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.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Kirk MacDonald Trio at the Black Bear Pub

One of the cool things about the "everything is recorded' era we're in now is that there is always fresh documentation of one's work. This was filmed about a month ago. I was playing with long time associates Kirk MacDonald and Mike Downes, and this is what happened when someone in the crowd requested "Nardis". It's a very honest representation of where I am right now, and I'm good with that. :)