Music, Economics Exercise Kids’ Minds

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SKF NOTE: Thank you, Franklin Vanderbilt. Economics plus art plus kids equals a positive recipe for success. How can we help?

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Lenny Kravitz’s drummer, Franklin Vanderbilt, tries to save Chicago’s kids with music
By Emily DeCiccio, Fox News

What was so crucial in his upbringing, Franklin said, was not only his parents, but also the activities and mentors that kept him busy and focused on his music.

The problem now, …he said, are budgetary cuts to the very programs that cultivated his talent.

“There’s been a subtraction of different programs and opportunities to advance and empower children…you need a way to exercise your mind, and when you take away economics and art, you leave people no choice but to fight,” he said.

“I want to open a performing arts and economics center to bring more opportunity to my neighborhood,” he said. “Put down the guns, let’s pick-up some knowledge. That’s what I want to do for the west side of Chicago.”

Full story

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Without the Fundamentals There’s No Depth to Your Music

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SKF NOTE: Joey DeFrancesco‘s experience with John Coltrane Quartet and Miles Davis caught my eye this morning. I’m sharing Mr. DeFrancesco’s words with you.

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[T]his was improvising to the point where you feel you could do anything. It takes a long time to be able to do that.

I heard the song ‘Resolution’, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Because there was everything – I didn’t only hear this other sophisticated harmonic approach, but I still heard the serious groove of Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, and the way McCoy Tyner was playing behind Coltrane, the feeling. I heard a lot of blues in there too – it seemed like the history of music with so much feeling in it, all wrapped into one thing.

I think that was what I loved about Coltrane: you hear the big basis of the blues, but they’re stretching the harmonies, and they keep swinging and groovin’ so hard underneath. All the elements are there.

I think it’s very important to know the tradition. Without the foundation, the fundamentals, there’s no depth to your music. All those guys back then knew that. When I played with Miles, he explained everything musical to me with reference to that.

Full Story

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Is Your Musicianship Getting Better?

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SKF NOTE: A once popular, now out-of-business, CREEM magazine hired me to produce American’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine‘s 1985 Drum Supplement. It was a lot of work. From acoustic and electronic drumsets (high-end and budget), to cymbals, to hardware, to accessories, I had to decide what drum products to include.

I had to contact all the drum industry manufacturers and tell them what I was doing. If they would like to be included, would they please snail mail me catalogs, brochures, info sheets, and photos suitable for publishing in a magazine.

The 1985 Drum Supplement was summation of each included product, my choice of photos, and my photo captions. After all that, soon after CREEM‘s October 1985 issue came out, the magazine went out of business and I was never paid for producing that Supplement.

I do still have a manila file folder of drum industry photos and catalogs from that project. (That’s where I had stored the cymbal ash tray photo.) And I learned the valuable lesson every freelance writer — and probably ever musician — learns about doing good work and not getting paid.

This morning, from St. Petersurg, FL, I read again what I wrote as the intro to CREEM‘s 1985 Drum Supplement — and I stand by every word. My thoughts on creativity’s relationship to musicial equipment are the same as they were when I wrote them 32 years ago.

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Just Don’t Adjust My Cymbal Stand Ash Tray

ashtray_cymbal_stand

SKF NOTE: From a stack of drum product photos comes this ash tray that mounts on a cymbal stand. Not sure who made (makes?) this product, or how successful it was (is?) But within our smokers-as-pariahs world, it’s hard for me to imagine much drummer demand for this ash tray. Plus, I can envision heavy-smoking drummers sending clouds of tobacco ash over drumheads and drumsets every time they crash this cymbal.

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Shaughnessy: Dave Tough Like Elvin in His Sense of Time

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Dave Tough

SKF NOTE: In 1985 I clipped and saved Whitney Balliett‘s piece, Little Davey Tough, from my copy of The New Yorker magazine. This was a writer’s standard pre-internet method for building a personal resource library.

Mr. Balliett’s piece is timeless and should be interesting to any one who values drummer Dave Tough, and/or is curious to know drum history’s high points. Balliett interviews musicians who played in bands with, or were otherwise close to, Dave Tough. People such as Bob Wilber, Chubby Jackson, and Ed Shaughnessy.

