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!