We always hear talk about New Orleans being such a great music town. Well, here’s a perfect example of WHY. Imagine living in a city where you can walk out your door every day and find this kind of a jam underway. And imagine if that jam was open to ANYONE who showed up with an instrument.
Hosted by singer and trombonist supreme Glen David Andrews, this particular jam incorporates Mardi Gras Indian chants, brass band second line, drum set, and electric guitar. Like New Orleans itself, it represents how musical barriers are meaningless when people come together, find common musical ground and play WITH one another. It’s not pretty, it’s not slick, it’s not organized, but it s damn sure REAL. Jams like this have been going on in N’Awlins for literally two hundred years or more (going back to the slave “ring shouts” in Congo Square)!
The young man in the foreground playing the marching snare can’t yet be ten years of age, but he is “in it” as deep as anyone esle – getting a serious lesson in groove, funk and a spirit of musical community that can’t be taught in school band, private lessons or any other “formal” setting. Without a doubt, he and his peers will grow up to fuse all these influences and produce a new generation of badassery to emerge from this one of a kind city. Just as so many others have for so many generations.
If you are a lover of music, do NOT leave this planet before spending some time in the Crescent City!
If you’ve always loved the classic Frank Sinatra records from the ’50s and ’60s, but never knew who was laying down those impossibly swinging grooves behind him, permit me to introduce you to IRV COTTLER.
Many other drummers also played and recorded with Sinatra in this period (among them Sonny Payne and Speedy Jones – as part of the Basie organization – Alvin Stoller, Sol Gubin, Frank DeVito and Gregg Field ). But Irv Cottler had the longest association, and is definitely worth studying!
On this amazing performance of “Luck Be A Lady” from 1966, Cottler kicks in at 1:16 and shows us all just how to do it. Cottler recorded and toured with Sinatra on and off for over 30 years, starting in 1953. He also played with Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, and was in the house band for the Dinah Shore show for 12 years.
Irv Cottler also put out an instructional book and record called “I’ve Got You Under My Skins,” which includes reproductions of the charts he played with Sinatra. Cool stuff!
So why have I posted a picture of Barry Manilow on this fine Monday morning? No, it’s not to dump a spoonful of saccharin in your morning cup.
It’s because if you’re a drummer, you really need to watch the video below and see what happens at 0:54.
What you’ll hear is Manilow’s 1974 hit, “Mandy,” and what happens at 0:54 is that the drummer comes in. And what is the drummer doing, pray tell? Playing quarter notes on the hi hat is what. Why is this a big deal? Because it’s hard … REALLY hard on a song at a fairly moderate tempo such as this one.
Now keep listening, and you’ll notice that every time the drummer starts to play fills, they are comprised of 8th notes …. every time, the whole way through the song. Again, playing fills of this kind is actually really hard to do at tempos like this one.
What’s the upshot of all this? If you want to improve your straight eighth groove – get “deeper into the pocket” as it were – it would behoove you to play along with “Mandy” and other Manilow power pop ballads. They all follow the same drumming formula, and will really test your abilities not only to keep steady time, but to go in and out of fills without losing said time.
I learned this lesson firsthand when I worked with Graham Russell from Air Supply (yes, Air Supply) a few years back. I was tasked to cut a demo of a brand new Russell original for a Broadway project, and realized that my “power ballad” time wasn’t so hot. SO, in preparation for the recording, I spent three days in my practice space working on deathly slow rock grooves playing nothing but quarter notes on the hi hat and eighth note fills. It was a great lesson and those three days made me a much better drummer.
Try it – you’ll find a whole new appreciation of SPACE, something that most drummers are absolutely terrified of and have much trouble negotiating.