Monday, September 18, 2017

Tootie for President

Thanks to Roberto Gatto who shared this footage of Albert "Tootie" Heath, taken from "Drummer's Row" at the famed Village Vanguard, while performing with his brother, Jimmy Heath. Dig the very clever Calypso beat that Tootie plays on Blue Mitchell's "Funji Mama":

Monday, September 11, 2017

Carl Allen Speaks

Another masterclass today from the University of New Orleans, here's Carl Allen sharing some words of wisdom:

And to put things into context, here's Allen in some swinging piano trio action with Benny Green on piano and Ben Wolfe on bass:

Monday, September 4, 2017

Shannon Powell Speaks

New Orleans drummer Shannon Powell (The "King of Treme") is an important drummer in my own early development. During the early 1990s when I was first developing ears for Jazz music, Powell was the first Jazz drummer that I saw on television. It was on a Harry Connick Jr. New Year's Eve special from London, England that featured Connick's big band with string orchestra and trio featuring Ben Wolf on bass and Powell on drums. I was quite impressed and inspired by Shannon's Powell's drum feature on Connick's up tempo arrangement of Stompin' at the Savoy and for me the rest, as they say, was history...

Thanks to the kind folks over at the University of New Orleans, here's an hour long masterclass with his majesty:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

George Marsh - Inner Drumming

Back in 2004 I was fortunate to study with Matt Wilson in New York City thanks to a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. A concept that Matt  often stressed in our lessons was the important idea of "flow" when dealing with the drum set from a physical perspective. This would lead him to also introduce to me some concepts and ideas that he had learned from George Marsh, the author of the book "Inner Drumming".

George Marsh has recently published his book entitled "Inner Drumming" and it consists of a very unique method and approach to moving around the drums. Combining a very clever and boundless approach to coordination combined with a Zen-like approach to movement and how we physically interpret and connect those coordinated patterns , Marsh offers a fresh direction to the drum set which I recommend to everyone. It all makes you think and play outside of your "box".

Here is a recent masterclass with George Marsh from Drum Channel in which he explains and demonstrates the concepts behind Inner Drumming:

Marsh was also kind enough to answer a few questions I had about Inner Drumming, his concepts and the book:

1) What is "Inner Drumming" and what prompted you to publish this book?

Inner Drumming is the study of internal movement from limb to limb when we play drums. It is done very slowly to insure maximum awareness of what it feels like to play with just one limb, then two, then three and finally all four. 

2) How is your method unique from other drumming methods?

It’s the only book that I know of that deals with energy flow internally with extensive exercises to help in that development.

3) What do you hope drummers will take away from studying your book?

I want drummers to realize that the sounds they are creating are part of the internal flow of energy before, during, and after the sounds they make with each limb. This helps remove blockages that get in the way of playing what you hear. And what you hear starts to become one with the increased internal awareness.

4) What other drummers, musicians and/or life experiences and philosophies have influenced "Inner Drumming”?

Jazz music and the call to say something meaningful on the drums has driven me. My need to connect as deeply as possible in my body so that I could let go and create from a timeless place. A way to practice that gets rid of stuck patterns.

5) Who would be examples of other drummers/musicians/artists/athletes that might display the qualities you promote through your book and teachings?

Terry Bozzio, Steve Gadd, Bernard Purdie, Matt Wilson, David Garibaldi, Joey Baron, Elliot Humberto Kavee, Michael Vatcher, Jennifer Wilsey, Garth Powell, Steve Smith, on and on.

6) Any clues as to your next project? (books, performances, recordings, workshops, etc.)

I have a new CD called “Expedition" with Denny Zeitlin which is being received very positively. 

Here’s a link to a review on Huffington Post: 

And another review on Something Else:

I’ve written hundreds of studies dealing with cross rhythms, odd time signatures, roll studies, tuplet studies and I am also thinking about starting a monthly on-line group lesson on Inner Drumming.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Tony Williams Stuttgart 1989

Thanks to Hans Verhoven via the Facebook for bringing this footage of Tony Williams taking no prisoners in Stuttgart, Germany circa. 1989 to my attention:

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to either meet Canadian jazz drummer Claude Ranger nor hear him play live before he disappeared in late 2000. I moved to Montreal and then Toronto long after he had left those cities but his reputation preceded him. Over the years, mainly through  colourful anecdotes via other musicians that knew and played with him, I gradually came to appreciate and develop a curiosity for this drummer who was as much a mystery to me as he was recognized as being a passionate Master jazz drummer. One thing that I noticed was how all those that did play with him or heard him perform spoke of him with a certain reverence. This intrigued me and I often found myself asking: "Who was Claude Ranger?"

I believe it was pianist/bassist/vibraphonist Don Thompson who first mentioned Claude's name to me over lunch at the Banff Centre during the summer of 1997. I had just played with Thompson for the first time that morning and somehow he knew that I was from Montreal (although transplanted from Regina, Saskatchewan when I was 18 years old...) So when I asked him how he knew that, he remarked that "I played like a Montreal drummer!" Still not clear as to what exactly he meant by that I pressed him for more but all I remember from that conversation was that he suggested that I check out Claude Ranger...

As I gradually became more involved in the Montreal jazz scene during the late 90s and early 2000s, I became more interested in the history of jazz in Montreal and of its historical icons, particularly of its drummers. Claude's name continually popped up in conversations. However, it wasn't until I moved to Toronto in 2007 that I had the opportunity to work with a number of musicians that knew Claude on and off the bandstand during his time in Toronto. After several years of asking around, I am still fascinated by the "legend" that is Claude Ranger but unfortunately limited by the fact that I never heard him and that his available recorded output is quite limited.

Fortunately, a recent book by author and former Globe & Mail jazz critic Mark Miller changes this and does a great job of telling Ranger's story. This publication documents Claude's journey in an exceptional way without relying on any of the romanticized mythology that often surrounds Claude. One really gets a sense of Ranger's personality as well as his contributions and influence in the Canadian jazz scene over the course of his life. Furthermore, Miller's book also offers a wonderful snapshot and insight into the jazz scenes of Montreal and Toronto in the 1960s, 70s and 80s through to Vancouver in the 1990s, all through the lens of Ranger's activities in each of those communities.

In my humble opinion I believe this to be the most important book on a Canadian jazz figure in recent times. Any musician who aspires to play jazz in Canada needs to read this book.

Here is a recent radio interview with Mark Miller from where he talks about his book:

And here's a review from Paul Wells with some personal perspective on Ranger and Miller's book:

This is a few years old now but here is a CBC radio interview produced by Carol Warren on Claude Ranger entitled "Sticks & Stones":

Finally, Mark Miller was very generous to offer a few words of insight into his book. I am very grateful that he took the time to answer my call in addition to providing an insight into one of Canada's most important Jazz figures:

"I knew Claude Ranger. I admired his drumming. I appreciated the spirit and intensity that he brought to the bandstand and to the Canadian jazz scene more broadly. I was intrigued by his approach to music and to life in general, and I was troubled by some of the choices that he made as he reconciled the demands of one with the other.

He struck me as an interesting study in the tensions, rewards and frustrations of the creative life, a study that would challenge me as a writer to, on one hand, balance my personal familiarity with him against my professional inclination toward journalistic objectivity, and to, on the other hand, avoid sensationalizing or sentimentalizing his story in the way that biographical studies of conflicted musicians — well, conflicted artists in every field — so often do.

Choosing to write about Ranger is also, I think, consistent with my interest, as noted on the back cover of the book, in “musicians and narratives that have been lost, forgotten or otherwise overlooked in jazz history.” 

That same interest is evident in my biographical studies of Valaida Snow, Herbie Nichols and Lonnie Johnson, in my survey of the pioneering American musicians who took jazz around the world in the 1910s and 1920s (Some Hustling This!) and indeed in the other books I’ve written from a variety of perspectives about jazz in Canada. Canadian jazz musicians have been chronically overlooked in jazz history and Ranger, for one, although well known inside the Canadian jazz community, enjoyed little recognition beyond it.

The key, though — the reason for writing the book at all — was ultimately the music that Ranger made and the influence/impact that he had on the Canadian scene from the mid-1960s through the mid-1990s. As a drummer, bandleader, teacher and mentor, he set a demanding standard for his contemporaries, and a compelling example for younger musicians — first in Montreal, then in Toronto and finally in Vancouver. 

He wished from his bandmates the same determination that he himself displayed to, as he liked to put it, “go further.” Some of his bandmates followed and some resisted, but he moved jazz forward in each of those three cities, challenging the status quo at every stop but also, in time, finding himself marginalized — and, equally, marginalizing himself — in the process.

In narrative terms, his career path across Canada also offered me a structure within which to investigate and illuminate the history and practice of modern jazz in this country during the late 20th century. This, as seen from Ranger’s relatively contrarian perspective, one that I share, which measured the worth of music by its originality rather than its popularity and by its commitment, not its compromise.

Of course, Ranger’s disappearance from Aldergrove, B.C., in late 2000 only adds to the story’s intrigue. His fate remains unknown 17 years later, and perhaps this book will provide a little of the closure that we, as members of the Canadian jazz community, have all needed. 

It was the Vancouver drummer Dylan van der Schyff, one of many younger Canadian musicians to benefit from Ranger’s support, who initially encouraged me when I was wondering whether or not to write the book. “Don’t just do it for Claude,” he told me, “do it for us.” Only now, with the publication of the book and the response to it, am I realizing just how many of “us” there are."

- Mark Miller 2017



When I asked Miller to recommend some recordings of Claude Ranger's drumming to the uninitiated,  this is what he replied:

"As far as recordings are concerned, little if anything is available. Quite a few exist only as LPs; those that were reissued on CD, or were recorded as CDs in the first place, are by and large out of print, although I note that has a couple of copies of the Brian Barley LP/CD, 1970, with Claude’s Le Pingouin. So that’s something. Amazon also has a few new or used copies of Jane Bunnett’s In Dew Time and P.J. Perry’s Quintet, but the Amazon listing for Don Thompson’s Forgotten Memories is incorrect; the cover and track listing are for someone else’s record altogether…"

If you are interested in purchasing and reading a copy of Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend, it can be found here: