Sunday, October 26, 2014

JIMI HENDRIX, GIL EVANS ET AL, LITTLE WING AND ME

One of my favorite Jimi Hendrix songs, and if you're a Jimi fan you know that's a tough choice, but one of the all time favorites of mine is Little Wing. It's also one of his shorter tunes.

I've been loving that tune since I was a single digit aged kid, back in 1967 and 1968. My next door neighbor and classmate Brad had a very cool high school aged sister with a substantial music collection. 

Although my elementary music favs also included the Monkess (still a fan) and the Banana Splits, I liked lots of rock. CCR. The Stones.  Like lots of others, I really liked the Beatles.

Back then, my parents had quite an album collection as well. They had lots of great Elvis, some really good big band stuff, Sinatra, Gene Krupa and even a little known gem by guitarist Al Caiola wherein Al interprets the Theme to the Magnificent Seven on electric guitar and created a masterpiece. There was lots of stuff I didn't care for, as my parents were fond of show music and organ duos. I actually did find a show where Miles Davis played in their stacks later in life, but the fact he was on the record was not known to them, or for that matter, who he was.

Then, I got myself an acoustic guitar, no doubt japanese, from one of those green stamp deals. I was able to learn some chords and was really ready to learn to play multiple instruments and especially drums.

So then this momentous event occurred. A friend of my dad's, grateful for a favor done by my dad for him, decided to gift my dad with his fairly state of the art stereo and extensive 8-track and album collection. He was moving out to California and there was no room for it. My father hesitated, but as a fan of rock and roll already at age 9, I chimed in and my dad easily changed his mind.

So before I was even 10  I got a great collection of music from back in the early 60's to basically stuff that was recently released and a very nice stereo to play it on. In those days, and now as well, I'd rather have a nice stereo going then a tv. Even in the 1960's when it was unheard of for a kid to have a color tv in his bedroom, I'd have taken a stereo over a tv any day. And now I had one. And all this accelerated my desire to play the drum set and my parents soon had me taking lessons.

But one of the songs that I became entranced with in those days was Little Wing by Hendrix. A short song, although back then many of the early Hendrix hits were radio friendly and thus short tunes. Nonetheless, a moving and compelling song. It's always had a calming effect on me personally, and for more than forty years now I've enjoyed listening to it.

During the 1970's, I heard other folks do their versions of the song. But it wasn't until I discovered the Gil Evan's Orchestra version of Little Wing (and many other Hendrix tunes) from the mid-70's that I really, really made that one of my favorite songs of all time.

As a band member from 6th grade through graduation, playing in rock bands on the side and orchestral, marching and stage bands at school, I was well acquainted towards the use of horns in rock and roll and jazz. One song the stage band played from pretty much junior high into high school was Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" which I've always loved playing and hearing. 

Sting, like me, is a big Gil Evans fan in general, and specifically I think he's enamored with Gil's version of Little Wing. So enamored that in the 80's Sting did a concert with Gil, which exists on CD, and of course their arrangement of Little Wing rocked.

On Gil's Little Wing version, which appears on the album after Gil Evan's Orchestra plays the music of Jimi Hendrix, an album called "There comes a Time",  THE LATE MR. TONY WILLIAMS plays drums on that version.  Drummer Bruce Ditmas handles drum set duties on most other Hendrix covers, but the Williams version has some great drumming.

This is actually a song where I can emulate more or less exactly the drum part the late, great Tony Williams plays. He was a far more talented man than I on the skins, and far more conversant in many more genres of music than I on skins. But, since this was a more simple rock tune, and he was obvious playing for the song, it's a part I've just loved, particularly the hi-hat work and his drum fills.

I've written about why I love Gil's treatment of Little Wing as well as all other Hendrix tunes. There's many reasons. Gil's Fender Rhodes playing. The whampum-stompum horn section, which comes in so powerfully at times.

Ryo Kawasaki handles the electric guitar duties, and although his solos are fantastic, his interludes where he does heavy rhythm guitar work are just magical. Really grooving. Likewise, the sax solo by David Sanborn (Yeah, that Sanborn) and the trumpet solo by Hannibal Lokumbe are so deep. Hannibal's rendition of the vocals in a single stanza at the end of the tune haunt yet embrace.

