Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Update

Sorry folks for the radio silence lately. Things have just been too busy in the past week for much blogging what with putting together another successful Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble big band concert last Friday with our very special guest Sean Jones on trpt and then spending the weekend in the studio recording bassist Rubim de Toledo's new album (featuring Jones as well). There were a couple tricky arrangements for us to navigate and I'll blog more about my approach to playing Rubim's clever tunes in 11/8 and 15/8 in a later post. To top it all off I've been sick with some kind of stomach flu the entire time...

I'm going to be in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this week presenting some sessions on big band drumming at the the annual Saskatchewan Music Educators convention so there won't be any updates here until I get back next week.

In the meantime, check out this track from a KILLING Jim Hall live album featuring Terry Clarke on drums and Don Thompson on bass (recorded in Toronto cira. 1975 at the famed Bourbon Street):

Thanks to Mark Griffiths from soggy New Jersey who hipped me to this gem. According to Mark this album, for guitarists, is the equivalent of the Bill Evans trio meets Miles' Plugged Nickel sessions! Apparently the unreleased tracks from the gigs will soon see the light of day and I'll be sure to grab them when they do.

Thanks again for your support and see you all next week!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Up Close with Ulysses Owens Jr.

Thank you to my Winnipeg correspondents Jeff King and Aaron Sabasch who hipped to these great ones of drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., via the Facebook, shown here playing with the Christian McBride trio:

Owens latest album on the Criss Cross label "Unanimous" has actually been making the rounds on my car's CD player for the past few months and I've really been digging his playing and hard swinging concept.

Check out Peter Hum's glowing review of his new album here over at

I came across a couple of interviews with Owens and if you read them you can tell that he definitely is one drummer to watch in the years to come:

Here's Ulysses sharing a nice practice pad warm-up lesson with us:

And this is also a nice one of Owens showing off his chops on some Yamaha drums:

I've heard via Christian McBrides Facebook feed that he's recently recorded new quintet and trio albums to be released in the new year. I'm definitely looking forward to checking those out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

Well, I'm a little late today but its been a crazy day and this is the first chance I've had to sit at my computer and share these random and yet awesome things with you all today.

-I stumbled across this track from a Modern Jazz Quartet recording featuring Sonny Rollins the other day and have really been enjoying the whole album:

It's interesting how Connie Kay doesn't get mentioned all that often. His playing on the album "Bags & Trane" featuring Milt Jackson and John Coltrane is one of my personal favorites.

-Here's a brief interview with drummer Jason Marsalis:

-Thanks to Calgary's Aaron Leaney who forwarded me this awesome footage of Hamid Drake in action:

-I've really been digging Ralph Peterson Jr.'s album with his Unity Project of late. Here's some in-studio footage of a duet between and organist Pat Bianchi to check out. Dig those brushes!

I really dig the multi-tom and cymbal set-up that Peterson employs. Every once in awhile I'm inclined I try to use more drums and cymbals myself, but I just end of reverting to a four-piece kit with a minimal set up (!) Oh well, maybe some day...

-This next one is only 43 seconds long but I can guarantee that this footage of Jack DeJohnette will be the best 43 seconds you spend today:

-Drummer Rodney Green has apparently got a project of his own on the go, recording for the Small's Live record label. I look forward to hearing the finished project and in the meantime here is a recording of his band from an earlier date:

-I am VERY excited about this upcoming concert coming up this Friday featuring my big band with special guest Sean Jones on trumpet:

The Liftoff Collective presents:

The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble (CCAE)
featuring jazz trumpeter Sean Jones

Friday, October 26, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Hope Lutheran Church
3527 Boulton Road NW

Calgary, AB
T2L 1M5

Tickets are available at the door and online through
Adults $25, Students $15


The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble is in full force presenting its third concert of 2012 featuring American trumpeter Sean Jones. This concert will feature jazz orchestra music penned by local and international composers performed by the crème of the region's jazz musicians, a 16 piece big band comprised of performers such as Mark DeJong, Jon McCaslin, Michelle Grégoire, Jim Brenan, Jon Day and many more.

