Friday, March 13, 2015

Philly Joe Jones - "How About You?"

Well, after a busy first part of the year it's high time for the first Philly Joe Phriday of 2015!

After the great response I received from the last PJP, where we looked at comping, I decided to do another; this time from a lesser known, but killer record by a bari sax player named Serge Chaloff.  Chaloff played bari in most of the great big bands (Ellington, Basie, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman) and is considered the first bebop bari sax player.  Unfortunately, like so many jazz greats of the time, Serge died young.  He, like Jones, battled heroin addiction, but was able to get himself clean before dying of spinal cancer.

In this recording of How About You? we again hear Philly Joe teamed up with Sonny Clark and bassist LeRoy Vinnegar.  Check out the last PJP post for some notes about Philly Joe's ride pattern, shaping, etc.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Solo Transcription - Antonio Sanchez, "Jackalope"

So, I finally got around to watching Birdman the other night, and besides being a very cool movie, the score is everything it's cracked up to be.  This led to me pulling out a bunch of Antonio Sanchez stuff to listen to during all the driving I've been doing lately.

One of my favorite projects that Sanchez has been a part of is the New Gary Burton Quartet.  I saw this group a few year ago at Ronnie Scott's and was blown away.  Gary Burton is, of course, Gary Burton.  Not much else needs to be said there.  Rounding out the group is Julian Lage - who is still only 27 years old yet plays with the maturity of someone far beyond his years - and bassist Scott Colley.

So, in honor of Sanchez being snubbed by the Oscars, here is a transcription of his solo on the tune Jackalope from the NGBQ album Guided Tour, which, if you don't have it yet, is totally worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Escola de Samba Patterns for Drumset

If you visit the blog often, you'll know that last year I had four articles in Modern Drummer magazine concerning the adaptation of samba batucada rhythms to the drum set.

Seeing as how the issues have been out for six months or more now, I figured the guys at MD wouldn't mind if I posted a little preview of the articles here; especially as carnival was last week.  This is certainly not all of it, so you should definitely check out the May, August, September, and October 2014 issues of Modern Drummer for lots more.

Many of us gringoes tend to think of samba (or other styles with which we are less familiar) as nothing more than a pattern, rather than music.  It is also common to think that there is one "right" way to play samba.  This simply isn't the case.  Samba just like jazz, rock, etc., is a style of music, within which there can be numerous variations.  Sure, there's a specific feel, and characteristic elements, but there are many different ways that we can get this point across.  Nearly all of the samba schools in Brazil have their own way of playing samba.  In the MD articles I go into a lot more detail about each, but here I have a little sample sheet for you containing some of the characteristic sounds of Rio.

On this sheet an x on the snare signifies a rim shot

The ideas on this sheet will produce quite a different effect than your typical jazz samba, and can be a refreshing change of pace.  These approaches are good for those of you that prefer a more folkloric sound.  And they are particularly handy when you encounter break-neck speeds.  If your right hand isn't quick enough for that steady stream of 16th notes, and you don't want a heavily syncopated sound a la "Meu Fraco É Café Forte" you can attack your snare drum with one of the above rhythms.  They work really well with brushes too.

Also, bear in mind that although each school has their unique way of play samba which they pretty strictly adhere to, there is nothing wrong with mixing and matching the caixa pattern from one school with the surdo pattern from another.  In fact, newer groups will often do just that as they develop their own style, much like you would combine various ideas from your favorite drum set players to create your own unique sound.  Play around with numerous different combinations of hand and foot patterns.  To create the surdo effect we often need to use the floor tom in conjunction with the bass drum, so it may be necessary to alter your stickings to make certain combinations work.

While you're at it, check out this year's carnival champion, Beija Flor:

Friday, February 20, 2015

A few pictures from the studio

Wow, this year is going by quick already.  I've been really busy with lots of playing and teaching which is great for the hands and the bank account, but not so great for the blog.

A couple of weeks ago I was in New Jersey, just across the Hudson from NYC to record a new organ trio record with Pat Bianchi and Dan Wilson.  I'm currently in the process of mixing it down and working on some cover art.  With any luck at all it will be available come spring time.  I'll keep you posted.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures from the session.

