play along with great back of the beat drumming, and to learn to place the feel where the drummer on the recording was. Like most aspects of music, time feel is something we work towards, and is a HUGELY important technique. I'm also including playing rubato in this! That's another technique that's frequently ignored.

2.  Dynamics

This is ignored a ton by people. Playing the same things at different volume levels while maintaining time and groove is challenging, to say the least. Proud of your blisteringly fast single stroke roll? Let's hear it at ppp. If you can't do it, your technique is not what you thought it is.

3. Sound

Closely related to dynamics. Simply put, what do people hear when we play, and is it what we intended them to hear.  Where are we striking the instruments? If I'm hitting rims constantly, it may be I have some sort of "concept", but it's more likely I have to refine my technique. This is part of the reason I don't put much stock in "pad practice", because it doesn't deal with sound at all, unless you're going to play a practice pad on the gig!

4. Creativity

Another thing that gets better the more we pay attention to it. If we constantly try and find different avenues, sounds, and textures it tends to perpetuate itself! Don't be satisfied with doing the same things?having the same set up/checking out the same music all the time. That's bad technique, as far as I'm concerned! 

I think because velocity can be easily measured ( they don't give out those pseudo wrestling belts for being able to play a really slow, sensuous Bossa!) it's often focused on at the expense of all the above considerations.

5. General Concept of the drums

There are a lot of different ways to approach playing this instrument. Over the course of my career, I realized I wanted to be working with the drums. I view my instrument as someone I am singing or dancing with. To be honest, I hear a lot of ham-fisted and stiff drumming out there. I think when one's first goal is to be impressive and fast, the drummer becomes more like someone colonizing and controlling the drums rather than someone engaged in a dialogue. The latter is what inspires me. Just a few of the drummers doing this ( and I'm bringing this group up because I've heard these players most recently ) would be people like Joe LaBarbara, Allison Miller, and a delightful young drummer I was just hipped to, J.D. Beck.

As people who read this blog know, I rarely "out" anyone, even when I don't like what they're doing. I will, however make an exception for the renowned ( for her racism rather than her drumming) individual Hillary Jones, who exemplifies the "colonial" style drumming of which I speak. This shows up as much in her drumming as her words.

I guess what I'm getting at the end here is, how are each of us going to approach technique, and I think deciding what's most important whether it be fast single strokes, grooving like Levon Helm, or Instagram-ready stick twirling is something we all have to figure out.

Okay, now go work on your technique.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Live From My Drum Room With Stan Lynch - May 30, 2020

  Here's another one of John DeChristopher's great interviews. This time with long time Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch. There's a great, scrappy quality to those early Tom Petty records, due in no small part to Mr. Lynch. Here he offers many insights into the role of session drummer vs. band drummer, vs. producer, thoughts about his sound etc. It was also heartening to see his now vintage Tama kit behind him, as I had read that he never plays drum anymore, and sold all his kits. Thankful the internet got it wrong again. Anyway, enjoy! 


Monday, April 26, 2021

Things I'm working on

 This is inspired by a recent Cruise Ship Drummer  post. I'm always interested to hear what people are practicing. As I've mentioned before, I really enjoy practicing, even after playing for 45 years! 

Maybe before I talk about what  I'm practicing, I'll also talk about the why and how. :)

Obviously, people at different stages of their development practice different things. I used to practice sight reading music, every day, but it's been a long time since I've done that. At this point, my reading ( at least with non-pitched instruments) is either good enough to get through whatever's thrown at me, or if it's super challenging, I either get the music in advance or I practice super challenging in the short term to "ramp up". I'd say at this point, only about 1 in 6 gigs (when we were working) requires any reading beyond looking at a lead sheet and interpreting it.

- I tend not to practice pure technique. At this point, I want everything I look at to have some sort of application. If I am practicing single strokes, for example, I will practice moving round the drums, or playing something with my feet underneath. One thing I have been working on is "push/pull" things with my hands (either off the rim, the so-called "one hand roll", or just in the middle of the drum or cymbal.) I currently put them into beats at various tempos, and I do seem to be getting better control of them with either hand.