In the background, percussion by Susan Evans and Bruce Ditmas add all kinds of colors. There's synth and keyboard work going on by others and since the song stretches out for nearly 3 times the original version, there's room for some very cool interpretations of Hendrix and his Little Wing.

The Evans Orchestra mix isn't traditional. The two electric bass guitars on Little Wing are more in the mix and louder than Ryo's quietly blazing guitar work. The drums are fairly prominent but keys and percussion create a canvas to paint on. The horns, at times soulful and soothing and at times powerful and moving, make me sing along with the lyrics that they are interpreting.


Tons of folks have covered this tune, including several bands I've been in. One of those bands I was in had a great guitarist who really had a great version of this classic. Years ago, I made a CD from my favorite versions of Little Wing by famous artists and by the several bands I'd been in. I still enjoy listing to that compilation of Little Wing. Of course, the first song on the disc is the real "thang": Hendrix.

 Certainly, there's other stellar ones that deserve mention, like Stevie Ray Vaughn. Just truly soulful, especially if you ever saw it live. I omit others not because they're not stellar, but because memory fails at this hour. Maybe some will comment with other great versions.

I urge readers to go to youtube and listen to some of the different versions available by the above artists as well as those I've omitted. I'm sure there are numerous great versions I've failed to mention.

It's also worth researching what the song means. There's lots of info around about what Hendrix said in some interviews about it. But to me, that's inconsequential compared to the artistry of the music and the tune itself. The lyrics move me, and I have a certain story envisioned when I hear them. It moves me.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A PEDAL STEEL GUITAR IS NOT A CELLO...

These are the words my co-workers thought I might hear from my wife when she found out I had obtained a pedal steel guitar from a friend and was going to begin to learn to play it.

But I've got a great wife, an epic-ly great wife, and she has been nothing but supportive of my pedal steel guitar plans.

For the past few months, I've ruminated upon taking up the cello. There's a great blog, by the way, called Mid Life Cello, where the blogger discusses his efforts to take up the cello in mid life.

So that's where I'm at. I've been a drummer and percussionist since I was 11 years old, and have played semi-professionally with some regionally famous acts and have fallen into some great playing situations over the years. To help my tuned percussion abilities, I took lots of piano lessons in junior high and high school and I've kept up with perhaps an intermediate ability on the keys. With a few months of regular exercises and scales, I could be a strong intermediate or more on the keys.

Likewise, in junior high, I took lessons on bass and on both electric and acoustic guitars. I'm not a barn burner in the guitar department, but have a low intermediate ability on both, with a weak area in leads. I'm a better rhythm guitar player but constantly do try to improve my lead playing.

Bass has always come easier to me, perhaps due to my drumming and the drum and bass musical relationship. They drive the band. The last four years, I've more or less relaxed by doing some playing on a nice Fender jazz copy fretless bass with a real rosewood fretboard, not the composite fretboards used on some low end clones. 

I've enjoyed playing the fretless bass immensely. I'll never play like Tony Franklin, but that playing led me to want to take some cello lessons, and perhaps even some upright bass lessons and acquire one or both of those instruments.

I do home recording, and as I'll soon post, I'm upgrading my home studio. I've been using garageband the past five years, but want to upgrade to a platform that has more options for editing and more channels. My upcoming system will be ipad based, and I've found a DAW that has 16 channels so even recording live drums with plenty of mikes could be a viable option. Primarily, I've got a songwriting outfit with my old friends Billy Ray and Ricky Ray, and having more channels available for simultaneous recording would be a boon.

Back in the mid-eighties, I got into midi based recording and performing instrumentation big time. Midi drums. Midi drum programmers. Midi keyboards and samplers. 

So maybe now I'm taking a step back. I've long wanted to play the pedal steel guitar, particularly in the context of rock and blues bands. For instance, on Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty", David Lindley's solo on the pedal steel just rocks. 

So I've got to get a volume pedal, and I'll do that in the next couple of days. I've got a friend with one that is supposed to work well with pedal steel, so I'm getting into this low budget. 

I've got several amps to choose from. In reading extensively about both performance and practice amps for pedal steel, there's a split between Fender and other tube amps and solid state amps.

