Friday, December 23, 2022

Ted's Warren Commission Jazz Bistro Dec. 6

Here's the first set from a recent performance Ted's Warren Commission did at the Jazz Bistro. Happy Holidays everyone! 

….And Because I'm still trying to make a hit out of this thing, back by NOT popular demand, The LEANING TOWER OF TREE ZA!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Podcast interview: Suicide Zen Forgiveness

About a year ago I gave an interview to host Elaine Lindsay on her Suicide Zen Forgiveness podcast. I thought this might be a good time to post this. It can be a very hard time of year for those who struggle due to suicides in their family or their own suicidal thoughts. In the interview I discussed my sister's suicide in summer 1991 and its effect on me and my family.  I am currently aiming to be more forthcoming about my family's history of mental health challenges, as well as my own. We have to end the shame and stigmatization about this! Finally, if you need to talk to someone, help is available. 

Please enjoy your holidays and let's take care of each other……..

Monday, December 12, 2022

More make-work brush projects….

 I think I posted this in 4/4 but here's a 3/4 brush pattern where the RH taps out the standard 3/4 ride beat and the LH slides in quintuplets , making a star shape.

One time, when I showed this to a student, he remarked, "You must have a lot of time on your hands." He wasn't wrong…… See last week's post on perspective for balance! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022


 So, the other day, I was working on playing triplets of 5 and 7 note length stickings w/ my right foot playing with my right hand. I was working on this in 3/4 with hi-hat playing the Viennese waltz ( + of 1 and beat 3) thing. The actual idea I was working on isn't important. What's important is I started thinking about this tune after the practice session…..


While it's true Don Henley's performance here won't get him invited to any drum festivals, I WOULD VIEW THAT AS A POSITIVE! As someone who has had to work very hard to play on the back of the beat and leave space, this is some serious drum concept! If you don't think it is, try playing along with it!

So, this is a good reminder for me about the beauty of simplicity and eloquence! Thank you Mr. Henley.

Also, if the video gets taken down later ( Eagles tend to be a particularly litigious bird) look up "I Can't Tell You Why" by the Eagles off of "The Long Run". An album that simply hasn't gotten its due because it was preceded by "Hotel California".  Have fun and see you soon.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Tomorrow Night! (Dec. 6th!) The Triumphant Telltale Tremendous Tones of Ted's Warren Commission

 NOTE: Just because I said it was triumphant, it doesn't necessarily mean we'll play any Triumph tunes. (although anything is possible.)

Okay! The deets….


Tuesday Dec. 6th, 8PM

Jazz Bistro, 251 Victoria St., Toronto


Allison Au- Alto (Obviously an "A" student)

Ted Quinlan- Guitar (With many Quinlans of pedals)

Mike Downes- Bass (From the land of K-Tel and Pic-a-Pop)

Ted Warren-  Traps (All kinds) 

C'mon out and avoid Holiday Shopping (Unless you're shopping for an earful of delight!) 

Monday, November 28, 2022

King Crimson in concert 29th September 1982 , Munich,

 Just stumbled on to this. I really feel that Robert Fripp and his various incarnations of King Crimson haven't gotten enough credit for creating such interesting and innovative music for (with a break or two) for almost 50 years. I'm posting this live concert from the '80s of my favourite version of the band, with Fripp, Belew, Bruford, and Levin. It's been said that this is the most commercial of the Crimson line-ups, but in Fripp's world, I think that commercialism is pretty relative! Dig this…..

I always love the way they play together. Even the contrast between Belew's extreme engagement and Fripp's distant, almost dour demeanour is something I've always found compelling. Throw in one of the best and most creative bass players, and Bruford, well, he's Bruford! He's a musician that never takes the safe, easy route.

I have been checking out the most recent Crimson stuff with the 3 drummers, and although I don't like it as much as this (and I realize I'm not immune to nostalgia in my music tastes) it certainly is creative and interesting, and I'm going to keep on listening! Also, try to check out the Crimson doc, if you can.  I believe it's available via streaming,

P.S. Here's the same band 2 years later in Japan! :) 

Monday, November 21, 2022


 Further to most post last week about looseness, I'd like to talk about something regarding a conversation I had at my side hustle gig recently. The subject of Jazz came up, and this individual stated he didn't like it because he found it "haphazard". Now, I understand to a new listener, the music must seem random and people just "play anything", but as one acquires more knowledge and experience, it becomes very clear how many obstacles one navigates to even create a mediocre performance. To demonstrate, I thought I would list just a few of the things I am thinking about and mentally juggling while playing improvised music….

As a drummer…

-Making sure the tempo is steady (if the tune isn't rubato)

-creating a beautiful cymbal and drum sound

-trying to create and maintain a pleasing groove with the bassist and rest of the band

-remembering and relating to the form

- "" "" "" the melody 

- interacting with and supporting the soloist

-constantly accessing my dynamics, both as a whole and each limb individually 

- figuring out how I can represent the different sections of a tune's performance (e.g. Head vs. Solos, differentiating between soloists etc.) and what the trajectory of the whole tune will be

-and much more….

As a pianist/soloist

-representing the tune's harmony accurately 

-deciding on comping rhythms/voicings

-deciding on whether to comp at all

-playing correct notes on the chord changes

-hearing and relating to the melody

-supporting and reacting to other soloists

-what rhythms and articulations to play during a solo

- deciding length of solo

-gaging relative volume

-and much more…..

In conclusion, when improvising, one is making split second decisions that will affect the success of the performance constantly! Just because one doesn't know exactly what one is going to play, doesn't mean there aren't infinite high level decisions going on based on years of practice, listening, and development of taste! Happy listening! 

