Monday, January 30, 2023

Radical Acceptance- Peter Hum Group-Analysis of Drum performance

 I recently played a couple of wonderful nights with Peter Hum's quartet at the Rex, and Kenji Omae, our great Tenor Sax player, filmed one of Peter's new compositions, Radical Acceptance. I thought I would post a chart of the composition as well as the video and I would go through how I approached playing this tune.

Here's the PDF

 Probably the most important thing to mention is the form.It's quite interesting because on the in head the from is ABCD and then E is Tenor and Guitar trading over the solo chord changes. Then when they cue us we play the tune in the reverse order (DCBA) and ends with the piano vamp it starts with. So it's got this great construction that I would liken to a flower that opens in the morning, blooms all day, and then closes its petals at the end of the day. The fact that I'm referring to a composition this way may sound "flowery" , but I often find imagery can help me conceptualize a piece and figure out how to approach it. So basically, I was trying to grow and build the piece all the way to the end of the solo section at E and then gradually bring it back down to where it started.

As I stated, the piece starts with solo piano playing a rhythmic vamp. I basically tried to incorporate and riff around that rhythm into the groove I was playing. It also felt like I should generally play all the 8th notes in the bar with my right hand, to give it some drive. Also, on reflection, it sounds a little far on top of the beat for my taste, but it least it feels exciting! 

This generally goes well. Then we get to D. During that section (with the 3 bar phrases) Peter wanted it to have a little more space. I am also generally filling in the 3rd measure of all those phrases. Then I make my first error! I missed the repeat at D and went back to more of a groove again the 2nd time. But I played the figures as well and I don't think anyone was the wiser, although it made letter D slightly less effective. (I assure you, these sort of things happen all the time. The trick is to cover for them as smoothly as possible.)

Then we go on to E which has tenor and guitar playing the melody before they start trading phrases over the same chords for the solo section. I bring the volume and density down into this section to give some room for it to grow. I start off the solo section relatively quiet and playing mainly short sounds and avoid cymbals to create more space for the tenor and guitar. At around 2:22 I go back to the groove I was playing at the beginning but with the intend of gradually getting busier and louder as the solos go on. Shortly after this I turn the snares on the snare drum (for the first time in this tune) to further build the energy. As the solo section goes on, I'm filling more and playing more soloistically, even as I am still listening to the tenor/guitar and supporting them with the groove. Eventually, I settle into a bit of a pseudo-backbeat sort of thing, (around 3:30)  because it feels like a good way to add energy and drama. As the trades get shorter I'm also trying to keep building. With soloists this strong, it's easy to "run out of gas" chops-wise, so it's good to take one's time building volume and density. At around 5:16, I mistakenly think letter D has been cued, when it's actually the ensemble section at letter E instead. Again, I adjust and move on. Nobody's perfect! :) When we do get to letter D, my volume has already dropped somewhat, as I'm trying to take us back to the sparse quite sound we had at the top of the tune. I then go back to my original groove and keep bringing it down by going to the hi-hat, also keeping the backbeat on the cross stick to keep the urgency up while still coming down dynamically, finally going to the side of the cymbal with the right hand to bring it down even more to the end.

I hope you find this helpful. It's great to get a chance to interpret someone's original music. It often can be less intimidating than playing standard tunes that have been played spectacularly by geniuses many times! :) Feel free to try multiple ways of interpreting a tune. There are always options and it sometimes may take a bit of trial and error to find the way that works for you. As always, have fun and be good to yourselves. :) 

Monday, January 23, 2023

Extended Brush Technique

 Really the title of this post is just a swanky way of categorizing a brush technique where the brush is "rolled" on the drum with the palm of the hand. I've used this idea before but I'm trying to put it in a few more contexts, as shown below……

1. This is a beat with the RH rolling the brush and the LH playing the skip beat of the standard jazz ride rhythm in a clockwise circle.

2. In this example I'm rolling the LH brush (sorry it's difficult to see) on the skip beat and alternating that with "Buzzing" the LH off the rim. RH circles quarter notes clockwise.

3. Here I'm playing a sort of Samba (w/ varying bd parts) and rolling the LH on the +s of 1 & 3.

4. Finally I'm rolling both hands (sorry the floor tom is out of view) to the melody of "C Jam Blues".

Just keep in mind it's an important step in developing techniques that we find practical places to use them. Have fun! 

Monday, January 16, 2023

The hazards of independent coordination

Many may not agree with me here, but I feel one advantage horn players have over guitarists, pianists, and drummers is that it is very difficult, if not impossible to play more than a note at a time.. As a result, people who play these instruments get very good at implying harmony through their choice of notes in a line. But pianists and drummers can play very thickly, and tend to get obsessed with layering of notes and rhythms. I am guilty of this on both these instruments! 

I was doing a grant application and was going through some video of my band from about a year ago. The performances were good but I felt myself saying , "Well, that's a lot of drums, but what does it mean?" and " There seems to be a lot of the same texture of sound throughout this performance". So, I have been thinking about and experimenting with playing a lot less at times, and making sure there are sparse textures as well as thick ones. I find myself finding this issue with other players as well. It seems to be the hip thing these days to crowd as much drums and cymbals as possible into the music, and I'm getting a little sick of it, to be frank.

Here's a great example of a mainly melodic rather than harmonic solo from the great Shelly Manne. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

New Avi Granite 6 album, "Operator" Coming soon…..

Here's footage of the tune "Good Deal" from the upcoming Avi Granite 6 album "Operator". We're also doing a Canadian tour in February/March. 

Monday, January 9, 2023

The evolution of practice, or how are those resolutions going so far?

 There is a lot of mythology surrounding instrumentalist's practice. I recall reading about legendary players and their infamous practice regimes, and thinking that I had to get into that "8 hours a day, for a start" vibe, otherwise I wasn't going to amount to anything! Truth be told, I have never gotten past about 4 hours at a stretch, or 6 in a day with breaks. I also find a lot of people overestimate or underestimate the amount they put in on their instrument. Played along with music for an hour today? As long as you were aware etc. while you were doing it, I would count that as practice! Staring at a hole in your shoe during hour 10 through 11 of your daily routine? I would contend there may be better ways to spend your time. In fact, the level of engagement, rather than amount of time, is how I currently gage my practice time. For the past 10 years or so, it's a rare day I get beyond an hour of practice, and currently a lot of my sessions are a half hour long. Yet I still feel like I've made a lot of progress. Why? 

1. I do practice almost every single day

Even though the individual sessions are quite short, I find I give my body and mind a lot of chances to process the information.

2. I tend to review what I last did

As well, the last thing I worked tends to lay the groundwork for the next thing I do. It's almost like a lifetime of thematic playing!

3. I don't practice too many things

Often a practice session will be around a single idea or issue

Finally, it's important to realize that one's practice routine evolves over the course of one's life. This current routine I have would probably not be enough for an intermediate or college level player. There's simply too many things to learn and do, and most players at this age haven't even figured out what type of player they'll eventually be. I.E. I don't spend a lot of time working double bass drum chops or stick twirling, and that's entirely a conscious decision! So when figuring out how to practice, look at where you're at and what you need, and don't be afraid to tweak it if you're not finding it effective.

Happy practicing! 

Monday, January 2, 2023

Research and Development

 I think I've mentioned this before, but I still spend time looking for new sounds, colours, and techniques at the drums. At the stage demonstrated below I'm not looking at what to do with the things I find. In fact, some of them I never find a practical use for. That doesn't concern me though. I also am not trying to make this smooth or palatable or any sort of "performance". The journey is the goal. Here's some video of me trying a few things out…..