Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Joy Ellis album launch, tour, and videos

I'm currently on a week long tour of the UK with Joy Ellis after a completely sold out album launch at Pizza Express Dean St.  Joy has released a couple of music videos to promote the album, so I thought I'd throw them up here, especially as some of the grooves I played were inspired by some things I've written about on the blog.

You can listen to the album in it's entirety (and buy it!) here...

Friday, October 27, 2017

That Philly Joe Thing

Welp, I'd say it's high time for another Philly Joe Phriday.  Today I'm going to pull out my Jazz Police badge and sound a bit like a crotchety old man.  And I'm directing most of the "get off my lawn!" to the bassists out there.

There's a very cool thing that Philly Joe does quite a bit, that very few other drummers used.  This is one of the most noticeable defining characteristics of Jones' playing, and it's really quite simple.

Often times, as a solo builds in intensity, Philly Joe will play his hi-hat double time.  That's about it.  Yeah, the ride pattern tightens up a bit closer to 16th notes, and he sometimes accentuates the "a" of 2 and 4 on the snare, like so...

...but really everything is pretty much the same, save the hi-hat going double time.  It creates a nice momentum push without killing the groove.

The problem is, a LOT of bassists don't seem to be hip to this thing and damn near every time I try to do it the bassist just goes full on double time, and total kills my vibe.  Maybe that's my punishment for trying to do something that is so intrinsically Philly Joe, but damn it, I want to do it.  I suppose there may be an ever so slight change in the way the bassist needs to articulate their line, just as the ride cymbal feel will get tweaked a bit despite the fact that the rhythm is technically the same, but really, if you just keep walking it'll be cool.

Here is one of the most well-known examples.  Blue Train.  He does it in every solo.  The first time happens around 1:36.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Groove Transcription - Marcio Bahia, "Minas"

It might just be coincidence, but there seems to be a trend among Brazilian drummers - at least the ones I listen to - of taking African or Afro-Caribbean bell patterns, and shifting the emphasized notes from where we college jazz program graduate gringoes would play them.  You might remember seeing the post on Kiko Freitas playing the Edu Lobo tune "Vento Bravo".

This time around it's former Hermeto Pacoal and current Hamilton de Holanda drummer, Marcio Bahia, who I've written about before.  Along with bassist Eduardo Machado, and pianist Gil Reis, the trio released an album last year called simply, "Em Tres".

There are two similar grooves here, mainly differentiated by what's going on in the right hand.

The groove itself is in 9/8 or 3/4, and feels pretty much like your standard Bembé minus one beat.  Bahia plays the Bembé pattern pretty much by the book on the ride cymbal throughout the first section.  But in the second bar, much like Kiko Freitas does on "Vento Bravo", he then shifts the bass drum to the third 8th note of beat 1.

The next section has a very cool little twist to it.  For the most part the bass and snare drum parts stay the same, save a few extra ghost notes.  But, now moving to the hi-hat, Bahia plays quarter notes in the right hand (or in his case, the left) and accents every other note.  So although the main groove is only two measures long, it now takes four bars to resolve.

I don't have a link that I can post, but the album is on Spotify if that's you're thing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Another clip recently became available from the filming I did with Machimbombo earlier this year.  The audio from this session is also available as an EP if you're interested.  See below.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quick Lick - Jeff Hamilton

In an effort to start posting more regularly again I thought I'd do a couple of short posts to get myself back in the habit of signing in to Blogger.

Awhile back I was considering buying a riveted china cymbal for that big band sort of vibe.  I eventually decided against it (at least for now), but I did come across some videos of Jeff Hamilton demoing one of them.  At the end of one of the videos Jeff plays a very nice little one-bar fill.  It's nothing difficult, but it sits under the hands really nicely and is fun to play.  So I thought I'd jot it down for you in case anyone was interested in a new fill to throw into their bag.

Start around 0:32 for the fill

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Use "Accents and Rebounds"

Accents and Rebounds is the lesser-known, but equally as important and useful little brother of George L. Stone’s Stick Control.  It’s a great book, but if you’re just playing through the exercises within it like an “Accent Tap” exercise of a high school drumline, then you’re not quite realizing it’s full potential.

To get the most out of the book we must remember that there are four distinct strokes that make up the majority of drumming: The full stroke, the upstroke, the downstroke, and the low stroke or tap stroke.

The full stroke, as the name suggests, covers our full range of motion.  It begins from a raised position, is thrown down into the drum and allowed to rebound back up to the same position at which it started.  This gives us a nice full sound, and if we’re playing multiple high notes in a row, it saves us the trouble of having to lift the stick back up into playing position.

When using the downstroke, we stop the stick before it is allowed to rebound so that the stroke ends low to the head of the drum.  An important thing to remember is that until after the stick strikes the head there is absolutely no difference between a downstroke and a full stroke.  We throw the stick downward from a raised position and then apply a little pressure to the stick AFTER it strikes the head.  If you squeeze the stick before it hits the head you will choke off your sound, and in the long term probably hurt your wrists or forearms.  We use this stroke when we need a low stroke immediately following a larger stroke.  Without it, the stick would be in a raised position and we would first have to lower it before we could execute our low stroke.

