Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dig This - Cymbal storage solutions

If you're a normal drummer, you probably have way more gear than you could every possibly play at one time. And chances are a lot of that gear is cymbals.  Where do you keep yours?

For awhile I had mine in old cymbal bags.  But I'm a cymbal nerd.  Not only do I like the sound of them, and how unique each one is, but I also just like the look of them.  I want to see them.  I want to be able to flick through them like a vinyl record collection.  Because of this I've spent quite a bit of time in the past Google-ing phrases like "cymbal rack", "cymbal storage", etc., not coming up with much in the way of fancy storage ideas.  However, my prayers were finally answered recently.

My buddy Mike Dawson over at Modern Drummer has a great video series (are the kids saying "Vlog" these days?) on his facebook page and on YouTube.  While watching one of his videos I saw it.  Tons of cymbals stacked beautifully vertical for all to gawk at.  Immediately I dropped him a line asking, "What is that?!"  To my delight, it was nothing more than a $5 guitar (read: cymbal) stand.

So now instead of this....


I've got THIS....



Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Permutations of a Bill Stewart fill

If you're a Bill Stewart fan then you almost certainly recognize this lick...



It pops up quite a lot in Bill's playing.  The placement of the bass drum seems to change from time to time.  Maybe it's a tempo thing or maybe just a personal choice.  Either way it's worth trying all three versions.

I was playing around with this phrase recently and started moving it around the bar, and inverting it, ending up with ideas like this....


Just by shifting everything by an 8th note we can get three very different feeling phrases.  Place the bass drum in all three places for each permutation and all of a sudden we've got 9 different phrases to play around with.

By playing 16th notes instead of triplets we can take this one step farther....



We now have a three beat phrase, which works well in 3/4, or perhaps even more so, as a hemiola idea that moves over the bar line.

Send me an e-mail if you'd like a PDF page of all the combinations.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Transcription - Edu Ribeiro, "Baião Doce"

Today I've got for you a groove that comes from the northeast of Brazil called a Baião.  You may have heard of it before, as it often gets a passing mention in method books after the one page on samba.  Baião comes from a family of rhythms called Forró.  I've got a larger piece about forró in the works, so for now we'll leave the history lesson at that.

The underlying rhythmic feel of a baião looks like this:



It's likely that you've seen an arrangement where the & of 2 is also on the bass drum, but I don't think that's very accurate.

In a drumset orchestration, the bass drum is imitating a drum called a zabumba, which is worn on a sling at an angle, much like an old snare drum, but higher.  The zabumba plays both the high sound and the low sound as the top head is played with a beater or mallet, and the bottom head is played with a long, thin stick held in the left hand.  The stick creates a sharp snap sound which we can imitate with a rim click.  It's quite common for the only other percussion instrument to be a large triangle.  So a stock baião orchestration would look something like this:



When a comping instrument is present, it's common for it to chase the low sounds of the zabumba.  This is also often supported by the high sound of the drum like so:



Where I feel the vibe of this rhythm is often lost when applied to the drum set is in the absence of improvisation.  While the part you see above is the foundation of the groove, many drum set players stay there and never move.  It's very common for a forró group to be only a trio: triangle, zabumba and accordion.  As the triangle is the motor and rarely fluctuates, most of the interaction with the accordion must come from the zabumba.

Edu Ribeiro nails this improvisatory element on "Baião Doce", a tune written by bassist Paulo Paulelli for Trio Corrente's debut album.  Check out how the basic baião feel is always present, but is very much embellished with the rim click, and improvisation with the bass drum.



E-mail me for a PDF

"Baião Doce" starts at 25:12

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Solo Transcription - Kenny Washington, "Put on a Happy Face"

The first half of 2016 has been pretty hectic.  In addition to the classes I already teach online for West Virginia University, I've been designing a new course in GarageBand, which has been taking up the bulk of my time.  Also, I've been doing the administrative work on my upcoming trio record, working with Joy Ellis on her new record, and editing our chapter for the 14th Darmstadt Jazzforum.  All this, bundled with my usual lessons and gigs has left me with essentially no time for blogging.  So to you, dear reader, I apologize.  But now, summer is here, and I have a little bit more time on my hands, so I'm going to see if I can't ease myself back into a steady posting routine.

So let's get started with a little Kenny Washington.  This comes from a great Bill Charlap record called All Through the Night.  Here he's trading with Bill on "Put on a Happy Face".  Lately I've started writing more in the Wilcoxon style notation.  I feel it fits the vibe of the playing more, especially with stuff like this.

E-mail me for a PDF

Thursday, May 26, 2016

14th Darmstadt Jazzforum

Back in October, Joy Ellis and I presented a paper at the 14th Darmstadt Jazzforum in Darmstadt, Germany, which has since been published.  The theme of this year's conference was Gender and Identity in Jazz which was broken down to three thematic blocks:


*Topics such as masculinity/gender/intersectionality/identity

*Analytical case studies, in which the art of specific musicians was to be approached without first looking at the gender aspect of their music

*The third block was to bring us into the lived-in reality both of days gone by and of today's world, allow for focused views into jazz history and for conversations with men and women active on today's jazz scene.


