Friday, September 30, 2011

Max Roach: Melodic Architecture and Phrasing

What makes a drum solo melodic?
Max is widely credited as being the first melodic drum soloist.  One question that I often get after people hear Max's soloing is, "How is that melodic"?  I think that this is actually a really good question, and goes to the heart of what this blog is all about. 

Using the architecture and phrasing of a melody
Unlike the last post about Ari Hoenig where the answer to the question is absolutely clear, since Ari literally plays the melody note for note, Max doesn't usually play melodically in this sense. Instead what he does is use the architecture and phrasing of a melody instrument to create tension and release in his solo.  For example "For Big Sid" from "Drums Unlimited":

Ari Hoenig: For when your friends ask what melodic drumming means

Playing the Melody on the Drums
OK, so if you haven't had the pleasure of listening to Ari play a melody, here is a great place to start.  This is the most extreme/literal melodic drumming possible, an evolution of the earlier Jeff Hamilton post.  Notice how Ari makes the phrases of this thorny bop melody breath.  Also in the drum/bass solo notice the constant references back to the hits on the bridge. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Philly Joe: Conversation with the melody

For todays post I want to talk about another one of my favorite drummers and a way that he found to interact with the melody in a tasteful way.  Philly Joe is most famous for his playing with Miles Davis's first great group.  One of the things that made this group so influential was Philly Joe's ability to create a rhythmic dialogue with the melody instruments.  The following exercise from my forthcoming book "Melodic Syncopation" is designed to help you develop the ability to comp in the spaces of the melody or "in the cracks".

Suggested Recording
Sonny Rollins, “Tenor Madness”

Exercise #8:  Playing Time with Comping “In the Cracks”

    Step 1:  In this exercise we are going to explore a concept called playing “in the cracks” that is another central element of Philly Joe’s highly influential comping style.  Playing in the cracks means to play comping patterns only when a soloist leaves space in their solo.  This technique allows the soloist to play uncluttered lines, and lends itself to conversational back and forth between the soloist and the drummer.  This conversation often takes on the form and characteristics of call and response .  To develop this technique, you will practice singing the melody (the call), and only playing comping patterns (the response) during rests or notes held longer than a quarter note. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cruise Ship Drummer!: Kenny Washington overheard

Cruise Ship Drummer!: Kenny Washington overheard: Or the cyber-equivalent. Mark Feldman at the Bang! the drum school blog features a Facebook post by jazz drummer and scholar Kenny Washingt...

Brian Blade: Some relevant thoughts


Brian Blade is definitely one of my favorite drummers on the scene today.  If you for some reason haven't been checking him are fired.  Here are some inspiring and relevant quotes from an interview the July 2008 edition of "Modern Drummer"

"I'm always trying to tune in to what the other musicians are sending out, and then reacting to that as quickly as possible.  If I'm thinking when I'm on the bandstand, I know I'm in trouble."