FAMiLY: Chez Gimeno-Palmer, Again

Teresa and Sofi cooking together.

Looking after Hannah’s daughters, my nieces, Ali and Sofi, is a regular and very welcome routine that we have going on at present. It may not last long, as I know Hannah needs to change her work situation. So we’re enjoying it whilst it lasts.

Ali’s a great drum student.

I’m lending Ali a drum kit. It’s an old Premier, in pretty poor nick. it used to be my busking kit, when I did that, in days of yore! I think I need to upgrade the cymbals I’m loaning, as the ones on this kit are awful!

It’s nice teaching Ali. She’s a great kid, and a good drum student. Both Ali and Sofi are musical. Ali favours guitar and drums; Sofi, clarinet, piano, and now sax as well!

Quality time with the utterly adorable Lobster.

It’s pleasant to get out of our own environment. And it’s not too demanding. In fact it’s fun. I slept superbly last night, as well. Which is, at present, rather unusual.

We do breakfast lunch and dinner for everyone. Or rather Teresa does. I help out a bit sometimes (I even cooked a whole meal on the first visit!). But it’s mostly my terrific mrs.

This is typical scene, in Northstowe.

Today I’ve been tinkering with a guitar. I used to do that quite a lot. But I’ve lost touch with ye olde axe in the last year or two. So much so, it’s initially frustrating, discovering how much I’ve forgotten!

But it comes back relatively quickly. Not that I’m great, on guitar. I was pretty competent at one point. But that was when I played daily, which I haven’t done now for aeons. Well, whatever, as folk say nowadays. I’d just like to get back into it a bit, and hopefully enjoy doing so!


MUSiC: Ginger vs Bonzo

The above thumb (also a link on the FB ‘feed’) cropped up in my FB account today. I didn’t click on the link. And I’m not going to.

My immediate thought/riposte, to ‘Why Ginger Baker HATED John Bonham’? Because he (Ginger) was a dick.

Baker fancied himself as a jazzer, and held that Bonham didn’t or couldn’t swing. Complete and utter bollocks. In terms of technique and smooth execution Bonham is way better than Baker (or Moon The Loon, for that matter).

Why figures like Baker get, or got, so catty about it all is, if not a mystery, at least a shame. Why not just admit that they’re different, but both great, in their own ways?

MUSiC: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi

Utterly gorgeous!

I had wanted to get this in time for the 2022 Yuletide season. But I didn’t. But, with gift voucher funds from Teresa and Patrick, I did finally get it after Xmas.

Speaking frankly, and especially as I’ve loved Guaraldi’s A Boy Named Charlie Brown for years now, I can’t believe it’s taken me over a half a century to get around to buying this. A truly terrific recording, this gets my occasional – and reserved for only the berry vest – six stars. It’s just utterly wonderful.

It’s one of those instances where less is more. Much, much more, in this case. Jazz is a musical style in which sometimes the tempos can be high, the vibe intense, and the notes hyper-abundant. This collection, however, belongs to a mellower more Chet Baker-esque jazz world. A musical universe of pretty melodies, and spare pared down playing. I love it!

And it’s not just Guaraldi’s own playing and composing that benefits from this approach. The sidemen here* are, for the most part (a little less so on one or two of the added bonus tracks at the end; we’ll get to them later), the essence of tastefully restrained.

‘Linus and Lucy’ is revisited on this recording, and is a case in point: the main theme is just piano – a beautifully rumbling train like piano – against very minimalist drumming, with the bass dropping out altogether. But the keys and drums duo sound is remarkably full. The bass appears when they go into the B-section, sometimes bossa, sometimes swing; but the vibe remains resolutely Spartan. Fantastic!

Apparently Guaraldi’s ’earthy’ style garnered him the nickname Dr Funk, on the local music scene of his native San Francisco, where he came to fame playing with Cal Tjader. And, whilst talking about learning more about this dude and his music, I’m definitely keen to find out if more of Guaraldi’s work, Schulz related or otherwise, is as good as the two Charlie Brown themed albums I now have. And to that end I intend to check out this NPR show on him:

Looks interesting!

One of Guaraldi’s drummers, Jerry Granelli, is either still going, or only recently passed. I remember watching him not long ago, online (YouTube, no doubt), including in a trio performing Guaraldi’s Peanuts stuff. It struck me that Granelli’s kit looked like an Ayotte, a Canadian drum brand of which I have a beautiful example.

Guaraldi himself passed away quite young, aged just 47. He was busy musically till the end, working on further Peanuts stuff, gigging, skiiing, and then boom… killed by a massive heart attack! Sad, really.

Back to the CD, and happier thoughts! The material is a mixture of trad Christmas stuff, from O Tannenbaum to Mel Tormé’s evergreen classic, The Christmas Song, with some Greensleeves, and a brief but beautiful Fur Elise, by Beethoven, as well as a good fistful of superb Guaraldi originals.

The liner notes to the CD are good, and talk about Guaraldi’s modest self-appraisal, and his desire to make pretty music, and be loved for it. Well, I agree with the liner notes author; you did it Vince, and we love ya!