-Speaking of the feet, I seem to have spent a lot of the pandemic working on foot ostinatos. A lot of the typical ones I've spent some time on, like left foot clave/salsa bass drums, but also have made up some of my own involving 3 and 5 beat patterns that go over the bar, or even odd groupings within the bar.

-Whenever I hear a feel on a recording that I like or seems unusual/challenging for me, I try and play along with it. I still think this is a huge challenge! If you can stay with the recording for it's whole length without ego-ing out on your own playing and losing where you are, you've probably really learned something!

-Working a lot on beats/ideas that utilize articulations such as buzzes or deadstrokes to create variety.

-I try to improvise short "pieces" often at the beginning of my practice.

-Trading, soloing and playing over vamps. Practicing playing rubato.

-I also try and review my last day's practice by either expanding on it or simply seeing if I can still play it a day later! This really helps with thematic thinking. In fact, at this stage, I'm just thinking about the whole time I've been playing as a 45 year long practice session, with some breaks! :) 

-Also continuing to work on other instruments. One of the cool things about that I tend to work on really different things with each axe. If I'm practicing harmonica, I play 12Bar 3 chord blues. On piano it's mainly Great American Songbook and Jazz standards, learning to play the melodies and how to improvise on the chord changes. On ukulele, it's Pop songs I sing along to. Although I've mentioned this before, it bears repeating that these other instrumental perspectives have helped my drumming immensely!

So, this is what I'm doing. People will practice different things depending on their needs. Assess yours, either on your own or with a teacher, and then get cracking! 

Thursday, April 22, 2021


 Just a quick announcement that Cornerstone Records has digitally  re-released the Mike Murley album Time and Tide. The album is  sort of transitional and the handful tunes I'm on are only my 3rd recording, I think.

You can download it here.

…and from that album here's Jim Vivian's tune "Parabola"

Man, it's quite something to listen to something I recorded ALMOST 30 YEARS AGO! Jim, Murl, Dave, and I have all grown as musicians (and people) since then, yet at the same time there's an essence, a kernel of truth, that's been there the whole time. To observe this sort of growth in oneself and others is one of the great pleasures of being involved in music this long. I highly recommend it! :) 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Cymbals: Get to know your palette!

Cymbals are such a personal statement of a drummers sound, so I thought I'd post a few thoughts and concepts  on today's blog.
I've been thinking about this lately as my drumming peer, Joel Haynes, was mentioning to me about purchasing some Funch cymbals and loving them, but having to engage in some trial and error to find the right instrument to "play nice' with his old K Zildjians. I've had the same issue with just my old Ks. I have found that once I muted my 22" K with a bit of tape, it sounds different enough from my 2 20"s to all work together, although I haven't tried it on a gig lately! Have also realized that, even if I have all 3 cymbals in my set-up, I still need a thinner "crashier" cymbal as well. I've probably mentioned this before, but although I'm super fussy about ride function-type cymbals, I've never met a crash I didn't like! 

I feel another important consideration with cymbals is to play them for awhile, to really discover what they sound like and what they can do. Both Ed Thigpen and Elvin Jones have referred to the "colours' cymbals create, both alone, and when played together. So, don't give up on a cymbal before you've discovered what it can do and it's taught you how to play it! 

That said, I still might not have reached my ultimate K set-up, and might have to do more wheeling and dealing. :) 


Friday, April 16, 2021


What's the first thing we hear when a drummer (or any musician) plays for us? We experience their sound, of course! Yet many teachers, myself included, do't talk about sound on the drum set very much. Why? Well, in a pedological environment, sound can be a tricky and subjective thing to evaluate. I also feel many people think that because sound production on a drum or cymbal is a relatively simple thing, (after, all, don't you just hit the thing?) that there's not much one can say about it. But say about it I will! Let's look at ways we as drummers can improve our sound.

1. Listen! 

This may seem pretty basic, but many drummers don't listen to the sounds they're making. That's why I don't recommend practice pads when an actual drum set is available and practical. It doesn't matter what fancy and impressive things are achieved on a pad because we don't play pads in performance! Also, only play the sounds you mean. Many "accidental" sounds on drum set can include:

- cymbals and/or drums hitting each other after we have played them.

