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Hi buds.


I just returned from a lovely six week residency at the Banff Centre. I spent the majority of this residency developing a new project for solo drumset that uses an improvisational language based upon a system of ratios and rhythmic processes. Sounds complicated, and it sort of is. It was a real pleasure to spend a bunch of time delving into this black hole. When you begin exploring rhythm in a non-idiomatic context, the possibilities bloom like a fractal. Every pattern can be expanded in dozens of directions in any given moment, and every note within each pattern can be expanded (or contracted) similarly. Boiling down all this information and possibility to specific patterns and processes which can be practiced one at a time, in a way that ensures no combinations are left ignored, is a large part of this work. The way the drumset has adapted to music over the last hundred years (and vice versa) has lent a hierarchical structure to drummers' coordination. We're generally required to have excellent coordination between 1) our two hands 2) the left hand (snare) and right foot (bass drum).


Much less attention is given to coordination between

3) our two feet (aside from basic patterns like the samba)

4) right hand (ride cymbal or any other sound source) and right foot (bass drum), outside of requiring competency with playing these simultaneously for accents on cymbal + bd

5) right hand and left foot (hihat), outside of syncing up the jazz ride pattern and the 2 and 4 on hihat - The other exception is organizing opening/closing the hat in sync with right hand for splashes, "psshts", etc.

6) left hand and left foot - some snare and hihat "chick" interplay is common in jazz comping but this is rarely rhythmically dense, usually manifesting as linear figures on an 8th note triplet grid.


So a pleasant offshoot from working on all these coordination exercises within a fairly exhaustive structure has been an increased ability to communicate between the limbs, giving rise to interesting, less traditional rhythmic possibilities when improvising. I look forward to seeing what unexpected results arise from the continued study of this polyrhythmic system as the kinks in the coordination hose (both physical and mental) are straightened out.

Later this month James Meger (bass), Francois Houle (clarinet) and I will be joining composer, pianist and guitarist Itamar Erez to record some of his very cool new compositions at Monarch Studios. Following that, my trio Simple City will be spending a couple days tracking a record at Afterlife Studios with engineer John Raham and videographer Trent Freeman. Only A Visitor made a new record last Spring with Dave Sikula at Demitone Studios. Dave did an amazing job and it really sounds great. That'll finally be coming out in January 2019. Until then, here's the first single and video from the record. Video by the amazing Julia Hutchings.




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  • kevin romain

It's summer. Vancouver jazz festival is just around the corner. Looking forward to playing with my quintet Enemy Pigeon at the fest (June 23, 3pm, Art Galley on the Robson side), as well as with Only A Visitor (June 30, noon at David Lam Park).


I just got back from a nice trip to NYC. Was lucky to catch many of my favourite drummers including Marcus Gilmore, Tyshawn Sorey, Ari Hoenig, Mark Guiliana, Nasheet Waits, Tomas Fujiwara and Dave King. I can't overstate the importance for musicians of all levels of seeing the masters up close. We're lucky to have a wealth of video to draw upon from concerts (even shaky cellphone "footage" can be a valuable learning resource - I'll post my current favourite example below). Those of us living outside of large American cities might get an opportunity to see some touring greats from New York or Chicago (etc) from time to time in a large theatre, with everything pumping through a PA system and the drums sounding completely out of balance (huge kick drum sound, minimal wash or low frequencies from the cymbals). There's seriously nothing like sitting next to a master musician for a set or two and checking out what they're doing up close. Like this:




It's great to take lessons, transcribe, watch instructional videos etc, but you can also just use your eyes and ears and figure out what your favourite players are doing if you're able to get within eye-and-earshot of them. Before a thousand technique DVDs and infinite variations on Stick Control and Ted Reed came along, that how people used to do it. Worked okay for them. With our wealth of modern options, we could probably learn to play jazz just by watching a ton of youtubes and picking up a book or two at Guitar Centre, but I don't recommend skipping the physical link to the living masters who are working in clubs regularly.


This goes for your colleagues too - Go see your buds play. Figure out what you like in their playing and what you want to avoid in your own playing. Get a drink and chat with the other people there. Thank the staff at the club for having live music: They'd probably be making more money if they cleared out the band and put in a few more tables.


See youse at a gig sometime. <3



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