Monday, August 14, 2017

The Legacy of Jim Blackley
























Jim Blackley, perhaps best described as Canada's most influential Jazz drumming educator, passed away on July 16, 2017 at the age of 90. 

Originally from Scotland and who would later emigrate to Canada, Blackley was the author of such acclaimed books as "Syncopated Rolls for the Modern Drummer" and "The Essence of Jazz Drumming" (a personal favourite in my library...) He was also a prolific teacher whose teachings have, in my opinion, had a significant influence on the state of Canadian Jazz drumming over the past 50 years.

Unfortunately I never met nor studied with Blackley myself however I did study and find myself spending a great deal of time with several major Canadian Jazz drummers that did (including the likes of Chris McCann, Terry Clarke and Barry Elmes.) I had heard Blackley's name mentioned for many years but it wasn't until I moved to Toronto ten years ago that I was able to connect-the-dots and realized what an impact Blackley had on our nation's legacy of Jazz drumming. For comparison, I'd say that Blackley was the Canadian equivalent of Alan Dawson and other significant teachers.

While I didn't get it directly from Jim, his concept of playing very slow and deliberate time on the ride cymbal, to this day, remains the basis of my own foundation as a Jazz drummer. I'll be forever be grateful for Chris McCann for introducing me to this concept and patiently putting me through my paces. From what I observed, Blackely's teachings were profound and emphasized the importance of musicianship, time and swing above all else.

Here's a few words of Jim's wisdom that I've compiled following his passing last month. Special thanks to Mark Micklethwaite and Morgan Doctor who shared many of these words of wisdom from Jim via Facebook:

"One of the most important qualities we must develop is patience. Developing the ability to stay with the obvious requires both patience and determination. If the band is popping through a simplistic groove, do not be tempted to add anything." 

"Knowing where you are in the music at all times, and generating a swinging time feel is what it is all about. Do not imagine you have come to change the course of music, and that your time is beyond question. Continually investigate your time and feeling. The polishing of the time should be like that of polishing the heart to a state of purity. The endeavour is an endless one." 


"Irrespective of the heights you reach as a musician and instrumentalist, irrespective of how outstanding your fellow musicians are, the most important ingredient that all can take to the stand is good human qualities, of love, patience, compassion, and tolerance, and the treating of all lives as once's own." Jim Blackley


"Being a top musician is no big deal. Being a true human being is a very, very big deal. That’s what it’s all about. The more true human beings we become, the more that quality will emanate from our music."

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

I also posted this piece before but re-posting now, here is an interview with Blackley circa 1984:

"An Interview with Jim Blackley"


Interview by T. Bruce Wittet - Modern Drummer magazine: March 1984

Interviewing Jim Blackley was a treat…. The talk was smooth, ample and of considerable substance. Most of all, it had heart, which is very important to Jim. He simply refuses to do half a job…. He has traversed continents and musical boundaries, he has sacrificed willingly the material amenities – all in a journey toward a life of honour, proportion, balance and excellence. I left his house clear headed and relaxed, notwithstanding having held off on cigarettes and coffee for several hours…. I’d had my first lesson with Jim Blackley.

Jim is something of a curiosity to many musicians. Billed the “Swinging Scot” during one of his spells in New York, he is well respected by the upper circle of Toronto drummers, many of whom make return visits for chats, repairs and inspiration. While Jim’s system arises from the best of Scottish and American drumming traditions, it is a true method for any instrument. Never before, perhaps, has music been stressed so much at the expense of technique. Jim believes that if you know music – really know music – and can hear it at any tempo and grasp it’s inner logic, you will discover surprising technique. And nobody leaves Blackley’s once a month sessions with any doubt about what it takes to make music….

But don’t rush to buy a ticket to Toronto, Jim’s home. There is a waiting list. It all seems to work out nicely though. Jim is helping others turn craft into art, and he spends his time enriching his musical and spiritual being. Although you’ll seldom see Jim perform in public, let me assure you, the man can play!

Q: Someone once told me that there are certain patterns that you can learn, but never really pull off authentically…. You can practise them and play them, but they never actually become part of you. Do you feel that one can learn to master a style, or is that facility innate?

JB: I think that environment is one of the most important things in development. Music is a language and has to be learned…. If you’ve never heard Spanish spoken, then you’re not going to learn to speak Spanish. If you want to be a jazz drummer and have never heard jazz being played, then you’re just not going to learn to play jazz. You have to expose yourself to the jazz language. The first thing any musician should be taught is the art of listening. It’s excellent if everything starts off in a natural way and you grow up in a home where parents are playing music morning to night, like my kids are. My oldest son Keith is the only one who is a professional drummer, but my other sons Brian and Scott are also excellent musicians.

I don’t approach teaching from the learning of rudiments. Not that there isn’t any value to rudiments, but the important thing you must give the student is direction about understanding structure, listening to chord changes, listening to the bass line, how to play the time and punctuate the phrases – these are the things that the musical player must learn. It has nothing to do with playing the rudiments. I could direct students into being outstanding jazz drummers without ever teaching one rudiment, yet I could cover everything that’s being played in jazz, because everything develops from playing TIME. My whole concept is based on approaching everything from the TIME. All rhythms and figures are first developed as cymbal patterns. Students learn to hear the musical line, played over chord changes, the bass, and the melody line. And then, they learn how to take that single musical line and explore the total drumset…. They are playing musical lines, not rudiments!

The first two things students of jazz have to learn are the 12 bar blues and the 32 bar chorus. Those two things cover a large portion of jazz composition. Listening to singers in order to learn lyrics is another important aspect. When you learn all the tunes through the lyrics, you develop a natural foundation for the form, not an intellectual one. When you’re playing and singing the song, you may not intellectually know where you are, but you just feel where you are. I’m a believer in learning all the bebop heads, and learning to sing them, because if you can’t sing the head from beginning to end, it’s impossible to accent properly.

