Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trilok Gurtu Trio



Further to my post last week that featured drummer/percussionist/visionary Trilok Gurtu along with some musicians from Mali, here is a full length concert from the North Sea Jazz Festival featuring Trilok Gurtu and his trio:



I think this one demonstrates Trilok's fusion chops a bit more in a different sort of light than the West African footage from last week. And of course it's all great! I'm impressed that they can get so much happening with just a combination of voice, drums/percussion and keyboards/synths. When you have great musicians come together, of course anything is possible.

I recall hearing Trilok at the Spectrum in Montreal during the 2002 Montreal International Jazz Festival in a similar sort of configuration and was really impressed with the scope of Gurtu's imagination, deep groove and rhythmic sophistication. There is a whole orchestra of possibilities there!

Between Trilok Gurtu and the post of Billy Martin with Medeski, Martin & Wood + Soul Bop from yesterday, I guess I'm on a bit of an imaginative, funky/groove kick these days...Next stop on my listening safari for this week: Rich Brown's Rinse The Algorithm band featuring Toronto-drumming sensation Larnell Lewis!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MMW + Soul Bop



I came across this interesting musical collaboration and I thought I would share it with you all. Here is the trio of Medeski, Martin and Wood with trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Bill Evans in some extended concert footage (with of course some great groove drumming from Billy Martin!):



I can't say that Bill Evans is really a saxophonist that I'm really all that familiar with (although I do recall seeing him play on some later footage with Miles Davis at some point, maybe if I'm not mistaken?) I think he sounds pretty good here and he plays great with Randy Brecker. Fortunately I did notice that he's also playing at the Blue Note in New York City this coming April with Brecker and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. I'll have to check that out during my next trip!

Have these guys recorded an album together? They should!

Monday, February 27, 2012

"For Klook" - Documentary



This one has been making the rounds lately and I'm glad it is! Kenny Clarke has long been one of my favorite drummers. His swinging cymbal beat has literally paved the way for all of us.

Here is a short documentary and tribute to the great Kenny Clarke featuring narration by Mike Hennessey (also the author of the great biography "Klook: The Story of Kenny Clarke") and some concert footage of the Paris Reunion Band featuring some fine playing from Nathan Davis, Johnny Griffin, Woody Shaw and Billy Brooks on drums:



The whole thing is very interesting and a nice tribute to Klook but for me the highlights come at 7:20 where Kenny can be seen playing with an organ trio featuring Jimmy Gourley on guitar and at 28:15 where Clarke is featured in some drum solo trading with Bud Powell and saxophonist Barney Wilen. Bad ass!

Friday, February 24, 2012

That Bongo Beat...



Today's lesson deals with a specific Jazz drumming beat that essentially mimics the sound of a bongo drum pattern. It looks something like this (although I didn't notate playing the hihat on 2&4) and it imitates the open and slap tones that a percussionist would usually play on the bongos or congas:



You can hear this groove quite often from drummers playing in organ trios and I think it's a pretty groovy little beat. My teacher Chris McCann, back from my McGill days, first really brought this pattern to my attention by introducing me to a Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves album entitled "Salt and Pepper" that featured drummer Osie Johnson using this beat quite effectively throughout the entire album.



You'll also quite often hear this groove played "backwards" like this:



I asked Winard Harper once about his thoughts regarding the origin of this groove. He replied: "Oh yeah, that's that bongo beat!" He suggested that perhaps it was one of Dizzy Gillespie's drummers (such as Kenny Clarke, Charlie Smith or Joe Harris) that may have come up with this pattern in the absence of whomever percussionist was supposed to be playing with them (Chano Pozo?) This is definitely a question for Kenny Washington the next time I run into him...

