Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Uptempo Jazz 3: Ulysses Owens



This particular post is more for inspiration than a specific exercise.  That being said, there are some big lessons to absorb from Ulysess's fantastic uptempo playing.  

1.  Clear brush sound
First, his big and clear brush sound at this absurd tempo.  This brush playing is reminiscent of Kenny Washington, another drummer who I plan to feature in the uptempo jazz series and someone who everyone should definitely check out if you haven't already!  

2.  Confident use of the bass drum
Ulysses doesn't overplay the bass drum, but he does play some pretty complicated figures when the music calls for it.  When he does play the bass drum he really sounds like he means it. 

3.  Seamless transitions
In general if you are going to make a mistake on the drums, particularly at this tempo, it is when you are changing from one thing to another.  For example from brushes to sticks, or from 4/4 to 3/4 and back.  Ulysses nails these transitions every time!  Check out 3:00 minutes in for my favorite example of moving from 3/4 to 4/4, killing! Also at 1:36 listen to how he uses the bass drum to give himself time to grab the sticks and set the time up.  

4.  You don't have to play the whole time
Ulysses drops out at 3:13 to give Christian some space which is very effective musically (plus it gives him a chance to rest!).  The key thing when you do this is to still feel the time and form as strongly as if you were playing.  Doing this allows Ulysses to come back in on the bridge so confidently.  

5.  Trading
Starting at 3:50 Ulysses trades sections with Christian.  This is really inspiring stuff.  Not only does he not drop the time/form, he manages to engage in some real dialogue.  This is not just two musicians playing licks at each other, this is a conversation.  For those of you who ever tried to do something like this, you can appreciate how difficult it is to stay loose and musically sensitive at these tempos.  Oh, and that bass drum lick at 5:07, he really goes for it!  

6. Ending
COME ON!  


I had the great pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Ulysses at the jazz aspen camp that Christian McBride runs.  Ulysses is not only a great musician, but a truly humble and generous human being.  Enjoy the video, and watch out for what Ulysses will do in the future!