When students come to study with me, I’ll sit them behind the drums, play a very basic 12 bar blues record, and ask them to play some time. Next, I’ll play something with a 32 bar form and ask them to play to that. Then I will ask if they know where they are in the music? All of them will say “Oh yeah, I hear it….” And I’ll say “Fine”. Then I’ll drop the needle at random on the record and ask them to tell me which bar of the tune they’re on. Eight out of ten cannot tell where they are, they can hear the beginning and the turn around, but they can’t tell whether they’re on the fifth, ninth or eleventh bar. The Jamey Aebersold instruction records have been an invaluable aid for the students because they were designed for professional development. The student gets the opportunity to clearly hear the bass and chord changes.

I can truthfully say that there are very few students who have come to me who don’t have the potential to be first class players. I’m not saying that everyone has it, but everyone has it at different levels. We must be very, very careful at the beginning about assessing the potential of any student. People who have not been exposed to any listening at all are not going to respond when you sit them down behind a set of drums to play with a jazz track. You have to educate their listening habits while you’re fostering their technical habits. If I find that a student is developing a very high technical and musical proficiency, but is not performing, I’ll stop the lessons until that student goes out and does some playing. It’s disastrous for a student to pursue years and years of study without any musical outlet. I know numerous teachers who tell the students to wait four or five years until they get all of their chops together before they go out and play. My philosophy is the opposite: I want the students out playing from the very first lesson. Even if they can only play quarter notes on the cymbal, I want them out playing from the beginning. I tell them that, if they get a call to play while they’re practising, they should throw the books in the garbage, and go out and play!

Q: Do you find that kids who have grown up listening to rock music have a hard time relating to jazz?

JB: I don’t find anything negative about the kids who have grown up playing rock music, I find that it has been an excellent stepping stone for introducing young players to jazz. It gives them the opportunity to perform with other human beings, and that’s what it’s all about. We should be thankful for rock music introducing young people to performance.

Let’s be very frank about it: The artistry needed to be a top flight jazz player overshadows the musicality needed to be a rock player. On the other hand, to me, the most important things to be captured in any aspect of playing are the feeling and the groove. If you can’t get the groove, you may as well stay at home and phone it in. It’s sad, but the majority of drummers just don’t swing. It’s not that they’re not capable of swinging, it’s that they don’t understand the elements of swinging. It’s not too intangible to discuss. There’s been so much nonsense through the years about how you either have it or you don’t, and that no one can teach you to swing. That’s absolute nonsense! Swinging is not an accident, there are definite ingredients in swinging that have to be understood.

First of all, there are far too many drummers playing jazz who are not playing with a jazz feeling – they’re playing with an eighth note feeling, instead of off the triplet. The triplet feel is basic to jazz performance, and the perfect example of that is Elvin Jones. His playing is rooted in the blues. From the first time I heard him, I found his playing so basically simple and so beautiful. The problem is that very few people know how to listen to Elvin Jones. His whole playing is centred off the anticipation of beats 1 and 3. Listen carefully, and you’ll discover this. When you can hear that in his playing, it makes it so simple.

Very soon I will be publishing a book which will explain the essence of jazz drumming through the years (the now acclaimed “Essence of Jazz Drumming”). It will be a whole study of jazz time and jazz rhythm to show how musical lines are developed, and how all the figures come from the time. Any young player interested in playing jazz should investigate the triplet very, very thoroughly, because therein lies the essence of jazz time. One of the biggest faults I hear with many jazz drummers in their playing of the ride cymbal is their accenting of the cymbal on beats 2 and 4. The feeling should be one of 4/4, because the main duty in playing the ride cymbal in this manner is to complement the bass line – the 1,2,3 and 4 of the bar should have equal stress. The hi-hat will stress the 2 and 4 as much as necessary.

Forward motion comes from the quarter notes being played with an even pulsation. The minute you start leaning on 2 and 4, as most books instruct you to do, it will sound like someone walking with a wooden leg. Already I can hear someone saying “Elvin Jones doesn’t play with a feeling of four….”

Ah, Elvin Jones doesn’t play his CYMBAL off that particular concept, but if you listen closely to the embellishments that Elvin does around his cymbal rhythm, you will find that creates a feeling of four and gives it forward momentum. His cymbal, which plays off the anticipation, gives it that feeling of going back, and that’s why Elvin’s time has that wonderful laid back feeling…. The message you get from Elvin depends on which part of his line you are hearing.

One of the most confusing things that we can encounter is a transcription of a drum performance because, when put down on paper, it gives a completely false impression of what’s being played. What you see is a single line, not the totality of what’s being played.

A most difficult aspect of playing is to play a straight ride beat devoid of any accents or variations. Some horn players like the time behind them to be very straight and simple. If you have not developed the control to handle this type of playing it can be very embarrassing. Mastery of this concept will give your playing a solid foundation from which to grow, although this is certainly only one approach to playing time. Jake Hanna is an excellent example to listen to. As I mention often, you have to listen to the right people, and one of them has to be Tony Williams. Tony definitely brought his own sound to the instrument, coupled with outstanding musicality. When it comes to big band playing, I feel that Mel Lewis is one of the top exponents. His ability to play the musical line knocks me out. He understands the difference between the horizontal and the vertical, and hears and responds to consonance and dissonance…. A very musical drummer indeed.

Q: Do you feel that for the time to feel good, it has to be metronomically perfect?

JB: When we are involved in musical performance, there is such a thing as emotional rushing or dragging. This is musically acceptable as long as it’s something that the band feels and does collectively. When only one member is doing it, it becomes a “tug of war”. But if it is stemming from the whole concept of the music and the emotion that’s coming through the music, then it’s beautiful. You’ll find that with some of the great players, ballads will tend to get slower – within reason, of course. When you’re playing a moderate or bright tempo, there is nothing wrong with the time moving up slightly. But when you find performances where they practically double the tempo by the end of the tune, then I don’t consider that musical at all, that’s really just a lack of control.

Q: Do you ever recommend the use of a metronome?