Monday, November 14, 2022

In praise of looseness

 When one is playing improvised music, perfection isn't really a useful concept. If one plays "perfectly" one night, does one play the exact thing again? Then it's not improvisation. I have played improvised performances most of my life, so I tend to favour music that sounds fresh and not preplanned. For example, I like the Police more than Sting solo, I don't think most Beatles covers improve on them at all, and definitely Van Halen is superior to Van Hagar! The feeling of music that is being made "without a net" is one I greatly cherish. For certain, I like Steely Dan and symphonic music too, but "in the moment" is where my heart lives.

On a similarly related topic, I've been experimenting with using some extended techniques in what I call  "Saskatchewan Surdo". In other words, if I played any of these in Sao Paulo, nobody would confuse me with a local! ( Especially since I don't speak any Portuguese! ) One one the great things, however, about playing Percussion Section/World music-style beats is that they're supposed to sound like there's more than one person playing, and therefore shouldn't be played with razor-sharp precision. Works for me! 
So, here are 5 examples of "Sask. Surdo". Don't be afraid to adapt beats of the world to create something new. If you do it honestly, with taste and respect, everything should be fine. Have fun!

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Avi Granite's "In Good Hands" Album release this Saturday at The Jazz Bistro in Toronto

The very cool concept of this recording is that we all played  solo versions of Avi's tunes, so I think we'll be doing that as well as joining eachother in different configurations, so come help us celebrate the release and these incredible players on Saturday Nov. 12 2022 at Jazz Bistro. This is going to be an amazing night of music! 
UPDATE: Here's me playing my contribution to the recording, Avi's fun tune entitled "19 Seconds Or Less".  See you Saturday! :) 


Monday, November 7, 2022



What's the first thing we hear when anyone plays an instrument? Their sound. Yet we spend very little time talking about it. I'd like to offer my opinions on the subject, and remember, they are purely mine.

1. Very little of your sound comes from the gear you're using.

Recently, I played a jam session and two very talented young drummers came up and played. One was someone who had played in the church and it was evident he had been heavily influenced by Gospel music. As soon as he started to play, the cymbals got quieter, the hi-hat and snare drum sounded much drier than before, etc. Then another drummer sat in ( in think she was from Ecuador and was here studying Music in College) and when she played, the cymbals all became crashes rather than rides, and the toms took on a beefier and more predominant tone, aided by a healthy dose of rimshots played on all the drums (except the bd.) Now, both these individuals were playing my drums, and I'm sure they sounded different when I played them. Why? Because we were all hearing different things! At that point I realized that sound develops as one listens and discovers one's taste in music, long before an instrument is touched! As good as these players were, I don't believe either of them had been playing as long as me, but already their sounds were fairly established and continuing to develop. Speaking of which……

2. Your sound develops as your taste evolves.

I'm sure I sounded a lot more like Peter Criss in the late '70s than I do now. Partially, because I hadn't heard a lot of music and didn't have a lot to draw upon. The music that turns us on effects our touch, ideas, tuning, dynamics, cymbal choice etc. and that all comes out in the sound we make. Conversely, if I never had heard Tony Williams or Elvin Jones, I'm absolutely sure I would sound very different than I do now. Also…

3. Your sound continues to grow and change.

This is especially true if one keeps studying and learning. I have heard much more World, Classical, and R n' B than when I was a young person, and that has changed my sound significantly. Even the physical limits of aging (as well as the greater common sense and erosion of ego that goes with it) changes one's sound.

4. Your sound becomes more prominent as you accept and understand it.

The more you understand the sort of player you want to be, and the effect you want to create when you perform, the clearer your intent will be. This cannot be overstated. The intent creates the sound. I'll repeat that. The intent creates the sound.

Of course, there are so many great drummers I could use as examples of sound, but i thought I would post this footage of Louis Bellson ( a big early influence for me) in 1992. Check out his snare drum sound. Magic.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Stewart Copeland's Isolated Drum Track on "Don't Stand So Close To Me"

Yeah, yeah, I get it. Mr. Copeland loves to shoot his mouth off about things that he doesn't know about, like Jazz. But but just as I can listen to Miles Davis without agreeing with his stance on parenting, or check out Stan Getz without approving of his choices of recreation, you can't deny what a great performance this is. Great sound, groove, and perfect for the song. It's so good it's scary! So with that, Happy Halloween! 


Monday, October 24, 2022

On Composition

 I must admit it feels slightly pretentious of me to be posting about music writing, but I've been composing Jazz tunes since the mid-80s (and Pop tunes WAY before that) so I thought I'd like to share a few things I've learned along the way.

1. It's been my experience that the more one writes, the easy it is to compose the next time.

Now, as the drug ads go, results may vary, but I find composition begets composition for me. I put myself on a "compose every day" diet at the beginning of the fall, and I'm amazed what's come out! And related to that…..

2. Don't feel that everything you write has to see the light of day

It's more important to go through the act of writing than worry about anybody hearing it. Along those same lines, don't be afraid to go back to fragments and ideas you may have given up on and continue editing them. The tune itself will tell you when you're finished.

3. Vary your writing method to keep your compositions fresh

George Colligan's great (and currently hibernating) Blog has some excellent suggestions for this. In a nutshell, force yourself to approach writing differently, to shake it up……

4. Ask for help….

Drummers tend to be the least harmonically advanced members of the band, so hit up your bandmates for help and suggestions. I have played many a tune for people like bassist Mike Downes, and guitarists Ted Quinlan and Dawn Thomson, and they were very generous with their advice. After all, if the drummer's tune makes more sense, then it'll be easier for everyone else to play on! 

Alright! Everyone get writing…..

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Avi Granite's In Good Hands - Album Teaser

 Hey all,

I will also make a post about the upcoming album release gig for this next month, but for now, here's some great video and audio for Avi's new release. He explains the concept really well too! Also, as far as I know, this is the first time in his long career Pat LaBarbera has recorded solo saxophone. How cool is that? :)


Monday, October 17, 2022

What are chops, anyway?

