You all know how much I love Steve Jordan. So it was an absolute treat to spend a couple hours yesterday afternoon watching his Memphis Drumshop webcast with bassist Leroy Hodges. I knew it was happening and then forgot about it and then remembered again in time to not miss it, so I apologize for not giving more of a head’s up on this blog (in case you would have wanted to see it but didn’t know it happened). Hopefully it will turn up on Youtube, though I haven’t found it yet.
Anyway, as soon as the webcast got started I realized that taking notes would be worth the effort, so this post will basically be a bunch of excerpts from my notes on the webcast.
First of all, some great one-liner quotes from Jordan…
“Good music grows with age… like a fine wine… it’s gets better and better over time.”
“I made a pact with myself that I was going to play with as many people as possible, and that includes every genre”
“I don’t call myself a jazz drummer or a rock drummer or whatever… that’s somebody else’s tool… that’s not how I think of music. Punk music is just a funky as funk music sometimes… jazz used to be pop… it’s all just excellent music.”
“In my opinion, the whole vocabulary for the modern jazz drummer was created by Philly Joe Jones”
“When you’re making music with other people and you know it’s working, you just gotta keep it going”
“Simplicity is not the same as stupidity”
“You have to stay true to what you’re doing and not think about all this other stuff that shouldn’t come into the picture for you while you’re on the seat”
Next up, some general notes…
– The snare tone Jordan had for this webcast setup is killer, and from what I can tell it’s only gaff tape (he explicitly states that he’s not using his wallet). You can see gaff tape muffling (and the roll of gaff sitting on the floor tom) in the photo above (which I grabbed from @IdHitThatPod’s twitter post).
– Also regarding the setup, I noticed the absence of a reso head on his kick drum, as well as a coated batter head on the kick drum. Both of these are somewhat uncommon but becoming more common.
– Also regarding technique, I really enjoyed the use of the rack tom as a right hand constant (hihat, ride, etc) during the intro of “Take Me To The River,” and the rest of that tune had killer cross-stick tone (probably due to the upside down left hand stick).
– Last technique note: Did anyone notice the hihat left foot 8ths while simultaneously playing right hand 8ths on the hihats? I think he did it during his rendition of the “I Gotta Woman” groove. CRA. ZY.
– Jordan played no crashes on any of the first tune he and Leroy performed. He used only a couple of bell hits at the beginning and end. This is surely due to the nature of the song itself, but it worked really well for the sonic environment of only drums and bass.
– The groove from JMT’s “I Gotta Woman” is apparently stolen from Sly Stone’s “You Can Make It If You Try,” which Jordan references as a “Northern California thing.” Does anyone know what he means by that?
– The first Yamaha Club Custom kit was made specifically for Jordan and his band the Verbs, and was even designed by Jordan himself. I didn’t know this.
– Some guy named Jim Pettit from Memphis gave Steve a 13″ Ludwig piccolo snare (a wood drum) that is the driest piccolo Steve has ever heard. Anybody have ideas on what model this drum is?
Lastly, some quotes from the webcast with commentary from me…
When asked what the most important lesson is for upcoming musicians, Hodges answered: “Not to overplay… stay in your lane… don’t try to be a star.” Jordan echoed this with “it’s the humility aspect.” This is a huge aspect of understanding and successfully fighting drummer disease.
“When I play with Sonny Rollins, he really likes the sound of my Paiste Traditional cymbals.” Well, that’s because Paiste Traditionals absolutely rule. A glowing endorsement from the legendary Sonny Rollins should be enough validation for anybody.
“What the 17’s do for me is, they actually blend with the drums better for me, they’re meatier sounding, lower in pitch, and if I’m playing jazz (plays uptempo for about 32 bars, switching from ride to hats halfway thru) it gives my versatility… and then the swampy thing is big and mushy sounding… There was a period of time where I just got tired of the hihats, and I got kinda annoyed with it, and I was starting to get bigger and bigger, and the 17’s made a big difference.” I can personally relate to every point he makes here, at least as far as the 16’s I’ve been lately. I think I’ll see about grabbing some 17’s soon just because of this quote.
“The concept behind a drum kit is to have them all resound together”… “when isolation became paramount the sound changed, which is cool for certain records, but there are certain things you can’t do with that sound.” Notice that he doesn’t slam isolation as being completely worthless, and neither does he trumpet the resounding “togetherness” thing as being always better. There’s a time and a place for everything.
“We’re in an era of music where everything is being corrected… most pop music is based on programs (click track and metronome-based)… what that does is it takes out some of the human aspect of the great recordings that we love… your heart doesn’t just beat the same beat all the time, you get excited your heart rate goes up! And that doesn’t mean that you don’t have good time… that’s the difference between time and the POCKET. I do advocate working on your time so you can develop steady time… you need excellent time, and that’s something that you work at”… “but Brown Sugar ends 20bpm faster than it starts… does that matter? Would you change it for a take that stayed steady?” This quote was in the midst of a ton of goldmine comments about click and time and perfect vs breathing and that whole discussion. I would love to hear more from Jordan on this topic, only because I feel like I might possibly disagree with him. Is he trying to say that the programmed grooves that are used heavily in today’s pop music are simply NOT very grooving? I don’t think he would say that, but the discussion kinda leans that way. I do love his distinction between time and pocket though, which is an important thing for all of us to remember. The pocket is the point. The pocket is the goal.