I've got a Fender Super Champ XD, which gives both a tube sound and some modeled versions of different amps, including clean Fender amps. I've also got a large Roland Keyboard mixing amp that I use for electronic drums, and that's a fairly wide range solid state amp with a 15" speaker. 

Oddly enough, my favorite practice amp for bass is a tube guitar amp, a cheap Epiphone model with 5 watts. This same amp is recommended by many as a practice amp for pedal steel. My Roland micro-cube is not recommended, but the similar Vox model is.

Finally, I've got a small Ampeg bass practice amp that gets a nice sound, so I'll have my choice of amps, but my guess is the Epiphone for quieter practice and the Fender for when I'm home alone.

I'll put it together tomorrow evening. It came in a nice old school heavy duty case. It's a Sho-Bud model, and I have not bothered to research the year but it's decades old. It's in great shape. The fretboard has some really cool insets of hearts, diamonds, spades and clovers. So it's gotta be 60's or 70's when that was cool to have on your axe.

I have a lot more research to do. My friend sent a basic steel and some finger and thumb picks, and I've gotten a few instructional dvd's off ebay. I also ordered some tab for more modern music with instructions. I'm sure there are instructional videos for pedal steel on youtube, but I haven't looked yet.
It's an incredibly hard instrument to play, the pedal steel, by all accounts. We'll see how this goes. I'll let you know.



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BANDS OF EL FISHING MUSICIAN: THE VOYAGE

I'm going to try to get back to doing some storytelling here on a more frequent basis, and I'm hoping that I can bust my writer's block and get back to having some fun here.


The name is misleading, because the folks in the band pronounced it "Voyyyyyyyy-Ag'eeeeeeeeeeeeee. Very european sounding. It was actually a really good band, but we didn't go anywhere and I left shortly after playing with them several times for reasons explained below.

I think I found the band online, or maybe on an ad at a Guitar Center bulletin board. No matter. It was a month or so before 9/11, and I recall that because I was waiting for a used Sonor drum being shipped from Germany and of course it finally arrived months later being apparently untrackable and having been searched numerous times. I was playing a really nice Sonor Hi-Lite Exclusive kit with a gorgeous black lacquer finish and copper colored hardware. Just a beautiful and great sounding kit. It was a rare kit to begin with, and I could only find matching add-on drums in Germany on Ebay there, and only a few willing to ship to the USA.

But I recall wanting to add more toms to that particular kit because it was a funk-jazz-rock band very suggestive to me of the late, great Curtis Mayfield band from back in it's heyday. We were playing diverse material, all of it I'd heard before and I was looking forward to getting a few more toms to engage in some more active drumming as the music called for.

So I show up for the audition and their departing drummer is there to offer his evaluation. He's got his kit there, but I've brought my own in, because his kit is horrid. It's cheap, the heads are way worn and everything is very dirty and dusty. The kit has not been taken care of, and the cymbals look no better.

Now, I've seen master drummers playing on sad kits, don't get me wrong, but this guy didn't look like one of those guys who could blaze on a crappy kit.

So after a couple of songs he packs up and tells the band I'm the guy and we run through the material, which is several sets worth of songs. Again, I've heard them and know most of them and catch 95% of the stops and special fills and such and it goes really well. I taped it digitally to DAT and it still sounds good.

We got together a week later, as I recall it was the day before 9/11. We had another great practice running over the material twice. Again, I taped it and it's still as good as I remember.

The founder of this outfit was a guy we'll call Carl. Carl was in his late 30's, college educated with some kind of programmer job. He had picked up guitar cold 5 years before, and he was an excellent player. His leads especially reminded of Curtis Mayfield, which is a big compliment.

This was his first band, as I'll discuss more later. We were doing covers of popular songs but in a jazzy and funky and extended way. There was lots of wah wah pedal, which frankly was fine by me because there was some serious guitar playing going on amidst that wah wah'ing.

A guy we'll call Robert was apparently a long time friend of Carl and he played a huge 8 string bass and tenor and alto sax. He also was a great player and soloist and I'm thinking he had arranged all the music we were doing. He occasionally played bass either with our other bassist or solo. 

Lisa was the bassist and she was great. She had a nice, seventies Fender Jazz and later got a pristine seventies Fender Precision fretless. From the first note, she and I noticed we had a good chemistry and that we played very well together. It was almost one of those subconscious sorts of deals, where we each knew where the other was going.  She and I would play in later showcase gigs for various artists.

