Saturday, January 30, 2010

Smilin' Billy Higgins - The Movie

I look forward to seeing this documentary in it's entirety !

Friday, January 29, 2010

Just A Few Random Videos Today...

Here are a few great clips today that have been making the rounds out here at the Banff Centre this week. Full recap of the week's happenings coming soon (will take me some time to gather my thoughts!) In the meantime, enjoy these gems that we've been enjoying as of late:









Tuesday, January 26, 2010

J@LC BDA & Onwards to Banff



I've been fortunate to have been engaged in a smattering of inspiring jazz experiences lately. Last week I participated in a Jazz at Lincoln Center Band Directors Academy workshop hosted in Calgary. It was a great experience and I was blown away by the enthusiasm and knowledge exhibited by the faculty of great jazz educators & performers that included: Rodney Whitaker (bass), Alvin Atkinson (drums), Dr. Ron Carter (alto saxophone), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Reggie Thomas (piano) and Scott Brown (trombone). These guys can not only really play great but they are able to articulate, to other band directors, the nuances of how to play jazz music and specifically how to swing and how get a high school jazz band to sound like it's playing jazz ! A huge emphasis was placed on the aural tradition of jazz music, the blues and the physical/vocal aspects of learning and expressing jazz music. Lots of great information was shared and it was an inspiring week that culminated with an energetic performance at the Beatniq jazz club located in downtown Calgary.

What struck me most about these wonderful teachers was their genuine humility and the overall inclusionary approach to teaching various concepts and involving an eager group of band directors whom, for the most part, had little or no experience teaching or playing jazz music. This is a great initiative and a great experience for those educators who have little experience in teaching Jazz but genuinely want to make a difference. I also found it a great experience as a player/teacher, such as myself, and I hope this initiative continues in the years to come.

I have a wonderful video clip of drummer Alvin Atkinson performing with bassist Rodney Whitaker from a rhythm section master class, performing the Duke Ellington/Juan Tizol composition "Caravan" that I will upload shortly.

Now in the meantime....

I now find myself at the Banff Centre for the Arts for two weeks, participating in the TD Jazz & Creative Residency with a cast of unbelievable jazz artists. This program is in its first year and we are already off to a great start. The focus of the residency is on the creation of new works and there is quite a bit of creative energy floating around these parts.

So far I've spent the past couple of days getting adjusted to the artist-friendly atmosphere and quite looking forward to all this amazing place has to offer. So for, faculty artists Dafnis Prieto (drums) and Peter Apfelbaum (saxophone) have provided quite a lot of inspiration and information to keep me going for quite awhile !

I'll blog as frequently as I can over the coming weeks about my time at the Banff Centre.

Forever onwards...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Brian Blade And His Canopus Drums



A brief clip here this morning as I'm off very soon here to the Calgary airport to drop off/pick up jazz musicians. Then I'm off to the Banff Centre for the Arts for a month (!) I start off this week as a participant in the first ever TD Jazz Music & Creative Residency for two weeks and then will complete another two weeks in February to study the vibraphone and work on my dissertation. I am really looking forward to studying with the all-star faculty they lined up for us consisting of Dafnis Prieto (drums), Uri Caine (piano), Phil Dwyer (saxophone) and Peter Apfelbaum (saxophone). There is also a small but VERY talented group of jazz musicians participating in this workshop as well from all over the country and I'm very much looking to playing and hanging with a group of such high level musicians in the coming weeks. In particular I'm looking forward to hearing drummers Mark Nelson and Morgan Childs who are making quite a splash in there respective scenes in Montreal and Toronto.

I'll do my best to report my "dispatches from the front" as I can in the coming weeks although my blogging might slow down a bit due to my busy schedule. But I will do what I can !

Anyways, on to the drums. Courtesy of the kind folks at Canopus drums (a GREAT Japanese drum company who have obviously figured "it" out!) - here's a clip of Master drummer Brian Blade showing off his new tubs:



Nice drums !

(well of course, I guess Brian could play a soggy cardboard box and still get those to sing !!! : )

I also just finished an intensive four day Jazz @ Lincoln Centre Band Directors Academy workshop and I'll gather my thoughts and report on that later as well. It was a marvelous experience and I really learned alot from a HEAVY faculty of experienced and diligent jazz educators. Hello !

