Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Album of the Week - Plantation Lullabies, Me'shell Ndegéocello

One of my initial ideas with this blog was to have an “Album of the Week”, but up to this point I’ve been working on the other posts to get this thing off the ground and just kind of forgot about it.  But as I sat here grading some papers, and listening to tunes I found a great one to start with.

I’ll often close my eyes and spin my thumb a few times around the iPod wheel and just play whatever pops up.  Today it landed on an album I haven’t listened to for quite a few years.  Plantation Lullabies is Me’shell Ndegéocello’s debut album.  And while it may not be her absolute best work, it’s still a total gem.  It features a young Joshua Redman and Geri Allen, as well as Luis Conté, and legendary Motown guitarist Melvin “Wah-Wah Watson” Ragin (the “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” guy).

Released in 1993, it still has remnants of the New Jack Swing sound to it which will surely pique your nostalgia.  It also reminds me of some U.K. Acid Jazz, like 4Hero.  For those of you who dig Erykah Badu, The Roots, etc., but haven’t yet checked out Me’shell, start here.  There are some killer play-along grooves to work with; and by “some” I mean pretty much the whole album.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Four Limb Triplet Warm-up

This exercise had a huge impact on my playing.  It was shown to me by a fantastic drummer in Pittsburgh named Lou Ross.  He is also a pro at refurbishing drums and he builds some beautiful custom sets.  Check him out.

Coming out of grad school I was feeling quite confident about my playing.  I had been studying hard, practicing for hours on end, reading, writing a thesis, and came out the other side with a piece of paper declaring me a MASTER of music.  Riiiight.  Less than three months later I was on tour in Malaysia and Singapore with pianist Cher Siang Tay, and bassist Jon Cavendish, with whom I had worked a lot in school and had great musical chemistry.  We put together a lot of new repertoire, played gig after gig, and recorded an album.  It was the most satisfying period of my musical career up to that point.  Then, before I knew it I was back home, in Pittsburgh, saying to myself “now what?”

Monday, January 27, 2014

Weekly Wisdom

This great, anonymous quote was first said to me by Christopher Hestin while I was marching with the Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps.

"Amateurs practice until they get it right;
Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong."
- Unknown

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sibelius Drum Engraving Tips

I like to think that I'm pretty savvy with Sibelius, but as I was sitting here working on my next post I ran into a little trouble.  Rather than using Sibelius' Help Menu (because that would make sense), I Googled it, and found my answer in this little gem.

Seems this Katie Wardrobe from Midnight Music in Australia has sifted out all of the drum notation information from Sibelius, which can often be difficult to find in that sea of a help menu, and put it all into one convenient PDF for us!  Not only that, but Ms. Wardrobe (which sounds way cooler than Katie) has thrown in some tips for using tools that may not have necessarily been designed for drum and percussion engraving, but could be just what you are looking for.

And for my fellow Americans:

Semibreve = Whole Note
Minim = Half Note
Crotchet = Quarter Note
Quaver = Eighth Note
Semiquaver = Sixteenth Note
Demisemiquaver = Thirty-Second Note

Apparently there's also these:

Breve = Double Whole Note
Quadruple Whole Note = Longa (like anyone uses those)
Octuple Whole Note (That's a thing?) = Maxima

Hemidemisemiquaver (WHAT?!) = Sixty-Fourth Note
Semihemidemisemiquaver (Now I just want to see how long this is gonna' go on = Hundred Twenty-Eighth Note
Demisemihemidemisemiquaver (I think this is the last one) = Two Hundred Fifty-Sixth Note

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weekly Wisdom

The Small's Jazz Club newsletter that I regularly receive came today, and in it was a special quote as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I, for one, had no idea that he had delivered the opening address for the 1964 Berlin jazz festival.  But apparently he did, and he had this to share with us about America's music:

God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.
Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.
This is triumphant music.
Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.
It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.
Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.
And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.
In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964, Berlin Germany

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Groove Transcription - Vernel Fournier, "Poinciana"

"The Poinciana Beat", as it's most often called, is one of those grooves from the jazz folklore that every drummer should know.

I was first introduced to it as an 18 year-old college freshman who knew essentially nothing about jazz.  I was in a rehearsal with a guitarist named Dan Effland, who is now in Chicago.  Dan was working on a tune and said, "Give me something like the Poinciana beat."  In return Dan received a blank stare.  In typical Dan fashion I received an immense roasting.  So I went back to my dorm room that night and got on Napster (remember Napster?) and downloaded Ahmad Jamal's Live at the Pershing: But Not for Me, which is where Poinciana was first released, and this iconic groove by drummer Vernel Fournier was first heard.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Marcel Cellier and Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares

This post doesn't actually have much to do with drumming, short of a few tracks, but I knew I'd probably struggle to keep this blog only about drumming.  This is post is simply about great music, and remembering a man who helped bring great music to thousands, if not millions, of people who may have not heard it otherwise.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Weekly Wisdom

"I'm an interpreter of stories and when I perform it's like I'm just sitting down at my piano and telling fairy stories."

- Nat King Cole

Thursday, January 09, 2014

You Be the Drummer - Bill Evans and Jim Hall, Undercurrent

In this series I'd like to introduce you to records with no drummer which are great for playalong practice.

Bill Evans and Jim Hall's Undercurrent is the first album I ever tried this idea with.

The lack of bassist and both players light touch make it great for practicing brushes.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Solo Transcription - Max Roach, "Jacqui"

I never did much transcribing early on in my education and even in college.  I would do the occasional few bars or maybe even a solo when something was really bugging me, but for some reason or another I never really got into it.  Then a few years back, while working on a cruise ship, it was quite difficult to find a practice space, so I started transcribing.  This is one of the first solos I transcribed in that period.  There are some classic Max-isms in here, such as bars 18 and 19, and when you take a minute to analyze it, you realize that it's quite a clever solo with some very cool theme and variation.  The album that this tune comes from, Clifford Brown and Max Roach's Study in Brown is must have.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Weekly Wisdom

"Percussion is like walking through the forest.  You can't possibly see it all.  There are endless possibilities of what you can do."

- John Burgamo