Authors note: I only eat chicken and occasionally beef now so no lambies were (currently) harmed in the composing of this post! 

   Drumming great Mike Clark recently posted on social media that he recently had a discussion with several individuals that stated that Elvin Jones' playing was "sloppy" and he "had no chops". 
NOTE : Mike Clark himself did not say this. He has never been anything but extremely enthusiastic about Elvin's work! 
After being taken aback by the ridiculousness of this statement, I started to wonder how we had gotten to this point. This seems to be another disturbing example of some members of the drumming community separating pure technique (read cleanliness and velocity) from every other aspect of music. When one isolates technique from sound, groove, originality, melody, creativity, dynamic control, intuition, ideas, responsiveness  etc. we end up with some jock drummer smacking a pad. (Not a drum or a cymbal, because that takes away from the from the cleanness and speed by, you know, having a sound!)

We really need to move away from this idea that the best drummer is the one that can move their hands and feet the fastest. There's enough cold and robotic playing already, thanks! Listen for everything a player can contribute ON AN ACTUAL INSTRUMENT AND WITH A BAND! Speed is just a tiny part of it.

Now, let's conclude with Sunny Murray and then Han Bennink being beautiful and expressive on the drums…..

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Seven Solos in Seven Days Part 7:Streets

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument…… 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Seven Solos in Seven Days Part 6: Alternatives

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……

Monday, October 10, 2022

How drumming has helped my mental health

 Today is World Mental Health Day (as well as Canadian Thanksgiving) , and with that in mind I thought I would share my own mental health journey, and how it relates to my drumming.

Depression runs in my family. My father had it, and it eventually took my sister's life. As an obese, glasses wearing kid who wasn't good at sports, I was bullied a lot in grade school. I found school in general difficult and frustrating (I now believe I had a learning disability) and rarely did any class speak to me. I started playing drums at ten, and it's hard to describe the many things it has done for me, but here goes.

-It installed in me a feeling of pride as I began to understand and develop techniques.

-It led me to countless friendships and experiences through musical associations

-It gave a purpose to everyday, whether things were going well or poorly

-It allowed me to use my imagination

-I was given a chance to develop something OUTSIDE of school

-I get to use my hands and feet to sculpt in sound everyday

-I have learned so much and gotten so much pleasure out of all styles of music

-I have learned how to focus my mind and relax, even in stressful situations

-I get to reach people and give them pleasure without even knowing or speaking to them

-I can do something that makes me forget about myself and feel that I am a part of something bigger

-Independent coordination has allowed me to develop many new neural pathways

-Music has helped me become a kinder and more empathetic person

-Playing makes me feel like I have something positive to offer the world

-I am able to help others reach their drumming and musical dreams

These are just a few of the things being a musician has done for me. I don't want anyone to get the idea that its been all roses, but sticking with it yields me rewards every day, and I still view music as a true gift.

Speaking of gifts, here's a huge one in the form of Keith Jarrett's trio. Thanks so much for the music.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Seven Solos In Seven Days (Just not in a row!) Part 5: Pigeon's Song of Thanksgiving

  I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……

Today I enlist a chorus of my fine feathered friends……

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Seven Solos in Seven Days Part 4 : Post-Intermission

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……
This is the first post-COVID solo. I hope to be able to finish the rest of this consecutively……..


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Seven Solos in Seven Days Part 3 - For Han Bennink

UPDATE: Thanks to a newly developed illness (Rhymes with "bovid". I knew my luck wouldn't hold out forever.) I will be pausing this and will record the last 4 solos next week sometime. Thank you for your patience…..

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……

On to day 3. A piece on brushes dedicated to a very inspiring individual….

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Seven Solos In Seven Days- Part 2 A Good Day For Bad Hair

  I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument……

Okay, day 2. The title for this came from the realization that, despite my continuing best efforts, I STILL CUT OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD ON THE VIDEO. Oh well…. enjoy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Seven solos in Seven days- Part 1 Echoes of Daylight

 I recently looked at my calendar and realized I wasn't playing much. Instead of complaining and getting depressed about it, I would record a solo every day for a week. The solos are all improvised, and created from the first thing I play when I sit down at the instrument. Here goes…..

Monday, September 26, 2022

Young Ted vs. Old Ted: A "lively" discussion

"Man, I NEVER play hi-hat on 2 & 4. I'm the hippest thing going!"

                                                                  "KIDS THESE DAYS!!!!"

The following is an imagined conversation between 18 year old and current day (57 yrs.) me. We are meeting in a club at a jam session…..

Old Ted: Hey son, you sound great. May I talk to you a bit about what you played?

Young Ted: Um… I guess so, but you're not my Dad. Also, should you be standing up right now? A person of your advanced age should probably be sitting.

OT: What? ( These young punks…) Anyway, did you know the form of that tune you were playing?

YT: Form? Yeah, it was medium swing tune.

OT: Well, that's the style, but there's more to it than that. Do you know the melody to that tune, "Sonny Moon for Two?"

YT: No, I would have read it, but I forgot my Real Book. What are you getting at anyway, Gramps?

OT: GRAMPS??!!! Look, kid, you have some talent and enthusiasm, but I don't feel like you're really playing for the band….

YT: Look Mr. Warner, I'm sure you mean well, but I'll have you know, by mid-May of my grade 12 year, I was the best drummer at my high school…..

OT: Have you ever listened to any Sonny Rollins recordings?

YT: Sure, I have his album, "Don't Ask" which was recorded waaaaay back in 1979, and contains his greatest composition, "Disco Monk"! I probably have 2 or 3 other Jazz albums as well. Anyway, why are you asking? I play drums not saxophone! 