For our part, we wrote paper about the participation of women at jam sessions; the biases they face, the effects on their employment, etc.


Pick up a copy of the book here.  There was a wide range of fascinating topics presented by musicians, university lecturers, and journalists from all over the world.

Check out the video below which explains more about this year's conference, and also check out the Darmstadt Jazzinstitut, which houses the largest jazz archive in Europe.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Practice Loop - Milton Banana, "É Luxo Só"

As we're on the João Gilberto tip, here's a little practice loop for you to play around with.  It's comes from one of, if not the, first bossa nova album, Chega de Saudade, and features my man Milton Banana on the drums.

Again, grab the Jazz Samba Builder, and try mixing and matching some of the different combinations while playing along to this practice loop.

And if you don't already have it, pick up this album, why don't ya'.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

You Be the Drummer - João Gilberto, "João Gilberto"

UPDATE: A big thank you goes to Robbie down in the comments who pointed out that Sonny actually appeared on an episode of To Tell the Truth in 1961.  Sonny is on our far left in the first game, and reveals his true identity at 8:34.



It's been awhile since I've posted one of these drummer-less recordings, but I've been using this one a lot lately.  I suppose technically it's not entirely drummer-less, as it features Sonny Carr playing pretty much nothing but hi-hat.  Sonny certainly doesn't hurt, but João's guitar playing is so deep in the pocket and oozing vibe that it makes for a perfect "drummer-less" playalong.

Grab a copy of my Jazz Samba Builder and try out the various combinations as you play along with João and Sonny.


There's very little information out there about Sonny Carr.  Mostly just an obituary which says that he was a "renowned jazz drummer for twenty years" in New York, and died back in 2011.  Apparently he was a technical writer by day.  The usual internet suspects like Wikipedia, All Music, and All About Jazz didn't provide much help either.  If you know anything about Sonny drop me a comment.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Naná Vasconcelos (1944 - 2016)

When I was 24 I was lucky enough to travel to Recife, Brazil with two of my professors and a couple of classmates.  It was this trip that sparked my insatiable appetite for Brazilian music.  Prior to that I knew little about the music, but was very much interested.  I went on the trip armed with a wad of cash and a big empty spot in my suitcase to carry home the beginnings of my new library of Brazilian music.  Many of the albums I purchased on the trip have been mentioned on this blog and continue to amaze and inspire me today.

One album that I clearly remember standing out to me was Chegada, one of the last albums the great percussionist Naná Vasconcelos released as a leader.  This record sounded like nothing I had ever heard before.  It was only after listening to it over and over and over and over again that I began digging deeper into Vasconcelos' history and discography and discovered all of the amazing players he had worked with - Egberto Gismonti, Milton Nascimento, Jan Garbarek, Pat Metheny, Paul Motian, Ralph Towner, Don Cherry, Danny Gottlieb, amongst others - and all of the wonderful albums he had recorded and appeared on.  I even realized that he was on Eliane Elias Plays Jobim, which was the record that first introduced me to Jack DeJohnette.

The ECM record label posted a wonderful obituary on their facebook page:


Nana Vasconcelos (1944-2016)
Naná Vasconcelos, the unique Brazilian percussionist, singer and berimbau master has died in his hometown of Recife, aged 71. His vivid playing conjured echoes of the rainforest, scurryings in the undergrowth, the sudden flap of bird-wings, animal calls, the crackle of flames, cloudbursts and more. He busked on street corners, played with symphony orchestras, breakdancers, and with all manner of improvisers. In Brazil he first gained a reputation as a member of Milton Nascimento’s group, and he arrived in Europe in early 1970s as a member of Gato Barbieri’s band, basing himself initially in Paris. His highly productive association with Egberto Gismonti was begun on the often thrilling ECM recording Dança das Cabeças in 1976 and continued on albums including Sol do meio Dia, Duas Vozes and Nana’s 1979 leader date Saudades, for which Gismonti wrote the orchestral arrangements. (Egberto and Nana were due to revive their musical association this year, and a tour of the Far East had been booked for April) 
Vasconcelos was one third of the magical Codona group with Don Cherry and Collin Walcott whose ECM recordings are reprised in the box set The Codona Trilogy. “Codona was the best collaboration in my life because it was a really unpredictable situation,” Vasconcelos told writer N. Scott Robinson in 2000. “Codona was true improvisation; freedom. Because it was true collaboration, three different persons, three different backgrounds put together.” 
Nana Vasconcelos also appears on ECM albums with Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Pierre Favre and Arild Andersen.

Here is the album that introduced me to the music of this incredible percussionists.  I highly recommend picking up a copy.



Obrigado pela música e inspiração, Nana.