Roy Burns Drum Clinic – Circa 1974

SKF NOTE: In August 2014, a few months after starting my blog, I posted my recollection about a Roy Burns drum clinic I had attended around 1974. I was newly living in Davenport, Iowa — the Quad Cities area of Davenport and Betterndorf in Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, with both states on either side of the Mississippi River.

I believe Roy Burns’s clinic took place at a music store in Moline. Perhaps someone will see this and either confirm or correct my memory.

Until two days ago I didn’t remember still having a cassette I taped of the Burns drum clinic. Sometimes it’s fun to be a musical pack rat.

The very beginning and ending are missing here. I think I realized at the time, with only one 60-minute tape to use, I wasn’t going to be able to record everything. So I skipped Roy’s intro and started the tape rolling during Roy’s demonstrating on the drumset. And I just ran out of tape before the clinic ended. Also, there is a four-second delay here between the original Side A ending and Side B starting.

One more thing. In parts of this tape you may notice remnants of a piano trio in the background. It is the Millard Cowan Trio, a group I played with at the time. I’m sure I taped the Burns clinic over a Millard Cowan Trio tape and the new sound didn’t quite wipe out the old sound.

Anyway, there’s some good info here. And for listeners who missed it while he was alive, it’s one more opportunity to hear Roy Burns teaching drums.

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Freddie Gruber – I Played Leedy & Ludwig Drums

SKF NOTE: Sorting through another box of my audio cassettes, I found the third and final part of my interview with Freddie Gruber circa 1982. We were seated at the kitchen table in Buddy Rich’s NYC apartment. Here’s my original post about our interview.

So this final part of the interview is 30-minutes in total and includes some insightful remarks from Freddie Gruber which I will post as time permits. I haven’t listened to this tape in more than 30 years. It was fun listening to it again for the first time.

In this segment, Freddie has just finished answering my questions about his part in the founding of DW Drums. I ask what drums he played when he was an active player. Freddie showed me an “advertisement photo” of him with a set of Leedy & Ludwig drums.

He tells me he now, of course, plays DW Drums, adding, “Not that I do that much playing, because I actually don’t.” Freddie reminds me he has been teaching 24-25 years, longer, he says, if we count the years post-Leedy & Ludwig when Freddie was “teaching in kitchens of after hour places” with whatever drums were available — even if they were borrowed drums.

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Neil Peart: The Ludwig Drum Endorsement How and Why

SKF NOTE: This is part of a conversation with Neil Peart circa 1987, when he had recently endorsed Ludwig drums. We talk about why he switched, but more interesting, how he switched. Neil talks about having six identical drumsets from six different drum companies in one place, where he could play-and-compare. It was the sound of the 9 X 13 toms that finally made the difference.

My original cassette recording had a fairly prominent hum throughout. I reduced the hum, which makes the voices easier to hear. But the voice audio fidelity was compromised a bit in the process.

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Appreciating Denzil Best

SKF NOTE: Denzil Best has always been somewhat of a mystery drummer to me. In all my studies of drummers, Denzil Best was always praised by drummers and other instrumentalists as a swinging, supportive drummer. Best was a trumpet player who switched to drums after an attack of tuberculosis. He was a player in the same vein as Connie Kay and Dave Tough. I’ve never come across a great deal of biographical information about Best.

This video of the George Shearing Quintet seems to be live, not overdubbed. Tight, swinging, and the best footage I’ve seen of Best. Great brushwork on a jazz classic written by Denzil Best. I wish the cameraman would’ve zoomed in on Best’s hands at least once, but…. This is a great clip of a great drummer with a classic jazz group.

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Billy Higgins Didn’t Play Loud, But Had Such an Even Groove, Beat

SKF NOTE: An instructive four minute interview segment with musician Jimmy Heath where he talks about the wonders of Billy Higgins, but also, some funny observations about Heath’s playing with Elvin Jones. “[Elvin] didn’t give you a one [beat] all the time, [If you’re] waiting for a one [beat] — you’re in trouble.”

Good lessons, Jazz Video Guy. Thank you.

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Hearing Drum Beats as Melodies


SKF NOTE: Will learning to play a melodic instrument make you a better drummer? On balance, yes.

The most common melodic instruments drummers play are piano (keyboards) and guitar. I also know drummers who played trumpet or trombone.

Learning to sing, and familiarity with song forms (32-bar standards, 12- and 16-bar blues, etc.), is comparable to playing a second instrument.

Drummers with no interest or familiarity with melody always play stiff — at least to my ears.

I hear drum beats as melodies. I learn drum beats by their total sound, usually in two- or four-bar phrases. When it’s a beat I want to copy, I copy the sound. How do I reproduce the sound? When I get stuck, when I’m having trouble reproducing a sound, then I break down the beat using musical notation until I’m not stuck.

Maybe what the drummers’ are playing is built from the song’s melody, or from the bassist’s part. Maybe the drummer locks in to the rhythm guitarist or strong lead guitar riffs.

The melodies can be as simple as a nursery rhyme, or more complex. But, whether it’s John Bonham or Elvin Jones, the best drummers play melodic.

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Songs as Time Machines

SKF NOTE: Songs are time machines. In an instant (a heart beat?) a song can carry us back to faces and places, experiencing emotions, just as we did fifty years ago.

I was reminded of music’s mysterious power this weekend after buying and downloading guitarist Grant Green‘s album, Mellow Madness: The Original Jam Master Volume 3. The album title is deceptive. If you know nothing about Grant Green as an essential jazz guitarist you might think The Original Jam Master music has to do with hip-hop or rap.

It doesn’t.

The song that grabbed me is Cease The Bombing, which took me back to one gig at a Long Island, NY bar in the Hamptons. I was a year or two out of high school, playing drums and singing in one of many bands with my friend, Neil Ralph. The band had a bassist, pianist, Neil on guitar, a trumpet player, and a saxophonist.

Mostly in our bands we played blues tunes. Neil brought to this band Cease The Bombing. I don’t know why I liked the song so much. We played it true to the original. I’m not sure I ever heard Grant Green’s original album cut. Maybe. But I think I first heard Neil play the song at a band rehearsal where I developed a drumming framework.

Neither did I know the original drummer is Idris Muhammad. Had I heard this track back then, maybe I would have played the songs with sticks. But I used soft mallets on my wide open drums, with no muffling. And Cease became a drum feature, my interpretive solo with soft mallets.

Those post-high school years weren’t always easy for aspiring musicians trying to earn a living playing music. But I miss the camaraderie of those bands.

Maybe, overall, that’s the melancholy feeling reborn when I listen again to Grant Green’s Cease The Bombing.

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