JB: Of course….. I’ve never met anybody yet who couldn’t benefit from the intelligent use of a metronome. But don’t become a slave to it. The metronome should be used to check out your time. What you will find is that you have three or four tempos that you feel very comfortable and natural with. What the metronome is good for is making you play through the other tempos – the “blind” tempos, as I call them – to make yourself persevere and master tempos from one end of the metronome to the other. The hardest thing is playing slow…. The essence of my teaching is built on that premise. I never talk to a student about playing fast. The slower you can learn to play, the happier you’ll make me. You will never be able to play slow enough to satisfy me. The essence is in the space between the notes. Once you can hear the space with confidence you can start to do unbelievable things from within that space, and the up tempos become very easy to play. Naturally, you have to practise playing fast as well, but the emphasis is on playing as slow as possible. Usually, quarter note equals 40 is where I have my students practise their material. We build it up from there. To me, the whole conception and feeling for space comes from the art of playing slow.

Q: What led you to write your book “Syncopated Rolls”?

JB: Back in about 1959, Charles Mingus came to Vancouver. From the first moment, I was fully aware of what was going on in that band, and what Dannie Richmond was doing. Dannie and I struck up a beautiful friendship, and I invited him to my home. When he came over, I played him some solo pipe band drumming records that were made in the 40’s, and after Dannie heard them he said “I don’t care what you call that, man, that’s jazz!” I then proceeded to show him some of the ideas and concepts I had developed for drum set. When I finished playing he threw his arms around me and said “You’re the first white drummer I’ve met in my life who plays black!” His enthusiasm for my concepts resulted in my writing Syncopated Rolls. You know, it’s interesting to see the way things go, for it seems that many players are just beginning to realize the depth of musical material in these books. It goes way beyond what the title suggests. The new two-volume edition seems to be hitting the right spot’.

Q: What are your personal goals as a player, a teacher and a person?

JB: Being a top musician is no big deal. Being a true human being is a very, very big deal. That’s what it’s all about. The more true human beings we become, the more that quality will emanate from our music. There’s no such thing as gaining spirituality from the music. The spirituality comes from within as we develop the qualities of God and surrender to that power. The thing is, I’m not someone who just sits here teaching. I only teach one student a day, and I only take one student one day each month. I could have hundreds of students if I wanted, but I’m not interested in making money. I’m interested in helping to contribute, through God’s grace, to another human being’s life. If I do my duty to God properly, then I’ll do my duty to every human being I encounter. If I can bring something to someone else’s life, then that’s really good.

Now don’t misunderstand. I spend hours every day playing and practising. I’ll never be satisfied with my playing! I was down in my basement the other night for three hours practising something I was trying to get. I made a comment in my book that developing time to a state of perfection and feeling is like polishing the heart to a state of spotless purity… It’s an endless endeavour.

My students are not just people who come here and pay me a few dollars. No. They are very important people in my life. They contribute so much to my development. I learn so much from every student who comes here – not only about music, but about life. It’s like a family relationship with all of the students I’ve had over the years.

We get together as a group three or four times a week to play. It isn’t a tea party, we play! They work their buts off. We don’t just play dance music, we play jazz. A lot of what I hear is well played, but there is no improvising. There are no chances being taken, and that’s not what jazz is all about. If you’re going to improvise you cannot be right all the time. Miles Davis is one of the classic examples. He turns what people would call wrong into a musical gem. That’s the thing that I’ve always liked about Elvin’s playing: There’s that raw jungle type of sound and feeling. There’s a roughness to it, but although there’s a roughness, let me say that Elvin has one of the finest touches of any drummer playing. People talk about Elvin playing loud, but he’s one of the most sensitive and delicate drummers I’ve ever heard in my life. Listen to some of the ballads he plays – that lovely loping feeling he gets from those slow blues things he did with John Coltrane. He’s been playing the same things for the past 20 years, but every time he plays them he makes them sound as if he’s inventing and creating them at that particular moment. He has such a brilliant and fluid way of using his drumset that is always sounds fresh. Now that is artistry!

Improvising is the ability to take a two-bar motif and play it through a composition and have no one know. Or being able to take simple ideas and turn them inside out, upside down, move them around, and make a total composition from a simple two-bar phrase. That’s what Max Roach was a master of…. He could develop a whole composition from a two-bar phrase. When you’re talking about top players it’s nonsensical to pit one against the other. If you cannot go out and listen to Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Max Roach, Jake Hanna, Philly Joe Jones, Mel Lewis, Terry Clarke, Keith Blackley, Shelly Manne or Dannie Richmond and enjoy them for what they are, then you’re not interested in music. You’re going for some other reason….

In every type of music there is a groove. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing country, funk, rock, Viennese waltzes, or polkas, there’s a groove. The thing is to find out what really creates the groove. That’s the thing that must be investigated, and that’s what’s not being investigated enough. To be sure, there are various ways to generate the time, and the swing within the time, but it seems to me that swinging is being confused with excitement, and excitement is being confused with getting excited. The aim is to become a musically exciting and swinging performer, irrespective of the idiom.

Artistry is not an accident. Artistry is not built on ignorance. Artistry is built on wisdom...






Friday, August 11, 2017

Benny Goodman w/Terry Gibbs & Charlie Smith

Some rare footage today featuring Terry Gibbs on vibes and Charlie Smith on drums with the Benny Goodman Quintet circa. 1950:




I don't know much about Charlie Smith except that he's also the drummer on this rare footage with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie:



Friday, August 4, 2017

Peter Erskine: Dr.Um




































A few clips today of Peter Erskine's latest project featuring the great Bob Sheppard on tenor saxophone and some very inspired and musical drumming from Erskine himself:





Erskine also recently penned a wonderful essay for Modern Drummer magazine on the concept of "melodic jazz drumming", a subject very dear to me as I researched this very topic myself towards my doctoral studies a few years ago (and, incidentally, actually interviewed Erskine for my thesis). As always, he expresses his concepts and teachings very articulately and with a clear sense of direction and urgency:

https://www.moderndrummer.com/article/june-2017-playing-melodically-part-1-billies-bounce/


Monday, July 24, 2017

Mid-Summer Paradiddle















It's been a few weeks since my last post (since I've been on the road playing Jazz festivals and teaching workshops for the better part of the last month!) But I'm back home now and blogging will hopefully be a bit more regular in the coming weeks. Canadian Jazz drumming legend Jim Blackley recently passed away and Mark Miller's excellent book on Claude Ranger has been released so look for some blog posts featuring both in the coming weeks.

