Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jazz Rhythm Section Fundamentals, Part 3

Here's the third installment of Jules Estrin's questionnaire, which shares insights into the formative years of professional rhythm section players. Today's subject is drummer Ted Warren. Ted is a member of groups led by Mike Murley, Mike Downes, Kieran Overs, and Ted Quinlan. He was the drummer for Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, and can be heard on six of their CDs. I was pleased to have him play on my debut CD, "Schroeder's Tantrum," recorded back in 1996. Ted has a marvelous blog of his own, "Trap'd," where he shares ruminations on teaching, playing, writing, and listening (and also pizza).

How did you get started on your primary instrument?

I took lessons on drums after a year of piano.

What made you choose your instrument?

I saw a young person on TV playing the drums and thought it looked easy. How wrong I was!

Did you spend a lot of time experimenting with instruments or jamming after school as a young musician? How much influence did jamming with other players have on you?

I spent many hours jamming with other musicians through high school. Sometimes learning songs, sometimes playing “open form” or “free”. This had a huge influence on me and was a big help in developing my playing.

Who is the first player on recording that made an impression on you and that you tried to emulate on your instrument?

I can’t remember the first exactly, but I distinctly remember hearing Tony Williams on “Seven Steps To Heaven” and wanting to play something as cool and inventive as that. I’m still working on that!

Can you list some players that younger players should be initially trying to emulate from recordings and talk about the specific characteristics of their playing that should be noted?

Jimmy Cobb-Time and elegant simplicity

John Bonham- Time and sound

Elvin Jones-Groove and inventiveness

Where do you go for resources when you were young? Did you study locally with a teacher when you were young?

I did study with a teacher for 5 years between the ages of 10 and 15. I didn’t really get so much technically from him as much as an attitude and openness about playing.

What do you see as the primary and secondary roles of your instrument in the rhythm section?

I see my instrument’s primary as keeping time and groove, but also signifying major events in any particular piece. Another role that’s just as important and harder to quantify is how the drums contribute to the overall spirit of a band more than any other instrument.

Can you list some fundamentals that young players should be looking at to get a head start on your instrument?

Rudiments, reading, playing to recordings, and learning to play brushes

Discuss any special relationships that the instrument in the rhythm section have with each other that you have discovered.

Drums encapsulate all the roles of the of the rhythm section. The ride cymbal is similar to the bass line, comping on the snare and bass drum relates to what the piano is doing, and the hi-hat does what guitar initially did.

How do you describe the role of the rhythm section in small band playing vs big band playing?

The rhythm section in a big band MUST function as a unit, even when it seems at odds with what the horns may be doing. In a small band, there is a lot more room to switch roles around.

What advice would you give school music teachers about teaching your instrument?

Try to include lots of audio examples to give young players things to strive towards.

What technical advice would you give a young player starting out on your instrument?

Learn your rudiments.


About Jules:

Jules Estrin is a first-rate trombonist, a graduate of McGill University's jazz program, and is currently completing his Master’s degree, having served as director of the 7 o’clock Jazz Ensemble at the University of Toronto. All the while, Jules continues his regular schedule with the Toronto District School Board, as well as being acting musical director of the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band. During the summer month

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