Saturday, January 23, 2021

Broken air conditioner snare drum solo

Well, folks, this is what it's come to.  Levels of boredom and frustration so high that when someone posts a video on YouTube entitled "Broken air con that plays a jazz drum solo!!" you think to yourself, "Hey, maybe I'll transcribe that!"....and then you actually do it.  So, for your Saturday evening pleasure, I give you, Snare Conditioner.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Steve Jordan practice loops

I've been having a lot of fun with these practice loops lately.

At first I was using them to search for a greater level of detail and depth in my playing, sitting on each one for long stretches, and spending time focusing on each limb individually and what makes someone like Steve Jordan groove so hard.

But after awhile I just let go of the intense focus and started straight-up playing them.  I've never really been one for meditation, but there was definitely a level of catharsis in it.  You don't have to think about form, or fills, just relax and play.

However you choose to use, I hope you enjoy.





Friday, January 08, 2021

A Jazz Drummer's Listening List

Happy New Year, everyone.

A current student of mine is preparing to head of to a music conservatory next year and asked for a list of important jazz records to listen to over Christmas break.  So, I put this list together.  Given the extra time we all have on our hands at the moment, I think some deep, active listening could do us all some good.

I've broken it down into two sections, roughly by style and time period.  The first list covers mostly bebop and hard bop of the late 40's and 1950's.  The second is the more modern sound that developed the 1960s, covering mostly the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Both lists are organized by band leader to make them easier to find.  But be aware that different albums by the same band leader may have different drummers, so whatever you listen to be sure to look up who the drummer is.

Obviously, there is a ton of great music that is not on this list, including material from before and after these periods, as nothing on here is from the 20's and 30's, or 90's and 2000's.  Also, there's no mention here of "Latin" styles, etc.  But the albums on this list cover the styles that have been canonized as "jazz drumming", and have had some of the biggest impact on the way we play now.  Also, the music on this list probably best represents that which one would most likely be spending a considerable amount of time with in jazz school.

This is not a “best” list.  As I said, there are countless other records that could easily be included, but I wanted it to be a manageable size, so I’ve chosen albums that are historically important, can be found easily, and that I’m personally very familiar with and/or have meaning to me.

Happy listening.

Bebop/Hard bop

Clifford Brown and Max Roach

Clifford Brown and Max Roach

Art Blakey


We Three

We Three

Miles Davis






Bag’s Groove

Kind of Blue

Dizzy Gillespie

The Giant

Sonny Side Up

Art Pepper

Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section

Art Pepper +11

Thelonios Monk

Monk’s Dream

Brilliant Corners

Hank Mobley

Soul Station

Roll Call

No Room for Squares

Wynton Kelly

Smokin’ at the Half Note

Wes Montgomery

Full House

Ahmad Jamal

Live at the Pershing

John Coltrane

Blue Trane

Giant Steps

Bill Evans

Everybody Digs Bill Evans

Sonny Rollins

Way Out West

Saxophone Colossus

Freedom Suite

Oscar Peterson


“Modern” - 60s, 70s, early 80s

Miles Davis

Four & More

My Funny Valentine


Miles Smiles


Filles de Kilimanjaro

In a Silent Way

Bitches Brew

McCoy Tyner

The Real McCoy

Ornette Coleman

The Shape of Jazz to Come

John Coltrane

A Love Supreme

Herbie Hancock

Maiden Voyage

Empyrean Isles

Cecil Taylor


Joe Henderson

Inner Urge

The Kicker

Kenny Dorham

Una Mas

Eric Dolphy

Out To Lunch

Chick Corea

Now He Sings Now He Sobs

Return to Forever

Light As A Feather

Keith Jarrett

Standards vol 1 & 2


Dave Holland

Conference of the Birds

Pat Metheny

Bright Size Life


Question & Answer

Wayne Shorter

Night Dreamer

Speak No Evil

Wynton Marsalis

Standard Time vol. 1

Larry Young


Bill Evans

Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Trio 64

Trio 65

Waltz for Debby

Friday, December 18, 2020

Dynamic Independence / “The Mixing Desk”

I feel this is a skill set that is far too often overlooked. We spends hours, days, months, and years developing rhythmic independence, sometimes to the point of levity, but often don’t take the time to think about developing that same level of independence in terms of dynamic balance. That’s one of the things (among many others) that makes guys like Peter Erskine so appealing. You could put Peter in a studio with nothing but a pair of overheads, and the balance between each of the components of the kit would be absolutely perfect, as though an engineer had mixed it and said, “I’m just gonna’ pull the ride cymbal up by one dB”. It was that idea that led me to use this analogy as an exercise with a lot of my students that I’d also like to encourage you to try.

Picture each of your limbs as a fader on a mixing console. See if you can control the dynamics of each limb individually without affecting the others. Start with “the AC/DC” or “Billie Jean” beat. Play everything at a relaxed forte. Strong and confident, but not over the top. Now, take your hi-hat down to pianissimo, crescendo to fortissimo, and decrescendo back down to pianissimo - or in other words pull the fader all the way down, push it all the way up, and pull it back down again - all without letting your bass drum or snare drum change in dynamic level. Then try the same thing with your left hand, and right foot.

This concept can be applied to any style of music. As we focus on a lot of jazz here on the blog, consider the same exercise while playing out of Syncopation or The Art of Bop Drumming. It adds additional layers of complexity as the left foot is now involved, and there is also a changing variable in the left hand. For example, feather the bass drum, play the hi-hat at forte, sight-read the left hand part at mezzo forte, and take your right hand through the fader process.

You will probably find that certain pairs of limbs are locked dynamically and follow each other, the same way your right hand and right foot always wanted to play at the same time when you first learned rhythmic independence. Practicing this will not only physically separate your limbs in terms of dynamics, but it will also fine-tune your ear and add a new level of detail to your playing as you draw your focus to each individual limb and how they sound together.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Dig This - The History of Jazz Drums with Mel Lewis

In 1989, saxophonist Loren Schoenberg did a series of interviews with Mel Lewis on the history of jazz drumming.  These interviews have been talked about and passed around for years, but now, in the internet age we can pretty much get our hands on anything at any time.  

A handful of them are available on Loren's YouTube channel, accompanied by some really cool pictures.  But for the ones that aren't, Texas State University has conveniently put them all in our place on their website: 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Groove Transcription - Kenna, "New Sacred Cow"

One of the few pluses of this period of zero gigs is that fact that with no other music to prepare I have reverted to just playing any old random thing for fun, and reaching deep in the bag for different material.  So, the other day when an old pop record that I used to listen to in college came to mind, I gave the whole record a spin, transcribed the grooves from a few of the tunes, and started playing along with them.  The record is Kenna's New Sacred Cow.  It's not the deepest record in the world, but it's nostalgic for me, and actually has some pretty cool grooves on it.  Also, I like working on grooves that weren't necessarily written from a drumset perspective as it forces you to think and play in a different way.  So here are three of grooves, should you feel so inclined.

hellbent was one of the singles from the record and, besides having an interesting groove that is reminiscent of a half-time shuffle, it has a cool video to go with it (though it doesn't seem to be on YouTube, unfortunately)

vexed and glorious has some nice counterpoint between the tambourine (notated as a cymbal here) and the rest of the kit.  If you play or sing them separately they really feel like two parts that would be played be different people.  But when you stick it all together it feels nice and is a lot of fun to play.

And finally, war in me.  The drums don't come in until at least halfway through the tune, but again, it's a groove written most likely at a desk rather than behind a kit, which gives it an unnatural feel that is nonetheless very enjoyable to play.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Transcription - Rubinho Barsotti, "No Balanço do Jequitibao"

So, I finally got around to that Rubinho transcription I promised ages ago, and it turned out to be a nice intro to playing samba in odd meters, something we've yet to cover on this blog.

Released in 1966, Zimbo Trio's album Volume 3, the album on which this track is found, came out at a time when odd time signatures in jazz, and especially samba and bossa nova, were still pretty novel.  I don't know of many before this.  So that could explain why there isn't a whole lot of improvising going on here.  Or maybe Rubinho was just holding it down and intentionally being understated.  Either way, the bulk of the tune is the same bar or two orchestrated just a couple of different ways.

Spending just a little bit of time with the four examples above should give you a pretty good grasp of a common samba feel in 5/8.  But if you want to play along with the recording, here is the transcription in full.  The track starts at 22:11, and the transcription starts after the intro, when the bass line comes in.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Philly Joe Jones - The Tympany Cross

Throughout the Covid era, the Drummer's Collective have been offering online workshops with some fantastic guests, including Jeff "Tain" Watts and, most recently, John Riley.  For me, one of the highlights of the evening was when John shared with us an exercise developed by Philly Joe Jones using the ubiquitous Saul Goodman timpani book.  Not only is it a neat little exercise, but it was in Philly Joe's own handwriting from his stint in London.

The gist of the exercise is that Philly Joe simply took some of the crossover exercises from Saul Goodman's Modern Method for Tympani and applied to the drumset.  The book is a staple of percussion study and has been used by countless students since it was first published in 1948.  I still have my copy sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere from the last time I played timpani, which was probably 15 years ago or more, so I might just have to pull it out and get some use out of it again.