Anyhow, thanks again for checking in and here's what we have to offer at this point, half-way through the summer season:

- A couple of interviews with Jeff "Tain" Watts from Drum Magazine:

http://drummagazine.com/jeff-watts-soul-of-a-drummer-mind-of-a-composer/

....and Neon Jazz:



- Milford Graves is featured at Dark Forces Swing:

http://darkforcesswing.blogspot.ca/2015/01/you-dont-get-it-in-front-of-blackboard.html

- Kendrick Scott interviewed over at the The Drummer's Resource Podcast:

http://www.drummersresource.com/kendrick-scott-interview/

- Peter Martin's excellent Jazz resource The Open Studio Network features vibraphonist Warren Wolf:

https://www.openstudionetwork.com/warren-wolf-interview-the-process-7/

- Todd Bishop keeps bringing us outstanding exercises and concepts to practice. His recent series of posts on funk drumming are worth some serious consideration. Here's a good place to start:

http://www.cruiseshipdrummer.com/2017/06/playing-funk-effectively.html

- John Riley was recently Down Under and here's a sampling of his performance at Sydney's Drummers Day:



- From Aquarian Drumheads here's a wonderful feature on Joe LaBarbera:


- Jerome Jennings is one of my favourite current drummers on the scene today. Here's some nice action footage of Jennings in action:



- Here's a documentary on the very talented and soon-to-be-very-famous Kojo Roney (also apparently a student of Milford Graves):



- I thought this was an interesting arrangement of Steve Reich's "Clapping Music", arranged for two snare drums:



- Joe Lovano is one my favourite contemporary tenor saxophonists and he's also a great drummer! Here's Joe laying it down on John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" (performed as a 3/4 waltz...):




- What am I listening to these days?

D.E.W. East "Introducing D.E.W. East" - Barry Elmes (drums)

Elvin Jones Trio "Puttin' it Together" - Elvin Jones (drums)

Elvin Jones Trio "The Ultimate" - Elvin Jones (drums)

Lee Morgan/Clifford Jarvis Quintet "Live in Baltimore 1958" - Ed Blackwell (drums)

Jazzmeia Horn "A Social Call" - Jerome Jennings (drums)

King Curtis "Live at the Fillmore" - Bernard Purdie (drums)


- And today's Last Word goes to the late Jim Blackley:

"Irrespective of the heights you reach as a musician and instrumentalist, irrespective of how outstanding your fellow musicians are, the most important ingredient that all can take to the bandstand is good human qualities, of love, patience, compassion, tolerance, and the treating of all lives as one's own."

- Jim Blackley






Monday, July 3, 2017

12/8 Afro-Cuban Bell Paradiddles

I've been on the road lately and have been having fun with this little wrist twister, banging it out on drum pads in hotel rooms, quietly on my hi-hat during sound checks and drumming with my hands while waiting in airport departure lounges (much to the annoyance of other passengers...haha).

Anyways, this is a follow-up to my posts from a couple of months ago, using various Clave accent patterns combined with paradiddle sticking patterns to create interesting and musical combinations.

The following pattern that I recently came up that uses the accent pattern from the common 12/8 Afro-Cuban bell pattern, phrased using single and double paradiddle combinations:








As always, really bring out the accents to order to get a sense of the larger Clave pattern.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mike Clark























A few previews today of Mike Clark from his upcoming lessons via The Drum Channel. There's some very important information here!






Monday, June 12, 2017

The Monday Morning Paradiddle















And....we're back. As always, here's a few things of interest making the rounds via the Four on the Floor office these days:

- Joe LaBarbera offers some reflections on his time working with Bill Evans via All About Jazz:

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/joe-labarbera-experiencing-bill-evans-joe-la-barbera-by-victor-l-schermer.php?pg=1&width=1280

- A wonderful piece by Nate Chinen on the late Mickey Roker from WBGO:

http://wbgo.org/post/mickey-roker-dynamic-hard-bop-drummer-and-philly-jazz-institution-dies-84#stream/0

- A profile on Dave King, from The Bad Plus from NPR:

http://www.npr.org/sections/ablogsupreme/2013/09/10/220772101/the-odd-jobs-of-dave-king

- This is a wonderful feature on Roy Haynes from Jon Batiste and the Late Show:



I gotta say...Haynes is so bad ass that even those sorry drums sound good when he plays them!


- Max Roach and Cecil Taylor interviewed:




- Joe Farnsworth has been on the road Down Under lately. Here's a feature and an interview all the way from Australia:

http://scenestr.com.au/music/joe-farnsworth-is-drumming-his-way-to-australia

http://www.buzzsprout.com/95092/511584-3-interview-with-joe-farnsworth

And from an older performance in Russia (after drinking some covefefe perhaps?) here's an awesome mallet solo to check out:




- Harvey Mason reflects on the accompanying accomplishments of Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones and Roy Haynes via Bret Primack, the Jazz Video Guy:


Harvey Mason on Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes from Bret Primack on Vimeo.


- Kenny Washington speaks to the influence of the John Kirby Sextet on Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker:




- Irish Jazz drummer (and contributor to this blog!) Conor Guilfoyle is featured over at irishdrummers.com:

http://www.irishdrummers.com/2017/06/conor-guilfoyle-supreme-jazz-drummer.html

- Another great Irish Jazz drummer, David Lyttle, recently wrapped up a road trip through the United States and documented his journey via a podcast and a series of clever videos. Here's one of Lyttle's features, performing in the backyard of Art Blakey's childhood home located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh:




- Quincy Davis, the new Professor of Jazz Drumming at the University of North Texas, offers the first of a two-part series on brush playing:



Looking forward to Part II Q !


- Here's an inspiring one featuring Joe Lovano and Paul Motian's drum set:


Joe&Paul'sDrums from Michael Patrick Kelly on Vimeo.