The upstroke is the opposite of a downstroke.  This motion starts from a low position and ends up high.  Use as much rebound as you can to get the stick back up to the raised position, but you’ll most certainly need to give it a little help.  It’s not going to make it all the way to the top on it’s own.  Again, the use of the upstroke is the same as the downstroke, but in reverse.  If we need to play a larger, more powerful, stroke following a low stroke, putting that upward pop on it puts us in better position to execute the next stroke.

And last but not least the low stroke.  The low stroke, or tap, is essentially just a full stroke, but played at a much lower height.

As you’ve probably gathered, the whole purpose of these different strokes is to economize our motions as much as we can to maximize fluidity around the drums.

Let’s look at a practical application using paradiddles.  If we were to play each note of the paradiddle at the same volume, we would use full strokes, whether they be high or low.  But if we add an accent to the first note of each paradiddle, everything changes.

Our first note would need to be a downstroke, because we’d want to start high to achieve the accent, but we’d want to stop the stick low to the head in preparation for the next right hand which is low.  The second note would then be an upstroke.  It’s not accented, so we want it low, but the next note that hand will play, after the double strokes, will be an accent, so we need it up high.  And those two doubles will simply be low strokes.

So our paradiddles strokes would look like this:

F = full stroke
D = downstroke
U = upstroke
T = tap, or low stroke
To practice all four strokes in a row all we need is a bar of 8th notes with the first four accented and the second four unaccented.  The first two would be full strokes to prepare for the next two accents, the second two would be downstrokes to prepare for the first two low strokes, and the last two would be up strokes in preparation for the first two accents on the repeat.

If we apply this concept to Accents and Rebounds, the book becomes far more useful.

Let’s break down the first example:

1 - full stroke in preparation for the next right hand, which is accented
& of 1 - tap as it is unaccented, and so is the next left hand on the & of 2
2 - downstroke, as it is accented, but then needs to be low for the next right
& of 2 - upstroke in preparation for the accent it on the & of 3
3 - tap, as the right hand as no more accents in that bar
& of 3 - downstroke
4 - upstroke to prepare to start the pattern over again
& of 4 - tap
Of course, when the stickings change it also changes the type of stroke needed.  I went ahead and did the whole first page for you to get you started, because that’s the kind of guy I am.  E-mail me if you’d like a PDF.

In spending a little time breaking these examples down one stroke at a time and playing them really really slowly, focusing on the mechanics of each stroke, I found that my motions became smoother and more effortless, and as a result I got faster.  I recommend writing in the strokes and really focusing on them for awhile.  Eventually choosing the correct stroke to apply will become second nature and you’ll be able to move through the book more quickly.  Do be careful though, as much like Stick Control, you can easily go overboard with this and run it into complete tedium to the point where the amount of time you’re putting in is far disproportionate to the results you are getting.

Oh, and I've decided how I'm going to make my mark on the drumming world.  If R, L, and B are “stickings”, then F, D, U, and T shall henceforth be known as “strokings”.  July 18, 2017.  You heard it here first.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Project Terrarium

It's been a busy spring, and I've been lucky enough to be asked to play for some fun projects.  Here's another one I did recently led by saxophonist Josef Stout called Project Terrarium.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Groove Transcription - Will Kennedy, "Capetown"

Pedro Velasco has been keeping me busy with this Machimbombo stuff.  He's really inspired by many different styles of African music (particularly Malian) and is showing up to rehearsals with a lot of interesting 6/8 and 3/4 stuff.

So, on the one hand I'm just trying to continue to come up with new groove ideas in 6/8 so that I'm not constantly playing the same thing on all of his tunes.  And on the other hand I'm trying to get a little deeper into African rhythms that I'm not familiar with.  If you're a regular reader of this blog then I'm sure you're aware of my disdain for the term "Latin" in all it's vagueness, so believe me when I say that the hypocrisy is not lost on me when I use the equally vague term, "African".  But I'm working on it.  So here's a groove I've been fooling around with.  Apparently the parent rhythm originates in Cameroon, but in this case we're looking at a drum set orchestration by Will Kennedy on the Yellowjackets tune "Capetown".  Will calls it "Magabe" or "Mugabe", but a little Googling shows that the real name appears to be "Mangambeu".

The basic groove (as Will plays it) looks like this:

Now, I've notated it the way he counts it in, but I can't help but wonder if it would be more accurate to notate like so:

Again, I'm no expert on this rhythm, but it seems to be characterized by three things:

1. This shuffley hi-hat pattern, which presumably is derived from a bell pattern:

2.  The low sound - in this case a bass drum - emphasizing beats 4 and 5

3.  A high sound on the upbeats

Here it is in context with three quarters of the Yellowjackets and Will using one of those weird tilted drum racks that I didn't think any drummer ever used.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


Here's a little video of a new-ish project I've been working on led by Portuguese guitarist Pedro Velasco called Machimbombo.

Machimbombo - Yellow Is The Fastest Colour from Freeze Productions on Vimeo.