Saturday, November 30, 2019

Flam Accent/Pataflafla Etude

Here's a little ditty I was fooling around with earlier today combining flam accents and pataflaflas.  I was almost immediately reminded of my drum corps days when any flam-based exercise would always be amped up a notch by adding drags and "cheeses".  At tempo this becomes a nice chop buster.

E-mail me for a PDF

Monday, November 04, 2019

Dig This - Jack Sperling playing brushes

I recently stumbled across this video of the great Jack Sperling playing some burnin' brushes with singer/guitarist Caterina Valente.  Jack spent the majority of his career as a sideman to some of the biggest singers in the biz; Tex Beneke, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bobby Darin just to name a few.  He also did a fair amount of studio work, appearing on the soundtracks to big name films and TV like Peter Gunn, Rawhide, The Days of Wine and Roses, Bonanza, Charade, and Hogan's Heroes.

Caterina Valente was a lovely surprise for me.  I was not familiar with her before seeing this video.  She was born and raised in Paris, and at 88 years old it appears she still lives there.  Not only is she a killer guitarist and singer, but she does so in 11 different languages, and can actually speak six of them.  The interweb also tells me she's an actress and dancer, but I haven't checked that out as of yet.  What you should check out though is this video of her and Jack playing together on "That Old Black Magic".  Dig the big ol' Rogers kit, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dig This - Edu Ribeiro's playlist

One of the few e-mail subscriptions I still allow to get through to my inbox is that of Edu Ribeiro, one of my favorite drummers.  Recently, Edu sent a list of seven of his favorite recordings and drummers.  It reads like a who's who of Brazilian artists and drummers, including some of my own personal favorites, and even one I must admit I wasn't really familiar with.  Check it out....

Tutty Moreno - Forças d'Alma

Tutty is one of my biggest influences (and according to Edu, his single biggest).  His touch and feel are magical, and he plays samba in a unique fashion that is like absolutely no one else.  He's most often heard on the albums of his wife, Joyce, but here Edu chose Tutty's solo album from 1998.  Edu goes on to say that he had the opportunity to buy Tutty's kit.  I believe the one on the cover of this album may have been the one that Edu now owns and can be seen playing in certain YouTube videos.

Raul de Souza - A Vontade Mesmo

This is a great Samba Jazz record from the 60s that I only discovered about a year ago.  At the time didn't even realize that it was Airto on drums, because it sounds so different to the Airto we've all gotten to know with the huge percussion setup.  Here he's playing a standard drum set in a jazz setting.

Egberto Gismonti - Em Família

Most of my experience with Egberto Gismonti has been through his records on the ECM label.  But this is an early 80s EMI record that I hadn't heard before.  It features Nenê on drums, who, according to Edu, "pioneered this approach to bring the percussion rhythms to the drum set"

Edison Machado - É samba novo

This is an album that is very near and dear to me.  When I was first having my mind blown by Brazilian music, composer Flavio Chamis was helping me with my graduate research and introduced me to this album and explained it's importance.  It remains one of my personal favorites.  Edu says:
The origin of Samba Jazz!  This is a photography of new style coming up from the clubs in Rio at Beco das Garrafas.  Edison playing is high energy.  The sidemen are amazing too: Paulo Moura is playing saxophone, Raul de Souza is there too! 

Rosa Passos - Pano para manga

Rosa Passos is such a treasure of this music.  She personifies that Brazilian feel that is incredibly intense and driving while somehow very light and relaxed at the same time.  This album features Erivelton Silva on drums.

Elis Regina and Tom Jobim - Elis e Tom

Don't need to say much about this one.  You've heard me talk about it before.  The collaboration of one of Brazil's finest composers with one of it's finest singers, and behind the scenes is one of it's finest drummers, Paulo Braga.

Celso de Almeida Trio - Sambalanço

This is a relatively new release of a drummer Celso de Almeida, who, right there with Edu, is one of the finest samba drummers alive today.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

New blog on the block

Kyle Andrews, a great young drummer from West Virginia, now has his own blog over at  Kyle studied at West Virginia Wesleyan College with my good friend James Moore and went on to do a Masters at Indiana University.  He is now freelancing in Philadelphia, and no doubt tearing it up as he is a very fine drummer.  Kyle has some great knowledge to drop, so do swing by and check out the new blog.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Articulation Control with Paradiddles

At the moment I have a couple of students working on Wilcoxon’s “Paradiddle Johnnie” from “Modern Rudimental Swing Solos”.  Both of them are playing really well, but are finding it difficult to control their stick heights/volume so that there is only two distinct levels of sound - accent and unaccented.

In passages such as this one, in “Paradiddle Johnnie”…

…the students are unintentionally producing a third sound by giving additional weight, or emphasis to unaccented notes that fall on a downbeat.  What comes out is a sound that is softer than an accent, but louder that a tap stroke.

So, to help remedy this, I whipped up a simple paradiddle exercise that isolates those phrases, and other ones similar to it.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weekly Wisdom

As I mentioned the other day, I recently got to catch up with my old college friend, Mike Dawson.  Being the managing editor at Modern Drummer, Mike is a pretty well connected guy, and therefore has a lot of great stories about different drummers.  Last week he told me a great story about one of our mutually favorite drummers, Steve Jordan.  Mike was interviewing Steve and was hoping for a long, deep answer when he asked, "How do you know if what you're playing is really grooving?"  Mike told me that Steve leaned his head forward, looked over the top of his sunglasses, and said,

"Man, if you have to ask that question, it's not really groovin'"

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Freedom Through Discipline

Last night I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend of mine from WVU, Mike Dawson.  You may know Mike from his Instagram page and/or YouTube channel that is chock full of excellent content, or from the podcast he hosts with Mike Johnston called the “Mike and Mike Podcast”.

Mike was in London for the first time, giving a masterclass on creative practice skills.  In it he touched on an idea that some of our teachers at WVU showed us, and something I have mentioned here on the blog before: forcibly limiting yourself in various ways in order to foster creativity.  I always explain to my students that these exercises help develop the control to play exactly what we want to play, when we want to play it, rather than letting parts of ourselves go on autopilot, or work by muscle memory.  Mike described this in three simple words: Freedom Through Discipline.  By disciplining ourselves to only play certain things, or not play certain things, we are developing the control to be completely free with our creativity and improvisation.  Mike employs this idea in his own way, so I’ll leave you to check out his work yourselves, and rather than attempting to give you a recap of last night I’d like to share with you one of my own ways of putting this concept into practice.

Mike does a lot of playing with ambient loops that often don’t imply any specific time or feel.  Rather, it’s up him to see where his creativity takes him with each sound.  So today I gave this idea a try.  I pulled up a random template in Ableton and composed a beat over it.  At the time I just played, and I didn’t write anything down, but for the sake of this post I jotted it out when I was finished.

Since the loop had a decidedly acid house sort of feel I decided to imagine my playing as a drum machine.  The 4-bar groove repeats exactly the same, ad nauseam.  I could “mute” one or more channels, or fade channels in and out; the channels being the voices of the kit.  Therefore, the only rules I imposed on myself were this:
1. When playing the groove, I MUST play the groove, and only the groove, note for note; no extra notes or different voices, and no leaving out notes unintentionally.
2. To improvise I can only change the volume of each voice, or take one or more voices out completely

This sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be.  For one, I thought of the bass drum line as a short AABA form, so it was important to stick only to those two rhythms.  To not add extra notes just because I felt like it, or because I lost my focus was surprisingly difficult for the first couple minutes.  Taking out the snare had its share of difficulties as well.  While it seemed easy enough at first I noticed that my left hand and right foot weren’t alway perfectly aligned.  This was another thing that Mike touched on in the masterclass; use this disciplined practice time to highlight problems in your playing and iron them out.

Lastly I tried full mutes of the entire groove, attempting to stop on a dime in a specific spot in the phrase, and coming back in in a particular spot.  To come back in, say, on the & of beat 2, with full confidence, in perfect time, and without adding or leaving out any notes is much harder than it sounds.

I encourage you to find your own loops, and write your own parts, but if you’d like to start by trying mine, the notation and loop are below.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Brasilian "Comping" Rhythms - Telecoteco

If you’ve listened to, or played, much Brazilian music, you’ve certainly come across these rhythms regardless of whether or not you knew their names.  I’ve written about partido alto and Bossa Nova in earlier posts, so today let’s look mainly at telecoteco, which serves the same role, and is essentially a substitute for, or variation of, partido alto.

The telecoteco rhythm shares a similarity with Cuban clave in that it has two “sides”.  The rhythm is two bars of 2/4 long, and can be played starting on either bar.  There is an “up side”, starting on the second 16th note, and a “down side”, which starts on the downbeat.  As in Cuban clave, the melodic line of the song is directly connected to the direction of the telecoteco rhythm, and should not cross it as this creates some pretty unpleasant rhythmic tension.  One place in which telecoteco differs from clave though is that improvisation within the constructs of telecoteco is perfectly acceptable, whereas in clave it absolutely is not, but more on that in the next post.  For now, here are the most common variations of the rhythm:

E-mail me for a PDF of this sheet

There are a few different approaches to telecoteco.  In the more traditional styles of samba, such as batucada or pagode, the direction of the telecoteco does not change during the song under any circumstances.  Getting on the wrong side of the rhythm (playing cruzado) will draw the ire of other players around and you can expect a fair amount of eye-rolling and ridicule.  On the other hand in the more jazz influenced styles of samba in the 1960s and 70s where you’re more likely to see drum set and piano it seemed to be more acceptable to freely switch between the up and down side, the telecoteco being more of a vibe than a rule.  I also feel like the more traditional styles of samba tend to play more on the “up” side of the telecoteco, whereas jazz-oriented (and gringo) interpretations tend to start on the “down” side.

In an enredo, or batucada ensemble you’re most likely to hear telecoteco being played on a tamborim.  In terms of moving this to the set, the obvious approach is to play these rhythms on a rim click, or maybe snare drum or tom.  Head back to the Jazz Samba Builder and try some combinations of right hand and foot ostinatos while adding these telecoteco variations in your left hand.

But, don’t forget the concept we talked about back in May based on Kiko Freitas' style of playing, wherein we move the ostinato part to the left hand, and improvise or “comp” with the right hand.  Check out that post here, and try some of the same foot patterns with telecoteco in your right hand.