- This one brought back some memories as I used to hear these guys play together in Montreal during the mid 90s. Here's Pete Magadini burning on Cherokee with Andre White on piano and Alec Walkington on drums:



I always recommend Magadini's books "Learn to Play the Drums" Vol. 1 & 2 to all my beginner drum students.

- Some recent clips of Portlands Alan Jones, a recent favourite drummer/composer/band leader/educator/visionary of mine:









- What am I listening to these days?

Horace Silver "Six Pieces of Silver" - Louis Hayes (drums)

Horace Silver "Trio" - Art Blakey (drums), Sabu (percussion)

David Kikoski "Consequences" - Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums)

Art Pepper "Plus Eleven" - Mel Lewis (drums)

Paul Motian "ECM :Rarum"- Paul Motian (drums)

Jorge Rossy "Stay There" - Al Foster (drums), Jorge Rossy (vibraphone)


- And today's Final Word goes to Jim Blackley, an important icon in the realm of Canadian Jazz drumming (who only recently retired from teaching). His teachings have inspired several generations of important Jazz drummers here in Canada:

"The only reason for devoting yourself to a life of Jazz performance must come from a sincere need from within. You must feel deeply from within your heart that this is the path you wish to follow. A decision based on any other reason is fraught with danger....being a musician means being part of a total experience - no winning, no losing"- Jim Blackley
























* RIP Adam West (Batman)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera 4tet with Adam Nussbaum

I posted some brief clips of this band awhile ago but fortunately for us here's some well-filmed concert footage, recorded in Ottawa, ON earlier this year, featuring Canadian tenor titans Kirk MacDonald and Pat LaBarbera along with bassist Kieran Overs and guest drummer Adam Nussbaum to enjoy:



If you were looking for a lesson in musical/highly swinging drumming today, you've found it! Nussbaum's sense of flow, graceful sound and motion around the drums always really knocks me out.

Furthermore, I received a copy of their latest album in the mail last month and have really enjoyed the overall group chemistry. Check it out!


Monday, May 29, 2017

Bill Stewart!

















A compilation today of interviews and close-up footage featuring one of Jazz drumming's modern-day Masters and innovators, the inimitable Bill Stewart.

 - Leo Sidran (son of another great Jazz interviewer, Ben Sidran) interviews Bill Stewart via his exceptional podcast, The Third Story:

http://www.third-story.com/listen/2015/2/4/episode-24-bill-stewart

- Quincy Davis (recently named Professor of Jazz Drums at the University of North Texas!) interviews Stewart via his web series Q-Tip:



- A couple of clips of Bill playing a set of Lignum drums:





- And I likely posted this one before but here it is again because I think it's awesome...





Monday, May 22, 2017

Joey Baron & Robyn Schulkowsky

We are wrapping up a long weekend up here in Canada, so kick back, relax and enjoy these two clips of Joey Baron and Robyn Schulkowsky, engaged in a true "percussion discussion":






Thursday, May 18, 2017

Conor's Corner: Applying Rumba to the Drumset

This is the first post of what will hopefully be a series of guest blog posts brought to us by my friend and very fine Irish jazz drummer/educator, Conor Guilfoyle. Conor has been sharing wonderful lessons and excellent practical drumming information via YouTube and his website for some time now and I'm thrilled that he will be able to share his great explanations here as well:

"Applying Rumba to the Drumset" - Conor Guilfoyle



Cuban Rumba with its heavy African influences has a vast and rich tradition. It was developed in the cities of urban Cuba at the end of the 19th Century, where it still thrives today, before moving to the USA and then the rest of the world. While there have been some changes in instrumentation and phrasing, its ability to develop while still keeping the original structures in place has kept it relevant today.

In my lesson I'm looking at just one form of the Rumba, the mid-tempo style called "Guaguanco", and to be honest it's just a toe in the water of this vast musical ocean. I also purposely avoid using any percussion extras such as the claves or cowbells but rather use the standard drum kit to recreate the sounds. A rumba ensemble consists of three conga players, a stick percussionist, and singers as well as dancers. We cannot possibly hope to recreate that sound, so instead I focus on the interaction between the clave and the standard conga pattern. If you wanted to take it a step further you replace the clave pattern with the "Cascara", which is a common stick pattern used in many styles of Cuban music including Rumba.

You'll find this pattern and other common Cuban rhythms that I have applied to the standard kit at this link here:

www.conorguilfoyle.com/files/Cuban-Patterns-for-Kit.pdf

The key of course is to listen to the music. Below is a list of some of the great exponents of this style. Just put their names into YouTube and it will yield a treasure throve of great music. Be careful though, you might never come back!

Conor

Recommended Listening:

Los Muñequitos de Matanzas
Los Papines
Pancho Quinto
Tata Guines
Mongo Santamaria
Potato Valdes
Totico
Joaquin Pozo

Monday, May 15, 2017

Joe LaBarbera Up Close














Today's blog post features a nice side profile view of the great Joe LaBarbera in action, featuring baritone saxophone Master Gary Smulyan with the ever swinging John Clayton on bass:



This next one is brief and obviously a commercial for Gretsch Drum's current stock of snare drums BUT it's also a great excuse to check out Joe's exceptionally fluid and loose snare drum technique:



I think it all looks good and sounds good to me!



Monday, May 8, 2017

Bone2Pick: Dennis Mackrel Interview

Thanks to Calgary's Andre Wickenheiser who passed along this interview with the great Dennis Mackrel, from trombonist Michael Davis' on-going series web series Bone2Pick:

Monday, May 1, 2017

Memphis Nussbaum














Thanks to the kind people over at the Memphis Drum Shop and Zildjian Cymbals, here's Adam Nussbaum with a few short but very important drums lessons to take note of:









If you dig further on their YouTube channel you'll also find many, many clips of Adam demonstrating an assortment of Zildjian's latest cymbal offerings and they all sound great!