Anyways, here's a little rhythmic/coordination game that I came up with that uses this "bongo" beat that was inspired by the polyrhythmic mind twisters that Ted Warren has been coming up with over at his fine blog Trap'd:

Play either of those swingy bongo beat patterns from above (with the hihat on 2&4, of course) and try adding the bass drum pattern below (which is in dotted quarter notes):



Play the same counter line against the hand part with:

- The hihat

- The bass drum and hihat in unison

Here's a tricky pattern that divides the foot pattern between the bass drum and hihat and implies a different time signature in kind of a shuffle-like pattern:



- Play this pattern again, but reverse the bass drum and hihat parts.

It's kind of tricky but take it slow and, above else, make it swing. I've heard both Bill Stewart and Billy Martin play ideas similar to this. Once I even heard Jason Marsalis play a very groovy and inspiring drum solo based on this ostinato pattern with his feet and essentially played a drum solo in two tempos at the same time!

It's enough to make one dizzy...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

John Hollenbeck Interview & Big Band Drumming



Myself and fifteen other very talented local musicians premiered the new Calgary Creative Music Ensemble at the Cantos Music Foundation in Calgary last Saturday evening. The show was definitely a success as the crowd was packed to capactity/standing-room only and the big band really rose to the occasion and played great on some pretty challenging music. We are looking forward to many concerts with this band in the future.

Our program consisted of original big band works composed and arranged by myself, trumpeter Dean McNeill and pianist Michelle Gregoire. We also performed "Hello & Goodbye", "Skylark" and "Boom Boom" from the library of composer/arranger/trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.

I've found myself playing in many big bands over the years. My first introduction to Jazz came via playing in big bands in high school and in the Regina Lions Band program. While I studied at McGill I played in the bands there and, while working with teachers such as Gordon Foote, Chuck Dotas, Ron DiLauro and Joe Sullivan, the bands really operated at an extremely high level. Fortunately when I finished school this translated into a lot of work with many of the local Montreal bands such the Montreal Jazz Big Band, Vic Vogel's big band and subbing in with Joe Sullivan's and Christine Jensen's Jazz orchestra's from time to time. All in all I consider big band drumming to be a very central part of my development and career as a Jazz drummer. I haven't done quite as much of this kind of playing in the past few years so naturally I am very excited to be part of this new and forward-thinking big band project right here in Calgary.

In the weeks leading up to our gig I spent quite a bit time studying the music we were to play and listening to a lot of Mel Lewis (one of my all-time favorite big band drummers). I also spent some time listening to the fine musicianship of John Hollenbeck as he was the drummer of choice for many of Brookmeyer's large ensemble projects (including his New Arts Orchestra) and appears on many of his albums. I'm now a huge admirer of John's music and approach to the drums. I expect to continue listening to him for ideas and inspiration in the years to come.

I came across this interesting interview with Hollenbeck and thought I would share it with you all:



I should also like to mention that Ted Warren wrote a great piece on playing with big bands and large ensembles in general that I found tremendously useful over at his blog Trap'd awhile ago. Ted is an incredible big band drummer and I've heard him play great with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass, John McLeod's Rex Hotel Orchestra and, most recently, his work with Dean McNeill on his "Prairie Fire" big band project (we played a few charts from Dean's album the other night so studying that album was part of my homework!)

Here's another couple of inspiring clips of Mel Lewis in action with his own big band:





That's how it's done folks!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trilok Gurtu "Farakala"



Today I thought I would post an interesting documentary on drummer/percussionist Trilok Gurtu and his collaboration with the Frikyiwa family, a group of musicians from Mali:



Trilok, to me, represents the true definition of what it means to be a contemporary, modern "fusion" artist in the year 2012. He has a very creative and fearless approach to blending aspects of Indian music with the music of other cultures along with an authentic and eclectic Jazz fusion sound. His various sonic combinations are always curiously interesting to listen to and his writing mixes his strong Indian rhythmic heritage along with rich melodies and fusion grooves. You never seem to know where this guy is going next! His originality and imagination always inspires me.

