Thursday, March 27, 2014

Solo Transcription - Philly Joe Jones, "Red Pepper Blues"

As promised, some more Philly Joe.  This time "Red Pepper Blues", from the album Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section.  "The Rhythm Section", of course, being Philly Joe, Red Garland, and Paul Chambers, who were Miles' rhythm section at the time.  Jazz folklore claims that the producers didn't tell Art that he was recording with "The Rhythm Section" until the morning of the hit because they thought he would freak out as Pepper not only greatly admired "The Rhythm Section" but also had a terrible drug habit, and supposedly hadn't touched his horn for a few weeks, though this last part is debatable.

Either way, it's an absolutely killer record.  Pick it up if you don't already have it.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Modern Drummer - May 2014

I'm very excited to announce that I've got an article coming out in this month's issue of Modern Drummer Magazine.

The digital issue is out now, and print copies will hit newsstands April 1st.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Max Roach fill in triplets

Here's a little variation I came up with of a classic Max Roach fill.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with this one:

It pops up in many great Roach solos, including "Jacqui".  Check out measures 18-19, at 0:28 on the video).

Another great way of playing this, especially when the tempo won't allow you to tear through those 16th notes is to simply play it with triplets.  There are a few different ways we can approach this.

First, let's keep the movement from drum to drum as close to the original spot as possible, like so:

Now, let's keep the original sticking intact.  We'll have to squish the ending a bit:

There are, of course, many different ways to arrange this fill, and I encourage you to come up with your own.  Here's one of mine.  Adding accents gives this fill some extra shape and makes it even more melodic than it already is.  I changed the ending a bit as well for a bigger impact.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Groove Transcription - Manu Katché, "Running After Years"

I came across Manu Katché's self-titled album a couple years back while in Malaysia with my good friend, and pianist, Tay Cher Siang.  Many years ago he introduced me to ECM, and I've been hooked ever since.  And every time I see him, I know there's going to be some new ECM goodies that I haven't yet discovered.  This was one of those albums that from the moment I pressed play I knew I was going to love.  And this intro was why:


I often have a hard time deciding how deeply to dig into these recordings.  Sometimes I feel it's best to just play it at full speed, and write out what you can hear - the meat of it, essentially.  Other times I try to grab every last little beep and fart.  It's always a tough decision, because when those beeps and farts are there and you take them too literally, it can make it difficult to feel the groove properly.  On the other hand, it's those beeps and farts that really give the groove character.

In this case, I went with every beep and fart.  I slowed it down, EQ'ed it, and pulled it apart at the seams.  And I'm really glad I did.  Consider playing just the basic groove first to find the pocket.  Then try to play it note for note.  It's like adding the perfect spice.  An already cool groove made even hipper.

Important to note is the hi-hat feel.  I didn't want to clutter up the score with loads of accents, but there is definitely emphasis place on all of the downbeats, while the upbeats are a little more gentle.

Don't just stop at the intro either.  Listen to the whole tune.  It's killer.

Solo Transcription - Philly Joe Jones, "Locomotion"

I'm realizing why I don't have a TV in London.  Because there's nothing on!  After the Pens lambasted the Stars I took a quick whirl through the channels to realize that there's not much on here in the States either.  And that not much is interrupted by commercial after terrible commercial.  But I like to think of it as a good thing, because then I just do more transcriptions.

Here you have Philly Joe's intro to "Locomotion" on John Coltrane's, Blue Trane.  I was planning on doing the entire solo when I realized that it's already been done a million or so times.  So for now, I'll leave you with this.  But I picked up a bunch of good Philly Joe stuff the other day, so I should have some really cool solos for you soon.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Quick Lick - Edu Ribeiro

As I was doing my nightly gawking on YouTube this little lick happened to catch my ear, and I thought it would be a nice addition to any player's jazz vocabulary.  For the first two bars I've split the hands into two lines: right hand on top moving in circles with a pulse on each beat, and left hand on the bottom.

Edu Ribeiro is one of the baddest Brazilian cats out there; actually he's one of the baddest cats out there, period. I've got some more in-depth posts about him and his work coming soon. But for now, do yourself a favor and YouTube him, but prepare to feel very slow.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Groove Transcription - Billy Higgins, "The Sidewinder"

I hate this song.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m into Lee Morgan.  I love Billy Higgins.  But there’s just something about this tune.  Maybe I’ve just heard it being played really horribly one too many times at college jam sessions.  Calling "Sidewinder" just seems like calling "Take Five".  Who does that?

But you gotta’ know how to play it.  Because, unfortunately, you’re going to have to.  And the only thing worse that having to play "The Sidewinder" is having it called and not knowing HOW to play it.  I like to think of it as one of those martial arts death punches.  You should know it, and hopefully you’ll never have to use it.

Admittedly, though, it’s a pretty cool groove.  It sits in that funny little spot where it’s not swung as hard as your typical hard bop tune, but it certainly isn’t straight 8th notes either.  And if you play either of these you’re going to sound lame.  I’ve heard people swing it hard, and I’ve heard people play it like a damn bossa.  NO.

The bad news is that there really isn’t any way for me to explain the feel to you.  You’ve just got to listen to it....A LOT, and play along to it.  So that’s why I’ve created this little goodie for you.  It’s kind of my own personal hell.  It’s the groove, looped 50 times (seriously) so you can just play it over and over until you find where exactly those notes fall.

If you would like to download a copy of this file, please send me an e-mail

Below is a transcription of the groove Higgins plays on the head.  Note that the snare drum part does NOT change.  I think of it as part of the melody, not to be messed with, at least until you get into the solo.  Also note the bass drum.  Listen closely and you’ll notice that it’s not feathered to just be “felt” as is often the case.  If you listen hard you’ll realize that Higgins is actually giving that thing a pretty good thump.  As far as the hi-hat goes, it's really hard to say whether he's playing it on 2 & 4 or not.  I'm going to say that he is.

Oh, and do me a favor.  Show people that you really know the tune by not playing on the first downbeat after the bass intro.!


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Transcription - Kenny Washington, "Where or When"

I love playing in 3.  But lately I've found myself struggling for vocabulary, falling into that rut that we’ve all experienced of feeling as though you’re playing the same ideas over and over and over.  So I thought it high time for me to transcribe something in 3.

This recording of the Rodgers and Hart number Where or When comes from an album that re-piqued my interest in straight ahead jazz, Bill Charlap’s Written in the Stars.  At a time when I was digging hard on players like Jeff Ballard, and Horacio Hernandez, and also listening to a lot of ECM music I came across this album - given to me by a great friend and piano player in Malaysia, Tay Cher Siang - and instantaneously fell back in love with the classic piano trio sound.

The album features bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington who is easily one of the finest straight ahead jazz drummer alive today.  Conjuring up audible images of players like Philly Joe Jones and Billy Higgins, Washington could have stepped out of a time machine from 1958.  But in no way do I mean to say that he sounds dated; simply that he clearly has a vast knowledge of the history of jazz drumming which informs his playing, all the while creating a sound that is distinctly his own.

Bill Charlap is another modern gem of straight ahead jazz.  Charlap is a living and breathing encyclopedia of the Great American Songbook with an affinity for unearthing great standards that many of us may have forgotten.  Admittedly, Where or When is not exactly an obscure standard.  A quick jump to Wikipedia shows us just how many times and by how many great artists this tune has been recorded, but still Charlap breathes new life into it without sounding the least bit trite.  As a strong advocate for learning lyrics even when playing instrumentally, his classy and sophisticated arrangements stay true to the meaning and heart of each song while still creating something unique and exciting without a hint of pretension.

On this recording Kenny could’ve played a stock 3/4 pattern, or very easily picked up the brushes, but instead he brings us a great 3/4 variation on the “Strollin’” groove.

This is the groove in it's simplest form.  Notes in parenthesis are played in some bars and not in others.

And below is a full transcription of the opening head.  Here notes in parenthesis are ghosted.

If you would like a PDF of this, or any transcription, please send me an e-mail.

As a side note, be sure to check out Peggy Lee singing Where or When with the Benny Goodman Orchestra.  Quite possibly my favorite arrangement of the tune.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Weekly Wisdom

"You may have holes in your shoes, but don't let the people out front know it.
Shine the tops."

-Earl "Fatha'" Hines