Change The Guard

This chant became a warm up exercise along with being one of the most challenging chants to perform at fast tempos. “Change The Guard” has alternate titles and was written by alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. This lesson is based off the version recorded on Tao of Mad Phat. There are numerous live versions on audio and video and this composition and chant have been the skeleton for many performances where other classics are superimposed into this particular sequence. Most Western chants start with a kick drum and a crash. It is the most common familiarity in Western drum set concept. However, “Change The Guard” begins with the snare followed by a double kick and a ride bell pattern. It sounds backwards. Then there is the form that is S S L or Short, Short, Long. You can call this the framework from which the composition is rhythmically based. There are two sections that flip flop triggered by a horn cue I play on rhythm guitar during the performance with the accompaniment. When I auditioned for Steve in April of 1996, I walked into Ultra Sound rehearsal studios in NYC on West 30th in Midtown Manhattan. It seemed as if every drummer in New York City was there. I didn’t intend to nail this audition or be chosen for the band. I attended because a friend suggested it and I figured it was a fast way to meet a lot of drummers in an instant. Many of the drummers that auditioned before and after me were typical and didn’t have the ability to translate unusual rhythmic patterns on the spot. Steve was looking for a musician with quick ears and the sense to adapt in an uncomfortable situation. Next thing I know, I’m in the band and my first gig was scheduled for North Sea Jazz Festival in July that year. Steve was beginning his residency plans in which he sets up residence in a city for a couple weeks performing, woodshedding and conducting workshops. The band was in residence in Oakland, CA and Stanford University from June – August 1996 and those weeks set the pace for the following six week European Tour. I would go on to work with this band for the next 6 years until 2002. I rejoined in 2012.


This is basically what it’s all about. Being creative no matter the style or genre of music. This is a live version of an original song off my latest solo album Zoom.  There’s a lot of pressure recording and capturing all the instruments in front of a camera but, the key is to have fun. During the technical process of audio and video engineering I always remind myself of the final vision.


I moved the studio to a bigger location allowing me to do one man live performances. This is not something new in film and video, yet still very affective especially when the audio is the live feed. My daughter Ronni assisted me in producing this video which was crucial because she saved me a lot of time helping me with camera angles and she ran the audio desk while I performed. Drums went down first. I didn’t play to a click or music. I used complete memory. I knew every part of the song. Memory is one of the prime areas a good musician must have, especially drummers. Being that this is a stripped down simple rock tune, there are still areas that require as much focus as anything requiring technique. The accents, the phrasing, the type of drum fills along with the camera angle editing all matters. The drummer is the one that sets the feel of the song and supports that first and foremost.


Every time I sit behind the kit immediately after setting up for a gig, I do this warm up exercise to loosen my wrists and ankles. This is not something I practice with a metronome nor is this something I am very technical about. For the sake of explanation and clarification, I demonstrate with a metronome at 80 BPM, 120 BPM and 180 BPM. The pedaled hat demonstrates the spaces the doubles fall into. This happens to be in 3 but like I said before, this is not the point. The point is to play this figure loosely and very fast to loosen the wrists and ankles.