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…Ed Shaughnessy…hung around [Dave] Tough when he was fifteen or sixteen and Tough was with Woody Herman. [Shaughnessy] said of [Tough] the other day, “No drummer could match his intensity. He used a havy stick with a round tip. He had the widest tempo, the broadest time sense, and in that way he was like Elvin Jones. He was always at the center of the beat, even though he gave the impression he was laid back.

“He played loosely, with not much tension on the stick, and he tuned his drums loosely. He kept a glass of water and a cloth on the bandstand, and before each set he would dampen the cloth and wipe the footpedal head of his bass drum with a circular motion. That drumhead was so loose it almost had wrinkles in it.

“He told me he did this because he didn’t want the bass drum to be in the same range as the bass fiddle. He didn’t want the two to compete. And he tuned his snare and tomtoms the same way, so that they were almost flabby.

“He was a master cymbal player — maybe the greatest of all time. He had a couple of fifteen-inchers on his bass drum, plus a Chinese cymbal and what we call a fast cymbal — a small cymbal you use for short, quick strokes. And he had thirteen-inch high-hat cymbals.

“He’d use his high hat, wiether half open or open-and-shut behind ensembles, and when things roared he would shift to the big, furry sound of the Chinese cymbal. He had a very loose high-hat technique, and he was always dropping in offbeats on it with his left hand.

“He often used cymbals for  punctuation where other drummers used rimshots or tomtom beats. He told me he didn’t want to interrupt the rhythmic wave.”

Source: Little Davey Tough, by Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker, November 18, 1985

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Jim Gordon: What Made You Want to Be a Pro Musician?

SKF NOTE: I explain how this interview came about here.

This latest excerpt, except for a deleted question about the weather, and the removal of tape hum and a few tape clicks, is the beginning of my taped conversation with Jim Gordon. Also, I’ve deleted a couple of throat clearings and stammerings.

Where this excerpt ends, our conversation begins on an earlier excerpt I posted here:

Jim mentions touring at age 17 as drummer for The Everly Brothers, and meeting the Beatles in 1963-64. The Everly Brothers were part of an English tour which included Bo Diddley, The Rolling Stones, and Little Richard. You’ll hear me asking Jim about Bo Diddley’s drummer, at a time I was trying to fill in holes while writing my History of Rock Drumming.

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Jim Blackley: ‘Take the Weight Off Yourself. Just Play.’

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Bob DiSalle (Courtesy HeadHunters Drumsticks)

SKF NOTE: I found out about Jim Blackley’s death from Jonathan McCaslin. Jon asked if I had interviewed the great drum teacher, Mr. Blackley. I had not. Neither did he and I ever meet face-to-face, but we did have a few enjoyable phone conversations about drums and life. When the phone rang, and it was Jim Blackley calling, that was always a good thing.

T. Bruce Wittet interviewed Jim Blackley for Modern Drummer.

McCaslin, I think, was also collecting stories about Mr. Blackley from pro drummers for possible use in tribute to Blackley. As McCaslin writes on his blog, Four On The Floor, “Blackley has undoubtedly had an important influence on Jazz drumming in Canada and his methods and books are really worth checking out.”

Here’s an excerpt from my 1983 interview with Bob DiSalle. Bob was telling me about his studies with Peter Magadini and Marty Morrell, then about meeting Jim Blackley.

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Bob DiSalle: Then I studied with Jim Blackley. I took about a year off from studying…and went to see Jim at a time I really needed some direction. He was bang on as far as that goes. He was a great teacher.

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Jim Blackley

When I was studying with Jim Blackley he was very good for me as far as direction. I remember telling him, “I’m really confused. I’m working really hard, and I don’t think I’m a great player, but I think I’m good enough to work and make more than I am now. It’s like I’m barely getting by, and I just really wish that things would happen.”

My wife and I were talking about starting a family and wanting to buy a house — just the things in your private life that you want to put together.

Jim said, “Just keep working and don’t worry about it. Take the weight off yourself. Just play. Put half your efforts into the music, and with the other half, keep your private life together, and keep yourself together.”

I’d walk away from my lesson feeling like there wasn’t any weight there, and that, sooner or later, things would work out. It just seemed that shortly after I adopted that attitude of relaxing, and letting things go the way they would, things started to work out.

That’s when I started working with Bruce [Cockburn]. I started to get more work around town. The jingle thing started happening. My wife and I got our family started. I bought a house last year, and we’ve got another little addition in the family.

Things — privately and musically — seem to be working towards where I would like them.

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