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Monday Morning Paradiddle














Spring is in full swing over here and thanks for checking back (it's actually snowing outside my studio window as I write this!) Anyways, here's a bunch of different things on the go and worth checking out this week:

- An older article but here's Canadian journalist Paul Wells on Montreal-now-New Orleans-based drummer John Fraboni's attempt to invite Elvin Jones over to his house for dinner!

https://medium.com/@InklessPW/elvinquest-the-drummer-who-didnt-come-to-dinner-96f3658169b2#.1mc7sxre4

- Another older but very good piece on Tony Williams from Jazz Profiles:

http://jazzprofiles.blogspot.ca/2011/03/tony-williams-1945-1997-unpredictable.html

- We know Joe Lovano as one of the world's great Jazz saxophonists, but he's also a great drummer too and shows a great reverence for the great drummers. Here is an interview with Lovano from Greenleaf Music:

https://www.greenleafmusic.com/anftd-41-joe-lovano/

- The Drummer Resource Podcast is always a great source for interviews with different drummers, covering a variety of styles. In this episode Nick Ruffini speaks with Berklee professor and Alan Dawson disciple John Ramsay:

http://www.drummersresource.com/john-ramsay-interview/

Billy Drummond is also interviewed at the Drummer's Resource Podcast over here:

http://www.drummersresource.com/billy-drummond-interview/

And thanks to saxophonist Jeff McGregor, Drummond is also interviewed via the ongoing SmallsLIVE Workshop Podcast:



- The Drummer's Journal is a wonderful on-line magazine. I'm always really impressed by not only the content but also the layout and artistic choices that go into the presentation. Check it out here:

http://www.thedrummersjournal.com

Definitely check out recent features with Steve Gadd and Peter Erskine.

- Han Bennink is featured over at NPR Music in a lovely segment entitled "The Jazz Drummer Who Makes Music Out of Everything":


- Jesse Simpson is quickly making a name for himself as a fine cymbal smith. Check out this little feature:


- Quincy Davis offers another "Q-Tip" lesson, offering some suggestions on how to develop your single stroke rolls:



Also, a huge congratulations to Quincy is due as he recently accepted the position as drum professor at the University of North Texas!

- A great lesson with David Garibaldi, breaking down the King Kong Beat:


- A little drum n' bass with Toronto bassist Mike Downes and Larnell Lewis:



- Another segment featuring Antonio Sanchez from the upcoming documentary "The Art of Listening":



- Now here's some fun music....The WDR Big Band featuring two projects with drummer's Al Foster and Billy Hart!






- What am I listening to these days?

Kirk MacDonald & Pat LaBarbera "Silent Voices" - Adam Nussbaum (drums)

Antonio Sanchez "Three by Three" - Antonio Sanchez (drums)

Joe Lovano "Tones, Shapes and Colours" - Mel Lewis (drums)

Gene Krupa & Louie Bellson "The Mighty Two" - Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson (drums)

Hugh Fraser Quintet "Pas de Problems" - Blaine Wikjord (drums)

Hugh Fraser Quinet "Looking Up" - Buff Allen (drums)

Nate Waters Quartet "Contra Contrafact" - Bobby Wiens (drums)


- And today's Final Word goes to the great Jack DeJohnette:

"Listen really well, inspire the other musicians, be a team player, and know when to provide the fire, the intensity and the dynamics to the group. Be prepared to play what you don't know..."

- Jack DeJohnette

Monday, April 17, 2017

Paul Motian "West 107th Street" and Playing the Piano

















Thanks to Chicago's Ted Sirota who shared this brilliant little drum solo from Paul Motian called "West 107th Street", originally featured on a duo recording with pianist Paul Bley entitled "Notes":



I was also recently intrigued by an episode of Uncle Paul's Jazz Closet, a wonderful regular podcast in which Motian's niece chronicles her uncle's music. Specifically, she recently shared several home recordings made on cassette of Motian practicing the piano and playing through several of his original compositions (circa. 1978). Check it out here: http://jazzcloset.blogspot.ca/2017/04/set-list-040717.html

I find this all quite inspiring and daunting at the same time. Apparently he was quite a devout student of the piano, had a regular teacher and practiced regularly (he even bought and played one of Keith Jarrett's pianos!) And of course, Motian was a prolific composer as well (you can purchase a volume of his compositions here: http://jazzcloset.blogspot.ca/p/motian-songbook.html)

Personally, I record myself a lot while playing the vibraphone, sometimes on the piano (maybe with my iPhone) and, most recently, singing ideas into a Sony digital dictaphone. I also find the Zoom H6 a very useful tool for recording myself on the drums. Overall I find the process of recording myself (even if I'm not playing my main instrument) a great way to document and develop different compositional ideas. However, I also find the idea of these personal recordings being released into universe for all to hear being absolutely terrifying too! They're not really for anyone but myself to listen to...

So who knows if Paul Motian really meant for anyone to hear these personal recordings, but boy are we sure lucky that we are afforded this rare opportunity, a glimpse into the artistic process of a master musician.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Christian McBride Trio - Tribute to Ray Brown

I enjoyed this Ray Brown trio tribute lately, featuring Christian McBride, Benny Green and Karriem Riggins, three exceptional and highly swinging musicians who all had a very close relationship with the late bassist Ray Brown:













Monday, April 3, 2017

Joe Farnsworth Vienna
















Some short (but great!) clips of Joe Farnsworth in action, giving some sage advice to some very lucky students in Austria from a recent tour:











Dig his use of the mallets on this solo piece...



And finally a couple of very hip solos, playing with pianist Harold Mabern:



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis - Norway 1974

Thanks to Danny Gottlieb who passed this rare footage along this morning:

Monday, March 27, 2017

Ben Riley...















A brilliant little drum feature from Ben Riley (with Thelonious Monk in Paris, circa. 1964) to get us going on this Monday morning:



If this doesn't put a little spring in your step and put a smile on your face, you must be dead.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Jimmy Heath on Drummers & Bass Players

As per always, when the Master's speak, we listen...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Clave Paradiddles

Today's lesson continues with the same concept from last week's post, dealing with how we can use Clave patterns as frameworks to create interesting rudimental combinations (again, thank you Billy Martin!)

Here's another one that I've come up with (another "wrist twister as it were...) that uses different accented paradiddle combinations to outline a larger 3-2 Son Clave pattern:











Obviously the sticking combinations are important, but to really make it musical and groove, one really needs to pay attention to the accents and really exaggerate them (or else the larger Clave pattern will be lost!)