OT What?? You listen to all the instruments…. Look here young man, when I hear you play, it doesn't feel like you're playing the form of the tunes or representing the soloists…..

YT:  Mr. Weber, I'm sure when dinosaurs walked the earth and you were my age, unsolicited advice like this was appreciated but…..



OT: Hmmmm…..need a drum tech?

Youngsters: Realize that there are people that have been doing this a lot longer than you and may have learned a thing or two….

Veterans: Appreciate the enthusiasm (and hubris) of youth and realize that wisdom comes with time….

Monday, September 19, 2022

Drummers and Practice Space

 I once remember reading someone mentioning something to the effect of that if you go into a public space and play a violin, everyone smiles, but if you play a drum, someone’s going to call the cops! (Thanks Karen!) It’s true. It’s challenging to listen to someone practicing drums, so it’s equally challenging trying to find a place to do so. Here’s some things to consider.

1. Communicate and get along with your neighbours. 

Get to know the people near your rehearsal spot. Are there any days/times there’s simply no one around? You may have to adjust when you practice but it's a small price to pay to get at the drums on a consistent basis. Also, if you practice at the place you live, NEVER ISSUE NOISE COMPLAINTS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOURS UNLESS IT’S ABSOLUTELY INTOLERABLE. It’s very easy to get into a passive-aggressive situation where things that people would normally ignore if you hadn’t annoyed them, lead to them issuing complaints about you. I get this is tricky, but try and “live and let live”, if possible.

2. Consider all spaces.

Is there some sort of business near you that is closed in the evenings and/or weekends? Perhaps they would like someone occupying part of their space to avoid robberies, make some extra coin, and support the arts? You never know. If you’re a student, can you practice at school? And don’t tell me you never can find a free room. Most of these buildings open by 7am, and in most cases, you could practice BOWLING, let alone drums, IN THE HALLWAYS until about 10am!

3. You may need to “prepare” your instrument. 

There are many low volume cymbal and head options these days, or you could even buy an electronic drum set and play with head phones. I’m not crazy about this option, but it’s certainly better than never practicing.

4. If you are storing the gear you use on gigs, you will need 24 hour access. 

This complicates matters somewhat. I have both headed out to and returned from gigs at all hours of the day and night, and even loading drums in and out can be quite noisy. Be as flexible as you can, but having your own key and entryway to your space is ideal.

5. Don’t be willing to practice in a space that is excessively dirty, unhealthy, or unsafe. 

Asbestos insulation? Super rough neighbourhood? Rickety steep stairs that have you fearing for your life? I’ve been in some bad situations and believe me, it’s just not worth it.

In conclusion, realize that through your life and your various living situations, you will practice in many different types of environments. Flexibility, communication, and patience is the key! 

And on a completely unrelated note, here’s a medley of footage of Duncan Hopkins’ 2 guitar band at the Toronto Jazz festival. I was to go into the studio with a version of this band (except with Reg Schwager instead of Sam Dickinson), but my ailing appendix had other plans! Luckily the great Montreal-based drummer Michel Lambert was able to do the recording. It's of mainly Kenny Wheeler's music so it will be great to hear what Michel does with that. :) 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Emotional effects of Music

Musicians listen to music in numerous ways and for many reasons. Often, we are trying to educate ourselves, cram for a gig, or critique a student. Today, however, I'd like to talk about emotional listening. What was the first music that got you excited? Not necessarily excited about playing either, but just excited in general. A partial list of music that had this effect on me would be:

- "Roxanne" - The Police
-"Just What I Needed" - The Cars
- "Adagio For Strings"- Samuel Barber
- "Seven Steps to Heaven"- Miles Davis
- "After the Rain" - John Coltrane
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" - The Beatles
- "Two Folk Songs"- Pat Metheny 
-"Smokestack Lightning"- Howlin' Wolf

…and many more! What all this music did for me is that it elicited a strong response. Sometimes tears because it was so beautiful, other times it felt like i was going to jump out of my skin because I couldn't believe how cool it sounded! In many cases I can remember exactly where I was when I heard something for the first time. Notice that most of the music was recorded quite a while ago. As one gets older and more "sophisticated", (read jaded) it's harder to be gobsmacked by something one hears, especially if one is an active, studying, musician. So, I was quite pleased recently, while listening to a show on CBC that plays music I generally don't care for to hear this, and I immediately needed to find out more about them….

Now, this may not have remotely the same effect on someone else, and that's one of the coolest things about it. I can't explain why it hits me as hard as it does. It has a pretty melody and I really like the singer's voice, but there's an intangible "thing" that I can't explain, and I have no desire to either!

 Treasure any music that hits you on an emotional level, and don't deny any that affects you this way. It's not particularly cool in the Jazz community to like The Ramones as much as I do, but to try and "bury' any love of music that doesn't meet with the cognoscente's approval, feels dishonest and harmful. 

 If you're like me, all your "emotional" music experiences will inspire you to create sonic art that is honest and without artifice that may perhaps reach someone else in the same way. :) 

Monday, September 5, 2022

Music Rooms: What they are and are not

  Clubs that host music are an interesting animal, to say the least. They have to sell food/drinks, pay their staff, deal with customers of all kinds, etc. The job of running a club is VERY difficult, especially in this post-lockdown economy. Yet, some clubs distinguish themselves as true MUSIC ROOMS. I would like to discuss what makes these places special, as well as mention what policies and practices  prevent a venue from achieving this. As usual. I will "out" the spaces that I feel deserve this designation, and not mention any names of clubs that fail in this regard. You know, "if you can't say anything nice" etc….

I would also like to be clear that not all music rooms are created equal. Some venues are eligible for grants, or have a lot of support from nearby synergistic businesses and so on….