Anyways, more to come later....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tony Williams Plays Double Strokes



Not much time to report very much at all today as I'm in the middle of participating in a Jazz @ Lincoln Center Band Director's Academy in Calgary this week. It's a great experience and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in developing their skills as a jazz educator.

This week we are fortunate to work with an esteemed faculty of clinicians including:

Dr. Ron Carter - saxophone

Wycliffe Gordon - trombone

Rodney Whitaker - bass

Reggie Thomas - piano

Alvin Atkinson - drums

Scott Brown - trombone

More on this great experience later....

In the meantime, here's a short clip of Tony Williams performing one of his legendary, signature solo drum introductions that recently popped up on the web:



Incidentally, this is EXACTLY the way Williams started his solo when I saw him in a masterclass in 1993. Those are some bad ass double strokes !!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cellar Live



I've been really digging several recordings from this fantastic Vancouver-based jazz record label lately. Most notably:

"Blow Up" - Steve Kaldestad Quinet

"Time" - Morgan Childs Quintet

"Transitions" - Joel Haynes Trio w/Seamus Blake

"Foundations" - Jodi Proznick Quartet

"Cellar Groove" - Tilden Webb Trio w/David Fathead Newman

Do-it-all jazz musician/club owner/record producer Cory Weeds has done a great job of putting together a class act label to showcase both Canadian and American artists.

You can learn more about this great record label here:

http://www.cellarlive.com/

Here are a few clips that Cory has posted on youtube.com featuring some of the dynamic ensembles that have played and recorded at the Cellar lately. Cory, please post more !

Here's Steve Kaldestad on tenor saxophone with Montrealers Kevin Dean on trumpet and Andre White on piano, performing music from Kaldestad's outstanding new release "Blow Up":



The Cory Weeds Quintet with Jim Rotundi on trumpet:



*I saw this particular group in Calgary during their cross-Canada tour last fall. One of the best gigs I saw in 2009.

And here's Steve Davis on Trombone and Mike DiRubbio on alto saxophone with my former Montreal mates Tilden Webb, Jodi Proznick and Jesse Cahill:



New York jazz musicians Grant Stewart on tenor saxophone (originally from Toronto) with pianist Tardo Hammer:



And finally, I came across a shot of one of my old friends, Jesse Cahill (featured playing GREAT drums in all the above footage) showing off his sweet new set of Canopus drums during a smoking set at the Cellar:



Jesse and I attended McGill University at the same time during the mid-1990s, split the drum chair in one of the jazz orchestras for two years and often shared a practice space together. He was a great drummer then and is sure playing great drums these days !

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Drum & Bass 2.0



More drum & bass "conversations" today, this time featuring a dialogue between bassist Christian McBride and drummer Carl Allen from a gig with the band "Inside Straight":



Also, from the same gig, some great vibraphoning from the upcoming master vibraphonist Warren Wolf:



You can hear more of these great musicians on McBrides most recent release entitled "Kind of Brown" with his current band "Inside Straight":



Highly recommended.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Ed Thigpen



Here's some more rare footage of drummer Ed Thigpen, courtesy of the kind folks over at Drummerworld (www.drummerworld.com) presenting a masterclass at New York's Drummer's Collectve circa. 1982.

He will be missed.







Some interesting connections I made while watching these clips:

If you listen carefully in the second clip, you'll hear Thigpen singing along to his brushwork. I recognize that tune as being the spiritual "David Danced Before the Lord" - the same piece arranged by Duke Ellington that featured drummer Louie Bellson and tap dancer Dr. Bunny Briggs in one of his Liturgical Concerts.

Here's the link to my previous post where I discussed that:

http://jonmccaslinjazzdrummer.blogspot.com/2009/11/milt-jackson-wkenny-clarke-and-more-tap.html

Hearing this also reminded me of an Ed Thigpen brush clinic I attended in Montreal around 1996. When demonstrating his graceful brush patterns he uses for ballad tempos, Thigpen sang the lyrics and melody to the jazz standard "What's New".
Again, as I posted last week, I think there is a connection between knowing the lyrics of a song and the rhythms we play.

Obviously Ed Thigpen had this figured out a long time ago !

Philly Joe Jones & Thelonious Monk



Some rare concert footage today of one of my favorite hard bop jazz drummers, "Philly Joe Jones", shown here with pianist Thelonious Monk and saxophonist Charlie Rouse from a 1969 date in France.

There is not a lot of footage out there of "Philly" playing the drums, so I relish any opportunity to catch the master in action. I'm also always impressed with the elegant motion he plays with and the huge sound he gets out of the drums. Jones was also a devout student of the Charlie Wilcoxin snare method "Rudimental Swing Solos for the Modern Drummer" and a lot of that snare drum vocabulary shows up in his playing.









Here's the drum solo portion of that last tune, "Nutty", isolated:
(for all the drum geeks out there !)



Swingin' stuff !

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ritimista Percussion Play-along (Review)



Several CD's arrived in my mailbox last week so lots of fresh listening to do these days. One album that I've been looking forward to receiving and working with is entitled "Ritimista: World Percussion Play-along Series, Vol. 1".

Produced by percussionist Mark Powers, this CD provides 11 different percussion grooves, each at two tempos (slow & fast) to practice with. The grooves include common Afro-Cuban patterns such as the 6/8 Tumbao, Rumba Guaguanco, Cascara, 3-2 Son Clave and 3-2 Rumba Clave as well as several popular West African patterns.

The recording quality is excellent and the grooves are solid, making it an excellent resource to practice with any Afro-Cuban or West African rhythms, either on drum set or hand percussion.

I've been working out of Billy Martin's remarkable book entitled "Riddim" and I look forward to using this new CD to practice Martin's coordination patterns along with. I find it can be a bit more interesting to play these rhythms within a specific stylistic context so Ritimista definitely will help.

One can find out more about this great resource and order it here:

http://www.powerspercussion.com/products.htm

Speaking of play-along CD's to practice along with, I would also highly recommend this fantastic CD:



When I studied with Terry Clarke two years ago, during my first lesson he handed me a copy of this CD (which he had gotten from Jim Blackley) and my assignment for the year was clear - play along with this entire CD perfectly from start to finish. Well this proved to be quite a task considering that the 18 tracks ranged in tempos from 40 to 340 beats per minute !!!

Produced by British drummer Allan Cox, this CD features a bassist and guitarist playing blues and rhythm changes at tempos ranging from very slow to very fast with everything in between - and the execution, precision and recording quality is dead one making this another great resource to play along with.

You can order this gem directly from Allan's website here:

http://www.allancox.co.uk/allancox/%22Meet_The_Bass_Player%22.html

(although I have seen it on display at Soul Drums in Toronto)

Okay, time to go practice....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Charles Mingus & Dannie Richmond



Just a quick post today.

I'm spending the weekend getting my life in order before attending a Jazz @ Lincoln Center Jazz Educator's Workshop next week and then off to the Banff Centre for the Arts for four weeks up until the end of February. More on these exciting upcoming experiences later.
Busy times !

Anyhow, here's one of the great bass & drum pairings in jazz music, Charles Mingus and Dannie Richmond, trading back and forth - and then Mingus himself briefly explaining to an interviewer what he's thinking about when doing so (!)



Yes - music is conversation !

Friday, January 15, 2010

Drummers Who Scare Me - Part One



And by that, I mean "scare me" in a good way !!! Every once in a while I hear a drummer who plays so well that I'm completely baffled by their unique rhythmic sophistication & language that they've created on the drums. It's so overwhelming yet so inspiring and motivating at the same time.

A few contemporary drummers (for me) that fall into that category would include:

Dan Weiss, John Hollenbeck, Dafnis Prieto (whom I'm studying with later this month at the Banff Centre), Kendrick Scott, Gene Lake, Eric Harland, Tyshawn Sorey and, the subject of today's post, Mark Guiliani (and of course there are many others too !)

I first heard drummer Mark Guiliani with bassist Avishai Cohen's trio at the Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2003. I was playing there all week with Montreal jazz musicians Jennifer Bell, Dave Mossing and Dave Watts so I got to check a lot of heavy jazz musicians during my time in the city. Most of these musicians travelled up from New York City to perform in Rochester that week. The evening jam sessions, hosted every night in the hotel bar, were also a highlight.

