Rhythm Section Class

Rhythm Section Class

 If you've ever had to perform, speak or act in front  of a small group, like say, your instructors and classmates or you were put on the spot by a grandparent or other relative, to get out there and dance for everybody, then you know how it felt today in the Rhythm Section Performance class.


If you’ve ever had to perform, speak or act in front of a small group, like say, your instructors and classmates or you were put on the spot by a grandparent or other relative, to get out there and dance for everybody, then you know how it felt today in the Rhythm Section Performance class.

TDS @ Drummers Collective NYC Day 5

It started last night while putting together yesterdays TDS blog which ran into the weee hours of the morning. It’s funny how I try to self-will the darn Sprint Air Card attached to the computer to get faster internet speed in order to publish the web page when all I had to do was ask my wonderful niece to jump on the house internet that she had offered more than three times already,lol. I finally jumped on at a thousand o’clock in the morning, thus the early morning emails. I felt like I really had to get the blog done and out, no matter what, even with very little sleep going into the next class day. I’ll try not to be so hard-headed next time and take the easy, softer route, if one exists. We shall see tonight because I’m in a different location without free internet and have to rely on the Sprint Air Card.

Needless to say, the lack of rest left me feeling unprepared for today’s session. I felt I was ready but clearly didn’t feel rested and focused. I was hoping to just slide through like I was invisible and the other side of it is, I didn’t know what to expect. Those two combined allowed for a bit of anxiety and second guessing.

We were asked to prepare two songs of our choice from any of the styles we studied earlier in the week and perform them in front of Peter Retzlaff our Jazz instructor who is a bad Kat for sure. He’s also the Director of Curriculum at The Collective and has performed with the likes of Maynard Ferguson, Diane Schuur and more. Since I’m a lefty, I deferred playing till last and my other two classmates went first. Allessadro (Italy) did a great job playing a solid groove on James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” that features the famous “Fat Back Beat” the number one Soul beat that every drummer must know. Mr Retzlaff made some suggestions and asked Allessandro to play again and if was even better only this time he was allowed to stretch out or take more liberties with the keyboard player and bassist. The challenge was to play at a super low volume in the beginning and keep the same type of intensity and rhythmic integrity as you build the song along with the other players dynamics as you’re going through each full chorus.

Next up, Costas (Greece) performed a Latin Jazz classic called “One Note Samba” by Antonio Carlos Jobim. This is a very delicate song that uses a Samba cross-stick pattern on the snare and 16TH notes on the HiHat, along with  a 1,a 2, a 3, a 4 in the kick. Truly a work out in independence and accuracy, very demanding, yet smooth and silky. Costas was also asked to stretch out and solo over the chorus. He was confident and flawless. Mr Retzlaff gave good comments to Costas, emphasizing the shaping of the musical arch from beginning to middle than on through the end. He suggested he use the cross-stick and hihat at the beginning phrase than on to cross-stick and cymbal combinations, moving to snare and cymbal and on to orchestrating these with the toms to add more colors.

At this point I was able to relax more due to Mr Retzlaff having a gentle and nurturing quality about himself, giving praise and helpful suggestions to enhance Costas and Allesandro’s style with out asking them to lose their unique interpretations and sense of creativity. As I was rearranging the drums, I was trying to use the same medicine that I tell all of you, that is to relax by breathing and getting comfortable and stay in the moment thru a sense of calm focus and enjoy the experience with gratitude and an open mind. I chose “Straight No Chaser” by Jazz Legend, Thelonious Monk. I felt like, OK I can do this, so I asked the keyboardist to hum the melody, WRONG, aren’t I supposed to know that?. I than counted it off and jumped right into a half time jazz feel on the hihat but the Bassist went right into a walking bass line. After a couple of quick beats, I abruptly jumped over to the ride cymbal to match the Bassist. Mr Retzlaff stopped us and I knew somebody was gonna get it. Thinking that the original  starts in a half time feel, I felt like I was right, WRONG. He pointed out that regardless if the Bassist and I were on the same page, I shouldn’t jump out of the hihat pattern, over to the ride pattern well before I can safely exit the freeway, so to speak. We started the song again and we were off and running safely to first base and eventually ended the tune after the keyboard and bass player took a solo. I went on to trading fours bar solos with the piano. Mr Retzlaff, gave me some very valuable pointers. He said, build up my playing dynamics over 12 measures or even 24 or 32 measures instead of 4 measures at a time, to match the progression build by the other players lead and try to feel how many choruses their thinking about building and to spread out ideas more efficiently. That along with the other suggestions Mr Retzlaff made to Costas and Allesandro, allowed me to hear things clearer and thus give a much wider array of support and energy to the trio. It really felt good the second time through.

Suit up and show up, no matter what, is the phrase that pays. I had to be vulnerable, humble and open-minded. People say be humble or be humiliated, my choice.

I am so grateful to Mr Retzlaff’s approach to problem solving and nurturing the spirit. Tired, nervous, a little edgy and no real breakfast, topped off with that New York rush rush rush attitude, can bring on lot’s of anxiety which can spur on doubt and fear, but when I suit up and show up, no matter what, stay open-minded and teachable, I can always receive the GIFT. Today was a very good day.

To round out my day, my much better half, Karen and our awesome wunderkind Jeremy, arrived today to spend the weekend with me. I can’t describe the feeling I get and the release of all that was, when I get a big juicy hug form my Honey Karen. It brings a wholeness and centered feeling to my core and bares proof that the soulmate thing is much more than felt, it becomes a tangible quality that brings more purpose to life and makes me smile from ear to ear. CHEERs, MY HONEY IS HERE!

Blue Man Group on Saturday, yeahh!

Kris