A true music room will make you feel you are part of a team

A venue depends on many people such as bar staff, managers, door people etc. and they all have a role to play. The best venues do not have an "us and them" mentality and understand issues that musicians face. it also goes without saying that musicians need to be sensitive and aware of what the staff are going through and act accordingly. If you're saying to yourself, " Hmmm, the manager is dealing with a group of unruly customers who are refusing to pay their bill and a holding up chairs in a menacing way… I KNOW! This would be a great time to hit him/her up for another gig!" , please think twice, or three times before acting! Also, ALWAYS TIP YOUR SERVER EVEN IF THERE IS A DEAL OR FREE FOOD AND DRINKS! THEY ARE WORKING HARD! …And speaking of which…

A music room makes paying the band a priority 

I'm not saying there can never be a tip jar or playing for the door situation, but there should be a guarantee or reasonable expectation of payment. We appreciate that you are running a business BUT if the band is good and professional, they are making your business better! 

A music room never descends into an unannounced open mic night or a karaoke free-for-all

If a venue presents music and then lets whoever wants to play and/or sing at the end of the night (that isn't a scheduled open mic night or jam session), what are they saying about the hard-working professional musicians who just presented their music?

A music room helps the musicians be their best

This can be many things. A band menu with more than 3 items, or no band menu at all, just a choice of what to eat. House gear (amps, drums, PA). A staff that won't let the musicians be unnecessarily harassed. Not all music rooms will have all these elements, but even if these things have been thought of, it helps a lot. I've said it before but it bears repeating. If there is house gear, it's the musicians responsibility to treat it with care and respect!

A music room responds to musicians requests for gigs in a reasonably timely manner

Again, I get that people running clubs have very busy lives, and lots of musicians want to work. Then again, I remember contacting a (now defunct) club 7 times for a gig playing for the door on a Monday! This, for me at least, is stretching the bounds of "reasonably"! :) 

As I mentioned, I'm not going to "out" any venue that is lacking in the above mentioned elements, but I will mention a few clubs/rooms that exemplify what I have been talking about. They include, but are not limited to:

The Rex Hotel (Toronto)

The Jazz Room (Waterloo)

The Yardbird Suite (Edmonton)

The Bassment (Saskatoon)

There are many more rooms, in Canada and abroad, that also satisfy the qualifications of a Jazz Room, so pardon me for leaving them out.

In conclusion, there was one place I worked, that always made a big deal about the tip jar and talked about "putting a little love in the jar". I've always despised that phrase, so as a response, I give you my beloved Fabs. People who knew a thing or two about playing different styles of music venues…..

Monday, August 29, 2022

Redeveloping "working" chops

 One of the things I've noticed has live music work has (thankfully) opened up a bit is how much certain non-playing abilities have atrophied. These include:

-Finding cheap parking in close proximity to the gig

- Finding parking AT ALL!!!

-Figuring out a good route to the venue that doesn't take too long

-Selecting the best drums, cymbals, and sticks for the gig AND NOT FORGETTING ANYTHING *

-If you're the leader, picking sets, which tunes to play, avoiding consecutive keys, grooves, and tempos…

-Negotiating with management

-Paying everyone

The thing is, all these skills, just like musician ones, can get out of shape if we don't use them regularly. 

Don't be too impatient with yourself if they have to ramp up again. We were doing this for a long time before it all stopped for 2 years.

* But if you do forget something (say, a snare drum) if you find yourself in the east end of Toronto, go see Nathan at the rental counter of the Scarborough Long and McQuade, he'll fix you up. :) 

What a coincidence! Here's me playing with Kirk MacDonald at The Black Bear Pub on Tuesday July 19th, 2022. Oddly enough, I'm playing a rented Mapex Black Panther snare! Even more oddly, this is the last footage of me playing while still having an appendix, as it was removed 2 days after. Life is interesting, that's for sure…..

Monday, August 22, 2022

Recent online stuff

 Hello all,

I thought I would post a couple of things from some of my other social media, just because I don't think it garnered enough attention! :) 

From a recent tweet……

There's nothing wrong with ambition, as long as it's accompanied by taste….

I posted this for all the naysayers when a musician tries to go beyond their instrument's normal role and experiment. (Hence the ambition.) But it's always good to remember your role in the band and how to carry that out effectively. (Taste.)

Also, here's a few brush patterns I posted on Instagram recently. In all of them, both hands are circling counterclockwise and the right brush is running over the left hand to create a flam sound. I've said it before but I'll say it again; learning to play circles in either direction with both hands is extremely useful! :) 

Finally, here's a beat I got hipped to from Cruise Ship Drummer's more Reggae lead-ins post. It's the main part Sly Dunbar plays on the tune "The Dope". Fantastic! 

So cool how a lot of these intros/fill-ins are quite ahead of the beat before settling into a super laid-back groove. I will post more about the relationship between placement of the beat between beats and fills at a later date. Groove on, my people! 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Physical logic (Flams)

This, like many of my posts, was inspired by Dan Weiss….

Certain things we do on the drums have a certain "physical logic" to them. Flams are a great example. Creating a good flam usually requires having the sticks at 2 different heights, so it makes sense that we might accent the "main" note of the flam. But, because a flam is a thickening of a stroke , it already is emphasized without an accent. In this set of exercises, we're working on playing unaccented flams surrounded by accented strokes, like so…...

I have also made some videos utilizing this concept. NOTE: I am still working on this idea myself, so I don't have these perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I decided, however, to leave them as is. There are a few reasons for this. I, like all practicing and growing musicians, am a work in progress, and I wanted to reflect that. I also think there's too many demonstrations of concepts that are more like ego trips that are designed to distance the person posting from the people reading. This isn't the case. I am just like you and am continuing to learn new things and challenge myself. :) 

So, have fun with this, and don'y worry if it's slow and awkward at first. Anytime you challenge yourself, you are improving the musician you will be in the future. :) 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Thomas Sowell on Maturity

 "You have matured when you are no longer concerned with showing how clever you are, and give your full attention to getting the job done right. Many never reach that stage, no matter how old they get. “

Monday, July 25, 2022

The 3 Bloggers: Top 20 Drum Solos

UPDATE: As it turned out Four On The Floor and Cruise Ship Drummer never agreed to this but I'm posting in hopes it will encourage them to post their favourite 20 drum solos, because I'm curious! :) 

 Once again, in conjunction with Cruise Ship Drummer and Four on the Floor, we will be giving you, our loyal blog readers, 3 views for the price of one. Todd Bishop suggested we list our top 20 drum solos. This should be interesting. To be honest, there are tons of drum solos I don't like much. A lot of them feel to me like they don't have much to do with music. I'm also aware that the importance of a lot of them is pretty subjective. Okay, on to the list. I also have a youtube playlist pasted at the bottom of the post

1. Steps/What Was- Roy Haynes

2. Salsa For Eddie G.- Jack DeJohnette (NOTE; This tune was not available on youtube so I substituted Jack's great solo on "What I Say" by Miles Davis

3. Cherokee- Max Roach

4. Hank's Symphony - Art Blakey

5. Salt Peanuts- Max Roach

6. Crisis- Elvin Jones

7. Salt Peanuts- Philly Joe Jones

8. Moby Dick-John Bonham

9. Seven Steps to heaven- Tony Williams

10. I Want To Be Happy- Jo Jones (Tune starts at 9:00 on playlist) 

11. Countdown- Art Taylor

12. I'm an Old Cowhand- Shelly Manne

 13.  Israel- Paul Motian ( They're actually trading choruses). Is that cheating? 

14. The End - Ringo Starr

15. Quartet No. 2 - Steve Gadd

16. Philly Joe - Ah-Leu-Cha (this could also be debated whether it's a "drum solo")

17. West Side Story - Buddy Rich

18. Funky Drummer - Clyde Stubblefield

19. Mars - Rashied Ali

20. Personal Mountains -Jon Christensen (Again this wasn't on youtube so I substituted this one.)

The Playlist

Monday, July 18, 2022

Dig Diz: 2 Chorus drum solo analysis

Greetings. Today I'm posting a run down of a 2 chorus drum solo I did on Mike Murley's composition "Dig Diz" on a quartet gig at the Rex June 5th. Thanks to Elena Kapeleris for capturing it!

The reason I'm going through what I played on this solo is not to say how great I am or anything, but to explain why I played what I did, and the thinking and logic that is going on when I solo. I love Max Roach, Roy Haynes, etc.. but I can't claim to have any idea of what they think about when they play! Also, I will be mainly talking about the why of what I played rather than the what. This isn't a transcription, but rather an overview…. Okay, here it is…..

So, "Dig Diz" is a contrafact (tune based of the same chord changes) of Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody N' You". Both tunes are 32 Bars, but Murley's tune's form is ABCA, whereas Dizzy's is the slightly more common AABA. I think it's also important to note that Mike Murley's idea to have the drum solo right after the head breaks up the typical solo order in a tune, and perks the ears up a bit.

Chorus 1
First 4 measures- I start off quoting the last rhythm in the melody. This is a way of connecting the head and solo form, and also is a strong rhythm to begin with. In the next 4 bars I play around with call and response quarter note triplets between the bass drum and flammed snare, all the while being conscious that I don't have to fill up all the spaces in the measure, especially this early in the solo.
Second A, I'm using a little motif (with a 3 beat feeling) which I end first with the small tom, then the large tom. I then take the motif and stretch it out by changing it's subdivision from 8th notes to quarter note triplets (those again!) All the while I'm still hearing the melody and form in my head.

To help delineate the bridge, I play 8th note triplets on the small tom, this is the first time this rhythm appears, the first time I'm using both hands on the tom, and finally, this is the first time in the solo 4 on the hi-hat appears. Also note, a lot of the ideas don't necessarily start or end on beat 1. Notice again I leave some space, this helps everyone (including yourself) hear and understand your phrases. Last A I quote the melody a bit, then just play some of my "drum stuff'. it makes sense within the context of the solo because I'm hearing the melody and form very strongly. I then look up at Murl, because when we originally recorded it, I only played one chorus in the beginning, but he signals for me to continue.

 So, at the top of the 2nd chorus I continue the idea I was doing, but go back to the quarter note triplets around the drums.  ( At this point, I could argue I'm using the triplets as thematically as the head!) For the rest of the first A of the second chorus, I'm playing a 3 beat figure double stop sort of thing. I've played this sort of thing before, but that's okay. It's part of my vocabulary! :) 2nd A, I'm playing a rhythm with some left hand flam slashes, which I then take the spaces out of and make a 3 beat thing, this continues uninterrupted over the bar line into the bridge, where I bring the dynamics was up for drama, and yes, play the dreaded quarter note triplets again! :) For the last A I stick to the snare as a way of "winding down" I also quote the melody in the first 4 bars to also signal that the solo is ending soon and "reorient" anyone who might have lost their place. Although I might lose them again as I play a few more 3 beat ideas on the snare and finally quote the last 2 bars of the melody, which is what I started with. This gives the solo a  circular quality and leads nicely to the tenor solo.

Phew! So, please realize that there are infinite ways of structuring a drum solo. However, I would contend that  having a solo with a strong structural foundation is way more important than whatever "drum stuff' we fill it up with. We want to take the listeners on a journey, and just playing a bunch of difficult drum things with no spaces (or dynamics, or overall plan) isn't much of a trip, especially with current gas prices! :) 

So, enjoy playing your solos that are melodic and logical, even though they're improvised! 


Monday, July 11, 2022

Habits and more thoughts on Bass/Drums

 Just a couple of things that came up from some recent posts. One was my recent posting of the Bernard Purdie interview and his thoughts on China-Type cymbals. He mentions that when you mount them right side up, you have a variety of sounds, whereas when they're upside down, you have one sound only. WOW! OF COURSE!You know, for someone who enjoys getting as many sounds out of drums/cymbals as possible, it surprising this had to be pointed out to me! Anyway, I have started mounting my China-types right side up and am loving the results! :) 

This brings up an even more important point though. DON'T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED!!! Question everything. Nothing "has" to be a certain way. 

The other thing I was thinking about was my recent post on playing with my bass player friend Drew. It's important for non-bass and drums people to realize that NOBODY except the bassist and drummer know what they are going through, and in most bands, they are doing the heavy lifting! They are stoking the fires in the coal room that are making the engine run!  So, take your bassist and drummer's word for it when they talk about the people they work best with. Just as I wouldn't assume I know what truly makes a magical two horn frontline, non-rhythm players (and even pianists and guitarists)  shouldn't assume they know on a micro level what is going on in the rhythm section. :) 

Play on, good people! 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Rick Beato interviews Bernard Purdie

 Another great Beato interview. Mr. Purdie discusses elements of his feel, different studio techniques and how he adjusted to them etc. Interestingly, he reverses his tom order like Max and also offers some interesting views on how to mount a Chine-type cymbal. Lots to learn from this drumming giant! 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Lee Morgan with the Oscar Peterson trio

 Music scenes are funny. Some players work together constantly and rarely work with another group of musicians. To the best of my knowledge, the following footage is the only time that Lee Morgan ever worked with O.P.'s trio. Enjoy! 

A couple of observations. I would love to get even a tiny bit of the swagger Morgan puts in every note he plays! Also, I'm yet again reminded of how versatile Ed Thigpen was! :) 

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Music of Cuphead - The Delicious Last Course: Recording ‘High-Noon H...

The Cuphead game continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. This is a behind the scenes look at the recording we did last year, during the height of covid. Kris Maddigan again created some great compositions and arrangements, and John Herberman is a great conductor to work with. And how about Russell DeCarle's yodeling? Fantastic! 

Monday, June 20, 2022

We are all Ferdinand Magellan, Matthew Henson, and Amelia Earhart

What do these three people have in common? They are all explorers! It's my view that creative musicians have a responsibility to explore at their instrument, every day! One of the interesting things about practicing in a shared space is how often I either hear someone trying to recreate something they've already heard (e.g. a cover band) or playing playing the same thing, week in, week out. I realize people play for many reasons, and have different levels of ambition etc., but I think the idea of exploring as a musician is an aspect of creativity that gets overlooked a lot. Next time you are practicing, I would invite you to ask yourself questions such as:

How can I make this different?
What would happen if I….?
How can I expand on this thing I've already done?
What would this sound like?

I realize that there are many nuts & bolts sort of things we have to learn to either cover an upcoming gig, or develop our sound and technique. I would, however, encourage you to devote a little practice time everyday to be the Magellan/Henson/Earhart of your instrument. You could well be on the way to discovering the New (Sonic) World! 


Friday, June 17, 2022

Bill Frisell Wisdom

 A Guitar Player article in which Bill Frisell offers his Top 10 Tips For Guitarists has been making the rounds, although it would be probably be more accurately described as "Top 10 Tips for Improvisors". Fantastic stuff. Enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Count Me In and Motian in Motion: A tale of Two Movies

 I recently saw the two films mentioned in the title of this post. To be sure they are very different films and have contradicting aims to some extent, but they both left impressions on me and I would to discuss their contrasts in depth.

Count Me In is very much a celebration of drums and drumming, and in that sense, it's great to see these hard working people in the back of the bandstand getting their due. Many well known drummers such as Cindy Blackman, Chad Smith, Stewart Copeland, and Taylor Hawkins (RIP) are interviewed and provide insight into a drummer's role in a band. I believe this is something the general public doesn't know a lot about, so this is certainly welcome.

The film isn't without its problems though. Although I realize it's a feature on Rock drumming and mainly British players, you can't really tell much of the story of the drum set without mentioning not only some of the great African-American pioneers of the instrument (which they do in passing) but also all the great BLUES drummers as well. Without these people, there's no drum set! As well, although they do feature some lesser known and up and coming female drummers (such as the super-positive online force that is Emily Dolan Davies), the filmakers seem to find it necessary to emphasize how these young women can "hit as hard as the men" etc. etc. and further perpetuate the idea that drumming is a one dynamic event. I would hate for a young female drummer to think that playing at a low dynamic range ( as many gigs require) is somehow not proving oneself or being too "girly". This is not a new problem, but this film tends to continue to play into these one dimensional stereotypes of drummers, be they male, female, or trans……

Motian in Motion, by contrast, is very much a portrait of a great Jazz artist. There is great access to Mr. Motian not only performing and hanging out with his fellow musicians, but also interacting with club owners, doormen, etc. It really is an amazing and rare glimpse into a creative soul who completely followed his own path, and was brave enough to do so. It is interesting to note, however, that even though Motian worked with such female artists as Jane Ira Bloom, Carla Bley, and Geri Allen, to name a few, he doesn't seem to have any women in bands he led. (If I'm incorrect about this, please let me know folks.) This may be just coincidence, but in this day and age, the omission certainly is noticeable and curious.

Regardless, both these films are very worth watching, and there is much to be learned from both.

Here is the trailer for "Count Me In", currently available on Netflix.

…And here is "Motian in Motion". Enjoy! 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Finding your place……..

