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If you know anything about Dave King then you’re not at all surprised at the nature of Rational Funk, his new series of drum instructional videos. Deep musical truths couched almost unidentifiably in humor. Funk lives, and is rational.
Ants on a log. I like it.
This week’s “Recent Listening” post is all about Happy Apple, the band that first introduced me to Dave King and avante garde jazz. This band had SO MUCH influence on me during my college years. I saw them play live at least 100 times between 1998 and 2002, and I have all of their records memorized. Additionally, King gave me about 1.5 gigs of live recordings which I’ve combed through repeatedly.
A handful of recent conversations with friends combined with last week’s “From The Archives” post have conspired to put me back on the train of the Apple’s triumphant discography. DANG IT. They are so good. It is basically everything I want out of music, and the more I dig the more I find. Moving compositions, incredible improvising, deft manipulation of time signatures and odd meters/phrasing, and unreal facility on their instruments. Look it up. Get into it.
My top picks for getting into Happy Apple are:
1) Please Refrain From Fronting … the Apple’s 4th record… an unbelievable display of everything awesome about music.
2) Happy Apple Back On Top … their most recent recording, which unfortunately dates back to 2007.
3) Body Popping, Moon Walking, Top Rocking … the band’s 3rd record, and perhaps their best sounding work (sonically). An amazing audio capturing of this band, with two juggernaut tunes that I can’t get enough of (Barstowe Sizzler, Wishing Book)
4) Blown Shockwaves and Crash Flow … the out-of-print debut recording. In Dave’s own words… “I played stuff on that record that I can’t play anymore. I think I was at the top of my game, chops-wise.”
5) SEEING THEM LIVE. Really appreciating the art behind this music can’t happen fully without witnessing it personally. Since they don’t play out very often anymore, I recommend hitting this great playlist of tracks from their 2011 performance at Lawrence University.
PS… I had an absolute blast last week making this mashup using the 16 seconds of intro groove King plays on “Waltz For The Few Remaining” (off Please Refrain From Fronting). That tune is one of my all time favs.
My former teacher Dave King is featured in this month’s Modern Drummer magazine. The article is fantastic and Dave’s insights are so valuable. Reading it really reminded me of the hours and hours I spent listening to his wisdom and passion for music/art during our lessons and hangs. No single person has shaped my perspectives on how to do what I do more than Dave.
Hit a drum shop and get yourself a copy asap.
This is Dave King, an incredible musician that I had the privilege to study with for two and a half years, and a man I continue to have the privilege of calling friend. He is basically inspiration incarnate.
I’ve never been the kind of guy who spends a lot of time transcribing the playing of drummers I admire. Transcription is a big part of instrumental study for many people, but that’s not the case for me, and there’s a very direct and specific reason: Dave King, my former teacher, didn’t like transcription. That’s all it is.
But it wasn’t Dave’s dislike for transcription that really affected me, it was the reason for his dislike. Dave accurately identified music as having a primarily emotional existence, and he always emphasized this over anything else in our lessons. That emphasis often took the lesson content down long, spiraling, and very “artsy-fartsy” paths, but I always learned a TON. As I have continued past my lessons with him to teach lessons of my own, I always try to continue the emphasis on the artistic side of things, although I think I probably use less abstract terminology.
Now back to transcription. Because of Dave’s heavy attention toward emotional/artistic merit, he felt that the mechanical/technical nature of transcribing was misleading. In other words, simply writing down someone’s playing note for note won’t necessarily give any insight on why their playing feels the way it feels and has the impact that it has. In fact, transcribing will probably create more problems than solutions if one supposes that transcribing alone is the only necessary component to learning to play like the greats. Tone, context, time-feel, precision… all of these factors affect the emotional and artistic impact of what you play as heavily as the note-for-note analysis, if not heavier.
My point is this: music has a few different levels of existence. You can’t fully grasp/understand/appreciate what someone plays merely by copying what they do note-for-note. The true essence of music is waaaaaay deeper than that.
My dear and infamous friend Dave King released a solo record yesterday called Indelicate. The album is just drums/piano – a duet with himself (he performed both instruments).
Here’s my review: “THE WORLD IS NOT READY.”
And here is an interview with Dave on this past weekend’s The Local Show on 89.3 The Current. You should probably prioritize listening to the interview, that is, if you like listening to things that are interesting, funny, and inspiring.
The video of Joey Baron that I posted the other day reminded me of how much I like that guy… which got me thinking about other jazz players I like. In typical geek fashion, I was soon formulating a “Top Five” list of my fav jazz players. Here’s what said list currently looks like:
1. Tony Williams
2. Elvin Jones
3. Jeff Watts
4. Joey Baron
5. Brian Blade
This is in order. Tony will always be my number one – BUT, this list leaves out David King (my former teacher), who is automatically tied for the number one spot, just by nature of his immense influence on my playing.
– Paul Motian
– Jack DeJohnette
– Jorge Rossy
– Roy Haynes
– Max Roach
– Ralph Peterson Jr.
– Billy Higgins
Notice toward the end of the clip when the interviewer completely botches her facts on the Nirvana cover that The Bad Plus did on their first record. Awesome.
The pick for the third installment of Album of the Week is Haley Bonar’s new record, Big Star. Haley is a friend of mine from the music scene in Minneapolis, and the rest of the band members on this recording are also Minneapolis musicians: Dave King on drums (my former teacher), Bill Mike on guitars (from the Bill Mike Band), and Chris Morrissey on bass/vocals (also from the Bill Mike Band). BUT, Big Star isn’t the new Album of the Week just because the musicians are my friends. It is a truly incredible record.
The music follows a standard folk formula, with the typical focus on song writing and melody, but includes sonic landscaping reminiscent of Death Cab meets Fiona Apple. The record was tracked at Pachyderm Studios and mixed by the world-renowned Tchad Blake, which keeps the quality from sounding sub-par or “indie” (even though the entire production was managed on just a small percentage of a major label budget). The “indie” spirit and creativity is still present, however. And then, sitting comfortably on top of all of this, is Haley’s voice, which is one of the most unique-yet-soothing female vocal that I have ever heard.
The readers of this blog that are familiar with Dave King and the rest of his discography will be blown away by the way King is able to retain his personality on the drum set while still serving the music of a folk record. His feel is of course incredible, but the real magic of King’s playing on Big Star is the approach and treatment that he gives to each tune. At no point does he infringe on the style of the music, and yet almost every track contains unique and forward-thinking ideas for folk drumming.
Everyone should at the very least go visit Haley’s Myspace page and listen to a couple of the tracks, and you can also find info there on her tour dates and other happenings.
I’ve mentioned Dave King before on this blog and I will do it again. I studied with him for a few years during college. He is the single biggest influence on my playing, and my perspective on music as a whole. If you read this blog and you aren’t familiar with him, then here are some links to check out all the different bands he’s in…
In addition to all these bands, King has also recorded and performed with Jeff Beck, The Jayhawks, Iffy, FKG, Craig Taborn, Tim Berne, 12RODS, Haley Bonar, Mason Jennings, Bill Carrothers, and many others. You can check out his Zildjian artist profile here, and there’s a Modern Drummer Magazine article on him here.
UPDATE: Some of Dave’s recent endeavors as a bandleader include a trio record called I’ve Been Ringing You, a Dave King Trucking Company record called Good Old Light, and an interesting solo album called Indelicate. Furthermore, if you want get a glimpse of Dave’s comedy side, scroll through his blog posts (explicit content). Also worth watching are the handful of YouTube interviews with him like this and this… and there’s even a full-length MOVIE on him.