-playing on an odd part of a cymbal or drum out of physical habit, rather than musical need or concept. This can include playing near the edge of the cymbal when riding it, playing toward the outer rim rather than the centre of a drum, hitting rims often, missing intended rimshots frequently, etc. Let me stress that ANY sound of a drum or cymbal is fair game and will be appropriate at times, it's just they have to be intentional! 

2. Tune!

Now, this will mean different things to different people. I would recommend listening to drums and cymbals of players you like and try to determine things you would want in your sound.. Does the player you like have theirs snares tight or loose? Do they tune high or low? What relationship between the top and bottom heads creates the sound you like?  Do they even have bottom heads on their toms and bass drum? Are the drums muffled or ringy? Do you like the toms to dip in pitch? Cymbals bright or dark? Thin or thick? Do you like your drums sound with brushes but not with sticks and mallets? Some of these things will also depend on the type of music you're playing and the sonic environment the style tends to have. In all cases, don't be afraid to experiment with tuning, muffling, and cymbal choice, and if one plays a lot of different styles, they may need for more instruments to be purchased or compromises made. The more you listen and experiment, the more you will develop your personal appetites of what the drums should sound like.

3. Listen Part 2 (in context) 

This is also style dependent. How loud of soft should you play with the band you're with? How does your sound mix with the rest of the ensemble? How does your sound change when you go from playing with a distorted guitar to a muted trumpet, for example?

In conclusion, developing own's sound is easily as important as anything else we practice on the instrument. We ignore it at our peril! 

Now go develop your sound! :) 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Jack DeJohnette - John Scofield - Larry Goldings - Trio Beyond 2006

What is there to say about this? Except that in the current "look Ma, I'm doing circus tricks on Instagram" world we're in, it's beautiful to see high caliber musicians playing improvised music in a completely, honest way!

Friday, April 9, 2021

Andy Newmark: Reflections and current music

Although the internet is a strange place, it undoubtedly has made the world smaller. I recently read a piece that Andy Newmark had written about the great Jim Gordon, which I've reprinted here….