 Growing up as a musician, you are taught to grab at every opportunity that comes your way. When you're young and seeking to gain experience, this makes perfect sense. But there does come a time when it's good to take stock of the work one is doing and whether you are in the right place. Case in point. Through a bunch of experiences, both good and less so, I realized that ongoing teaching of students younger than around 14 and beginners was not the best choice for me. Firstly, there are people much better at this than I, and this isn't something I want to focus on anymore. This isn't a hard and fast rule. If a student is super keen to study with me or if it's a camp or clinic situation, I'll certainly wave this (somewhat loose) rule. I also don't want anyone to think I don't enjoy interacting with young people. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would just prefer interacting with them as a musician rather than a teacher. There's also gig situations that I'm less likely to take now as well. There would be nothing worse than me playing in some situation I don't want to be in, especially when there are other players that would enjoy the experience. I can guarantee you that every time you see me behind my drums, I want to be there. :) 

Finally, there may be times when you feel what you are doing  (as a musician or teacher) is not understood or appreciated. In these cases, it's best to let go of them and "find your people" so to speak. :) 

…..and although this has nothing to do with anything, here's me practicing  a groove and employing an accent on 2 & 4 with the bass drum.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Camera Pigeons at Hirut Cafe June 3rd, 8-10PM


TONIGHT! Camera Pigeons (Dan McCarthy, Lauren Falls, Kelsley Grant and myself) are at Hirut Cafe (2050 Danforth Avenue
Toronto) from 8-10PM. Fun sounds will ensue!

Monday, May 30, 2022

My Gig with Drew

 I recently played a gig subbing for an ailing Tim Shia with his group, "Worst Pop Band Ever". It's a great band including Adrean Farrugia – Piano, Chris Gale – Sax Dafydd Hughes – Keys, and a dear friend I met at McGill many moons ago, Drew Birston on bass. Now, I wasn't super familiar with their repertoire but I also knew they were a strong enough unit that they would be able to play with whatever I was doing and accept it. So, we get to the first tune, it's counted off, and we begin to play. What happened next was incredible. From behind me (where Drew was set up with his bass and amp) there was this beautiful sound, feel and energy. From note one (both literally and figuratively) Drew had my back. Everything i played was so supported and complimented.  Drew and I have played a lot in the past, but for the last 15 years or so, have ran in slightly different musical crowds. So, getting to play with him again was like returning to a super comfortable home I had forgotten I had lived in! I was just blown away! 

What created this feeling? Well, as I mentioned before, Drew has a great sound that compliments as well as provides bottom and foundation for any band he plays in. He also has great time, that he takes complete responsibility for, thus making it very easy for a drummer to play with him. He has great taste, and always provides the music with just what it needs. Above all , he is always LISTENING! 

All this adds up to a musical relationship between he and I that can withstand long absences, yet still grow and improve as we both gain more experience and knowledge. I am fortunate to play with many talented, team-player type bassists, but sometimes it takes these long absences for me to appreciate how special these relationships are, and how lucky I am to have them. The really cool thing is that anyone who is willing to study, listen, practice etc. can also have these relationships, and they are one of the great rewards of being a musician! 

To conclude, I'm embedding a couple of instructional videos that Drew did for one of his many projects, Sultans of String. It not only provides some great information on the acoustic and electric bass, but is also a glimpse into his unpretentious manner and sweet personality. :) 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Double stop contrary accents

Originally I wrote this in January and it was slated to be published in a drumming magazine, but their phone seems to be permanently off the hook! :)  So I am presenting it here.

It's a pretty simple idea conceptually. Both hands are playing the same rhythm, usually steady 8th notes or triplets, but the hands are accenting in different spots. A tricky idea in practice! So here's 2 possible ways to play/apply it. First one is with brushes and  I'm playing 8th notes in both hands, but the RH is accenting a 7 beat on/off pattern and the LH is playing dotted quarters….

The 2nd example is playing a shuffle in both hands w/ the LH mainly accenting 2 & 4. (Hmmm, what's the application for this? A Blues Band with an identity crisis?) 

Next is the shuffle again w/ RH accenting 2 & 4 and LH playing a 5 beat pattern… The one following it is the same except I've switched to str, 8ths and the LH is playing cross stick.

Next, I'm playing all triplets/12/8 with both hands and the RH is accenting a shuffle while the LH accents Jazz/Displaced quarter note triplets

Finally, I'm playing triplets again. LH is accenting a 4 beat pattern and the RH is accenting 2 & 4.

I recall going through one of Chuck Silverman's books that had a beat which was a Bossa with accenting 2 & 4 and a contrasting Partido Alto LH part with accents in completely other places. It nearly killed me, but I eventually learned it, and gained so much accent flexibility in the process. My hope is that these exercises will help you in the same way. Have fun and be kind and gentle with yourself.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Ballad Make Work Project (Brush Pattern)

 Okay, another brush post. I'm slowly trying to film myself playing every brush pattern I've created and there's quite a backlog. Explanation is in the video.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Layered Grooves

 Hey all,

These are some grooves inspired by some footage of Will Calhoun with Living Colour I saw recently. In his case, he was throwing in some quarter note triplet ideas in a rock groove with his LH while playing straight 8ths with his right. That led me to experimenting with playing one set of quarter note triplets plus a quarter note with my feet (which creates a pattern 3 beats long, so it goes over the barline nicely in 4/4) while my hands play a straight rock groove. I was thinking of the Zep tune "Ten Years Gone", both in tempo and general vibe. The following filmed examples show me working through this starting it with either foot, playing the "footings" (as opposed to stickings) in doubles and paradiddles, putting in splashed hi-hat, and reversing the hands and feet.

Now, you will notice that the execution in the quarter note triplets isn't perfect sometimes. I actually think this is okay because that rhythm wavering a bit can sound sort of cool, especially against the straight hand part. Remember, when you pit straight against swung in a beat there's always going to be a bit of a rub. These are not super-tight completely locked in type ideas. They are more of a loose flowing thing with the feet. Again, use these sparingly on gigs and with taste and good judgement. :) Have fun.