Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stick Control Flam Beats - a little Christmas present

UPDATE:  I've done the remainder of page 16, and all of page 17.  It is directly below page 16.  Enjoy!

I've been working with some of the lesser-played pages of Stick Control lately and have really been enjoying the "Flam Beats" from page 16 to 23.  However, you may have noticed that the way Stone notates the stickings - with an F for a right flam and an F in a circle for a left flam - is less than ideal.

I mean, it's certainly readable, but even now I still occasionally mix them up, and some of my students really struggle with it.  So, seeing as it's no longer the standard flam notation - if it ever even was - I just decided I'd take a few minutes, crank the exercises into Sibelius and put in the "normal" stickings as a little Christmas gift to you/myself/my students.

So far I've only done the first 18 exercises from page 16, but hey, it's Christmas; it's the thought that counts.  Maybe I'll do some more at a later date.  I hope this is helpful for you.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Ted Gioia's 100 Best Albums of 2016

Ted Gioia has just released his 100 Best Albums of 2016.  If you're not familiar with Gioia, he is a writer, historian, critic, what-have-you.  I've read and thoroughly enjoyed quite a few of his books.  He's also got tons of great articles on his website which are certainly worth a browse.

For the last 5 years, Ted has been compiling his favorite 100 albums of the year.  He claims to listen to over 1,000 new releases every year (1,021 in 2016).  Where he finds the time to listen to each of these in-depth enough to rank them while still finding time listen to old favorites as well as write, practice, and do whatever else it is he does, I'll never know.

On why/how he compiles this list, Gioia says:
"Like any music lover, I enjoy sharing my favorite music with others.  But in the last few years, a different motivation has spurred me.  I believe that the system of music discovery is broken in the current day.  There is more music recorded than ever before, but it is almost impossible for listeners to find the best new recordings.  The most creative work in music is increasingly found on self-produced projects and release from small indie labels - to an extent hardly conceivable only a decade ago.  Very little of this music ever shows up on the radio, where formats seem to get narrower and narrower with each passing year.  Music fans once heard good new music at indie record stores, but most of them have closed.  Or they could read reviews in the newspaper, but both the newspapers and the music reviews are shrinking or disappearing.  And the big record labels are the worst culprits of all, picking acts for their looks or their potential appeal to fourteen-year-olds, or some other egregious reason, and in general jumping on the must trivial passing fads.  On the other hand, the Internet presents an almost infinite amount of music and music commentary - yet where do fans even begin to separate the good from the bad and ugly?  My personal solution to this dilemma has been to listen to lots and lots of music, and try to identify recording of quality and distinction.  I share my list because I know, from past experience, that many other listeners are frustrated with the broken system of music discovery, and are also looking for good new music"
Personally, I miss the record store days (in my time it was mostly cassettes, then CDs), where you would hear one song on the radio or maybe MTV and you would just go out and buy the whole album on blind faith with the money you saved up from mowing lawns.

So in an effort to recapture that vibe, a few years back I started checking out Ted's list each December and just picking a handful of his choices based on the description (and let's face it, the cover), and ordering the CDs.  I have yet to be disappointed.

I haven't ordered my 2016 picks, but here are a few artists I discovered in 2015 thanks to Ted's list.

Ibeyi - Twin sisters from France with Cuban roots.  They sing in both English and Yoruba, often singing about Orixas for those of you that are into Camdomblé.  There is a Björk-like influence, but they have certainly got their own thing going on; lots of Cuban rhythms and bata drumming blended with electronic beats.

Fabiano do Nascimento - 7-string guitarist from Brazil.  The album is almost entirely guitar and percussion, save a few vocal tunes, which are actually some of my faves.  There is only one original tune on the record, but his choice of covers is impeccable.  He's got some Hermeto Pascoal and Baden Powell pieces, as well as some really nice folkloric tunes, like Ewe.

Daniel Bachman - Killer solo guitar music.  It's not bluegrass per-se, but it reeks of the influence.  Daniel is a young guy from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and you can hear it.  I was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania, and lived for seven years in West Virginia, so I've got a real soft spot for this Appalachian sound.  I don't know what his background is as far as training, but to me, his playing has a beautiful rawness that leads me to believe he is self-taught.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

You Be the Drummer - Bill Charlap, "I'm Old Fashioned"

As far as groups still recording today it doesn't get much more swingin' than Bill Charlap's trio with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington.  And the record I have for you here today is simply the Bill Charlap Trio minus Kenny Washington.  How could it get any better, you ask?  By adding Peter Bernstein!  I'm not sure I've heard a group swing harder without a drummer since Nat King Cole, Johnny Miller and Oscar Moore.

This record is, of course, great for any drummer.  I use it all the time.  But I think it's particularly good for up-and-coming, college-aged students as all of the tunes are common standards that you will be expected to know, all played at reasonable tempos.

As always, you should buy this record, but in the meantime....

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.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Transcription - Sergio Machado, "Horizonte"

One of my favorite Brazilian musicians, harmonica player Gabriel Grossi, released a trio album a few years back with just harmonica, keys and drums.  The drummer, Sergio Machado (I don't think there's any relation to Edison), is phenomenal; chops for days and supreme subtlety.  There's very little information on the web about him, at least that I've been able to find, but I'm a big fan of his playing. You can find quite a few good quality videos of the group playing on YouTube.

Transcribing some of his really creative samba grooves will be a future project, but to get started with his work I've done part of the title track, Horizonte.  The majority of the tune is played with brushes, but during the keys solo Sergio switches to Hot Rods or something similar and plays a very nice modern sounding bossa/ECM feel.

E-mail me for a PDF

The video below is a live version, so the transcription won't line up, but you can get a feel for the tune.  The album version of the song isn't available on YouTube, but you should  absolutely drop a few dollars/pounds/whatever to get the album.  It's worth every penny.  Gabriel Grossi does, however, give away two of his other albums completely free on his website, so go snatch them up. Diz Que Fui Por Aí features Marcio Bahia, and Arapuca has no drum set, but some great percussion played by Amoy Ribas and Durval Pereira.