On the right is my new 22' K Constantinople Medium Thin Low, which, when recording a bit at home on a little digital recorder, I was starting to have my doubts about.  But the with real mics in a good room it sounded phenomenal.  I really wanted some sizzle on it, but just didn't have the heart to drill into it, so I put a chain on it.  In the past I've tried one of those Sabian chains, but the links are just too big and have a clunky sound rather than a gentle hiss.  So, I went to my local hardware store, and bought a pull chain for a ceiling fan.  Perfect!

On the left is a 20' K Left Side Ride that I picked up on ebay a few years ago and just never had the chance to take into the studio.  It, too, did not disappoint.

The rest of the cymbal setup includes 14' Istanbul Agop Sultan hats and a 20' Sabian Jack DeJohnette flat ride from before it was called the "Encore" series.

Friday, February 13, 2015

You Be the Drummer - Nat King Cole Trio, "After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It"

I've recently been getting back into the habit - and encouraging my students to get in the habit - of playing along with drummer-less recordings.  Playing with records is one of the best ways we can learn the idiosyncracies of music that can't be notated or, in some cases, even explained.  And while transcribing, and playing along with, other drummers is a fantastic tool, it can be extremely beneficial to play along with records that have no drummer at all.  When there is no one there to which you are trying to conform you're free to try new ideas and work on developing your own sound.  Sure, if you don't want to hear a drummer you could always just use a metronome, Band in a Box, or a Jamey Aebersold track, but why, when you can mimic the experience of playing with the greats?  Someone who can really teach you the aforementioned idiosyncrasies.

There are, of course, a number of drummer-less groups with varying instrumentation that we can check out, but if this is a new concept to you, I'd start at the beginning with the first great drummer-less trio: that of Nat King Cole.  Nat, along with bassist, Johnny Miller and guitarist, Oscar Moore, don't need no steenking drummer.  These are some of the swingingest recordings of all time.

Here's one to get you started, but I recommend just trying to lay your hands on as much of this stuff as you can.  Even if it's just one of those greatest hits records that you can snag for 3 bucks.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Something to tide you over...

I realize posting has been a bit sparse lately, but I've been working on my new record with guitarist Dan Willson, and organist Pat Bianchi.  I'm writing this from Paramus, New Jersey, as we speak, where tomorrow we'll be heading in to Tedesco Studios to lay down tracks for the record.

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Hopefully, when everything slows down a bit next week, I can get a few of these projects out of my drafts folder for you.  In the meantime, here's a little goodie a just discovered!  A young Charles Lloyd quartet, with Jack DeJohnette in Prague, 1967.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Transcription - Elvin Jones, "Zoltan"

Somehow this blog has gone it's first full year without doing an Elvin Jones piece.  What's that all about?  Let's remedy this situation right now.

Here's a "Latin" groove from the Larry Young album, Unity.  Now, those of you who are regulars to the blog know that generally I don't care for the term "Latin", especially when referring to a very culturally specific type of music.  But Elvin gets a pass here.  A. Because he's Elvin, and B. because the groove he's playing isn't really idiomatic to one specific style.  We can certainly hear the influence of certain Afro-Cuban styles.  Elvin hints at cascara and Mozambique patterns but this truly is what I would consider "Latin Jazz".  There is a unique swing to it that will take some time playing with the recording to develop.

The groove begins at around 0:28 after the march intro.

While you're getting this under your hands, there's another great track that you can practice with.  I recently came across a Grant Green album that I wasn't previously familiar with.  Again, Elvin is on drums, and Larry Young is on organ, and this album also features Bobby Hutcherson on vibes.  The album is Grant Green's Street of Dreams, and the tune is the beautiful Charles Trenet classic "I Wish You Love".  The groove isn't 100% the same, but it's close enough to work on the "Zoltan" groove, and is helpful as it's slower, and doesn't go back and forth between the Latin groove and swing section like "Zoltan" does, so you have almost 9 minutes of constant groove to work with.

The whole album is absolutely killer.  I generally advocate buying CDs, but if you're in a crunch for space, or trying to save a few bucks you can get it on iTunes for only $5 and it comes with an extended digital booklet with a lot of nice stuff in it. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


TDB is officially one year old today!  Many thanks to all of you who are reading, commenting, requesting PDFs, etc.  We're not going anywhere any time soon, so keep coming to visit and keep interacting with us.  We love hearing from you!

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