 I sat 5 feet away from Jim Gordon, in the drum booth at Trident Studios in London, as he recorded Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain in 1972. I was Carly’s road drummer and played on a few tracks on her No Secrets album, however I wasn’t cutting it when we recorded You’re So Vain. So Richard Perry, the producer of that album brought in the heavyweights. Jim Gordon, Klaus Voorman, and Nicky Hopkins to record You’re So Vain. Carly’s road band, which included me, was sidelined for half the tracks on that album, except for Jimmy Ryan who played on everything and played that great guitar solo on “You’re So Vain”. Anyhow, I was totally cool with Richard Perry’s decision to bring Jim Gordon in. I was in London for the duration of that album, as road bands often were back then, on call at any time. I saw this as an opportunity to watch Jim up close. I had been listening to Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner ever since Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I asked Jim if he would mind if I sat in the drum booth and watched him play. He was totally cool with that. So I watched Jim do 40 takes (Richard Perry was famous for doing a lot of takes) of You’re So Vain. You see, back then the live performance in the studio had to contain all the magic in the basic backing track. There was no fixing it or replacing parts after the track was recorded. You could repair little things but the vibe and groove had to be all there in the performance. Perry pushed players right to their limit. I liked his style. He had a vision and wasn’t going to stop till he got it out of the musicians. He made great bloody records that all stand up today under scrutiny. He always used the best players on his records. As a player, working for Richard Perry was a step up the ladder in session world. It meant something. Anyhow, I watched Jim like a hawk for 4 or 5 hours, playing that song over and over again. It’s one thing to hear a player on a recording but to see a player playing live is a whole different ball game. Body language reveals so much about where a drummer is coming from. Seeing Jim play up that close, and fine tuning his drum part, was like getting intra veinous Jim Gordon…his DNA being injected into mine. And I got it, big time. I saw what he had and what I didn’t have. But not for long. I really understood where his notes were coming from and went away from that session knowing what I had to do to improve my act. Jim never played a rim shot on 40 takes of You’re So Vain. He hit the middle of the snare drum so hard that the head was completely caved in, in the middle. It was a 6 inch crater in a perfect circle. He hit the exact same spot every time he hit the snare drum. That means all his backbeats sounded as identical as humanly possible. Engineers love consistency from players. I was suffering from total rim shot dependency, playing tight, funky and snappy, New York style, like Bernard Purdie. I am a New Yorker. Jim had that West Coast lazy thing going on. His notes seem to have length. They breathed. Legato drumming I call it. There was all this air around each of his notes. And his groove was so relaxed and secure and comfortable. It was like sitting in a giant arm chair that fit perfect. He made all the other players sound amazing right from Take One. And he made the recording sound like a real hit record right from Take One. I was blown away. The tom tom fills were like thunder. I still copy him doing that today and think about him in that room every time I do it. I put my left hand on the high tom and my right hand on the floor tom and play straight 8th notes (both hands in unison) that crescendo into a chorus. Just like You’re So Vain. His drumming was intelligent and impeccable on that record. There was no click track either and Richard Perry was very demanding when it came to tempo. (By the way, click tracks have ruined pop music today). Don’t get me started. That’s something else I had to improve on. Playing time. I’m still working on that. Jim nailed that track at least 40 times and every take on the drums was brilliant and useable as a final drum track. However Richard Perry wanted to hand pick where Jim played certain fills and all the other cats too. So that’s where a studio musician’s discipline comes into play. You have to play the same track for hours and maintain the feeling and learn every note in your part till it’s written in your DNA. Then on top of that, you have to take instructions after each take from the Producer telling you exactly what to amend or delete in your part. It’s a lot of mental work going on. Not all players are cut out for this kind of disciplined playing, and designing a part. That’s what great records are. Great parts. Jim was like a computer. He did everything Richard Perry asked of him and still kept all the other stuff going in his part, take after take after take. And he hit the drums so damn hard. His snare drum was monstrous and it wasn’t even a rim shot. I was stunned at the power in all his notes. He saw that whole drum part in his head as if it was written on paper and handed to him. And take after take, for maybe 4 or 5 hours with breaks, he played it spot on every time. I got it…big time. Thank God I was replaced by Jim that day. What I got from that experience took my playing to another level completely. I put funky drumming on the back burner after watching Jim and started trying to make my notes real long, relaxed, with lots of air around them, giving each note it’s full sustain value, and even tuning my drums so that the notes would sustain for their full value. And every note was thought out. That’s what Jim did. He didn’t play any throw away notes. Not one!! Not even an unintended grace note on the snare drum. That’s what making records is all about. You have to own and believe in every note you play. Every 8th note on your high hat has meaning and character and tells a story. You can’t just be playing mindless time with a back beat. Drummers who do that sound bored and uninvolved. A drummer has to be involved in every note and put life into each one. This is what Jim did. I know this for sure. It’s a subtle thing but it makes all the difference in a player. Discipline, restraint, and conviction in every note. That’s when real music starts to happen.”

Andy Newmark, November 9th, 2013.

I had never seen this before and was blown away by Andy's candour and humility. What I also appreciated was the description of Gordon at the height of his powers, doing what he did so well. Often, because of his history, Jim Gordon is only seen as a tragic figure,  so I appreciated Andy's writing featuring Mr Gordon's  contribution to music and drums.

I contacted Andy to tell him how much I appreciated this, and he was kind enough to get back to me. We discussed many things, most of it personal so I wouldn't get into it here, but most importantly, he sent me a link to a youtube video of a tune he recently recorded. Here's Side Trip - Featuring Andy Newmark, Philip Lassiter, Andrew Ford, Troy Dexter and Mario Rossi. Check it out!

Ah, it's wonderful to hear a nice spacious groove like that. Not only that, but to hear a drummer in a Smooth Jazz/Backbeat situation where they aren't playing rimshots or have the snare cranked to infinity is extremely refreshing! Anyway, lovely music.

I think it's also important to note that some of the great studio drummers like Newmark, Jim Keltner, Bernard Purdie , are playing better than they ever did. If they aren't as visible, that says way more about the music industry and it's youth obsession rather than any of the great playing they did, and still do! 