Sean Jones is particularly adept at plumbing complex emotional depths through his trumpet playing and composing. As Jones says, “I like to play from the heart and not the head.” In the spring of 2010 he stepped down from his position as Lead Trumpeter of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, a position that Jones held for over half a decade. He recently recorded his sixth record as a leader and has performed and toured with artists such as Marcus Miller, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. For more information on Sean Jones please visit Sean Jones' appearance is sponsored by Mount Royal University. Jones is Mount Royal Jazz Music Program's 2012 Visiting Artist In Residence. In addition to his appearance with the CCAE, Jones will be working with MRU students from October 22-25, and presenting workshops open to the public on October 26. All public workshops are on campus.

The CCAE concert program on October 26th will include works by Canadian composers Phil Nimmons (Toronto), Ian McDougall (Victoria), Christopher Smith (Montréal), Rob McConnell (Toronto), Maynard Ferguson (Montréal), Michelle Grégoire (Calgary), as well as premieres of works by local composers Lorna MacLachlan and Jon McCaslin.

Calgary has a diverse and active music scene, and the Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble (CCAE) works to enrich and energize the musical environment by engaging Calgary's most active, creative, and interesting jazz and improvising musicians to create original music for large jazz ensemble of the highest calibre. While many Calgary musicians have risen to prominence in a variety of genres and musical settings, there are numerous improvising and creative jazz musicians who deserve a higher profile on the local, regional and national level.

The CCAE was created by and is run by the The Liftoff Collective, a collective of three musicians namely saxophonist Mark DeJong, drummer Jon McCaslin, and pianist Michelle Grégoire. These Calgary based jazz artists share a common passion for the creation and performance of original Canadian repertoire for large jazz ensemble. Sensing a need in the Calgary community for an ensemble with this type of focus, these accomplished musicians set out to form The Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble.

For more information and detailed biographies on the guest artists as well as featured composers, please contact Michelle Grégoire at (403)-228-1175, For more information on Sean Jones (picture, bios, sound samples) please visit

-I'd like to leave you all today with this fine recording of Billy Higgins playing Cedar Walton's "Bolivia":

Thank you Chad Anderson for the muse and Joe LaBarbera for some insightful and humbling recent commentary on my left foot hi-hat technique!

Have a great week everybody.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Up Close with Kendrick Scott

Thanks to Edmonton's Efa Etoroma Jr. who posted this one via the Facebook.

Here's one of my favorite younger, contemporary drummers Kendrick Scott trading some phrases with trumpeter Terence Blanchard:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Yardbird 6/8

A couple of weekends ago while I was performing with the Tom Van Seters Quintet up at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton, Alberta (by far one of Canada's BEST Jazz clubs - Period) my good friend and saxophonist Jeremiah McDade asked me about a particular pattern that I played during some extended vamp-like 3/4 sections of Tom's compositions. If you'll recall, David Braid asked me a similar question last summer with regards to another pattern in 12/8 that I like to play, but this particular one is quite different.

The tune (entitled "The Long View" and composed by pianist Tom Van Seters and found his fine album of the same name, featuring some great drumming from Paris-based drummer Karl Jannuska) is basically played with a broken 3/4 swing feel. However, at the end of the form the groove changes up and I found myself implying some kind of triplet-based Afro-Cuban groove that looks something like this:

I've written this in 6/8 but it's obviously interchangeable in 3/4 as well. Admittedly, I was inspired to come up with a pattern like this from listening to Jeff Ballard come up with his own interesting 6/8 and 12/8 variations.

These are the two variations I found myself commonly playing with my feet. As you can see, the bass drum is clearly playing dotted quarter notes, emphasizing the 6/8 feel while the hi-hat is playing a Viennese style waltz pattern in 3/4:

This next foot variation further emphasizes the 3/4 quarter note on the hi-hat along with the dotted quarter note in the bass drum:

You'll notice that the bass drum playing dotted quarter notes really reinforces the phrasing of the cymbal rhythm with the right hand.