To hear Trilok with the Frikyiwa family, I would recommend this fine album:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cindy Blackman - Another Lifetime



Here's a nice interview with Cindy Blackman merged with some dynamic performance footage of her and her band to check out:



I love the big fat sound that she gets out of her Gretsch drums, tuned all big, tubby and low like that.

Monday, February 20, 2012

More Bugalu - Chad Anderson Speaks



Further to my post from last Friday on drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith, my good friend over at cymbalholic.com Chad Anderson was very generious enough to offer a few of his thoughts and words about his experience studying and learning from Bugalu a few years ago:

"Bugalu is a master–a character, for sure–but, a master.

I mean "character" in a positive, respectable sense. Full of life. It is this life quality, the character, that comes through in his playing. I think that some individuals might not consider just how much this translates to his sound. It is easy to say, but I believe it is often overlooked, that when you play the instrument, you communicate. No hiding. This communication can be positive or negative, but one should remember, particularly when playing a drum of any kind, that this instrument has been a tool of communication for years.

I believe Bird once stated that: "if you don't live it, it won't come out your horn."

Evidence.

Bugalu's life voice projects directly through the instrument. Strongly. I knew this from the first note I ever heard him play. It was not just the direct connections to Max, Philly Joe and Elvin I heard that contributed to the infectious sound in Marvin's drumming. It was the depth of the groove, the perpetual energy and the spiritual, church-like "lift" mixed with the cut of the street that moved me to connect with Marvin and, at the least, try to somehow say thanks for the inspiration.

I began communicating with Marvin back in about 2006 via the internet. One thing about Marvin is that, unlike many of his peers, he is not afraid of utilizing technology to promote his music, efforts, and teaching (as others birthed into the same generation might normally be inclined to reject technology). At that time, he and his students had already started populating MySpace (it was still a popular, viable resource online at that time) with Marvin's videos and teacher-student dialogs. It was there where I first watched one of his performance videos posted/stored on his profile page. Immediately, I was completely knocked out by his cymbal beat, his vocabulary, and his energy. Obviously, a master who has dealt with time, in all respects.

Marvin and I began an exchange of messages electronically and discovered that we had a few mutual, musical acquaintances (in particular reedman, Henry P. Warner and bassist, Andy McCloud with whom we had both played at different times). He also watched a few videos of my playing, pointed out a number of issues, and generously offered to help me clear those up. What happened over the year that followed was an intense, online study through which Marvin delivered his unique methodology of teaching. A year and a half later, I had a string of gigs up in New York City and surrounding areas again, during which I had the chance to catch a train up and visit Marvin at his home studio in Poughkeepsie, NY. I spent only a short time there, but, of course, as with any encounter with a master, I experienced one of those massive turns in life, the kind that awakens you.

Life-changing. Life-awakening.

To properly and respectfully outline this would require a book-length document to be written.

I just need to say this: There is school and then there is SCHOOL. When you study personally with a master of any discipline, you come to understand how much there is beyond the surface, especially when, as a student, the ego is pushed aside. Beyond drums, when I studied with Marvin, I gained insight about life–further confirmation that life IS the music. While one can easily learn the rudiments, that does not build the complete voice. I did not study with Marvin to learn how to play jazz or to further add patterns, chops, rudiments to my arsenal as a drummer. While that was a small percentage of the outcome, I learned about the music from Marvin by riding in the car with him and listening to him talk about life, from watching him play the music (actually, on one of my gigs up that way) in person, a mode that one might consider an old school notion. I learned about the music from Marvin's sense of humor, sense of life. The stories–every note. The MUSIC. Life.

To receive this knowledge base is the greatest gift. This is timeless."

-Chad Anderson, via e.mail

Thank you Chad.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Marvin Bugalu Smith



My good friend Chad Anderson first introduced me to drummer Marvin "Bugalu" Smith via his fine web forum cymbalholic.com a few years ago. Marvin posts video recordings of his weekly jam sessions and the occasional lesson dealing with his conceptual approach to Jazz drumming on youtube.com quite frequently. I really dig his eccentric personality and he plays some really deep, over-the-top things on the drums.