Finally, here's a great interview that John DeChristopher  did with Andy recently as part of his "Live From My Drum Room" series. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Newmark tells it like it is. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Toronto Jazz Festival: Stories From Home

 I've just been featured on the Toronto Jazz Festival's "Stories From Home" series….

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Saskatchewan Suite

Thank goodness for Chronograph Records! In addition to the new Al Muirhead album I mentioned a couple of posts ago, they have also just released a recording of the premier performance of "The Saskatchewan Suite". The Suite was written by Fred Stride and beautifully recorded by Miles Hill. who also played bass on the project. We only had a few days to get A LOT of music together, but I think it turned out really well. There is a great deal of musical talent hailing from Saskatchewan, and I was honoured to be involved in the project. The package from Chronograph also includes a DVD of the concert, some excerpts of which can be found below…….

Monday, March 29, 2021

Yet more Cannonball! (Cannonball Adderley Quintet feat. Joe Zawinul (Oslo, 1969) NRK (c)

Once again we have Europeans to thank!  Here's some great footage of Cannonball's band playing in Sweden in 1969. There's a weird edit at the end, and there seem to be more footage that I hope to find in the future!

Man, check out how beautifully Roy McCurdy handles all the different tunes with so much taste, style, and economy. Also, you can bet you won't be allowed to have an ashtray beside your large tom at a gig anytime soon, unless you're using it purely as a sound source! :) 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Al Muirhead Quintet - Album release-Live from Frankie's and The Yarbird

The accompanying 3 videos are from the Al Muirhead Quintet sound checking at The Yardbird Suite in Edmonton doing a tour several years ago, some of which will be documented on the album released tomorrow. As I look at these, it's hard to figure out what I miss most, my bandmates, the great people at the Suite, touring, problem solving on the bandstand etc. I hope someday to be doing this again, in the meantime, it's nice to have reminders like this. The album will be available through Chronograph Records. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Drummers of XTC Part 3

 In the third instalment in my series on drummers that have worked with XTC, I spoke with Chuck Sabo. Mr. Sabo is especially significant in that he is the last drummer to record with the band, the fantastic results of which are documented on Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2). Before we get to the interview, here's some biographical information about this musician's long and varied career.

Chuck Sabo (Charles Edward Sabo Jr.) was born August 22, 1958, and grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in a family of non-musicians. His parents supported his interest in and aptitude for playing the drums, and he began his career playing in cover bands in the Allentown area.

Sabo moved to New York City in 1980 at age 21. While taking drum lessons with Sonny Igoe he worked moving furniture to subsidize his music career. In the early part of the decade he made his first significant industry connections, recording his first major label project (1982's The Eleventh Hour)[7] with Tom Dickie and the Desires[8] managed by Tommy Mottola.

He also played in the early 1980s in New York City with the Comateens, and his stint in NYC ended after he recorded their final album, Deal With It, in 1984. After touring Europe with the group to support the album, he decided to stay in London.

He began his UK career being offered gigs with two bands, Decadence, managed by Mick Rossey, who was also managing Flock of Seagulls, and Glasgow band Talking Drums, who were managed by Miles Copeland. He went with Talking Drums and moved to Glasgow for a short time, but soon returned to London, where he played with a number of bands and became further known on the music scene.

In 1988 he was the session drummer for √Čtienne Daho's album Pour Nos Vies Martiennes. The following year he toured Europe with Daho.

Sabo played on Martyn Ware's 1991 British Electric Foundation album Music of Quality and Distinction, Vol. 2, which included recordings with Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Terence Trent D'Arby, Billy Preston, and others.[9] In 1992 he played on Tashan's 1992 album For the Sake of Love, produced by Ware. He toured with Shakespears Sister and played on their album Hormonally Yours as well as Right Said Fred's album Up. In 1993 he was the session drummer on Take That's album Everything Changes. In 1994, while he was recording Marcella Detroit's album Jewel, its producer Chris Thomas arranged for Sabo to play on the last track ("Duets for One") on Elton John's Duets album. That led to sessions for The Lion King soundtrack, where Chuck played on "Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and "I Just Can't Wait to Be King." Sessions with Kiki Dee and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark followed.In 1997 Sabo played on Natalie Imbruglia's hit Grammy-winning RCA album Left of the Middle and toured with Imbruglia supporting it.