Now here's a slightly more complicated version of the initial hand/drum pattern, whereas the left hand plays a busier part between the drums:

This pattern was definitely inspired by many of the patterns I've found in Billy Martin's amazing book "Riddim: Claves of African Origin" (and there's surely some Edward Blackwell in there too!)

Now, if you break down just what the hands are doing, to me it resembles some sort of Swiss Army Triplet but given where the flam and accents lie, it's not a straight forward Swiss Army Triplet.

I've notated it like this:

As best as I can tell, I would call this an "Inverted" Swiss Army Triplet. It's got an interesting feel to it and when you put it together it gives the overall drum set pattern some really interesting layers.

My only regret is that I didn't bring my cowbell with me to Edmonton as I think these patterns would lend themselves well to a cowbell part.

Oh well, there's always next time (and thanks for asking Miah!)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Art Blakey

Happy Birthday to one of my biggest drumming heroes, Art Blakey!

Bu was born on October 11, 1919 and would have been 93 years old today!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Tuesday Morning Paradiddle

I usually post these things on Monday mornings but seeing as yesterday was Canadian Thanksgiving today is in fact the de facto beginning to the week.

Last week was a very busy and exciting week of music for me. Monday started off with a bang performing the music from Charlie Parker's "Bird with Strings" album at the University of Calgary featuring Washington D.C. saxophonist Vaughn Ambrose and a full string section. It's not often I get to set up next to the harpist (and I thought that I had a tough load-in sometimes!) Wednesday evening I was at the Cliff Bungalow-Mission Jazz Series (curated by Jan Mulder) and presented the music from Pat Metheny's seminal 70s ECM album "Bright Size Life" with guitarist Ralf Buschmeyer and bassist Dale James. I had a fun time checking out Bob Moses' drumming to get me ready and man, that's some tough music! This past weekend took me up to Edmonton and I played the Yardbird Suite on Friday night with trumpeter Doug Berner's group and then Saturday evening with the Tom Van Seters Quintet. Never a dull moment for me these days and I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to play with so many talented and dedicated musicians on a regular basis.

Here's a few things cooking around the Four on the Floor office today:

-Here's the video tribute to Jack DeJohnette that accompanied his induction as an NEA Jazz Master earlier this year:

-Peter Hum, food & Jazz critic extraordinaire, over at the Ottawa Citizen recently interviewed vibraphonist Gary Burton in advance of his duo performance with Chick Corea:

Peter was also nice enough to review my album "Sunalta" not too long ago as well:

Thanks for the kind words Peter!

-Speaking of interviews, Ali Jackson Jr. recently spoke with the Examiner:

I've really been digging Ali's playing on this particular album of late:

I really dig how he cleverly dances around his rock-solid quarter pulse on the ride cymbal. He also plays with an incredible sense of space and dynamics.

Here's a few shots of this trio in action from Dizzy's earlier this year:

-My good friend and former McGill drumming colleague Rich Irwin (currently performing and touring with Nikki Yanofsky) will soon be featured at the Montreal Drum Fest next month. Here's a little preview of this fine drummer in action:

-Who wants press rolls? Do you want press rolls? Okay, Jason Marsalis has some press rolls for you!

After seeing this....I definitely need to work on my press rolls....

-Speaking of practicing, I've been trying to up my game with regards to playing in 3/4 these days. Check out these great exercises and playing from Jesse Cahill over at his fine blog:

Todd Bishop over at his excellent blog cruiseshipdrummer also has a series of great waltz exercises that stem from this ingenious little 3/4 Elvin Jones gem:

As Jesse points out in his earlier post, check out Master Roy Haynes in this footage and it's all there!

Have a great week everybody!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bellson Plays Gladstone

A good friend of mine recently purchased a couple of very special Billy Gladstone snare drums and let me tell you, they are very special indeed!

Here's the great Louis Bellson playing his very own custom Gladstone snare drum:

For more information about these very unique snare drums, check these out:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ralph Peterson Jr. Plays Art Blakey

I enjoyed this's powerhouse Ralph Peterson Jr. demonstrating the style and patterns of his own drum mentor, the great Art Blakey: