Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lewis Nash Master Class

This master class is from the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival. It features a drummer who I very much admire, Lewis Nash.

He packs an amazing amount of tips, attitude and philosophy into this class. I will end this post with Lewis performing a great Ellington/Juan Tizol tune accompanying saxophonist Steve Wilson.

First up is a lesson in vocalizing what you are playing. This first piece may come across as corny to drummers not versed in jazz, but ignore it at your own peril.

The second segment is all about tasteful and balanced playing. In other words, when to use power in your accompanying and when to hold it in check to support the music.

Segment three is probably the most important of the master class (in my opinion) because too many drummers just fail to understand how to properly pull it off. Many drummers believe that our job is to merely keep time, chugging along locked into the bassist and pretty much ignoring what the rest of the musicians are doing. In fact, we are responsible for at least supporting the melody and understanding the harmonic structure of what is being played as well. Here are Mr. Nash's approach and ideas, which are worth their weight in gold:

In my intro I mentioned that Lewis packed attitude and philosophy into this series of lessons. This segment focuses on the attitude (among other topics):

In this final segment Lewis steps up to probably the biggest stumbling block most drummers - and especially the less experienced - encounter: ballads. Note: Two sources of my previous posts that are good supplements to this segment are this one, and Another Study in Tempos: Stirring the soup.

I'll conclude with a duet between Lewis and Steve Wilson performing Caravan. There are a few noteworthy things happening in this clip. Foremost is Lewis' choice of grooves and mastery of dynamics. Caravan is typically played much louder on toms, but the groove is fit to the music and the room. If you learn nothing else from this post, learn the way he tastefully supports the music by playing to the situation and not blindly playing cliches that many drummers employ on this song.

Second, you do not necessarily need a bassist or any other instrument as long as at least one instrument in the ensemble can play the melody. And surprisingly Wilson does. What I mean by surprisingly is in the hands of most saxophonists a soprano sax sounds like cats fucking. One of the reasons is the instrument is actually not in tune with itself, which is not a good quality for an instrument that is going to be the sole source of the melody in a performance. But Wilson pulls it off, leading me to conclude that he must have been channeling Sidney Bechet, the only other musician who mastered that evil instrument.

One final note: most of my recent efforts have gone into adding content to my Music for Drummers blog, and that trend will continue.