A fun variation that I've been practicing is to replace the first two double paradiddles with two single paradiddlediddles, each leading off of the same hand.

Maybe you could add flams to each of the accents to increase the "chop buster" factor.

You could also get clever like I mentioned last time and apply the same concept to a 2-3 Son, 3-2 Rumba and Bossa Nova Clave pattern as well.

Again, sorry about the hand written notation. I'm still sorting out my new computer and notation program.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Newport 1974

Thanks to the poster over at cymbalholics.com who shared this mighty "percussion discussion" from the 1974 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival, featuring Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey and Max Roach:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Clave Singles

Today's mini-lesson includes a little "wrist twister" that I've been messing around with lately as a warm-up. This is an exercise that combines hand-to-hand single strokes in the context of a 3-2 Son Clave pattern:









Of course you could also play this pattern as a 2-3 Son Clave or 3-2 Rumba Clave as well. Try the same concept with any 12/8 or Bossa Nova Clave too.

You could even up the ante a bit and add flams to each of the accents:








As always, I'm a big proponent of not only practicing the rudiments and rudimental types of patterns but also playing them with some sense of a melodic structure and musicality involved as well. Using various Clave patterns (thank you Billy Martin!) will undoubtedly help you achieve this. At the end of the day, you'll get a lot more mileage out of your rudiments if you organize and think of them this way. And of course there are many of doing this as well...

*Sorry for the handwritten examples today but I hope these make sense. I'm currently upgrading my computer and my handwriting will have to do for now!

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Monday Morning Paradiddle















Welcome back. Here's the latest collection of things to check out this week:

- From Paul Motian's memorial service, here's Andrew Cyrille and Jabali Billy Hart playing together in a serious "percussion discussion":

https://soundcloud.com/symphony-space/a-tribute-to-paul-motian-8

Thank you to New York tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry for passing along this gem!

- Irish bassist and blogger Ronan Guilfoyle offers an excellent article with some pragmatic ideas about the idea of innovation and tradition in today's world of Jazz music:

http://ronanguil.blogspot.ca/2017/01/i-dare-you-innovation-versus-tradition.html

- Brian Blade talks about his recent projects and outlook on music via offbeat.com:

http://www.offbeat.com/articles/brian-blade-talks-back/

- Toronto drummer Nick Fraser is interviewed over at Positively Underground:

https://positivelyunderground.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/the-uncoverables-podcast-nick-fraser-interview/

- NPR features percussionist Cyro Baptista:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/501564127/musical-cannibalism-with-cyro-baptista

- Yoron Israel interviewed over at WGBH:

http://www.wgbh.org/programs/Jazz-247-Conversations-with-Eric-Jackson-3496?episode=68794

- Susie Ibarra featured on Roulette.org:

http://roulette.org/an-interview-with-susie-ibarra/

- Not a drummer specific column (although he DOES play great drums!), here's some wisdom from tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi via Steve Tres:

http://stevetres.com/2016/11/jerry-bergonzis-secret/

- A couple of interviews with Arizona's most recent resident, Lewis Nash:

http://theshow.kjzz.org/content/437449/legendary-jazz-drummer-lewis-nash-teaching-next-generation-drummers-asu




- Quincy Davis returns with another "Q-Tip", this time demonstrating his transcription of Philly Joe Jones' snappy solo on the tune "Julia":




- Ari Hoenig demonstrates some comping ideas with the brushes:



And of course this led me down the YouTube.com rabbit hole where I came across this duo performance of "Togo"(of "Old & New Dreams" fame) with Chris Potter on tenor saxophone:




- Antonio Sanchez offers some wisdom in advance of the upcoming documentary feature entitled "The Art of Listening":




- Here's a couple of burning clips featuring Rodney Green on brushes:






- A nice demonstration of Vernel Fournier's classic drum groove on Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana":



Fournier offers some personal insight into this unique drum beat here:




- Drummer/percussionist Lafrae Sci talks and demonstrates how to "make colours" on the drumset using sound and rhythm:




- What am I listening to these days?

Wayne Shorter "Schizophrenia" - Joe Chambers (drums)

Keith Copeland Trio "Live in Limerick" - Keith Copeland (drums)

Ellis Marsalis "The Classic Ellis Marsalis" - James Black (drums)

Jesse Davis Quintet "Live at Smalls" - Billy Drummond (drums)

Joe Lovano & Greg Osby "Friendly Fire" - Idris Muhammad (drums)


- And for today's Final Word, rather than leaving you with a one or two-line inspirational/motivational quote of some sort, here's two articles from upliftconnect.com that seemed to have resonated with me lately:

"A Japanese Technique for Overcoming Laziness"

http://upliftconnect.com/japanese-overcoming-laziness/

"The Daily Routines of the World's Creative Geniuses"

http://upliftconnect.com/routines-worlds-creative-geniuses/


That's all I've got. Thanks for checking in and have a great week!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nussbaum Way Up North

Adam Nussbaum has been up in Canada lately, touring with Canadian saxophone titans Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald. Apparently an album is forthcoming as well…(I even heard that a drum duet with Ted Warren may have occurred at some point???)

Lucky for us, here's a hint of their recent hit in Toronto (which features not only some very musical accompanying by Nussbam, but some stellar brushwork as well):

Friday, February 3, 2017

Billy Drummond: Freedom of Ideas

















Billy Drummond has long been one of my favourite contemporary Jazz drummers since I first started listening to him back in the mid 1990s. His albums "Dubai", "The Gift" and "Native Colours" as well the plethora of dates recorded for the Criss Cross record label have all been a big influence on me. I've always been inspired by his huge sound, driving cymbal beat and relentless, driving sense of swing.

Here's a couple of clips today of Billy Drummond's most recent project, Freedom of Ideas, to check out. I sincerely hope that this band records and releases an album sometime in the near future!