In 2000, Sabo played on XTC's final studio album, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). His work the following year included Jimmy Nail's album Ten Great Songs and an OK Voice, and a return engagement with Imbruglia for her second album, White Lilies Island.

The success of the Natalie Imbruglia project and others enabled Sabo and his then-wife Jeanette Landry to set up a home studio, where among other projects they wrote and recorded with singer Sally Ann Marsh, who was later signed to Jive Records. Her success led them to a publishing deal with Dalmatian Songs in the U.K. and with BMG in the rest of the world.

In 2003, Sabo performed on three albums that Brian Eno produced, Roy Orbison - 'You May Feel Me Crying'  On the Platinum Collection Album, The Pet Shop Boys, and 808 State  'Lopez'.

In 2007 he joined the drum faculty of the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London.In 2019 he released three singles, "This Cowboy Ain't Going Home," "The Politician," and "Keep Running Forever," in advance of his forthcoming debut album Running the Human Race[and a single ("Dark & Rainy Street") co-produced by Chris Thomas.

If you've heard any of Chuck's many great recorded performances, and would like him playing on your recording, he can record tracks and send them to you! How great is that?!!! You can contact him via his website.

Although there were many artists we could have discussed, Chuck graciously answered my XTC-centric questions. His replies, like his playing, were concise, yet thoughtful and illuminating.

How did XTC come to be aware of you?

Matthew Vaughn, the programmer, who had worked with the producer before, recommended me as I had just finished recording The Lion King with Elton John and Matt was on that project.

How did you learn the tunes? Did they send you the tracks beforehand?

No, I never get the tracks sent beforehand. I just listen to them, make a chart of the arrangement and how I'm going to approach it, and then just go in and play it.

When you were tracking with XTC was the whole rhythm section recording at the same time or were you by yourself?

I was by myself with the guys ( Andy Partridge & Colin Moulding ) and Steve, the producer in the booth. I was tracking along to the instruments that had already been recorded. 

Were you aware of XTC before you played with them?

Oh yes, I was aware of their songs, particularly their hits, but I've become much more aware of them since, I have to say.

Did most of the direction regarding the song come from the writer , either Partridge or Moulding?

Definitely, yes.

Did Partridge and Moulding differ in their methods of recording their songs?

No, but they were similar in that they made suggestions about the drum parts rather than demands.

Did either of them express any preference towards certain drum textures or sounds, or did they just say " Go to it"? 

Once I got set up and got the drum sounds, they were already pretty happy about things. Andy didn't suggest, but he did ask if I'd ever tuned the drums to any particular key, which isn't something I've done. I just tune it to my ear, and if there's any problem with the tuning in a song, I'll re-tune or mute the drums a little bit, so there's not so much ring.

Everything went really smoothly. There were very happy with the drum tracks. When we started, I think they only had 2 or 3 songs in mind for me to record, but we ended up doing 7. A couple of them had drum tracks already, which I replaced.

Were there any tracks that were more challenging or you had to think about more than others?

No.  However, Maypole was different than most pop arrangements and my chart took slightly longer to write out before I played it. 

You were one of the last people to record with them as a band. Did you get any sense that things were coming to an end or they were getting tired of working together?

I didn't feel that. In fact, we all went out for dinner on a couple of occasions. What I felt most,  was their frustration with their record labels and how that had taken the wind out of their sails.

Was there anything in particular you learned from working with XTC?

Every session is different and enjoyable for different reasons, but no, nothing stuck out except that it was a great session, and I enjoyed working with the guys.

…..and for those of you who just can't get enough XTC, I'm posting interviews with Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge from Gregg Bendian's great series The Progcast. Enjoy! 

Monday, March 15, 2021

How to truly listen | Evelyn Glennie

I was recently introduced to this video by my Ukulele teacher, Cynthia Kinnunen. BTW, if you're interested in learning the Uke in a fun, low pressure environment, she has a ton of great courses available! I'm having a blast and learning a lot! 

Anyway, the video is a TED talk about her experiences and listening etc. She talks about the music as eloquently as she plays it, and her insights are fascinating! 


Four on The Floor recently had a post with Ms. Glennie performing a 30 minute press roll, which is really with checking out too! The more we listen, in the many ways we can do this, the more we learn!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Many Roads to Rome

                                                                                                                              Quick post today

 I don't care if it's an open air venue! The drums are STILL too loud! 

I think with all the information on music we're flooded with these days (and I realize that I'm contributing to this as much as anyone) we're led to believe that there's certain books that we HAVE to go through…..

This really isn't the case, at least as far as I'm concerned, so today I'm going to look at what many people view as "standard" literature and talk about my relationship to it.  Hopefully this will show that although some concepts may be very important, we can arrive at them in a variety of ways…

1. Stick Control

This was a very important one for me. Whatever hand chops I possess are due to Mr. Stone, and the book can be adapted in many ways. That said, it can be excruciatingly dull, and it certainly doesn't have a lot of pizzazz! Some people have told me the Tommy Igoe "Great Hands for a Lifetime" exercises work very well, and I'm sure there are many other similar resources available.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Progressive Steps to Syncopation

Otherwise known as the Ted Reed book.

I did use this one a fair amount, but I would say people tend to get a little obsessed with it. This book, like Stick Control, has the problem of having exercises that are arbitrary math-like lengths. Why would we play things 20 times, or play exercises that are 28 or 40 bars long when most music isn't phrased in those amounts? Also, has old notation that we don't run into anymore, and a lot of it's adaptations encourage a sort of limited relationship with playing rhythmic figures, that doesn't help us much when playing with a big band. (I realize most of these adaptations aren't from Reed himself, just a weird by product of the book's popularity.)


Okay, now I'm probably going to ruffle some feathers. I have taught some of these solos to students, and have also given them to people to play on auditions. If you haven't done much rudimental playing, they're a good way to fill in the gaps. Because I played in a marching band, I got a fair amount of rudimental technique from playing repertoire and working on the rudiments by themselves. I'll be honest, I don't like these. The phrasing is super boxy/march-y, there's barely any dynamics, and they're very repetitive. It feels like I'm always working to open up my phrasing, so the last thing i want to do is go back to the parade! I never worked on these much, and I don't think my playing has suffered any because of it. I would be more likely to recommend working on the 40 standard drum rudiments by themselves or Alan Dawson's rudimental ritual. And then something like this…

4. Some sort of Classical snare drum studies. I've had good luck with this one, but there's lots of cool literature out there that I'm going to try to explore in the future.

Why Classical studies at all? Well, you get cool & strange phrasing, extreme dynamics, and a real work out for your reading chops! :) 

To be sure, in 45 years of studying drums I have been through many method books, but I think as long as you have one or two dealing with reading, one for hand/foot chops,  and one for styles and coordination, you can then look at more specific issues of anything you're interested in playing. Now, get to it! :) 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Be like Cannonball ( or Equivalent )

I started my day listening to this amazing recording…..


Of course, Jimmy Cobb is fantastic on this as he always is, but listening to Cannonball Adderley himself got me to thinking. Adderley always has such a beautiful tone and is so smooth and free throughout the alto's range. That lead me to postulate, what would the Cannonball of drums be like? (No fat-shaming, thanks!) The concept of using ideas from one instrument and applying it to another is called transference, so I'll share some thoughts on that now.
Having a tone like Cannonball except applied to drums? Well, I think it would involve having a big, warm, sound at all dynamic levels, and to never sound like we're fighting the drums. More like we're dancing elegantly with them! :) 
Also, what about Cannonball's ability to play over his entire range? Well, on drums it would mean being fluent with a variety of stickings to get around with our hands smoothly. As well, I think integrating rhythms between hands and feet would go a long way to achieving this.
Finally, Cannonball's time is always beautiful and expressive, so we need to do whatever we can to replicate that! 

