Monday, November 26, 2018

Roy Haynes' Choruses on H & H

In the world of academia, it is not uncommon to find well-thoughtout and researched treatises regarding who "the father" of jazz drumming is. In the pursuit of developing a thesis, the highly subjective nature of the topic is whittled down to absolutes. Baby Dodds? Kenny Clark? Pick your camp; or not... While I see value in possessing an awareness of the contributions made by these defining artists, I worry at the impulse to lay the crown upon any single player's head.

There are so many varied aspects as to what makes great jazz. Groove, technique, space, innovation, personal voice etc... All of these have value. In terms of pure modernity, few musicians have personified innovation as much as Roy Haynes. His sound, touch, orchestration and impressionistic sense of groove are instantly identifiable: As is his influence on the best players today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Brian Blade 8s on I Mean You

Brian's playing resides in that unique territory that appeals to both drummers and non-drummers. Bop, Funk and New Orleans all inform his vocabulary. He is definitely a drummer's drummer. However, the inventiveness he shows in creating musical ideas on the drum set attracts the interest of folks from divergent backgrounds. My latest transcription project is taken from an interesting performance documented in Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka Japan. The setting and quality of recording are both outstanding. See for yourself:

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Choices Choices.....So many choices but it's all in the grip

I am a drum geek. I freely admit it. Whenever I catch a glimpse of a drum rim or glance at a tuning lug I MUST investigate. Is that an old Slingerland or just a new DW? Likewise, drumsticks peak my interest. Is that a 7A or a 8D? How the heck do you get THAT sound out of THAT stick?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ulysses Owens Jr. 4s on Juicy Lucy

Here is my latest transcription effort. I tend to pick players who are both spontaneous and unique. I also seem to be compelled to transcribe playing that seems impossible to recreate (by me at least...). Ulysses 4s here are no exception. When I say recreate I don't want to imply that is my motivation. Rather, I am intrigued by the process of figuring out what exactly is being done on the instrument. Then I try to get as close as possible to being able to perform it exactly as the recording. Sometimes I can get it 98% sometimes 99%. The best playing cannot be recreated. The thing that makes great playing great is the individual's vibe, use of space, time, touch and sound. That last one percent is the most important and the least quantifiable. Reminds me of the scientific data that explains that chimpanzees share about 99% of our DNA (depending on what you are comparing). What a remarkable difference 1% can make!

Saturday, September 1, 2018


Here is another Alan Dawson variation on the Ted Reed Syncopation book, courtesy of a new friend and great drummer Jason Harnell. I've been looking for some more Bass Drum centered exercises to add to my study regimen. This variation really encourages maintaining a neutral position on the foot pedal. You'll know when you get there when you hear all of the voices as one line. Like all of Alan's variations, it just takes a little time to get the sound of the line in your ears and then your body does all the rest.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Joe Harris 4s on Paul's Pal

A former instructor turned me on to this footage several years ago and now I am just getting to transcribing it!? So much work, so little time....whatever! I remember seeing it the first time, I realized half way through the video a huge grin grew on my face. How could anyone NOT smile at watching this proud performance? Sonny Rollins and Henry Grimes yadda yadda OK they are good...really really good, but look at Joe. He is clearly having a blast. He should be, he was swinging like a mutha! Anyway, check out this amazing and under appreciated player.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Flam to Groove

Every now and again I come across an exercise that I don't like. I want to like it. I know I would be a better person if I liked it. But, being a "normal" red-blooded human being, I instinctively avoid it. It is not just exercises too. There are drum patterns I don't like. I am not talking about things that are mind-numbingly difficult. It could be as simple as some 12/8 bell pattern I heard someone play. I remember a lesson with Robert Kaufman, with whom I studied for several years, where I mentioned not liking a certain feel played by another drummer. I don't think he had ever heard of this before and was curious as to why I felt this way. As any good instructor does (he smelled blood) he challenged me to explore this feeling. At the time, I was clueless as to where this reaction came from. And, being a "normal" red-blooded human being, I instinctively avoided that challenge.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Transcribe Damnit!

The words "Latin Feel" are familiar to most drummers. Pretty much every gig has at least a few tunes where I am asked "Let's play______(fill in the blank with a standard) but Latin...OK?" The thoughtful musician will want to respond" OK, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Caribbean, Bossa, Samba, Pachanga....?!!!!!" But that thoughtful musician would probably not be asked to come back...Besides, I am so NOT going to get into the mind-numbingly diverse elements and rich musical traditions that we are being asked to represent on our instruments. (Actually, I will at some point....) Suffice to say I think it best to follow sage wisdom and shut-up and play. But make sure to play some kind of cascara on the cymbal bell, some kind of clave with a cross-stick and some kind of bombo.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Al "Tootie" Heath

While waiting for the fuzziness from a late night to finally leave me, I became aware of my morning soundtrack. What was cued up on the player was Promise of the Sun from Herbie's recording The Prisoner. Tootie demonstrates great sensitivity to the compositions throughout this recording. He shifts between the traditional role of supporting melody hits to mirroring the dissonant spiraling orchestration of the wind instruments. The various moods he creates are a lesson in ear-training for the drummer. Over 40 years later he is still bringing it. What an inspiration!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Philly Joe's 4's on 4!

No, that isn't the album cover for the Miles Davis classic Workin' but it is totally rad nonetheless. Always coming up with the unexpected, Philly Joe was a very clever player. Although he may not appear on many top 5 most influential drummers lists, his unique application of traditional style Jazz drumming and incredible cymbal beat shouldn't be overlooked. His ensemble playing won the favor of all the greats. It has been said Philly Joe was the "go to" drummer for Miles Davis AND Bill Evans! He was essentially the house drummer for Prestige, Riverside and Blue Note....omg!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Mike Clark Loft Funk

Mike’s playing clearly includes some New Orleans influence. The Bass Drum ostinato is a standard idea found in many styles of music from the region. One of the (many) technique goals I have been focussing on lately, is achieving a better sound with my double strokes; particularly with my left hand. Anyway, after spending many hours watching (helplessly) as my left hand played tag with this goal, I needed an excuse to give it a rest. Transcribing some funk was what doctor ordered.