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. :)