Blue Whale/Los Angeles Residency Featuring Steve Coleman & Five Elements December 14, 2016

During our second residency since our first appearance in Downtown Los Angeles at the club Blue Whale in 2014, our band conducted daily three hour workshops followed by two sets of nightly performances.
15391294_10154929316364284_6313977484603794744_oThe workshops allowed musicians as well as anyone merely interested to get an insider’s look into how Coleman’s approach to composition works. Coleman led lengthy explanations that were more like briefings on a specific subject that usually tied into another such as harmony and leading tones. Or another example is rhythm concentrating on triple (ternary) feel versus duple feel. Workshops were as spontaneous as performing onstage because the main goal was to cover as much material as possible on any and all subjects involving music composition. So, in a sense, workshops never really end.
The performances were a way to express and demonstrate the material covered in workshops.

Cascara 1 & 2

Two patterns are used in traditional and contemporary Afro-Cuban music deriving from sacred and secular folkloric traditions. The timbalero (solo percussionist) plays these patterns. Over time, this adapted to the full drum kit. The name “Cascara” refers to these patterns being played on the shell of timbales or the rim of the floor tom. Today, Cascara refers to the rhythm itself. The thing to pay attention to as with Son and Rumba Clave are the distinct differences with how the Cascara fits with each Clave. For example, Son Clave pivots on the “and” of 2. Rumba Clave pivots on the “a” of 2. Playing this very slowly will give you the distinct difference. Notice how the Clave is played with the side stick on the snare rim and the Cascara is played on the cowbell, hi hat or ride cymbal. The kick drum is the same for Cascara 1 & 2. It fits between the Clave beats creating a very funky vibe.

Son & Rumba Clave

Legendary Cuban Drummer, Ignacio Berroa, said “Clave is a pattern and a feel around which all the parts of the music has to fit. It’s like a guide that will tell you how to play this music.” There are 2 claves. Son clave and Rumba clave. With Son clave the third beat falls on beat 4. With Rumba clave the third beat falls on the and of beat 4. You can play each clave 3, 2 or 2, 3 meaning the first three beats in the first measure and the last two in the second measure or vice versa. When accompanying music, the melody tells you which type of clave to play. The opening performance switches between Son and Rumba 2,3 claves. The lesson demonstrates Son and Rumba clave at 80, 120 and 140BPM.

Rhythm Master Class at The Kimmel Center Philadelphia, PA November 12, 2016

The focus here is shapes. The Western world is in what I call a Rhythmic Apocalypse. In Western culture, our popular rhythms are based primarily on the duple feel. Triple feel, also known as ternary, seems to exist at a much lesser degree. Duple and triple feel are environments in which simple, yet unique shapes can be created.
2016-11-21 15.00.48Keeping to the shapes as duple and triple feel separate and collide creates a multi-layered sense and approach to rhythm demonstrated in this master class. These are ways of using short-term memory to approach time keeping without counting in the traditional sense. The feel and shape are always the most important things going on for a drummer performing any style of music. Highlights here include a look at duple versus triple feel. Performing a 5 beat pattern clave over a 6 beat triple phrase follows. Long and short beat combinations are used to spell out shapes. The Master Class ends with a multi-layered piece based on spoken word where the students participate.