In closing, I would encourage everyone to find non-drumming instrumentalists (or vocalists, for that matter) and use them as inspiration for what YOU want to achieve on the drums. So whether you're into Yo Yo Ma, Curtis Fuller, or Eddie Van Halen, they all have something to offer you toward your conception.

And as a postscript, I needed to post this because it's so weird. Here's Cannonball Adderley, along with Jose Feliciano, guest starring on an episode of "Kung Fu" in the 70s…..

Someone should do a playlist of Jazz musicians doing weird cameos in movies and TV. This and Elvin in Zachariah would be a great start! 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Joe Chambers on First Look with Don Was of Blue Note Records

Quick post today. Here's Joe Chambers with the the ultimate hipster label head, Don Was of Blue Note records,  chatting about Chambers' new release, Samba de Maracatu.   

It's interesting to note that Joe states he's playing the same ride cymbal that he played on all the classic Blue Note recordings from the 60s, especially since Cruise Ship Drummer discussed his cymbals at length in a recent post.

 I just purchased the recording and it's great to hear Joe still swinging and being creative, and even overdubbing himself! There are no excuses why we can't be creative our whole life. Be like Joe! 

And here's my quartet playing " No Ordinary Joe", dedicated to Mr. Chambers….

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Three Bloggers Part 2 : Thoughts on Milestones

 In the second instalment of our Three Bloggers series,  Cruise Ship Drummer , Four on the Floor , and I will be comparing notes on Miles Davis' classic 50s quintet album Milestones. I look forward to hearing my compatriot's insights on what was a very important recording in my development.

First of all, Milestones establishes Davis as a complete and utter badass. How? Let me count the ways…..

-Out of the seven tunes, four of them are 12 bar blues forms. (At least for the blowing. "Two Bass Hit"'s head form is a little different.) Miles, however achieves variety by varying the tempos and keys. He also plays piano on "Sid's Ahead" (apparently due to red Garland walking out after a disagreement) resulting in a largely cordless or minimal chording performance.

-Further variety is achieved on side two due to the modal nature of the title tune, and then the piano trio version of "Billy Boy". Yes, Miles is such a badass he doesn't even play on one of the tunes! Again, like all his albums, Miles understands how to structure a recording for maximum effect and drama. No wonder he started titling his work Directions in Music by Miles Davis. He played the whole band as well as the trumpet! 

I will address some other general factors with the album before I get to Philly Joe's drumming on this.

Another way the solos are linked on this is how much trading there is. Not only between the horns and drums, but between the horns themselves.  Stitching the whole tune together by use of the passing the baton idea of a soloist referencing the previous soloist's last idea is utilized throughout the recording, but particularly on the title track. Check it out…..

Also, for me, this very catchy tune reached me in a way that say, Parker's couldn't, with the level of knowledge I possessed when I heard it.

Okay, on to Philly.

The title track is also interesting because Philly Joe  doesn't treat it as a typical Jazz Drum performance in that he mainly sticks to his click on 4 pattern throughout. I've never heard him discuss of how he conceived his playing on this tune, but I'm wondering if the slower harmonic rhythm and singable melody caused him to take this static, hypnotic approach more akin to Pop and Funk drumming than anything he had done previously. Regardless of source of inspiration, Philly's concept differentiates "Milestones" from the rest of the tracks on the album…

Also worth noting is that Philly only has one tom on this recording, most likely his mounted tom. For someone of his brilliance this isn't even remotely an issue, for he always gets the most out of what he's playing and orchestrating. I actually learned his trades on "Dr. Jeckyll". Despite the tempo, there's a lot of great Philly language that isn't super difficult. The trades on "Sid's Ahead" are also great for working on one's slow tempo trading language. In general, I find Philly's playing a little less slick than other recordings of his, and I actually prefer it. It's also easier to figure out what he's doing when he only has one tom, although I find the splashy cymbal sound can create the opposite effect when attempting to check out his ride patterns. 

Finally, if you want to learn to play brushes, you need to check Philly's work on "Billy Boy".

All in all, Milestones is an important and innovative, yet listener-friendly Jazz album that contains all the elements of great music. A timeless classic, and everyone serious about this music should spend time with it. :)