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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Musical Interlude

This morning I was greeted with the headline, Legendary Jazz Musician Dave Brubeck Dies. Dave Brubeck was one of my youthful heroes. The drummer for his group, Joe Morello, was someone I tried to emulate and, while I was never able to duplicate his ability and achievement behind a set of drums, I did learn a lot about touch and musicianship from watching him and once, attending a clinic he taught.

Brubeck was a pioneer of jazz...experimenting with different rhythms and time signatures. Take Five, one of the early, most famous pieces, is performed below. The quartet featured Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond playing alto sax, Gene Wright on bass and drummer, Joe Morello. The entire piece is played in 5/4 time (five beats to a measure).



Thanks, Dave.

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Below is another solo by Joe Morello (1928-2011). When I was in my teens I went to Frank's Drum Shop in Chicago, where I had purchased my drums, to a clinic featuring Morello. I remember standing around a platform where Morello was sitting watching and listening to him describe how to choose a set of sticks...how to practice...how to tune your drums...and a variety of other topics only interesting to percussionists.

The most memorable part of the clinic was his demonstration of a single-stroke-roll in order to show us how good tuning and a good choice of sticks could improve your sound. A single-stroke-roll is simply playing the drum one stroke at a time alternating hands. That sounds easy, but if you follow this link and view the demonstration of the roll...you will see that keeping the rhythm even, while alternating hands and increasing the tempo is not so easy.

Morello showed us how good tuning and stick choice would result in a single stroke roll where every stroke sounded identical to the previous one. Poorly chosen sticks or a poorly tuned drumhead would result in the strokes from each hand sounding different. Morello demonstrated the roll while he spoke and switched, at high speed, to using just one hand, demonstrating 1) that the sound of his well chosen stick and well tuned drumhead was unchanged no matter which stick he used and 2) that he could play as fast, even and accurately with one hand as he could with two.

Check out the solo, also in 5/4 time -- which never waivers...and pay attention to when he switches from using his bare hands to holding a pair of sticks. Brubeck watches. (There's an unfortunate buzz at 1:32 into the solo).



If you liked that...watch this one...Morello, 34 years later.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!



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