There was a singer whose name escapes me and we'll call So-and-So. One of those ladies who knows she is nice looking and acts the part, God's gift to beauty and humanity and all that. And quite the be-yotch. She didn't care for me at all, and was one of those new musicians thinking that in 6 months she'd be in Hollywood and on TV, when she "made it".

Well, I will say she was an excellent singer. Classically trained and could hit all kinds of notes and sustain for an eternity. I was duly impressed, and so was she. Impressed with herself, that is.

One very memorable arrangement this outfit did was of the Bill Wither's great "Ain't No Sunshine {When She's Gone}". That girl could sing the heck out of that tune, wringing all kinds of emotion and such out of that already great song. She did an extended vocal intro with all kinds of vocal gymnastics, and their arrangement then added a great electric guitar solo and an awesome sax solo.


So my hedging and delaying my decision I guess greatly upset her. 

So I come for the third rehearsal with them. Unfortunately the talented sax player Robert has suffered some kind of massive stroke or heart attack and will obviously be out for some time.  We nonetheless move through a few numbers, and all is well musically. 

There was a good keyboard player there that had come a few times and decisions were pending on both sides. She like me had been in lots of bands. Everyone else in this band, save for Lisa, had no other band experience. This, and most of them were in their mid-30's, was their first band and first band experience.

That seemed to be a good posture for me to take, because although they were ready to have me "join" right away, I wasn't ready to commit until I got to know them. At the time, I was playing with a couple of other bands at the time, but looking seriously for just one band to work with, and I was up front with them about it.

So after a break, when I re-enter the rehearsal room, I'm confronted by female singer, and backed up by the guitarist and founder and pretty much group leader. They don't think I'm serious about their band, and they see themselves "touring" in less than a year, and with my day job and family and other bands, they need to know that when "they make it" that I'll be there and abandon family and job at the appropriate time.

I briefly shared some gems from my years of musical experience with them, as I packed my drums and gear, on the realities of "making it" when you're  a cover band. On "making it" in Houston, Texas. On planning to be in LA in a year when they have yet to do a gig, and the only recording being done had been done by me. 

They weren't good enough for a Vegas hotel or bar gig, but might land a steady gig at a remote hotel somewhere where it's hard to get bands. In other words, a very talented band but not playing their own music, and not having any of their own music to one day play. Thus, they'd be a great cover band and maybe one day a first rate cover band, but that was a long way off.

As I loaded out my gear, two guys about my age who had been playing guitars in the room next door had heard what was going on during my inquisition and asked me if I'd jam with them. Turns out they were playing lots of blues rock stuff I liked by artists like Doyle Bramhall, Storyville, Arc Angels and the like. And so I unloaded into their room and that's another story. The story of Drivin' Wheel. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A NOD TO BAD COMPANY'S SIMON KIRKE: YOU ROCK, DUDE!

If you like, or ever liked, the band Bad Company at any time in your younger days, or even today as I still do, forty years after their introductory album, then you should go watch this great 30 minute concert from Don Kirshner. It sure hit the spot for me and was very enjoyable. BAD COMPANY ON DON KIRSHNER'S ROCK CONCERT 1974


This Bad Co. show is just too much. There are extended versions of all songs, with Simon Kirke stretching way out from the drum parts played on the album. Boz and Ralphs are right on, as is Rogers in his singer, guitar playing and Fender Rhodes electric piano playing. In fact, the only disappointment was the fact that although the show begins with the song Bad Company, with Rogers playing the Fender Rhodes, it's abandoned on the next tune,  Ready for love, but the arrangement they play rocks so much that it makes the missing Fender Rhodes forgettable. 

I remember seeing this show 40 years ago. It was rocking. It still is.

Although rumors, and they are rumors, persist about various artists in the old days endorsing one drum brand yet using another to record, what we know from this Bad Arse Don Kirshner Rock Concert youtube is that the Ludwig drums that Kirke sported during that part of his career did sound great, even with the available mic'ing in those days, which admittedly wasn't that bad for drums with SM-74's and such.

What you also see is that this is a real band playing live and covering all the album multi tracked parts, and then some. With Kirke stretching out, Boz and Ralphs can adequately cover the solos with plenty of melodious bass playing, a benefit no doubt of Boz's time playing bass and singing with King Crimson. Rogers does pick up guitar and sit down at the Fender Rhodes, and he's a great player, but the real test of a 4 piece band is whether they can pull a show off live without an extra player or two.

Like Boz and his experience with King Crimson before joining Bad Co., and as with Rogers and Kirke having extensive experience with Free, Ralphs was no newbie and shows that by 1974, he was an old hand at live shows and had no problem keeping the songs melody going on songs where he is the sole guitar. As I mentioned, Boz and his playing helped greatly with the solos, and I make the parallel to Dusty Hill of ZZ Top filling in on the melody sorta as Billy Gibbons stretches out on solos. Kinda sorta the same, to me anyway.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Classic Rock magazine special edition magazine and DVD on Bad Company. My wife thought it folly, but for me, it was great. It's got great shots and interviews and stuff I didn't know. For example, I didn't know Boz Burrell was an ace guitarist before joining King Crimson and picking up the bass. I thought he had picked up the bass more or less cold, but in any event, he's a stout bassist and one of my favorites.

Back then, in 1974 when the Bad. Co. album came out, I was in the throes of starting high school and all that goes along with being that age. By that time, I'd been playing drums and drum set for over 4 years, and was in school band and marching band and stage (jazz) band and orchestra and in addition to private lessons on both percussion items and set, by the time Bad Co. came around I was a pretty accomplished basic rock and jazz set drummer.

My friends and I had a couple of different personal band efforts during those early pre-teen and teen years, including some jazz trios and other jazz music but when 1974 rolled around a great little band opportunity came about.  All of the folks I had played with before 1974 were in the school band program, and some played guitar and bass on the side, as well as trumpet and sax.

So these guys were not in band, and my mom was not happy with that. Since I had been playing along to tunes like Can't Get Enough and lots of the other material we planned to cover, I met some fellows with some talents on guitar, bass and vocals.

Robert, the guitarist, is known throughout Hollywood these days and has an illustrious history as a player and instructor. He was great back then in 9th grade. He could play any tune I knew, and if he didn't know it could catch the tune itself by ear and learn the tune back to front in a couple of days. He played a nice cherry Gibson SG with twin humbuckers, that now resides in the hand of his high school buddy, jamming through some kind of Peavey tube amp.

The bassist, Jim, was playing some kind of Hohner Beatle Bass through a Marlboro bass amp. It was actually not a bad transistor amp at all.  Jim was a couple of years older than Robert and I and was already playing with a REAL high school rock band of older guys working school dances and such and making decent money. Jim had brought a...wait for it...Peavey PA for this nice guy dating Jim's sister, who Jim was forced to bring as our singer. The singer could sing, but had no experience singing with a band, no meter, no sense of time and although he had all the lyrics, he couldn't put them in the right place and the vocals were just a big old mess.

So although Robert and I had jammed together and had practiced to records, and since Jim was already in the band,  the first run in my parents garage went pretty well ticking off a list of current hits of the day, and starting with "Can't Get Enough". It went so well musically, we went right into "Ready for Love" and "Rock Steady".

Again, the vocals were a mess, that I well recall. About that time, Jim's sister, the girlfriend of the singer who was there watching her man make his singing debut, decided she needed to go somewhere and thus the singer was spirited away to entertain girlfriend.

At that point, we ran back through the songs, just a three piece, with Jim the bassist singing and Robert doing some backing vocals. It sounded a lot better than Ron's singing. The music just got better.

We didn't sound near as good as this Don Kirshner show.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A SONOR SIGNATURE EBONY MAKASSAR BOP DRUM KIT: WHERE CAN ONE BE FOUND?

I'm looking for a Signature Lite Bop kit in any finish, and likewise a regular Signature series or Phonic bop kit. With Ebony Makassar (spelled various ways) as first choice,  Rosewood would be my second choice and Bubinga a very close third. More like a 2.1.

I'm no Sonor expert, but I think the Signature series was made mostly during the 1980's. That's certainly when I saw several top drummers playing them around Houston. I remember that "Texas" Tim Root, a clinician for Simmons Electronic Drums in the 1980s as well as being employed by Keith Karnaky at The Drum Shop, kept his fine looking Signature set sometimes in the upper floor at their way old West Alabama location in Houston.

 There have been many other great looking Sonor Signature kits I've seen in Houston and Austin and L.A. over the years, and I've always been entranced by the ebony makassar wood which is one of the Signature Series choices, the others being Rosewood or Bubinga. They sound a bit different, perhaps moreso if you have the ears of a dog, but I find them very pleasing.

I had an opportunity a decade ago to buy a very nice minty (at least in photos and descriptions) a very nice Sonor Signature Lite ebony bop kit with matching snare from a drum shop in Germany called Magic Drum(s), who had the kit on their site for some time. I had bought a 16" Sonor HiLite orphan tom that matched my kit from them and they had minty stuff and I felt comfortable dealing with them. The owner or one of them spoke excellent english so I could talk via phone with him or email with no issues. But sadly, they seem to have vanished from the web.

I missed another great kit, a Rosewood Phonic with both a 22" and 18" bass drums, meaning Bop and Rock kit all in one. It got sold locally while I dallied on deciding. I've recently seen some great Phonic and Signature Lite kits at some live gigs, and remembered how much I like their sound and how gorgeous those kits are.

Sadly as well, Ebay is no longer the hub of Sonor Drum sales it once was, and the classifieds over at the Sonor Drum Museum are active but never with what I'm seeking. Back in the day, sonny boy, Ebay used to have all kinds of great kits and single/orphan drums and hardware from the Signature era, but not so much anymore.

I'd prefer a Signature Lite kit, which features shorter shells than the standard Signature line, with an 18" bass drum, a 12" tom and a 14" or 15" floor tom. And a matching snare if possible. That's a Bop kit, by the way. BUT, a like-sized (18/12/14/14sn) Phonic kit in Rosewood would be great also. Even a Sonorlite Bop kit would be a wonderful thing to enounter.

I've owned some great Sonor kits. A Sonorlite black lacquer kit in 22/12/13/16ft, A Sonor HiLite black lacquer kit in 22/10/12/14ft/16ft/14sn and a Sonor S Class kit in black lacquer in 20/10/12/14ft/14sn

Monday, May 5, 2014

THE TAMA IMPERIALSTAR ORPHAN DRUM PROJECT PART ONE

I've decided to do some limited drumming over the next year, most recording with my friend Billy Ray and who knows what else. Usually, several times a year, someone from one of the many bands I used to play with will email about doing a sit-in gig with their band. There are more than one band I played with more than 25 years ago that are still going, and many more musicians who are grouped with other musicians that I played with over the years. For the most part, the Houston blues and original music folks I played with, as well as many of the cover band people, were so friendly and genuine that they got along really well. There were really some virtuoso talents there and in Austin, where I also have done quite a bit of playing over the years.

Back then in the 1980's, one of the kits I owned was a Tama Imperialstar kit. It wasn't their top of the line, sort of a mid-line kit. To this day I don't even know what the shells were made of, but they had a grey flecked paint on the inside, but different looking than great. It was a textured sort of look, as I recall.

I came into the Tama drums by accident. At the old and long defunct The Drum Shop on West Alabama in Houston, around 1984, I was in there one day buying a cymbal and they had an orphan set of Tama Imperialstar toms in sort of a white finish. I got them for a good price, and started using them with a Ludwig bass and floor tom for a Frankenstein kit. Ultimately, I got some matching Tama bass, snare and floor toms and had a pretty large Imperialstar kit. A lot of drummers were playing them in the 80's, and the drummer that most comes to mind was Stewart Copeland of The Police.

I've decided to pick up a couple of Imperialstar toms to build an inexpensive Bop kit for hauling around. I do like the sound of the old Imperialstar line, if for no other reason that I played a set for five or six years and must have come to like the sound. But I recall lots of compliments on how they sounded on gigs back then, particularly on gigs where they were not mic'd up for the PA system.

I plan to do some instrumental trio and quartet playing, doing all kinds of music I've not played much of in the last 35 years. In high school and early in college, I played in various jazz bands and combos. But I have not really done much of that kind of drumming and I think I'd like to branch out into something different for a while now.

