John ‘JR’ Robinson is messing with my brain

It was clearly about time I would take serious notes on John ‘JR’ Robinson‘s discography. Obviously, the starting point of the obsession was this following video (I bet most of you already know it).

After you experience that a lot of things start crossing your mind. Things like”Dude, how many 80s tracks I ‘ve considered cheesy music with good drum machines?” or “how ignorant am I to NOT know this song has a live drum take of this caliber in it”. Anyway, I get pretty sentimental with trivia like that.

The research led me to start listening to all the Rufus feat. Chaka Khan records but particularly the ones they recorded with JR behind the drums (79-83). Masterjam is probably my favourite one until now. The album kicks off with the following track:

Yeah I know, Quincy Jones is the Midas of pop but before we give him the credit for the whole thing just check out this drum take. I was out taking a stroll while listening to it, feeling it and grooving with it. And then… the 2.54 mark hits me like punch.

Some drummers just need less than a quarter note to make themselves legendary in a track. I honestly don’t know how do you keep your composure while knowing you CAN do that but it inspired me deeply to follow that method in every way I can.

 

 

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Andy Newmark -The Space Between

Along with the infamous Mike Clark (standalone post will be done later), Andy Newmark is for me one of the most iconic musicians of funk discography. He’s the drummer on ‘Fresh’ by Sly & The Family Stone, a record that has made funk history.

I was never aware of his session career until I made a careful listen to Roxy Music‘s ‘Avalon’ (1982). There are numerous songs with special grooves in there but the one that really stands out for me is ‘The Space Between’.

The drumming here brings out a  darker ‘JR Robinson’ vibe with a tendency to small artistic intricacies rather than serving a strict pattern. All in a ‘one take’ kind of attitude.

Russ Kunkel – Edge Of Seventeen

When it comes to major hits you can’t go much better than this. “Edge Of Seventeen” has immortal status on radio airplay. But let’face it, the true reason for this post is that verse.

Russ Kunkel is the drummer here. He was a guy deeply involved in the singer/songwriter heydays that conquered the US during the 70s.

I don’t know yet whose idea that verse beat was but it’s so odd it actually works. By accenting the offbeat he’s givin the song a sense of anticipation that really blends well with the vocal part. Needless to say, it holds a lot more the ground for that straight 16th hitmaking chorus.

This came out 16 years ago…

Boy, time flies. I was only 10 when the first singles from “Parachutes” came to light. I remember both “Trouble” and “Shiver” being on heavy rotation in the golden MTV years.

Being a teenager during the 00s its easy to see why I can’t say a single bad thing about this band. They re stuck in “hard drive”, can’t erase them, can’t change the station when one of their early stuff is going on.

For what is worth, Parachutes is a pretty DARN GOOD record. When it came out, surely everyone accused the band for ripping off Radiohead. Now, I ‘ve previously stated what’s my opinion on “stealing” and I pretty much think the same in this case. These guys embraced influences, airplay and always had a very good connection with music that’s not considered “shitty radio songs”. At least for the most part of their career…

The Sound of Joe Morello

Been a long time but summer is busy here. Got a bunch of posting ideas soon to be published.

Today’s subject, mr. Joe Morello. The guy that made people sing the drum solo due to the massive hit material of Dave Brubeck Quartet’s in “Time Out”.

As it occurs, I’m really trying to get my feet on the ground on jazz comping. My opinion is that -as in everything we do- you gotta find the sound that suits for you. It would be like an example you can always steal and rely on.

Being a rock drummer myself, you can tell that comping is not my strong suit. I took me years to throw away the concept of playing swing without thinking strictly the ride pattern. I believe that’s a major step. But in the long way I still have I have the difficult task to make my kit sound good while doing so.

Enter Joe Morello, the guy with the rockiest bass drum and tom tuning during the ’60s jazz era. It’s easy to tell when its him banging the skins mainly due to his signature tom phrasing tonality.

I ‘ve never seen the Dave Brubeck Quartet play a standard before and I’m glad this upload exists cause you can really delve into Morello’s thinking. Like most of the drummers I like he’s always on the hunt for THAT lick tha will make every song part bounce and feel light/heavy/danceable whatever you name it.

He’s got the sound I would go after… I’ll see you again in 50 years then…

Daniel Glass – A Drum Historian

There are a lot of cool things about Daniel Glass. First of all, his hair. Secondly his pure rock n’ roll energy. Lastly -and most importantly I should say- his musical history knowledge.

Being a fan of relentless cliche dropping I should now say that: knowing where you came from helps a great deal in learning where you ‘re going to. Mr. Glass wants to get that point across in every opportunity he’s given and I truly support him for that.

His Vic Firth series about History of the Drumset has been eye-opening for me. Below you can watch the first 9 parts alltogether. Then you can follow the rest from the related videos section, the series goes up to part 15.

Let me elaborate a bit with an example on what his knowledge has given me. You ‘re at a soundcheck with your band and the engineer asks for a beat and some fills in between to check his levels and kit tone through the PA.

As a cool “into now” drummer, any of us would most likely play a steady 4/4 groove with the right hand on the hat the left on the snare, a cracking backbeat, maybe some ghost notes in there and fills that go around the toms from high to low. This has been absolutely correct and useful for drummers for at least 40 years now. But was it always like this?

What about those people that didn’t have any toms to play big fills? What about the guys that didnt even KNOW what a backbeat on beats 2 and 4 is gonna sound like? What about the dudes that were playing packed 3k seaters and didn’t have a PA to get their little intricate ghost notes (???) to sound along with the rest of the kit? Daniel Glass mainly responds to all these questions in these series.

I can now understand that the instrument I’m sitting behind every day is probably younger in age than my dad. And believe it or not this has helped my mind in terms of playing more than the 6-stroke roll I so love to use.

In this Drumeo feature he really expands his concepts on teaching and playing. He explains how significant a good pulse of quarter notes is not only for timekeeping but in playing in general along with sounding good on the kit. Now, I get it maybe for most people this stuff sounds boring. But I’d like to see anyone try to lay a rock n’ roll beat without a good sense of quarters or even better try to immitate a Gene Krupa feel on the toms. He’s absolutely right when he says that pulse and natural quarter note flow is what makes people move and dance and generally relate to a bunch of guys standing some feet above them, making noise.

A small treat for me when I did some research on Daniel is that he’s somehow involved in one of my favorite films as a kid, The Mask with Jim Carey. Turns out his actual band is called the Royal Crown Revue and were the house band of the night club scene where The Mask goes on rampage. I think maybe the drum intro is still stuck in my head after almost two decades.