Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transcription: more Serge, more Dougie

What the heck, let's do some more Dougie Wright. The last thing was a little goofy, but today's transcription is for me a minor classic of 70's studio rock drumming. The album again is Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson, and the song is L'Hotel Particulier. We're very much in post-Ringo mode, meaning: fat bass drum and snare drum, light hihat, big, simple melodic fills on the tom-toms.

The dotted-8th/16th rhythm is slightly swung, in an irregular way; on the other 16th note rhythms, and on the fills, the 16ths are straight. Play the hihat very lightly (sometimes it may even drop out) through the breakdown at the bottom of the first page, then play it more strongly, and half-open through the end of the song. Note that in measure 52 there's one note on a third, lower, tom-tom. And there's a typo on the fill in measure 44: the last note should be snare drum and floor tom together— I'll have to fix that for the next year's book...

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Audio after the break:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Groove o' the day: Dougie Wright — En Melody

I spent a lot of time listening to French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg as I was working on my album of his music a few years ago, and came to appreciate a very British, very 70's, session drummer named Dougie Wright, who frequently recorded with him. This is the drum groove from En Melody, from Gainsbourg's famous concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson. You get the feeling here that Serge told the band to do something très extrême, they did this in a couple of takes, and then went off to do whatever musicians did in their off time in those days. It was kind of Gainsbourg's style to do these things almost as if he couldn't be bothered, and the entire album is under 28 minutes long.

As it says, the circled bass drum notes are optional— his most frequent variations in the groove are to play or omit those notes, especially the first one. The 16th notes are slightly swung. There are a lot of sixtuplet fills throughout the song, which no doubt use that same RRL sticking used here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Straight 8ths within Afro 6/8

I keep feeling like I have to justify doing so much with the Afro 6/8. I'm just working with it a lot, and here we are nothing if not personal and idiosyncratic. I also feel that this is an essential rhythm— meaning not that it's a drumming style you'll be asked to play a lot, but more that it's a rhythm that has been around for a very long time, and our bodies just want to play it. In doing so much heavy coordination work with this feel, we're building some subterranean structures that will surface in other areas in interesting and unexpected ways. You could do that with anything— there are numerous methods out there— but using this rhythm we're basing it on something real.

So, what we're doing here is developing one of C.K. Ladzekpo's basic polyrhythms played with the 6/8 bell pattern— straight 8th notes. The first kind-of-hairy one:

Run the exercises as written, then add the feet. It wouldn't be a bad idea to keep play the left foot part the whole time, if you're at all shaky with the bell pattern. The very bold can try playing the exercises with the feet, along with the left hand part at the bottom of the page. If you want to get really silly with it, you could split the independent part between limbs— that's getting into the realm of pure abstract independence practice.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Transcription: Rick Marotta plays a waltz

UPDATE: The download link is working now.

Here's a portion of Spirit of Summer, from the album Deodato In Concert. If you don't know who Deodato is, he's a Brazilian pianist, composer, arranger, who was big in the US for a moment in the 70's, maybe best known for his pre-disco rendition of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra— the Space Odyssey theme. It's regarded as kitsch now, but it's actually a great piece of arranging (with Billy Cobham on drums). Rick Marotta is on drums here, playing pretty functionally, sort of a simplified Elvin feel. The transcription starts just after 2:20:

Swing the 8th notes. He's playing a couple of crash cymbals and a ride cymbal, but I didn't bother distinguishing between them, and put them all on one line; a house top accent usually means a crash cymbal. Airto is a featured performer on this record, but doesn't play much on this tune, and is way back in the mix— you will hear him playing some fills not in the transcription, though.

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Audio after the break

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Some observations on an Ari Hoenig performance

A few weeks back I saw Ari Hoenig play in Portland with Kenny Werner's trio, and scribbled down a few notes after the fact. Hoenig is one of the leading current guys, but I haven't been exposed to a lot of his playing; mainly the technically mind-blowing highlights, which to me are the most meaningless part of anyone's playing. So I went in feeling that I didn't know his playing, but expecting to be shocked and awed. I was happy to see he's playing the same game as the rest of us; the gig could've been played nearly as well by a number of drummers I know— non-famous ones.

For whatever they're worth, and in the spirit of my previous concert reports, here are a few thoughts on what I saw and heard at the performance. Some of this may look like criticism, but it isn't— I'm just reporting some neutral observations, and my own feelings, which really have nothing to do with Hoenig:

He plays the ride cymbal with a flatter wrist than most— more of a German grip, so-called.

It was good to see someone good drop sticks in pretty random places, like I do.

He's a very tasteful, deliberate player with a funny stage presence.

He's a very wrist-y player. Downstroke-y. Apparently very little finger, and very little arm. Very refined technique, very precise, very practiced.

He moves the sticks at an uneven, rather slow velocity, as if he's refining his timing mid-stroke.

He's not a magic player. Certain people do things that you don't know where they came from, and you don't know how you would duplicate them— Steve Pancerev, my brother, John Bishop, Jim Black, etc. They defy analysis. With Hoenig you feel you understand what he's doing, and that it largely would make logical sense on analysis; he seems to be very intellectually engaged.

Just as a matter of my own taste, I like a little more of a chaotic/organic edge. Elvin had it. Roy Haynes has it. Jack Dejohnette has it. Billy Higgins had it. Paul Motian definitely had it. I think I need that quality to be present to get really excited about a player.

He definitely has a 21st century drummer's touch— very well-adapted to playing softly, very fine control at the lower end of the dynamic spectrum.

He will do a thing which many good, well-known players do, but which I feel is not good practice— matching the soloist's rhythm exactly.

Is it a New York thing to cultivate an uncomfortable-looking stage presence? I feel like I see this a lot. Angular, shoulders slightly hunched, and a funny glower that reminds me a little bit of Animal, the muppet drummer. But it's good to be memorable. Remember the Terry Southern rule.

An issue with many jazz drummers is that they operate on such fine gradations of pulse, with so much action in the subdivisions, that the broader groove loses some depth. That seemed to be a little bit in effect here. I don't believe it's just a necessary result of jazz's faster tempos, because I've heard Dannie Richmond (later in his career especially), and Brian Blade, and Idris Muhammad, for example, maintain a broad feel while playing those tempos. Al Foster, too. Steve Gadd.

Here's the group playing in New York in 2010:

Monday, April 07, 2014

Groove o' the day: Idris Muhammad — The Windjammer

Here's a funk groove with a couple of unusual touches, and a New Orleans flavor, by Idris Muhammad. The tune is The Windjammer, from Grant Green's 1970 album Green Is Beautiful. On the intro Muhammad plays the ride cymbal— sounds like a little 602 Flat Ride, in fact. The ruff at the end of the second measure will be a little technical challenge:

The main groove, played on the hihat, with a 7-stroke roll at the end of the second measure:

 And, what the heck, the first big fill:

The rolls here are 5-stroke, played quiet and loose. The bass drum hits on beat 4 of the second measure are pretty sloppy, but this seems to be what he was going for.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

A few old photos

Digging through my archives for imagery for the cover of my new record, and rescanning some of my old negatives, today. Here are a few pictures I took in Rome several years ago: