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Gig Announcement: Juneteenth Jazz at the Hotel Utica, Saturday, June 14th

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

2014june10_Juneteenth2014_small

The Matthew Rockwell Group (like on the facebook) will be making the trip out to Utica this coming Saturday, June 14th as part of the entertainment for the For The Good, Inc.’s Juneteenth Jazz Night event, sharing the stage with some notable Utica heavy hitters.

2014june10_sparkytown

The band at Sparkytown, 23 May 2014. Photo by Jack M. Hardendorf.

From the website:

For the Good will host the 2014 Juneteenth Jazz Night at The Hotel Utica on June 14th, 2014.  The fun starts at 6:30 PM and the event will end at 10:30.  The price of tickets is $35.00 pre sale, $40 at the door.  A Soul Food meal will be offered and Night Over packages at the hotel are an option as well.  For more information contact the offices of For The Good, Inc. at (315) 797-2417.

About For The Good, Inc.

For the Good, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded in 2002 and based in historic Utica, New York. FTG works to benefit the Utica community providing low-income residents and their neighborhoods with programs to overcome poverty through their own means. For The Good has established itself a valuable, productive contributor to the community. FTG is home to the Utica Phoenix, an independent paid monthly newspaper, Mohawk Valley Entrepreneurs Guild, Utica’s Urban Community Gardening Initiative which has fed hundreds of Utica residents at risk for hunger since 2008, The Oneida County Black History Archive and the Study Buddy Club, which connects inner city teens with Hamilton College mentors for academic tutoring. For The Good also promotes the art of Paul Parker as executor of the Paul Parker Utica Trust.

For the Good invites collaboration with individuals, businesses, other not-for-profits, and the greater Utica community on youth empowerment and economic development projects. We strive to give under-represented Utica residents a voice, and facilitate a better quality of life for the entire community.

Play Softly And Carry A Thin Pair Of Sticks, Or A Drummer’s Guide To CNY Venues, Part 1: The Buzz Cafe, Syracuse

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

This (what I hope will be a) series of posts stems from a gig that changed the way I approached all the songs I played that evening (specifically, this gig). Changed in the kind of way that I wish the band had had proper notice of the situation we (well, I) were walking into in terms of the room, the acoustics, and the management. On the plus side, Syracuse is undergoing what I think is a slow expansion of mom+pop places that open their doors to live music. This is just fine for most styles of music and small groups. On the down side, these tend to be small places. This is just fine for most styles of music and small groups.

This can be a problem for a set drummer, which can then be a problem for the rest of the band. You rehearse and rehearse with a group at one volume, playing at a level at which you are comfortable playing all the complicated fills and patterns you like. Everyone gets used to hearing certain things and you get use to executing those things. Then you find yourself at a venue with your full kit and an owner who doesn’t seem to like loud noises. And by loud noises, I mean sounds generated by the lightest sticks you own using little more than your fingers to propel them several inches. And I understand the hesitancy an owner might have when confronted by a drummer they’ve never heard, as I’ve certainly sat near my share of drummers who didn’t adjust their playing volume to the room. But with this new adjustment, you’re not playing the same song you (and the band) have grown accustomed to. Now, the whole band may find itself reacting to this new dynamic from the drummer, while all the others in the band had to do was turn their volume knobs down a bit.

What’s a drummer to do? You can drag a percussion rig around and hope for a rehearsal or two to get used to it, or see this as a golden opportunity to handle the situation with finesse and no small amount of restrained motion (and brushes and various brush-stick intermediates). Grooving a forte tune at pianissimo ain’t all that easy if you’ve not tried it, but your surprise, volume-reduced, 2-or-3-hour gig gives you plenty of time to find out what you can and cannot do with the music you’re most comfortable with.

And so…

My band Funktion Key 3 had a gig at The Buzz Cafe on 17 May 2014 from 7 to 9 p.m. A 6 p.m. arrival had me rolling gear directly into the band area next to the front door (no steps!) and moving the drum riser out of the way (the riser not being deep enough for a small set and a drum throne by about 12 inches). A stripped-out Pearl S830 Snare Stand (it’s time had come) and plastic bushing removal later, the quick drum tapping to get positions tightened up was enough for the owner to begin playing the levels game – specifically, that my tapping for placement was too loud. If a free-form linear pattern wasn’t going to fly, you can imagine what playing hi-hat and snare together would mean to him.

2014may17_thebuzzcafe_small

The muted, muffled kit for the evening. Click for a larger view.

To a medium-sized bright room and hardwood floor was added a boomy mix at the very front of the room where the band was, which didn’t provide enough feedback to know how loud the band was or wasn’t (from the drum throne, anyway). The first set turned into a brush-and-Hot Rod-heavy one where I was asking for volume feedback every few songs (don’t remember complaints). By the second set, we’d all adjusted to the new, more open, less busy drum sound and I was back to a light pair of trusty Vater Super Jazz’s throughout. As you might expect, dropping the level by two-thirds of what you’re used to (and this from rehearsals in a smallish space) has a significant affect on what you play. Crash cymbals get taps that don’t bring out the cymbal’s bottom end, you ride the ride cymbal mid-way to reduce the ringing, your ghost strokes have almost nowhere else to go when your 2 + 4 are at near-ghost stroke levels, and you’re heal-down on the bass drum pedal and hi-hat. The result (for me, anyway) was playing everything music simpler than normal, which by itself is a very good lesson in adjusting to new feels for the same songs.

Now, to reiterate, there are some real lead pipes out there who perform for themselves and not the room. The owner was very, very cool about everything else and I’m appreciative that we had “the discussion” before the gig started, as nothing puts me off more than someone on stage asking for volume (and tempo, don’t get me started) changes mid-tune. You can either play to make your statement, or you can play with the hopes of getting invited back. And we definitely enjoyed the whole experience enough to endeavor the latter.

Our taste for the evening was free eats, a healthy tip jar (I’ve made less playing “legit” gigs than the band made this night), a very easy load/unload, and a knowledge that the band can back-off to fit the space.

With that, three vids from the first and second sets are below from youtube (the Canon T3i at HD only gives you 12 minutes of video, so “Barrelhouse” gets chopped slightly at the end).

Set 1 (Tune 1 of 2)


Inaudible Melodies – by Jack Johnson

Set 1 (most of Tune 2)


Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long – by Bruce Cockburn

Set 2 (all of 1)


Song From The Soul – a Sean Kelly original.

Sand, Pebbles, And Fill – RR/LL, RRR/LLL, and RRRR/LLLL Sticking Combinations From The Original “Stone Boulder” Series

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

You could spend your life on the first six pages of “Stick Control” and still not cover all the possibilities. Dynamics, accents, foot-hand, foot-foot, fast/slow, hands on top of foot patterns, feet on top of hand patterns, regroupings and accenting in 5-7-4 (regrouping of the 16 strokes per pattern), 7-5-4 (re-regrouping of the 16 strokes), yadda yadda. If you see the first six pages of Stick Control as just exercises, you miss the fantastic complexity YOU can introduce to constantly humble yourself while hovering over a practice pad.

George L. Stone's Stick Control

You should have a copy regardless (amazon.com direct link).

The original post related to the PDFs below (link) provided two downloads. The first was all 65,536 R/L combinations for 16th note groupings (so full measures of 16th notes in 4/4 time). The second contained all 4,096 8th note triplet groupings (so full measures of 8th notes in 12/8 time, or 4/4 “jazz” triplets).

This first set is academically complete, but any sticking combination with more than 4 R’s or L’s in a row is just endurance overkill (and even 3 becomes a problem until you figure out your fingers or controlled rebounds). In the interest of having something a bit easier on the warm-up and coordination routine, six new PDFs are below that divide up the 16- and 12-note grouping PDFs into 16- and 12-note sets that contain no more than 2, 3, or 4 R’s or L’s in succession (including the repeat of the pattern as you hammer through X many times). In sticking with the Terry Bozzio theme of the ostinato description of the first post, one could call these “The Easy Teenage New York Versions” of the original series.

Some Practice Ideas

The usage styles are the same as before. I have discovered a few things in working through the 2 R/L triplet combination page that I’ll point out.

1. Work through the whole list once without a click to get comfortable with the patterns. Going in cold will only frustrate when you reach a pattern your hands just aren’t interested in playing correctly yet.

2. The best way to build independence is to overwork your brain. If you can do “the pattern” with your feet playing a pattern, great. Your voice makes for a great 5th limb, more so when you speak the time out loud (in-head counting doesn’t quite cut it).

3. Put your hands on different instruments (maybe obvious). R on bell, L on snare, etc.

4. Escher-ize the patterns (see the sticking pattern as two independent patterns, then try to merge them). There were more than a few patterns where my hands did not work for the first passes, specifically a few patterns where the RR or LL occurs at the end of one beat of three and the beginning of the next beat of three (RRL LRR, for instance)).

My solution was to stop trying to play the sticking pattern and instead focus on playing “one hand” of the pattern, then filling in the missing beats with the other hand. For instance…

RRL LRR LRL RRL

Gets reduced to only the right hand, so only play the pattern as…

RR_ _RR _R_ RR_

When that’s comfortable, fill in the empty spaces with the left hand, perhaps playing the L at half-volume (say “l”) so the R pattern still stands out…

RRl lRR lRl RRl

Two things may happen. The first is that trying to stop thinking in terms of clave and instead in terms of sticking combination will make you butcher the pattern again. That just means you need to practice the pattern longer. The second is that you’ll play this thing with your right hand, think to yourself “that’s kinda funky if I play that on the bell,” and you’ll discover a groove that is magically easier to play than you thought based on your previous mangling of the pattern.

The Files

For notes on their generation, see www.somewhereville.com/?p=1399.

2011december17_stone_boulder_16th_grouping_series_RR_LL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_16th_grouping_series_RRR_LLL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_16th_grouping_series_RRRR_LLLL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_RR_LL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_RRR_LLL.pdf

2011december17_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_RRRR_LLLL.pdf

Ideas of pattern use abound. If something hits you as particularly profound, please send me a note (damian@somewhereville.com) and I’ll gladly added it to the list.

Zenero (sp?) Bell/Cymbal/Chime Question – Now It’ll Appear Twice! – And The Vimeo Spizzichino Mini-Documentary To Boot

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

It seems a near-impossibility that you can buy something in a store today that has (as of this post) ZERO google footprint, but I found it. On a recent trip to Buke at the Music Center on James St., I picked up the cymbal/chime/bell/thing below. The only identifiers on this 6″ core of a heavy ride cymbal are the cursive TM’ed text that looks like “Zenero” and a pure tone that can be easily discerned from background noise for a minute or more (and you can feel the air buzzing just around it as it rings).

A post to the drummerworld forum (drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=84143) simply confirmed my attempts to find info about this thing, making the drummerworld post and this blog currently “it” for info, which remains either the best or worst marketing gimmick on the internets today, with my suspicion still leaning to the former.

And, furthermore, speaking of cymbals, I bought this around the same time the planet lost one of the great independent cymbal makers in Roberto Spizzichino.


Spizzichino from Alex Healey on Vimeo.

The “Stone Boulders” – All 12-Group (4,096) and 16-Group (65,536) L/R Sticking Combinations In PDF Format

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

George L. Stone's Stick Control

You should have a copy regardless (amazon.com direct link).

[Drafted as an article for somewhere, stuck here instead…]

You could spend your life on the first six pages of “Stick Control” and still not cover all the possibilities. Dynamics, accents, foot-hand, foot-foot, fast/slow, hands on top of foot patterns, feet on top of hand patterns, regroupings and accenting in 5-7-4 (regrouping of the 16 strokes per pattern), 7-5-4 (re-regrouping of the 16 strokes), yadda yadda. If you see the first six pages of Stick Control as just exercises, you miss the fantastic complexity YOU can introduce to constantly humble yourself while hovering over a practice pad.

As I look at the sets of exercises, I see what I assume most of us do – paradiddles, singles, doubles, multiple-hits of the same stick, some oddball patterns you start playing as written and then mess up without knowing, etc. The question I found myself asking was “What drove Stone to use this particular sequence?” I eventually turned that question around and decided to answer the question “What did Stone leave out?” The PDFs linked to this article are what I’ve affectionately come to call the “Stone Boulder,” providing EVERY sticking combination Stone included and every other combination he didn’t. Some intro to how and why is below, followed by a bit of explanation. I think the patterns themselves are self-explanatory.

While not the most cite-able examples in all of genomics, there have always been passing references to drumming “being in someone’s DNA.” As it happens, drumming and biology did overlap in general approach during the mid-80’s-to-early-90’s (or so) in the great heyday of linear drumming (go dig out your Murray Houllif and Gary Chaffee books). The idea is simple: no two drums/cymbals hit at the same time, producing an often staccato and generally (well, to my ears anyway) more melodic sound from the drums (and much easier to transcribe than some of the superhuman overlapping rhythms people are having fun playing today). Ignoring the complexities of 3.5 billions years of evolution, DNA works the same way as these linear patterns to convey a message. The four bases in your DNA, A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine), and T (thymine), act as a code that is read like those old drum beats were played – one at a time with no doubling-up please. The identical three million base-long DNA sequences in each of your cells (see CSI) could be turned from seemingly random patterns of [A,C,G,T] into seemingly random patterns of [L,R,B,H] (that’s left hand, right hand, bass drum foot, hi-hat foot), then some experimental linear drumming composer could “play” your genome. Better still, if the transcriber was as good as your cellular machinery, the entire performance could be written down and reconverted into [A,C,G,T] format exactly so you could be cloned and double-drum with someone who rushes and slows down just as much as you do.

While most people think of a drum programmer as someone who generates patterns on a computer, I took the route of programming to generate patterns to drum. I most certainly did NOT put the pattern pages together by hand (I promise, no mistakes). A small script in the Perl programming language used to generate DNA sequences did all of the dirty work (including making sure all patterns only appear ONCE in each document). The math for figuring out the total number of left/right patterns is quite simple. The number of combinations of unique sticking patterns for a particular pattern length is 2^n, n being the number of beats. For a single beat, that’s 2^1, or just 2, that single hit being performed with either the left or right hand. For a four-stroke pattern, that’s 2^4 (2 * 2 * 2 * 2), or 16 total patterns. These are shown below out of academic interest (although I hope you could write them down from memory).

Now, consider the first six pattern pages of the Stone book. 16 beats per pattern. That’s 2^16, or 65536 total patterns. At 20 patterns per page, the complete Stone book of these first six pages would take up 3,277 pages. At 2 seconds per pattern, you could rip through all 3,277 pages in about 36 hours 30 minutes (about the perceived length of a society gig).

For you fellow jazzers out there looking for a more swingin’ set, I’ve also included the same sticking deal with a triplet-feel set (12 beats instead of 16, so you’ve only got 4096 patterns to contend with, meaning you could play through the whole set in about 2 hours 30 minutes).

4,096 patterns are bad enough. 65,536 is borderline something uncouth. On the one hand, that’s a lot of patterns either way. On the other, for the obsessive compulsive readers, these are IT. There are no other 12- or 16-stroke sticking combinations that have a stick hitting on each beat (that is, no rests). As Terry Bozzio has said in one form or another in his many clinics introducing his ostinato independence exercises “once you’ve played through the 16, you’ve played every 16th note pattern there is.”

And it could be worse! If you wanted every combination of left, right and rest, that’s 3^16, or 43,046,721 patterns. At 2 seconds per pattern, that’s 23,915 hours, or about 2 years and 8 months. I pondered doing the same thing for all 16-note linear drum patterns (L,R,B,F), which would produce 4^16, or 4,294,967,296 patterns. That’s 2,386,093 hours, or 272 years and 3 months (that’s approaching four reincarnations of “no life”).

Each full page has three columns of 40 patterns (120 per page), producing a document that’s only 547 pages long (but entirely green-friendly in PDF format). You will note that most of the pages look like the same stupid thing. This is because the mechanism of generation for the sequences involved making single changes at a single position and walking down the entire 16-stroke sets until all changes had been accounted for. I become bored to tears staying on a single page and generally scroll at random and point the stick at the screen to pick a pattern to play. Be as methodical or all-over-the-map as you will.

Is there a good reason for doing this? Not particularly. There are lots of patterns here that are a mechanical challenge for your arms, but many (many, many) of these patterns do not immediately lend themselves to the funk-ability of some of the Stone patterns (which tend to at least have groupings that, again, reflect rudiments or make you work one limb preferentially in a “usable” way). They are here mostly for completeness and, for when you want to confuse your limbs, picking a page or more at random and seeing how the patterns feel. As independence exercises teach us very early on, our brains are wired for preferential patterning (you hit the same foot as you would hand, you’re non-dominant hand sucks, your hi-hat foot is born useless, and other revelations). This document is simply another PDF you can lose on your machine somewhere or have in that hidden work folder that comes out and gets an intense few looks as you try to split your left and right hands apart more.

And, it should be obvious, the same applies for your feet.

Having fought through enough of the combinations, I began to notice something I’m sure all of us have encountered as we approach that hypnotic state of cruising through a pattern we “get.” Some patterns feel really good to play, but only after you’ve internalized them enough to “play something else,” like feeling an odd clave or taking the patterns with many doubles of one hand and ripping them into a bounce-driven frenzy (or, invariably, playing one pattern we love to play to find out it’s a pattern you heard and memorized in a more musical context on record). The one benefit I’ve found from having this PDF around is that I have all of the patterns in one place, which makes me think harder about the different ways to play the patterns (although that is only a fringe benefit). If you treat them like a journey and not just the first 5 minutes of your warm-up routine, I suspect you could spend your life on any one page and still not cover all of the bases.

So, without further ado:

2011july13_stone_boulder_sticking_series_V1.pdf

2011july13_stone_boulder_jazz_grouping_series_V1.pdf

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