And here Drummond breaks down the 7/4 groove for his piece "Dubai" (as performed above):





And of course, watching all these videos quickly led me down the YouTube rabbit hole and I discovered this nice trio rendition of "There Is No Greater Love" featuring Drummond with Javon Jackson and Ron Carter (dig those nice yellow Gretsch drums!):

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Drummer as Composer: Joe Chambers























It's been awhile since I've blogged on the topic of Jazz drummers who also happen to be composers (personally think this is quite ironic given the considerable amount of time and energy that I spend daily thinking about this subject!) Anyways, here's a little gem from Bobby Hutcherson, my all-time vibraphone hero, on the importance of composing music, passed along from his friend and compatriot, the great Joe Chambers

“Joe Chambers told me that in order to complete your cycle you have to write, that way you can document what was going through your mind and where you were harmonically, theoretically, historically, to kind of show the things that you were thinking about, how you were feeling and the things you were working on,” Hutcherson said. “Are you working on a theory to create a puzzle, to be able to go in this side and get through the maze? Are you just looking for little situations, small motifs, little questions and answers? Are you looking for secondary melodies to come in, completely different from this but they will all add up? Then there’s the sound of the elements, the sound of wind, the sound of rain, how the notes and melodies are contained in a sunny day or a rainy day."

 - as told by Bobby Hutcherson via Jazz Times magazine:
http://jazztimes.com/features/bobby-hutcherson-the-jazztimes-interview/

Personally, I find little pieces of compositional wisdom such as this to be quite inspiring and motivating in my own compositional pursuits.

In my opinion Joe Chambers is an underrated Jazz drummer, vibraphonist AND composer (!), someone who we should all check out and learn from. At the very least his cymbal beat on Joe Henderson's "Mode for Joe" will forever stick in my mind (as does his playing on Wayne Shorter's "The All Seeing Eye" and "Adam's Apple" and absolutely everything he ever recorded with Bobby Hutcherson are other favorites as well...)

Here's an interview with Joe Chambers via Neon Jazz to check out:



Given that I'm an aspiring drummer composer myself, I find Chambers to be a great role model to follow. In fact, given his multi-faceted talents, in my opinion Chambers should serve as a role model for all aspiring Jazz drummers in today's day and age.






Monday, January 9, 2017

Mike Clark & Ed Soph: PASIC 2016

It's been several years since I've had the opportunity to attend the Percussive Arts Society annual convention (maybe next year...) Fortunately I can still get a hint of all the great things that go on at PASIC thanks to the internet! Here's some highlights of two great sessions to take note of in particular featuring Ed Soph and Mike Clark respectively:




Monday, January 2, 2017

The Monday Morning Paradiddle














And…we're back.

Welcome to 2017! Hope you all had a pleasant Christmas and New Year's break. Thanks for checking in and thanks again for all your continued support.

Anyways, let's get down to business. Here's a few items of interest to get us started in the New Year ahead...

- GQ magazine recently featured this hip article on several of our Jazz elder statesmen:

http://www.gq.com/story/living-legends-of-jazz

It's hard to argue against the fact that Roy Haynes is clearly still the hippest and baddest dude to walk the planet earth.

- New York Times also featured this photo essay "Photos That Give the Drummer Some":

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/12/07/photos-that-give-the-drummer-some/?_r=0

- Canadian Musician Magazine offers this column on musical drumming from contributors Mark Kelso, Terry Clarke, Larnell Lewis and Anthony Michelli:

https://issuu.com/cmonline/docs/canadian-musician-november-december

- Carl Allen interviewed over at Harmony Central:

http://www.harmonycentral.com/articles/carl-allen---new-york-state-of-mind

- Clarence Penn is interviewed at The Drummer's Resource Podcast:

http://www.drummersresource.com/podcast-222-clarence-penn/

Check out the other great audio interviews found here with the likes of Kenny Washington, Peter Erskine, Ed Soph, Ralph Peterson Jr., Michael Carvin and many, many others...

- A special shout out and thank you to my correspondents over at cymbalholic.com (of which I've been a member since 2005!) who informed me that the legendary John Von Ohlen (affectionately known as "The Baron") has recently released this book:

https://www.amazon.com/Gotta-Swing-John-Ohlen-Story/dp/1944581065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483383968&sr=8-1&keywords=John+Von+Ohlen

This is the first I've heard of this publication and look forward to checking it out.

John is also featured in this radio podcast from WVXU:

http://wvxu.org/post/celebration-john-von-ohlen#stream/0

And thanks to Todd Bishop over at his superb blog Cruiseship Drummer for digging up this great interview with Von Ohlen from 1985:

http://www.cruiseshipdrummer.com/2011/01/march-1985-modern-drummer-interview.html


- Jerome Jennings recently released his album "The Beast" (highly recommended) and took a break from his busy schedule (including playing with the likes of Christian McBride!) to speak with Neon Jazz about his new release:




- Ali Jackson Jr. and Jimmy Cobb both rummage through some old Jazz records that bring back some memories...






- Lewis Nash and Jeff Hamilton get busy in a serious percussion discussion:



And Nash and Terrell Stafford continue with their own duo...




- It's amazing to me that when Lewis Nash plays a drum set that isn't even a real drum set that Lewis Nash still sounds like….Lewis Nash!




- Thanks to the kind people over Vic Firth here's Justin Faulkner playing some serious drums:




- And what else can possibly bring a smile to your face than Ringo Starr playing some drums on a beach?




- What am I listening to these days?

Ted Warren's Warren Commission "The Great Regina Pizza Debate" - Ted Warren (drums & compositions)

Jerome Jennings "The Beast" - Jerome Jennings (drums)

Rudy Royston Trio "The Rise of Orion" - Rudy Royston (drums)

Tom Harrell "The Number Five" - Johnathan Blake (drums)

Pat Metheny "ECM :rarum Selected Recordings" - Danny Gottlieb, Bob Moses, Paul Wertico, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Higgins (drums), Gary Burton (vibes)

Grant Green "Street of Dreams" - Elvin Jones (drums), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes)

Joe Henderson "Power to the People" - Jack DeJohnette (drums)

- And today's Final Word(s) goes to Bruce Lee with some words of wisdom, inspiration and motivation to prepare us all for the year ahead:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/08/01/bruce-lee-notebook/