A few pieces have vocals from a children’s choir, which just adds to the festive charm. The Choir of St Paul’s Episcopal Church do themselves and the music proud.

If you’re interested, you can read more on the Peanut’s Yuletide special here. Rather like the two page comic strip ad for the special itself, that Schulz produced (which finds Charlie Brown lamenting the commercialisation of the season), all this stuff, the music included, had a beautifully gentle and lightly wistful edge to it.

Utterly lovely! Can’t recommend it highly enough.

* Apparently Guaraldi wasn’t the best at keeping accurate records of who performed on his dates. Which has lead to some confusion over personnel credits.

MiSC: Health

Just now… those eyes!

I’m not a big fan of selfie culture. But that said, sometimes it can have a value for me. In this post I’m musing on this latest bout of ill health I’m currently undergoing. The pic above was taken just now, still in bed, at about 6.45am.

Yesterday, feeling somewhat better.

The next pic in this series is me on the lounge couch yesterday, feeling substantially better. I think it shows! And the latest pic, at the top, is therefore a bit depressing; looks like I’ve been crying all night! I haven’t. But I have had a rough night of neck pain and extreme headaches, in addition to the Strep A throat.

This was Saturday night, in bed at Hannah’s.

And the third pic, the furthest back in time of the three? That reflects my annoyance, more than the physical toll illness is having. Whereas the image right at the top captures both, to my mind. Sometimes when you’re unwell you hit a plateaux of being sick of being sick. I’m there!

During the first three days of this throat infection I went from ‘business as usual’ on the Friday, which I’m assuming is the day I caught it, whilst teaching in two primary schools, to a 50/50 mix: bed rest most of the time, but still doing Amazon Flex delivery shifts (Saturday and Sunday), to more or less complete bed rest, yesterday and today (Monday and Tuesday).

Yesterday I had a blood test at the doc’s in the morning, and I cooked dinner in the evening. But outside of those two things, I was mostly in bed, sleeping or reading.

This could be very useful!

Today I ought to be working on a Grade 7 drum piece I’m doing with a pupil (Tower of Power’s terrific ‘What Is Hip’). And I’d also ideally like to do a shift for Amazon, as I really need the income! But from a health and well-being perspective I probably ought to be having complete rest. Hmmm!?

MUSiC: Iron Maiden Go Postal!

Steve Harris must be super-chuffed!

Iron Maiden didn’t trouble my recent top five post. But back in my mid-teens I was listening to them a lot. And I still do, occasionally. Power Slave was my favourite album back then, with Piece of Mind coming next. I’m not so keen on their pre Nicko/Dickinson stuff, and I haven’t followed their later releases. By which I mean everything after Live After Death!

Still, though I’m not their biggest fan, it’s nice to see them being honoured by the Royal Mail. They have their beers as well. So they’ve really gotten into the bloodstream of the nation, and now the postal service as well!

Well done fellas! You’ve earned it. Read more about this here.

PS – Not that I give a sh*t for anything to do with royalty/monarchy. Butt… shouldn’t it be Charles’ head in profile on stamps now?

MUSiC: Nirvana, Herbie Mann & Bill Evans, 1962

I love this album!

It’s on my Xmas/birthday wish list (here, if anyone’s interested*). I think I discovered it during a brief stint when, in my mid to late teens, I worked briefly at the Cambridge Central Library, in what was then (pre Grand Arcade) Lion Yard

Around that time I was using the library’s music collection – CDs were starting to replace vinyl (I even had a back room job at the library, helping facilitate this change-over) – to edumacate myself further, particularly re jazz.

Thanks to their esoteric selection I discovered this and numerous other great recordings, such as as Alice and John Coltrane’s Infinity.

Another fabulous recording.

The only reason this is four and a half and not five stars is the poor audio quality. I’m amazed that all this time later, nobody’s done a decent remaster. This is top drawer music, totally meriting a good sympathetic sonic clean-up!

* Password protected, to keep it private! I can email the password to anyone wanting to see it…

DRUMS: Ian Paice’s ‘Practice’ Routine.

This is an interesting video. It’s great to hear a fantastic drummer telling it, from his perspective, like it is.

It reminds me of a video in which George Harrison says he could be quite a good guitarist if he could be bothered to practice!

Although I am a drum teacher, more broadly speaking – as a musician/artist – I wouldn’t necessarily advice that anyone to do as I do, or, for that matter, as Ian Paice does.

Unlike Paice, I haven’t had a stellar career recording and performing with one of the worlds’ most successful rock bands.

What I do have in common with him, however, is noticing that when I have periods of frequent live musical activity – rehearsals, recordings, and especially gigs – my playing develops quite naturally/organically.

A much younger Paice.

But then again, unlike Paice, I’m someone who does actually positively revel in practice. Indeed, over time I’ve evolved away from the ‘just jamming’ model (what I call ‘free play’ in my teaching), as favoured by Ian, towards focussed technique-based work.

I think ideally one ought to have a see-sawing motion of balance between such free play and technical development. Both ought to inform and improve each other.

Interestingly, one of Paicey’s favourite hobbyhorse points concerns the single-stroke roll. And that in turn reminds me of a video in which Grayson Nekrutman seeks to emulate Buddy Rich’s lightning speed singles (amongst other things!)

Ian Paice believes, and I can totally see and understand why, that everything else in drumming flows from this single simple yet limitlessly challenging technique or rudiment.

Anyway, let’s treasure, celebrate and learn from Ian whilst we still have him around. What a legend!

The Mule, ‘72.

MUSiC: RIP Dino Danelli

Damn, another one off to the great Jam Sesh in The Sky!

Those outfits!

Dino Danelli is referred to, in a quote on his wiki page, as ‘one of the great unappreciated rock drummers in history.’

He’s someone I’ve been meaning to check out for years. I have a fair bit by The Rascals in my mp3 collection. But I haven’t listened to it a great deal.

I was always a bit surprised that they were lauded by the funky soul brigade. I recall reading about them in Wax Poetics, and thinking they looked a bit off that mag’s usual musical map.

Dino did the cover art for this ‘72 release.

I think that’s quite possibly largely due to their last release, 1972’s The Island Of Real. Although they had streaks of blue-eyed soul running through a fair bit of their music.

The first album I got by them was the unusual Freedom Suite. Alleged by some ( for example) to be ‘the beginning of the end’ for the band, I’m sure I read somewhere that some of the group’s contributions to this disc were replaced by session players?

Riding the hippy wave!

One of their biggest hits – a number one in the US for 5 weeks in ‘68 – was People Got To Be Free, the groups’ comment on the murders of Martin Luther King and Bob Kennedy.

To finish this post, here’s Boom, Danelli’s drum solo feature from the Freedom Suite album:

MUSiC: Transcribing Drums – Midnight Rendezvous, Casiopea, 1979

Takashi in the studio.*

I have been digging the fantastic drumming of Takashi Sasaki for a while now. He was, strictly speaking, Casiopea’s second drummer. Their first drummer, Tohru ‘Rika’ Suzuki, didn’t record with the group (at least not on an officially released album). Hence Sasaki is commonly thought of and referred to as their first, as he’s the first to be heard in the chronology of their official recorded discography.

His style is light, tight, intricate and highly musical. His chops are extraordinary. With a mastery of dynamics – the range between his ghosted notes, standard hits, and accents, make his playing very hard to accurately emulate – and a penchant for a style Weather Report infamously described as ‘soloing all the time without ever soloing’.

Looks like an album cover or sleeve montage?

He can and does get busy at times, but he always grooves like a mother! Some of his fills are truly ballistic. And, occasionally, they’re almost impossible to decipher. This is particularly true of a few fills (and possibly even grooves?) on the super tasty Midnight Rendezvous.

Even using Moises to isolate the drums, and ASD to slow them down, there’s a fill at around the 3.00 mark that is doing my noggin in. I initially thought perhaps it was in fives, or something like that. But repeated listening leaves me stumped. I need to have it running as a slowed-down and visual (wave-form) loop, methinks. I’ve not tried that as yet.

My score for this is a work still in progress.

It’s taken me a good few hours to get down the first two pages of what will, I think, be a four page score. And even the fifty or so per-cent I’ve done so far will, undoubtedly, be subject to some revision.

I’ve got as far as the end of the (very tasty) guitar solo. Next up is the keys solo, under which Sasaki does some very light and intricate stuff. I’ve blocked in some of this latter section. But I’ve yet to get in there and tweak it.

Sketched out, and still needing fine tuning…

All the cats in this band are just utterly phenomenal. They play in that deliriously groovy sweet-spot, where instrumental prowess and sheer good taste, when it comes to musical choices, collide.

Once I’ve finished the transcription, I intend to learn to play the whole piece as best I can. I’d like to do a YouTube video cover of it, and share it online.

It’s funny for me, as a primarily self-taught drummer, who’s only learned to read drum music ‘on the job’. Stuff that ‘classically trained’ musos might find obvious and easy can sometimes fox me. Transcribing stuff is proving a great way to teach myself written music. Albeit I’m still dealing in timing only, and not pitch/harmony, etc.

A master at work. What became of him?

Here’s a specific example of how I’m learning on the job: there are some quick ‘crushed bounce’ style left hand-doubles – sometimes such stuff is played as a buzz; but oft-times you can clearly hear these as a double – and I initially thought, ok, just turn a single 1/16th into two 1/32nd’s.

But that just sounded so wrong! So instead I turned the ‘&-a’-notes from two 1/16ths (or more [in]accurately one 1/16th and two 1/32nd notes) to a group of three 1/16 note triples. The resultant ‘4-e-&-trip-let’ subdivision sounds and feels sooo much better. And that’s how he plays it. Learning on the job!

* Those tom angles!? They look awful… like a school-kid’s drum set up. Still, the sounds he gets, the feel he achieves, that’s the proof o’th’ puddin’. Just goes to show there’s no single right way. Each to their own!