A bop kit is more or less a smaller drum set, usually a 4 piece kit plus cymbals. The bass drums are small, being 18" standardly, with  often a 12" tom tom and a 14" floor tom. I don't know if the bop kit came about due to transportation issues in the Northeast part of the country or if its is sound better suited to smaller venues where jazz is often performed.

By contrast and long used labels, a jazz kit usually has a 20" bass drum with the same 12" and 14" toms. Both kits would use a (usually) smaller 14" snare. A rock kit usually has a 22" or larger (24", 26" and occasionally 28" as with Abe Laboriel Jr.)

So I want a lower volume kit that won't take up as much space in the car compared to a larger kit. 

I've got less than $40 into this deal for some drums in great condition with new heads of the style I use. An 18" bass drum, and it might be another brand, will be the next step. It might not be an Tama, but another brand. Depends on what kind of bargain on what I deem to be a bass drum that I can make sound good with the proper heads and tuning.

The good thing is, both the toms are black, which would go with many other kinds of finishes. Black is a common finish among the many makers and I've seen some good candidates in a preliminary look around on Ebay.

Ebay here I come.

Monday, March 3, 2014

ROY BROOKS, drummer extraordinaire

I am ashamed. Ashamed of myself. It was not until last Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 that I discovered late Roy Brooks and his drumming.

I'm going to post a link here for his tune THE FREE SLAVE   which is one of those album cuts recorded to youtube. It's got a serious groove.

So listen to this seriously epic piece of music. Recorded during the same period cats like Miles Davis were putting rock and roll guitars and music in their jazz, Mr. Brooks was putting R&B in some of his Hard Bop music. Just follow the lead line by the horns and all in that cut. It's just too moving for me. It's spiritual soul jazz journey, as one description I found says.

I'm not one so much for Be Bop music, but much of what I have listened to in the past couple of days from Mr. Brooks has been fascinating to me as a groove drummer and a learning and listening experience to me in terms of the bop, or jazz with an improvisational aspect to both melody and rhythm. 

But Mr. Brooks often mixed R&B with his Hard Bop, and this is where I can really understand and get into the music is when there is some kind of theme, some kind of melody. It's not your traditional Bop stuff, with lots of squeaks and honks and such from the horns. Maybe that makes me not a distinguished jazz snob but a normal dude.

Here's another tune by Mr. Brooks, a long one. Roy Brooks and The Artistic Truth - The Last Profet. He was known for using unique instruments like saws and such, but also would connect rubber tubing, like surgical tubing, to the airholes in his drums, allowing him to add or remove air and drastically change the sound of the drum.  It is solid. It contains some great playing and some unbelievable rhythms! Just listen to the sounds in the intro and try to figure out how they are making them. The popular guess on one drum forum I read was the air tubes. It's not synthesizers or samples, kids.

The playing of the late Mr. Roy Brooks reminds me of that of my late friend, Houston drumming sensation, Orville Strickland. Orville passed in early 1996, and he was a peach of a fellow. What a great and innovative drummer, always playing something so simple yet so hard for other drummers like me to do, like laying behind the beat on the cymbal while playing on the beat with all else. Hard. To. Do.

Old Orville, like Mr. Brooks, had chops to spare and was probably what I like to call a "natural" drummer. They somehow have the vision, the memory and those nebulous myriad physical abilities that make a great technical drummer. Add those skills to the ability to groove and to visualize progressions, and you're gonna be an in demand drummer somewhere, somehow.

You can see it in some of the solos Mr. Brooks does. He's capable of Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa or Neal Pert or Carl Palmer drum exhibitions, but he's not out to show off. He's out to groove, and the nature of improvisational music like Bop means the ability to step out in front with a solo every now and then, and for both those duties, Mr. Brooks is more than capable.

There's some great pictures of him here, with his kit, a saw and a bullwhip.

I've included some links to read about his interesting life, with some real tragedy and sadness due to mental illness and the lack of appropriate resources in this country to help those with serious and diagnosed mental illness, instead of sending them to jail and prison. Despite the demons that haunted him, he accomplished much in terms of his art. Here's his obit in the Guardian and in the Independent. Here's some other articles showing that even when he was imprisoned, he had plans for music and was making music. Go here and here  and here.