Here's Marvin's bio (from his website):

"Drummer Marvin 'BU-GA-LU' Smith is a veteran in the world of music. His exciting playing has been heard on stages around the world for more than forty years. Growing up in a musical family outside of New York City in nearby Englewood, NJ, Marvin began his studies of music at an early age. By the time he was eight years old, Marvin was already working with his older brother, Buster Smith, a prominent drummer who performed, most notably, with Jazz pioneer, Eric Dolphy. When Marvin was sixteen, he worked for the Town Sound Recording Company. During his time there, he recorded with such stars of the music world as James Brown, Lola Falana, and Sam and Dave among others. In 1969, Marvin joined singer Rocky Roberts' band and moved to Italy. During the nearly 25 years Marvin spent playing in Europe with Roberts, he also performed with many of the top names in Jazz. Stints with Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Mal Waldron, and Charles Mingus followed. It was also at this time that Marvin first met and played with Archie Shepp and Sun Ra. Both men would prove to be influential in Marvin's career. Archie Shepp asked Marvin to join his band in 1982. For five years Marvin toured all over the world and recorded with the legendary reedman. While with Shepp, Marvin further evolved what he calls "The Timing Of The Drum", a philosophy based upon the idea that rhythm in music follows the Universal Rhythms of Life. One night in 1987, Marvin happened to be at a club across the street from Sweet Basil in New York City. He saw that Sun Ra was performing there all week and decided to stop in and say hi to his old friend. Upon entering the club, Sun Ra band member John Gilmore greeted Marvin and asked him to sit in with the band
for a set. After the set, Sun Ra immediately offered Marvin the gig starting the next day. From 1987-1992 Marvin toured and recorded with Sun Ra. In 1992, Marvin released Be Impartial to Yourself, recorded live at “Visiones” in New York City with Cecil McBee and Kirk Lightsey. This recording showcases the power and creative energy Marvin brings to every group he plays with. Currently, Marvin continues to stay busy as a leader, sideman and instructor in New York."

Here is a great interview with Marvin that Chad recently passed on to me:



As I mentioned, Bugalu regularly posts footage of his weekly sessions and in the following three clips you can really get a sense of the intensity and depth that this man plays with:



This one, in particular, is a free-wheeling version of "Giant Steps":





I saved the best one, I think, for last. Here is some late-night, home basement footage of Marvin playing GREAT and talking through a few of his concepts:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Moanin'



I recently spent last week working with a great crew of young Jazz drummers up in Edmonton (all studying under the tutelage and watchful eye of their very knowledgeable drum teacher Dan Skakun, who's a fine drummer himself and a disciple of Joe Morello and Kenny Washington). We spoke about a lot of important Jazz drumming related topics during our time together and fortunately the name Art Blakey came up numerous times during our discussions.

Let me make this clear, Art Blakey is one of my all-time favorite Jazz drummers, hands down - ever. The album "A Night at Birdland" with Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Curly Russell, Lou Donaldson and Clifford Brown was one of the first Jazz albums I ever bought and to me the feeling and swing that this band achieves on this recording date is really the essence of what Jazz is all about.

Anyways, in my discussions with Dan's students the topic of the "Blakey Shuffle" came up. This is a very important groove to learn and is deceptively simple. As far as being a serious Jazz drummer, learning it is a must.

Well, here it is from a live date featuring Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers with Benny Golson and Lee Morgan:



I'm sad that I never had the opportunity to see or hear Art Blakey in person. Seeing him and listening to his introduction alone on that clip is inspiring in itself.

If you don't already own the DVD which this performance came from, then go buy it now here: http://www.amazon.com/Jazz-Icons-Blakey-Messengers-Live/dp/B000H9HWQ4

Drummer Andrew Hare has a nice blog post on his take on the Jazz shuffle as well over at his fine blog The Melodic Drummer

Now if Bu's shuffle doesn't get 5 cheeseburgers on Jesse Cahill's Grease-O-Meter, I'm not sure what does!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

George Fludas Swings



George Fludas is a great hard swinging drummer from Chicago and someone who deserves more attention, I think. Here he is playing great with pianist Benny Green and bassist Ed Howard on a nice feature over John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C.":

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fun With Swiss Army Triplets



I was inspired and motivated by Jesse Cahill's post "Fun with Flam Taps" from last month (as well as Ted Warren's ever so fine drum lessons and rhythmic tongue twisters over at his blog Trap'd"... always lots to practice between following these two guys!)

Taking that same concept (and hopefully the same nice, hand-to-hand execution!) here's an exercise that I came up with that uses the same alternating idea as Jesse's, but using Swiss Army Triplets instead:

"Groups of 4"



"Groups of 3"



"Groups of 2"



"Groups of 1"



Monday, February 13, 2012

The Monday Morning Paradiddle



- Thanks to Joel Gray and everyone involved with the Jazzworks Jazz festival in Edmonton, Alberta last week. Saxophonist Jim Brenan and I spent three action-packed days adjudicating and working with a dozen high school big bands from across Western Canada. I also performed with the Edmonton Jazz Orchestra during the noon-hours and a good time was had by all.

Here's a few nice videos that have inspired and motivated me lately that come from a few friends and acquaintances of mine:

- Courtesy of my good friend Jerome Jennings, here is his recent and informative masterclass from Ohio State University:



As you can see, Jerome plays really great. I first met Jerome while he was passing through with Mark DeJong's "Outer Voices" Project and recently he's been playing with Sonny Rollins as well (!)

- Here's a nice clip of my good friend and Toronto percussionist Mark Duggan performing a solo vibraphone rendition of "On The Sunny Side of The Street":



- An inspiring lesson and reminder from my occasional teacher over the past three years, the great John Riley talks about "The Gift":



- What am I listening to these days?

Aretha Franklin - "Live at The Fillmore" w/Bernard Purdie - drums

James Brown - "Foundations of Funk - A Brand New Bag: 1964 - 1969" w/Clyde Stubblefield & James "Jabo" Starks - drums

Bob Brookmeyer & The New Art Orchestra - "Waltzing with Zoe" w/John Hollenbeck - drums

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra - "Basle, 1969" w/Mel Lewis - drums

Philly Joe Jones - "Showcase" w/Philly Joe Jones - drums

Bobby Hutcherson & McCoy Tyner - "Manhattan Moods" w/Bobby Hutcherson - vibraphone

- And finally, don't forget to come on out to the inaugural concert of the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble this coming Saturday evening. I'm very excited about this new big band project in town that I'm co-leading with saxophonist Mark DeJong and pianist/composer Michelle Gregoire. There is lots of great music to be made with this group so please come on out to support our new endeavor.

The Summit Jazz Series presents:

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble
Inaugural Concert

Featuring contemporary jazz orchestra works by Dean McNeill, Michelle Grégoire, Jon McCaslin and Bob Brookmeyer
Special guests include: Dean McNeill (trumpet), Craig Brenan (trombone)

Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Cantos Music Foundation/
134 11th Ave SE
Calgary, AB

Tickets available at the door or by calling (403) 949-6414
Adults $20 (advance) $25 (door)
Students/Seniors $10 (advance) $15 (door)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble



I'm very excited about this upcoming concert that's happening next Saturday, February 18th. Myself and some very talented and like-minded musicians are launching a new Jazz orchestra in town: The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble. We plan on presenting numerous concerts over the course of the year that feature Canadian Jazz music and contemporary works for Jazz orchestra.

I've always had an affinity for playing in big bands and have been very fortunate to have played and worked with many of country's top bands when I lived in Montreal and Toronto. With the stellar line-up of musicians involved this should prove to be a memorable event.

-----------------------------------

Summit Jazz Series presents
The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble
Inaugural Concert

Featuring contemporary jazz orchestra works by
McNeill, Grégoire, McCaslin and Brookmeyer
Special guests: Dean McNeill (trumpet), Craig Brenan (trombone)

Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Cantos Music Foundation/National Music Centre
134 11th Ave SE, Calgary
Tickets available at the door or by calling (403)-949-6414
Adults $20 (advance) $25 (door)
Students/Seniors $10 (advance) $15 (door)


Saturday, February 18, 2012 promises to be an exciting evening of music as the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble presents a premiere performance as part of the Summit Jazz Series at the Cantos Music Foundation. This concert will feature music penned by local and international composers performed by the crème of the region's jazz musicians. The ensemble of 16 musicians features some of the strongest talents in the region namely Mark DeJong, Jon McCaslin, Jim Brenan, Dave Reid, Michelle Grégoire, and many more as well as guest artists, from Saskatoon Dean McNeill, and from Edmonton Craig Brenan.

Saxophonist Mark DeJong, drummer Jon McCaslin, and pianist Michelle Grégoire share a common passion for the creation and performance of original Canadian repertoire for large jazz ensemble. Sensing a need in the Calgary community for an ensemble with this type of focus, these accomplished musicians set out to form The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble.

Calgary has a diverse and active music scene, and the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble will work to enrich and energize the musical environment by engaging Calgary's most active, creative, and interesting jazz and improvising musicians to create original music of the highest calibre. While many Calgary musicians have risen to prominence in a variety of genres and musical settings, there are numerous improvising and creative jazz musicians who deserve a higher profile on the local, regional and national level.

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble will allow these musicians to present their work within the scope of a high-profile concert series, and provide incentive for musicians to continue to present their work on the national stage.

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble will also develop innovation and creativity by encouraging the exploration of mutli-media concerts, mixed media, innovative performance spaces and community engagement.

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble will create a legacy for the citizens of Calgary by commissioning new original works for large jazz ensemble from Calgary musicians, and providing an opportunity for those new works to be performed and recorded with the highest possible level of artistic integrity and professionalism. The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble concert series will also provide outstanding educational opportunities and interactions.

The February 18 concert will be the first in a series of concerts. An inaugural season is planned for 2012-13 and more information will be made available as details firm up.

The inaugural program on February 18 will include works by Canadian composers Dean McNeill, Michelle Grégoire, Jon McCaslin, and legendary big band composer Bob Brookmeyer. Brookmeyer who recently passed has earned a reputation as a seminal composer and arranger and is considered the most important jazz composer of the post-Ellington era. This concert will in part feature music in tribute to this great master.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

West African Drumming & The Study of Rhythm



Thanks to Morgan Childs who hipped me to this amazing footage of some Ghanaian drummers performing a style known as Brekete:



Recently, I spent a year studying with Ghanaian Master drummer Kwasi Dunyo (including variations of the piece demonstrated above) while I was attending the University of Toronto. It was an incredible experience.

I was first introduced to West African drumming while attending the Banff Jazz Workshop in 1997 where we were fortunate to work with the great Abraham Adzenyah for one summer. Dave Holland was quite instrumental in bringing Adzenyah to the workshop initially during the mid 80s (while Holland was the programs artistic director) and he insisted that what Abraham brought to the workshop was just as important as any composition, contemporary improvisation or harmony masterclass. I am willing to bet that Adzenyah's participation in the workshop during that time was one of the things that made it so special and unique. Just ask anybody who was there!

I highly recommend that anyone, and not just a drummer or Jazz musician, who is interested in deepening their personal understanding of rhythm to spend some time studying the rich rhythmic language of West African music and drumming (and dancing for that matter!) Your feeling for pulse, meter and subdivision will take on a whole new meaning.

And there have been many famous Jazz drummers that have recognized this and taken their personal study of the drums and the rhythmic nature of Jazz music back to its roots in African. Ed Blackwell is one notable example of someone who was able to integrate some of those rhythmic concepts with his New Orleans/Max Roach-influenced style of modern Jazz drumming to a very high degree. In particular, check out his great playing on Mopti or Togo with Old and New Dreams to hear what I mean!

There are many, many others worth mentioning as well, of course, but Billy Martin of MMW fame really stands out for me these days as someone that has done their homework. I was fortunate to spend some time working with Martin last spring, playing together in one his homemade backyard practice shacks located in the middle of suburban New Jersey (although I felt like we were in the middle of the mountains back in Banff!) Martin has a very deep and rich understanding of rhythm on the wider scope and I think this allows him to play with such a deep pocket, no matter what style or direction he chooses. Fundamentally I believe that a study of any cultures music from a rhythmic perspective can only help you play your own music from a deeper place. Similarly, other musicians such as Steve Coleman, Dave Holland and Ronan Guilfoyle (and I could go on here as well!) have all figured out how much a serious and in-depth study of rhythm can enrich their own music.

All great examples to follow, whether you are a drummer or not!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tootie Heath with Dexter Gordon



My father recently caught Albert "Tootie" Heath in action with his brother Jimmy while sailing the high seas on the "Jazz Cruise" in the Caribbean. And now here is Tootie from a few years ago, in fine form, with Dexter Gordon:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Through The Lens of My iPhone - Volume One



I'm no Jesse Cahill or Chad Anderson when it comes to artistic drum photography, but it's amazing what one can do with an iPhone, a clever app called Instagram and a bit of creative inspiration while in the moment:

"Getting Ready for The Gig" - Setting up the house drums at the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club with the Johnny Summers Quartet.



"Brushes, Sticks & Well Worn Drum Heads" - An overview of the evening's instruments.



"Loading In" - Outside the Market Collective in Kensington on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.



"Dark Wood on Light Wood" - My Djembe stands in my living room.



"Out of The Cases and Ready to Go..." - Yellow Premier drums, Yamaha copper snare drum and drum pad all ready for an evening practice session.



"Taking a Break" - A shot taken between dance routines during an afternoon modern dance class at the University of Calgary.



"Tools of the Trade" - Everything is ready to go.



"Inspiration" - The Master's are watching/listening...



"Dark Vibes/Bright Music" - I love the contrast between the bars of the vibraphone, the sheet music and the orange mallets resting on the keyboard.



"The Force Will Be With You, Always" - Sidewalk Yoda says hello on 8th Avenue NE during a morning stroll.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lewis Nash & Bobby Hutcherson - Solar



It's Monday...and here we go with another great drum and vibraphone combination/conversation between Lewis Nash and Bobby Hutcherson:



I've said it before and I'll say it again: Bobby Hutcherson is the reason that I play the vibraphone! For some reason I had never really considered the vibes as even an option when I was a young percussionist or during my entire university career as a drum set major at McGill, but after seeing Hutcherson's performance at the 2006 Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival in Saskatoon (and his band that night included Renee Rosnes, Dwayne Burno and the tasteful Eddie Marshall on drums) I was hooked.

Up until that point I had written and arranged quite a bit of original music and the piano was always my main vehicle for developing that. While I had a functional knowledge and skill at the keyboard, I never really got to the point where I was comfortable soloing, comping in time or playing with an ensemble...and frankly I was a bit frustrated with that.

So after I witnessed the power of Bobby Hutcherson's music and mallet work from the front row of the audience, I said to myself: "Now why haven't I tried this???" So I proceed to purchase a set of mallets and rented a nice set of vibes once I returned to Calgary that summer. Local vibraphonist and percussionist Arnold Faber (who has since returned to Toronto) was nice enough to get me started and give me a few pointers over the course of a couple of lessons to get me going.