Anyways, this guy is just playing great and he's really young so I'm sure we'll be hearing more of him in the future. Check him out here with bassist Avishai Cohen:



Here with pianist Jason Lindner and the "other" Avishai Cohen (trumpet):



And a few other brilliant shots of Mark in action:





Ridiculous !

Speaking of young, contemporary jazz drummers that scare me....last year, Ben Ratliff of the New York Times ran an article entitled "Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now" that featured several dynamic young jazz drummers currently making waves in New York City.

Find that interesting read here:

"Five Drummers Whose Time Is Now" - by Ben Ratliff - New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/12/arts/music/12drummers.html

And here's a previous article that Ratliff wrote in 1999 on the same topic of up-and-coming drummers in New York City:

"Propelled By Different Drummers" - by Ben Ratliff - New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/1999/10/15/movies/critic-s-notebook-propelled-by-different-drummers.html

Prepare to be scared !

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jack DeJohnette Plays For The Birds



Someone, who had the best seat in the house at Birdland the other day (!), was kind enough to capture Jack DeJohnette in his element and post his creation on youtube. Lucky for us !



I've been on a huge DeJohnette kick lately after having seen him at the 2009 PASIC convention in Indianapolis. I have also been checking out this great album, a 70s ECM release entitled "Pictures". This is essentially an album of Jack playing solo drum compositions (with help from John Abercrombie & a track featuring Jack on solo piano):



This one is a must have for any Jack fans out there !

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ed Thigpen 1930 - 2010



It's with great sadness that I have just heard and now report that the great master drummer Ed Thigpen passed away today in Copenhagen at the age of 79 after a lengthy illness.

Thigpen, who was aptly nicknamed "Mr. Taste", is probably best remembered as the drummer with the Oscar Peterson Trio (along with Ray Brown on bass), as a sideman to so many jazz greats and as a leader of his own various ensembles. (Check out his album as a leader "Out of The Storm")

My first introduction to "Mr. Taste" came when I was a teenager having heard the Oscar Peterson albums "Night Train" and "The Canadiana Suite". His swinging groove and tasteful dynamics made a great impression on me as he was one of the first serious jazz drummers I ever heard and checked out.

My father also purchased a copy of Canadian jazz pianist Oliver Jones' 1991 album "A Class Act" following his performance at the Regina Jazz Society with bassist Dave Young. This disc got a lot of airplay in our household for weeks afterwards. One track that stood out for me was "Stan Pat", a calypso written for Montreal pianist Stan Patrick and featured an extended drum solo for Thigpen using a plethora of Caribbean rhythms. My father is still asking me when I'm going to play that tune !

Thigpen's brushwork also impressed me and I promptly purchased his book entitled "The Sound of Brushes". This became an important part in learning my brush technique and installed a sense of appreciation and awe for the art of brushes that continues to this day (see some of my previous posts for proof of that !)



Shortly afterwards purchasing this great book, I met Ed Thigpen in person at the Remo drum booth in the convention hall at the 1995 IAJE convention in Anaheim, California. I remember thanking him for writing such a great book and he was nice enough to give me a short brush "lesson" after I told him I couldn't figure one of his uptempo brush patterns.

Well, he made it look easy and I'm still trying to figure that one out !

Here's a shot of Thigpen featured with Billy Taylor from 1958 on a superb drum feature entitled "Titoro". Dig not only his intense rhythmic approach but the variety of creative sounds he gets out of such a small collection of drums and cymbals:



Inspiring stuff ! I also appreciate the profound influence of Papa Jo Jones in that clip - one of Thigpen's early influences.

And here's Ed Thigpen in his element, swinging with Oscar Peterson & Ray Brown - the classic trio - from a live concert in Italy (and later with special guests Herb Ellis and Roy Eldrige sitting in):











And finally, a swinging performance of Oscar Peterson's "Reunion Blues" from a television date in London circa. 1964:



I think this is a fitting tune to finish this post as I'm sure Ed is now in heaven, reunited with his old friends Oscar and Ray, no doubt sharing some laughs and great music while sitting in the big jam session in the sky...

Thank you Ed !

The Drums, The Voice & Lady Day



I've been fortunate to have worked with many great jazz vocalists over the years including such artists as Pat Steele, Carol Welsman, Karen Plato, Dionne Taylor, Carmen Lundy, Sienna Dahlen, John LaBelle, Kristin Korb, Louise Rose, Trish Colter and an amazing extended engagement with Montreal's Johanne Desforges. All great musicians !

As a drummer, playing with a vocalist requires a special mindset and sensitivity. These are all important skills to master as a drummer and I always look forward to the opportunity to work with a good singer. This week, while working with some vocal jazz students at a local high school as an accompanist, I was reminded of this and put some thought into the importance of learning the lyrics to the tunes I'm playing. While playing with these talented young students, I purposely quietly sang/mumbled the lyrics to myself while accompanying the students as a personal exercise (I had the lead sheets with the lyrics written on them right in front of me on a music stand!) I sure noticed a new and fresh dimension to these standards that I've played so many times.

Understanding the lyrical aspect of these Jazz standards we play so much is one often overlooked, and not just by drummers - but my most jazz instrumentalists, I think. I believe that as drummers (and overall as jazz musicians), we have to have as many tools as possible at our disposal regarding the piece of music we are playing if we really want to play it properly and explore it throughly. I think that by learning the lyrics to a melody, it would undoubtedly have a positive effect on one's melodic phrasing.

Apparently drummer Art Taylor was renowned for knowing all the lyrics to all of the standards he was playing, as did his frequent employer, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon. So perhaps there is something to be said for knowing the words to the songs we are playing ? It's an interesting argument worth exploring.

Anyways, some of my favorite jazz singers include Ella Fitzgerald, Sara Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Abbey Lincoln and, of course, Billie Holiday.

Here is a favorite clip of mine of Billie Holiday with an all-star band from the 1957 CBS television special "The Sound of Jazz" on the composition "Fine and Mellow":



Apparently the musical dialogue between Holiday and Lester Young here was a special moment as they had not been on speaking terms for some time and were avoiding each other that day. This particular piece represents the last time these two artists would perform together.

As producer Nat Hentoff remembers:

"Lester got up, and he played the purest blues I have ever heard, and [he and Holiday] were looking at each other, their eyes were sort of interlocked, and she was sort of nodding and half–smiling. It was as if they were both remembering what had been—whatever that was. And in the control room we were all crying. When the show was over, they went their separate ways. "

Sadly, both Billie Holiday and Lester Young both passed away within two years of this epic recording.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oscar Swings...



Some brilliant footage today forwarded to me by Regina jazz bassist & visionary Carlo Petrovitch.

Here's the Oscar Peterson Trio with drummer Ed Thigpen (showing NO mercy on the drums!) and Ray Brown bass, all featured on Ray Bryant's latin jazz classic "Cubano Chant":



Carlo explicitly told me to mention the ENORMOUS bass that Ray Brown is playing in that clip !

While browsing other Oscar Peterson clips on youtube.com I came across another Peterson favorite of mine, originally introduced to me by another Regina jazz musician, Jim Gallagher.

Here's another incarnation of the Oscar Peterson Trio performing "Blues Etude":



There's more than a few lessons in there !

The Oscar Peterson Trio (with Ed Thigpen on drums) was one of my first formative influences while I was checking out jazz music during my teens. In my high school library, the music section (one small shelf!) contained only three jazz records, but all of which still influence me to this day:

Oscar Peterson - "Night Train" w/Ed Thigpen on drums

Buddy Rich - "West Side Story"

Dave Brubeck - "Time Out" w/Joe Morello on drums

Those were the right three albums !

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Brian Blade - Jazz Crimes



Today, a burning solo transcription of drummer Brian Blade from the Joshua Redman album "Elastic".

Here it is as transcribed by Mike Papagni:



Here is the same studio version of the solo as performed by "GM":



And here's a live version featuring Brian Blade with Joshua Redman and Sam Yahel:



Playing like that is a crime indeed !

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Frankie Dunlop



I decided today to highlight another favorite drummer of mine, but one who gets little attention in jazz circles - that being the great Frankie Dunlop who held the drum chair with Thelonious Monk's quartet during the 1960s (Ben Riley was another significant drummer who played with Monk around this time). Frankie Dunlop is, somewhat, so obscure that I couldn't even find a photo of him to post on my blog ! (so I settled for the cover of one of my favorite Monk albums he plays on). I was first introduced to Dunlop's brilliant and unique drumming style by now Paris-based jazz drummer Karl Januska. Karl and I went to McGill together during the mid-1990s and I've been a big fan of Dunlop's bouncy, medium tempos ever since. When I studied with drummer/pianist Andre White while pursuing my Master's Degree at McGill, studying Dunlop's approach to soloing and comping were both serious assignments he gave to me - and I sure learned a lot from those !

Frankie Dunlop is a great drummer that we should pay attention to and study. His approach to rhythm was a great compliment to Thelonious Monk's and, while steeped in the bop tradition of drumming, he definitely had his own thing going on. Pay attention to his solos and notice how he will intentionally turn the beat around and play the hi-hat on beats 1 & 3 - and it swings like mad !

*Also interesting to note: I once read in a Jazz Times magazine interview with drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts where he stated that Dunlop was a big influence on him as well. Maybe not such an obvious influence since the influence of Elvin and Tony play such a predominant role in Watt's drumming style. But it's in there !

Anyways, here's a few rare clips of Frankie Dunlop featured with Thelonious Monk:







And here's a clip of Ireland's premier jazz drummer, Conor Guilfoyle, demonstrating his transcription of Frankie Dunlop's solo on the Monk composition "I Mean You":



Conor has a wealth of great drum lessons on youtube.com and check out his website for other great lessons and more transcriptions and such:

www.conorguilfoyle.com

Friday, January 8, 2010

Oh Smitty...



Drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith has long been holding down the drum chair with NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno for several years now with guitarist Kevin Eubanks (or whatever the show is called now. Sorry I don't really watch television...or at least not any talk shows. I stick to Lost, CSI: Las Vegas and The Office - all on DVD of course !)

Anyways, looks like Smitty got nailed pretty good a few years ago in a back stage prank set up by Leno and MC Hammer (!)

Dig that debacle here:





Although I think Smitty does hold himself pretty well wearing those MC Hammer parachute pants (!) and showing off his dance moves, I think I prefer his days as the drummer with the Dave Holland Quintet.

Here's some great footage of Marvin with the Dave Holland band from 1986 also featuring Kenny Wheeler, Robin Eubanks and Steve Coleman:













I was just going to post one tune from that Dave Holland concert but, man, it all sounds so good ! Couldn't help myself...some great music there. Brought back memories from my undergrad days at McGill when my partner in crime, bassist Sage Reynolds would hip me to his favorite Dave Holland records on a regular basis.

This particular edition of the Dave Holland Quintet was one of the perennial jazz groups of the 1980s and while Holland was the artistic director of the Banff International Jazz Workshop, this entire group would be on faculty at the Banff Centre during the summers. Consequently, this group of musicians and their teachings have had a profound impact on an entire generation of Canadian jazz musicians and their music as well.

While Marvin "Smitty" Smith was instructing drummers out at the Banff Centre, he distributed a copy of his approach to developing jazz coordination on the drum set. It is a very comprehensive method and follows the line of drummer Alan Dawson's approach to coordination as well (i.e. using Ted Reed's Syncopation book).

I've seen several versions of these pages come from several different sources, from different drummer's from across Canada, and every once in awhile I'll see a new page pop up somewhere. So it's safe to say that these pages of drum exercises have also had a profound effect on Canadian jazz drumming, having been passed through different teachers and students across the country over the years. In fact , I got my particular copy from drummer Kevin Dempsey (a GREAT drummer from the Toronto area) and then a few other missing pages from my teacher, Dave Laing at McGill University.

*In fact, I'd even refer to Kevin Dempsey as Canada's Marvin "Smitty" Smith (!) Kevin plays great straight-ahead jazz, has great chops and really nails the fusion bag as well. If you are ever in the Toronto area, make sure to catch him holding down the drum chair in Paul Read's PRO Orchestra*

This is a photocopy of a photocopy (likely from another photocopy!) but here are the "basic" Smitty coordination exercises:





Be prepared to spend ALOT of time on these pages. There is literally several years of hard work in there !

On another note, Smitty has two outstanding albums out as a leader that were released back in the 80s, "The Keeper of The Drum" and "The Road Less Travelled". These albums showcase not only his superb drumming but his composition skills as well. They might be hard to find these days, but worth it if you can find them. I hope Smitty considers releasing another album in the near future.





Finally, to finish things off today - here's Marvin "Smitty" Smith guesting with the Buddy Rich Big Band:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Greatest Drum Battle of ALL Time



Today, from some concert footage originally aired in the UK comes a drum battle of epic proportions.

Here Elvin Jones, Max Roach and Art Blakey take the stage in one of the heaviest displays of cooperative jazz drumming I've ever seen:







I don't know about you, but if I was ever playing the drums and had Elvin Jones looking over my shoulder, I might be just a tad intimidated ! Just sayin'...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Matt Wilson - Solos: The Jazz Sessions



More great footage today of the master rhythmatist & sound sculptor Matt Wilson in action. This time in a variety of improvised solo spots filmed by director Daniel K Berman for a television series entitled Solos: The Jazz Sessions, produced for the Bravo! channel on Canadian television.

There are several GREAT episodes in the series, all featuring many of the world's leading jazz artists, all performing in an improvised SOLO setting. This was a great idea ! Make a master jazz musician comfortable in a nice setting, let him/her do there thing and film it. Brilliant.

You can also find out more about this great series and even order DVDs from the website here:

www.solosjazz.com

Check out all the heavyweights that contributed to this series !

The Matt Wilson episode is great but I also recently acquired the Matt Wilson/Lee Konitz duet DVD from the same series as well and that is really something else. Matt and Lee have a musical relationship going back several years and it shows. I've also enjoyed their duologue on this particular album:



Incidentally, all the features for the Solo sessions were filmed at the Berkeley Church & Performance space in Toronto, where I played my first gig in Toronto after moving there in 2007. Of course, the music we were playing for the wedding reception taking place in the Berkeley wasn't nearly as hip as these sessions !







Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Kendrick Scott



Kendrick Scott is a great young drummer who is making waves in Jazz circles these days. I first heard Kendrick in Washington D.C. while playing with vocalist Julie Hardy in 2003. She gave me a CD of her music to learn for our gig and after some listening (like after the first 8 bars!) I was like: "Who the hell is this amazing drummer ???" Of course, it was her friend Kendrick Scott whom she and her husband/pianist Randy Ingram had gone to school with and played with during their days in Boston. I was immediately a fan.

Lucky for me I heard Kendrick play later that week and met him backstage at a gig of his in Washington D.C., at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he was playing with Terence Blanchard's band. Kendrick is the regular drummer in Blanchard's band and is really playing great these days.

To me, Scott is a perfect example of a great contemporary jazz drummer who has all the tools necessary to play Jazz music effectively in today's crazy world: great technique, swings hard, grooves hard, nice touch & feel on the drums, impeccable musicality and he is able to switch stylistic gears and combine musical styles effectively without sounding cliched.

Here's Kendrick in a couple of solos spots with non other than Herbie Hancock:





Nice gig to have !

And here's a couple of clips of Scott performing with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene:





And some more nice footage of Kendrick Scott playing with his current employer, Terence Blanchard:





Kendrick Scott also has a couple of albums released under his own name and I would highly recommend these to anyone interested in checking out this fine contemporary jazz drummer.



20 Pieces of Music That Changed The World



For those not aware of this great series presented by the CBC's Sunday Edition radio program, I would highly recommend checking this out. The program is hosted by Michael Enright with music expert Richard Harris. Each program highlights a specific piece of music and they discuss the cultural impact that each piece of music had during its time. Lots of great history there and I guarantee that you'll learn something.

Fortunately this is all available online and I believe that a CD boxset will soon be available.

Check it out on the CBC's Sunday Edition website here:

http://www.cbc.ca/thesundayedition/features/20pieces.html

Monday, January 4, 2010

Even More Brush Patterns



Some more important brush patterns posted here today, here explained by Vater drumstick artist James "Animal" Harrison.

The brushes are still a misunderstood aspect of drumming and I'm always encouraging younger students to learn how to play them and explore the textural opportunities they afford. They really are a different animal than a pair of sticks so we, as drummers, really have to pay attention to them and practice them as such. Fortunately, with such great instructional books and DVDs that are available on the market today and dedicated specifically to the art of brushwork, there is really no excuse not to check them out !

















Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jack DeJohnette & Trio Beyond



More nice concert footage today from Europe, this time from 2006 with Jack DeJohnette on drums, John Scofield on guitar and Larry Goldings on organ and keyboards (what, no Hans Groiner ?)

Trio Beyond was formed as a tribute band in 2003, paying homage to the Tony Williams Lifetime group of the 1970s.











Saturday, January 2, 2010

Max & Dizzy

Two of my favorite jazz musicians playing in an intimate drums & trumpet duet:








If you like these clips, then check out this album:



Salt Peanuts !

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Metronome



I've been in the middle of several interesting e.mail exchanges lately with my DMA colleagues Tom Van Seters & Patrick Boyle and future U of T jazz professor emeritus Paul Read about the role and validity of using a metronome in one's practice routine. I was also intrigued by a couple of other posts that have popped up on my jazz blog radar regarding the use of a metronome (or not!)

Check out some interesting discussion at Dave Douglas' blog here where he answers some questions originally put forth by bassist Jeff Berlin on the topic of using a metronome:

http://greenleafmusic.com/blog/2009/12/from-the-mail-bin-jeff-berlin-and-the-metronome.php

Also, another nice follow up commentary on the same topic by pianist Ethan Iverson of the Bad Plus here:

http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2009/12/metronome-mythologies.html

A quote that really cracked me up here was:

"about the time that someone gave Oscar Peterson a drum machine to play with. After a week of fooling around with it, Peterson reported back, “This is fun, but it drags.”
HA !!!

Interesting. I obviously can't really deny that Peterson swings like MAD so who cares if he speeds up and couldn't match the click. What does this tell us about playing with a metronome ?

I am very interested in the Metronome Debate and in different musicians opinions that exist in regards to whether or not practicing to a metronome really benefits his or her Time and/or Time Feel.

*I'll begin by stating that I don't think these two elements, Time & Time Feel, are necessarily one and the same !*
(more on that later)

Some musicians feel that playing with a metronome doesn't really help you at all (see Jeff Berlin's letter to Dave Douglas) yet
others think that it's an invaluable tool to developing your sense of Time. I always relish at the opportunity to sit down with Montreal trumpeter and McGill professor Kevin Dean to hear about his philosophy regarding Time and how he uses a metronome in practice. After you listen to him preach, you'd swear there was no other way !

One thing is for sure though, GREAT musicians consider having great Time a priority (almost to the point of being like a religion) and not something to be taken lightly.

However, how the metronome plays into that equation is still up to debate.

So here are some questions I'd like to address in this blog over the course of the next while and I would certainly appreciate any feedback from anyone out there who is reading this and cares : )

- Are metronomes useful tools for developing ones' sense of time ?

- Why or why not ?

- If Yes, what different ways can you use a metronome to practice ?

- If No, what tools or approach do you use instead to develop your sense of Time ?


Yes, folks - Time is not just a magazine !

To be continued...

Mark Sherman & Tim Horner

Happy New Year everyone and I hope you all have a great 2010 ! Welcome back to Four on The Floor and I'm looking forward to another year of posts relating to jazz drumming and other things (like my favorite recipes, among other things...). Thank you for your continued support.

Over the holidays I've had some nice down time and the opportunity to check out some new music and grab lots of great things off the web. These days I'm a big fan of the live streaming video feed from Small's Jazz Club in New York City.

Follow this link: http://www.smallsjazzclub.com/index.cfm?itemCategory=32338&siteid=272&priorId=0&banner=a

I check in often and we are lucky to have this great web resource. I'm often amazed at the number of great artists that I'm introduced to via this site aside from the other jazz greats that I get to listen to in real time if I can stay up late enough. They also have a number of shows audio archived for later listening.

One gig I caught not too long ago that caught my attetion featured vibraphonist Mark Sherman with drummer Tim Horner, two great musicians I was not familiar with. I sat up quite late that evening (they were playing the late set !) and enjoyed their set immensely.

Here's some footage of both Mark and Tim in action from a previous gig at the Sweet Rhythm jazz club in New York City, with Joe Magnarelli on trumpet: