Friday, January 30, 2015

For Big Dog...

My first drumming influence was a gentleman by the name of John Worthington. He recently passed away early last week at the age of 74. "Big Dog", as he was affectionately known, coordinated the drum and percussion program for the Regina Lions Band in Regina, Saskatchewan during the 1980s and early 90s. He was also very active in the community, coordinating the local Shriner's WaWa Drum & Bugle Corps. It was John that first introduced me to the world of drums almost 30 years ago at a band open house when I was 9 years old.

John ran a really tight ship and set a very high standard for himself and for all the young drummers under his watch. By the time I met him he had already retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but yet he still ran his drumline like a drill sergeant. Even though we were all very young and green (and often very stupid) there was no way you could pull any stunts or pull the wool over his eyes. If he thought you were BS'ing  he wouldn't hesitate in calling you out. And let me tell you, when he called you knew it!

However, the work ethic and sense of pride that he instilled in his drummers showed. For many years the Regina Lions Band produced many of the best drumlines in Canada. I still try to carry and pass along that same sense of ownership and discipline in my own playing and teaching that he passed along to me. Some of my best memories as a drummer include playing in those drumlines, the Saturday afternoon rehearsals in the old Band Hall on Dewdney Avenue and warming up in stadium parking lots, lined up, preparing for battle.

John was also the first person to introduce me to the world of rudimental drumming, something I'll forever be grateful for. He was the one who first showed me important snare solos such as The Three Camps, The Downfall of Paris, The Connecticut Halftime and Crazy Army, and also told us the stories and history behind these pieces. I remember, from a very young age, John explaining to us that as drummers, we were all part of a very exclusive fraternity and that if we chose to be a part of this, that the expectations were high. There were no free passes. If you were prepared to do the work, you were in.

I hadn't spoken to John in a number of years but I think of him often, especially now that I'm trying to pass along the same passion for playing the drums and dealing with the rudiments to my own students.

Thank you Big Dog.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Christian McBride: A Night in the Life

Thanks to Regina, Saskatchewan's Carlo Petrovitch for passing these ones along:

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Welcome back and looks like this is our first official Monday Morning Paradiddle column of 2015. Now that we are all settled into the New Year, here's a few things bouncing around the office to check out:

- Here are "The Elvin Tapes", some bootlegs of Elvin working with some VERY lucky students in a masterclass, circa. 1984:

- Ralph Peterson Jr. is featured here in this two-part interview:

- Looking for something interesting to practice? Download Pete Lockett's FREE .pdf technique book "Symmetrical Stickings for the Snare Drum"at his website over here:

-  Blogger Vinnie Sperezza recounts some honest and amusing stories about approaching Paul Motian over the years:

- It was "Beat Week" over at NPR and they featured a week's worth of drum/rhythm-centric stories a couple of weeks ago worth checking out:

"Mystic Rhythms: Rush's Neil Peart on the First Rock Drummer"

"The Original Funky Drummers on Life with James Brown"

"How Santeria Seeped Into Latin Music"

"The Tabla Master Who Jammed with The Grateful Dead"

"Female percussionist Bobbye Hall is a Liner Note Legend"

- Eric Harland is featured here on this podcast episode:

- Carl Allen recently performed at the Percussive Arts Society PASIC 2014 Convention last November and offered some interesting approaches to melodic drumming:

- Dan Weiss performs an impressive drum set rendition of the North Indian tabla composition Teen Tal:

- I really dug this footage of Portland's Alan Jones from an on-air radio interview (sorry I can't seem to embed this one!):

Alan has really become a favorite drummer of mine recently. In particular his playing with CDN saxophonist Phil Dwyer and bassist Rodney Whitaker on the album "Let Me Tell You About My Day" is one of my personal favourites. Jones brings a really intense, rolling, and fiery passion to the drum set that I really appreciate. I hope to work with him some day!

- New Orleans' Geoff Clapp is another great drummer who's only recently been on my radar but I really dig his playing. I love his feel and over all vibe that he brings to the music. His album "Bend in the River" is highly recommended. Here's a couple shots of Clapp to check out:

And here in a duet with guitarist Charlie Hunter:

- Some nice guitar trio action with New York/Toronto drummer Mark McLean at Small's:

- Great drumming from Victor Lewis!

- Canadian drummer Claude Ranger has been on my mind a lot lately. Here's a good one of Claude with vibraphonist Peter Appleyard and special guests Hank Jones and Slam Stewart. Dig Ranger's articulate brush playing in this one:

- What am I reading/listening to these days?

Mark Miller - "Herbie Nichols: A Jazzist's Life"

Roswell Rudd - "Herbie Nichols: The Unpublished Works"

Herbie Nichols "The Complete Blue Note Recordings" - Art Blakey, Max Roach (drums)

Herbie Nichols "Love, Gloom, Cash, Love" - Dannie Richmond (drums)

Kirk MacDonald "Kirk's Blues" - Claude Ranger (drums)

Al McLean and Azar Lawrence "Conduit" - Andre White (drums)

Don Thompson "Some Other Spring" - Don Thompson (vibraphone)

Barry Harris "at the Jazz Workshop" - Louis Hayes (drums)

- And today's Last Word comes from pianist/composer/arranger Jim McNeely (via Norway's Roger Johansen):

"There's a sound of a drummer reading a chart that I hate. There's that term that a lot of people use: "Oh, he's so good, man. He can read fly shit." And my experience is that a guy that reads fly shit, all you get is fly shit. You know they nail it the first time and they nail it, nail and nail it. I prefer players that can read fairly well, they may fuck up a little in the beginning, but then you hear the tenth time through and the twelfth time through and all of a sudden the lights are going on and they are internalizing the stuff. They're not just reading, they're just using the printed page as a reference from that point on and then it gets really deep." - Jim McNeely

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sound Prints

I'm eagerly awaiting the upcoming 2015 CD release on Blue Note Records of the band Sound Prints featuring Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Lawrence Fields, Linda Oh and Joey Baron. From what I understand, the band takes some of its inspiration from the music of Wayne Shorter in a fresh, original way. In the meantime, here's some brilliant concert footage to give you a taste:

And here's another one of Douglas' piece Power Ranger:

And here's Joey Baron's GIGANTIC drum solo with the same band (yes, I've posted this before but it's my blog and I dig it ya dig?)

And thanks to visionary Dave Douglas over at his own blog Greenleaf Music, here's a podcast interview with Joey Baron:

(thanks to Montreal's Jim Doxas for finding this one...)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Trio3 YVR

Here's a link to my latest piano trio album that I recorded a few years ago but finally just now got around to releasing it to the universe. I hope you enjoy it.

Trio3 YVR

Jon McCaslin - Drums & Compositions

Tilden Webb - Piano

Jodi Proznick - Bass

Recorded by Brad Turner @ Groundhog Sound - May 2012, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

A few words about the music:

1) Devonshire - Based on the changes to the old standard "Stella by Starlight" (a personal favourite), Parc Devonshire was a small, serene, piece of green space located next to my apartment in Montreal, in the neighbourhood known as the Plateau, where I lived during the early 2000s.

2) G.I. Jon - This is a bluesy "Jazz march", inspired by my childhood fascination with my collection of toy soldiers and "America's hero", always ready to save the day...

3) Inukshuk - This is a stone, rock sculpture used by the northern Inuit people to help keep their way while traveling in the otherwise barren northern, arctic landscape. I think it's always important to recognize "markers" and signposts along our own journey that help us find our own way in life.

4) Armstrong's Secret Nine - This bass feature (in the spirit of Duke Ellington's "Jack the Bear"), featuring the ever-so-swinging Jodi Proznick, was named after a neighbourhood, youth baseball team from New Orleans that Louis Armstrong sponsored and generously outfitted with Major League quality jerseys and equipment. They were so touched that wouldn't get their jersey's dirty and, consequently, never won a game!

5) McCallum's Island - This was the first tune I ever wrote, sometime around 1997. It appears on my first record of the same name and was inspired by a painting by Lawren Harris, a painter with Canada's influential Group of Seven.

6) Klook's Touque - Another contrafact, this time based on Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody N' You". I wondered one day "what if?" Kenny Clarke (aka "Klook") had decided to move to Northern Canada instead of Paris during the mid-1950s. Surely he would have needed something to keep his head warm...

7) Blue YQR - I wrote this blues variation, dedicated to all my friends, family and musicians in Regina, Saskatchewan (aka YQR). That's where I got my start...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mel Brown on Brushes

Thank you to John Riley who forwarded me these clips of Portland's Mel Brown demonstrating a series of brush patterns he learned from Philly Joe Jones:

And here's some more, shown at a different angle:

I believe that all these patterns are taken from Philly Joe Jones' long out-of-print book "Brush Artistry" that can be conveniently found here:

or here:

That's how it's done folks!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bobby Sanabria Playing Conga and the Tumbao

Thanks to the kind people over at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Jazz Academy, here's a series of lessons from Bobby Sanabria on the basics of playing conga:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Rational Funk

Thanks to Toronto's Lowell Whitty for passing along via the Facebook these hilarious but yet informative lessons from Dave King of the The Bad Plus:

Monday, January 5, 2015

Yin Yang Triplets

And....we're back. Thanks for checking in again and I hope you've all had a wonderful end to 2014.

I thought I'd start off 2015 with a little drum exercise I've playing around with lately and found to be very useful. Generally, when I'm on the go and running between gigs I like to pick one simple exercise that's easy to remember, gets my hands going quickly as a warm up and also offers some variations to get my mind running as well.

The following exercise comes from Bob Moses via his wonderful book "Drum Wisdom" which is, sadly, long out of print. In fact, this is really the only technical exercise in his whole book! Since it is out of print, here's the page I'm referring to:

Moses' explanation is pretty self-explanatory however I've come up with a few variations of my own to get some more mileage out of it.

First of all, when I play this one, I reverse the sticking pattern so it looks something like this:


I also put an accent on the first beat of each single triplet pattern (ie. beats one and two of each bar) as this gives the pattern a little more sense of phrasing and forward momentum (accents will do that, ya dig?)

- Variation #1: Add groups of triplet Single Strokes

So this might look this:


Or this:


- Variation #2: Add groups of Double Strokes



Come up with your own variations.

- Combine adding both singles and doubles to create longer phrases.

- Perhaps go back to the way that Moses intended and start with the double strokes instead of the singles.

- Moses' suggestion of orchestrating these patterns, adding the bass drum and ride cymbal are very useful too.

The great thing about this simple exercise, I think, is that it gets you thinking in triplets while also alternating between single strokes and double strokes. Morello was also big on this (in a different way) during the very brief time that I spent with him in 2007. It also forces you to lead with your Left hand (or "weak" hand) and this is always a good thing.

I showed this exercise to a keen group of drum students at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton last November and pointed out that the real lesson in this, I think, is to take a simple pattern and see how far you can expand on it. My teacher in Toronto, the great Bob McLaren, used to preach this saying something along the lines of: "Why learn one hundred different patterns when you can learn one pattern one hundred different ways?"

Translation: make the most of what you've got!