Well, it's almost six years later and I'm happy to report that I'm still at it! My two years in Toronto was a great experience with regards to my development on the vibraphone. I studied formal technique with percussionist John Brownell, played duets on a weekly basis with pianist Gary Williamson and workshopped arrangements and tunes with the infamous "Goat" Band (featuring Tom "Killer" Van Seters behind the drums!)

I'm trying to take this instrument seriously in addition to my studies on the drums and I've definitely come along way in the past few years. Currently I'm working with New York percussionist Allan Molnar through an on-line distance-learning arrangement thanks to a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Besides practicing on a regular basis, I'm also playing sessions with many talented (and patient!) local musicians and have enough gigs spread out to keep me motivated and give me some musical goals to work towards.

Last week's hit with the Jazz Winds Composer's Collective at the Cliff-Bungalow Jazz Concert Series was a great experience in that regards. We played some pretty interesting and diverse material that challenged my comfort zone and I think I did okay. The highlight for me was an improvised duet between myself and drummer Robin Tufts (in true 60s Hutcherson fashion!) that eventually morphed into Wayne Shorter's "Footprints". I had never done anything like that before but I think I pulled it off.

At the moment I'm really trying to develop my functionality and harmonic/melodic clarity while improvising over standards. Not only am I trying to learn all those tunes that everyone plays - or should play - (ie. Stella, All The Things You Are, etc.) but I'm also trying to play them correctly and really nail the changes. It's a real learning experience trying to master a new yet related musical language. I'm also finding that it has really helped my playing from behind the drums as well in terms of expanding my functional awareness of melody and harmony.

I'm also checking out a lot of recordings of great vibraphonists these days (in case you haven't noticed!) but I always seem to go back to the likes of Bobby Hutcherson, Milt Jackson, Gary Burton, Steve Nelson and, more recently, Stefon Harris and Warren Wolf.

Having said this all, thank you Mr. Hutcherson for inspiring this drummer to pick up a pair of mallets and hit the vibes!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy Birthday Claude Ranger



Thanks to Mark Miller for posting this one.

Hamid Drake and Pasquale Mirra - Drums & Vibes



Here's an interesting drums/percussion & vibraphone pairing that got my attention featuring Chicago drummer/percussionist Hamid Drake and vibraphonist Pasquale Mirra:



I'm fascinated with the idea of a drums and vibraphone instrumental duet and have contemplated a project like this for some time (incidentally drummer Robin Tufts and I got into an interesting musical dialogue together during our show with the Jazz Winds Composers Collective at the Cliff Bungalow Jazz series concert on Wednesday night. I think I invented some new scales during that one!)

I first heard Karl Berger and Edward Blackwell do this on the album "Just Play" and it's a great percussion dialogue. I think there is a lot of sonic territory that could be covered here.

Any takers? (although I'm certainly open to any vibraphone + "other instrument" duo combinations these days!)



Just thinking out loud here, but here's a few drum & vibraphone duets/dream combinations that I'd like to hear someday (at the very least in my imagination):

Kenny Clarke/Milt Jackson

Joe Chambers/Bobby Hutcherson
(or Tony Williams...think of "Out to Lunch"!)

Buddy Rich/Terry Gibbs

Dafnis Prieto/Stefon Harris
(let's add Dave Holland on bass into that mix as well!)

Terry Clarke/Don Thompson

Steve Gadd/Matt Mainieri

Lewis Nash/Steve Nelson

Jack DeJohnette/Gary Burton

Thursday, February 2, 2012

TED Talk with Jojo Mayer: The Distance Between 0 and 1



Another TED Talk today featuring Jojo Mayer and his concepts on rhythm:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dave Holland - Solo



For my friends of the bass clef persuasion, here's Dave Holland performing a couple solo renditions of Mr. P.C. and Goodbye Pork Pie Hat: