Monday, October 25, 2021

Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band - Stoner Hill (Live on KEXP)

It's funny how things tend to come along at the right time. I was thinking about creating more nuance and use of my low dynamic range and then stumbled onto this footage of the great Brian Blade doing just that, as usual! 

As well, here's some footage of Brian playing my drums on a TVO program from some years back. It was so great to meet him. Not surprisingly, I found out this sensitive, considerate drummer is also a sensitive, considerate human being. Enjoy! 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Camera Pigeons at the Jazz Bistro!

Hey everyone! Here is footage of the first set of my band, Camera Pigeons's, first gig last Wednesday. The music isn't perfect and we're still developing our collective sound, but that is now something I find exciting rather than stressful! :) Thanks to Mark, Dan, and Kelsley for playing so beautifully. To be continued…………...


Wednesday, October 20, 2021



If you're in the GTA, please join me for the FIRST PERFORMANCE of my new band, Camera Pigeons!  We'll be playing a lot of my music as well as a standard or two, and I think the unusual instrumentation will give us a really fun sonic toy box to play in!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Why bother hiring a teacher?

 Hey all,

Since I am currently looking for and accepting new students, I thought I would share what I feel are the most important reasons for taking private drum lessons.

1.  We are all self-taught, and none of us are self-taught.

It's easy to get into the romance of being "self-taught" and worrying that a teacher will destroy our individualism. Nothing could be further from the truth. A good teacher will direct you towards concepts and ideas you wouldn't have dreamed of, yet at the same time, it's still the student who is doing the work and deciding how to apply these discoveries. All the teacher is doing is saving you from wasting valuable time. Speaking of which……

2. A good teacher will help you avoid bad technical habits.

A instructor worth their salt will help you play in the most natural and relaxed way you can. If you start playing the drums this way, you won't have anything to "undo" later on.

3. A teacher can help you get the most out of your practice time.

Working with your teacher, you can prioritize what you work on in each practice session, and for how long.

4. There are many styles and types of teachers to choose from.

There are so many people out there playing and teaching the drums, that you are bound to find the one that focuses on what you want to learn. Be prepared to shop around and don't hesitate to ask questions of a potential instructor. Even personality and communication style can be a factor, so don't just go with the first ad you see, or who charges the least.

In closing, Tony Williams studied with Alan Dawson. But so did Vinnie Colaiuta, Cifford Jarvis, and Gerry Hemingway. None of these great player sound like Dawson, or each other! So, find a great teacher and get cracking! 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Lifting solos and the DeJohnette Lick

I frequently work with a fantastic world class pianist. As he is also very interested in the drums and has been practicing them, we share a lot of common ground, although my relationship with both instruments would be the inverse of his. One day he invited me to hear his Jack DeJohnette "lick' and then proceeded to splash the hi-hat cymbal once with his left foot! :) Not a particularly difficult physical move, but very evocative of a lot of Jack's playing.

This reminded me of my own struggles to lift ideas from recordings and play them on piano. At this point, I really have no hope of playing solos from many of the pianists I love ( Chick Corea, Red Garland, Bill Evans,  Hampton Hawes, etc.) because I just don't have much technical ability. So, I tend to lift horn player's solos. These solos are often too difficult as well, but I often find a short idea or 2 that I can use. I have frequently found vocabulary from altoist Jackie McLean and Trumpeter Blue Mitchell, for example. Are these streams of fast double time 8th notes? Nope, not by a long shot. What I can gather usually, is short melodic and rhythmic fragments, and then apply them to as many chords/tunes as I can. These little melodic gems have helped my soloing immensely, and frequently help me from getting "stuck" in a tune.

What does this have to do with playing drums? Plenty, I think. Both of the examples I've mentioned here help prove that when learning another artist's vocabulary, you don't have to learn the most difficult stuff (at first) or tons of material. First learning about Jazz and learning a Tony Williams solo? Learn what's manageable, to start. Yes, it's great to learn whole solos to learn about motivic development etc., but just get started with anything. I guarantee it will help you.

Now go splash that hi-hat, and thank Jack while you're at it! 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Open for Business!

Have you ever dreamed about playing drums? Are you transfixed at concerts by the musician in the back creating rhythm with two pieces of wood? Do your ears perk up to the sound patterns of rain, your washing machine or windshield wipers? If so, you are a drummer in hiding and it's time to stop dreaming and start drumming. 

With over 35 years' experience as a professional musician and private teacher, I can help you enliven your passion for music and drums.  I offer personalized lessons for teens and adults at all levels and aim to bring out your unique expression. 

In-person private lessons are held at Royal City Studios in Guelph — a professional, clean and COVID-safe environment. Online sessions are also available. If you're serious about being playful, send me an email to book a free consult to find out more: 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving

 This weekend I am reflecting on many things I am thankful for. Family, friends and all the great musicians who have inspired me! 

Here's a quick thing I was fooling around with the other day. It's just the first half of a paradiddle (RLRR) but the L is a dead stroke which sets up the last 2 Rs to be stick shots. I then add one bass drum stroke to make in a 5 beat thing. I play it here while singing "A Train" although it's hard to hear, and switch the idea to triplets in the bridge. Also note, that even though the switch back to 8th notes in the last A isn't super smooth, I kept my place in the tune, which is definitely more important…….

Have a great holiday everyone……...

Friday, October 8, 2021

Klook and Elvin two-fer!

Once again, thank goodness for European film crews! Here's some great footage of Kenny Clark playing with Bud Powell and Clarke Terry in Paris in 1959…..

Up next is some great footage of Elvin Jones playing with the Ellington band… Here's some background info I found…..

It's no secret Elvin Jones played for a minute with Duke Ellington after leaving Coltrane, but this is the first I've ever heard a tape. January 29, 1966.  Ed. note: There's also an audio recording of the whole gig.

Context: Elvin to Whitney Balliett in 1968. (The second drummer Elvin refers to is Skeets Marsh):

"I joined him in Frankfurt, and my stay with him lasted just a week and a half, through Nuremberg and Paris and Italy and Switzerland. I was new. It was difficult for the band to adapt to my style and I had to do everything in a big hurry, trying to adapt to them. Then the bass player started playing games with me by lowering and raising tempos to make it look like I was unsteady, and finally I had to speak to him and he stopped. Hodges and Cat Anderson and Gonsalves and Mercer Ellington knew what was going on, but Duke didn't. And I guess I didn't connect with the anchormen, because they complained about my playing to Duke. I don't know whether Cootie who kept giving me the fisheye, wanted me to call him Mr. Williams and shine his shoes or what. Also, Duke had a second drummer in the band and he was an egomaniac. So Duke and I talked at Orly Aiport and I told him to send a telegram to Sam Woodyard and tell him to get himself over there, because he knew the whole book. I saw Duke later, after he'd found out what had been going on, and everything was fine -- no sweat. He told me I could come back with the band any time I wanted. He's such a great man. Given more time under different circumstances -- being left alone and all -- it might have been a beautiful thing for me."

Regardless of the tension between these individuals, it's great to have a document of this part of Elvin's career.