Category: Fusion

7 Days

I’m not referring to the lame Sting song (ok ok, I admit I like it… relax), I’m talking about the seven days I just spent on vacation in Mexico. Without going into too many details (most of which, I can’t really remember anyway), my wife and I just returned from a much needed getaway to Tulum. A place where the sun is hot, the beer is cold and the tacos are cheap. In other words, my Heaven.

Watch out for the Green Fairy

Loop #126

To celebrate the return from my seven day vacation, I decided it would be appropriate to record a series of loops in 7/8. Here’s a two measure snippet from today’s session, the rest of which, will be made available to my loyal and extremely good-looking subscribers on April 1st (not a joke).

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135 BPM

It’s now time to play…. Name That Meter!

Since my last odd meter loop stirred up so much interest around the internets, I figured I’d step it up and get all kinds of crazy with another, more complex groove. And rather than tell you what meter it’s in, I decided to turn it into a contest of sorts. Here’s the deal. The first person to respond in the comments section with the correct time signature will be the lucky winner of:

– A meet and greet with Dream Theater the next time they play in your city (A quick game of D&D is also included).

– An Igloo cooler full of yellow snow (vintage snow, from like 1974) signed by Frank himself.

– A 3 month subscription to the member’s only area of ryangruss.com

In total, a prize package valued at almost $30!

Come on down!
Come on down!

Loop #115

So, here it is. The mystery odd meter loop. Don’t hurt yourself trying to figure it out.. and don’t try to dance along to it. That’s not going to work out. And most importantly, be sure to leave your answer in the comments section. The winner will be notified via carrier pigeon in the next few weeks.

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Tweaking

Maybe that fourth cup of coffee was a bad idea? Today’s caffeine overdose has pushed me to the limit, causing my palms to sweat, my heart to palpitate and my drumming to be completely obnoxious.

My Target Audience
Today's Target Audience

Loop #105

A two measure loop with enough ghost notes to fill eight measures, this groove is short on restraint and heavy on bass. Get your glow sticks and lollipops out, the kids are going to love this one.

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144 BPM

Let Me Tell You About Chach

Every winter, when I travel home to West Des Moines, Iowa to celebrate Christmas with my family, I also take part in a “reunion concert” of sorts with some old friends from high school. Fourteen years ago, just before packing up my bags and heading to Berklee, I teamed up with some other members of my high school jazz band to find a way to get into bars without a fake ID. The solution? Start a funk band. And give it a really bad name.

At first we were called Pushin’ Chunky. Then we were D.I.M. (Drunkards In Motion). Several years ago, we somehow transitioned into the rather unfortunate moniker, Chach. Our name may change a lot, but the set list never really does. Stocked full of quintessential bar-funk-soul-r&b-band standards such as Sex Machine, Superstition, Everybody’s Everything and Pass The Peas, it’s three hours of music that we can pull off on an annual basis… without a single rehearsal. Consistent? Yes. Tight? Eh. Tight enough.

Chach - Circa '95 - Excuse the shirts.
Chach - Circa '95 - Excuse the shirts.

Loop #104

In preparation for this year’s Chach-fest, I’ve been brushing up on the ‘ol funk chops. Today’s loop is one of the many Kenwood-esque grooves that will be making the annual appearance down on Court Avenue. Two measures, some swung sixteenth notes and an open hi hat on the “one”. It’s what the best bar bands are made of. And yes, it looks like I finally quit the drum replacer habit.

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95 BPM

Relaxin’ at Camarillo + Bonus Loop Pack

While I’m not a big fan of packing up everything you own, moving it into a new place and then unpacking again, it does tend have its little rewards. Like rediscovering items you forgot you even possessed. In this case, that item is Joe Henderson’s incredible 1979 album, “Relaxin’ at Camarillo”. I had purchased this record back in high school while going through my “must own everything Tony Williams ever played on” phase and somehow managed to lose track of it after 10 years of continuous moving from apartment to apartment in NYC.

Not only is Tony’s playing on this album mind blowing as usual, this record was a significant musical discovery for me because it introduced me to the fantastic drumming of Peter Erskine. Occupying the drum seat for half of the album, a 25 year old Erskine definitely holds his own alongside another legendary jazz musician, Chick Corea.

Relaxin' at Camarillo
Relaxin' at Camarillo

Loop #99

Today’s loop (and bonus pack for subscribers) was inspired by the opening track on Relaxin’ At Camarillo, “Y Todavia La Quiero”. Based around an 8 bar vamp, this song not only showcases Joe Henderson’s huge sound and improvisational genius, but also Peter Erskine’s knack for driving a band with dynamics, groove and his trademark musicality. Blurring the lines of latin, funk and rock, Peter takes the chops he honed while in Weather Report and pushes this quartet into new musical territory.

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240 BPM

Subscribers, click on the picture of a scantily clad Erskine (you non-subscribers are really missing out… trust me) below to download the bonus pack containing 10 groove variations and fills (each in WAV, AIFF, REX2 formats) from this session.

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Funk Salad

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing my old classmate, Adam Deitch, perform for all of the incoming babies students at Berklee. Adam had a great band playing with him, including Eric Krasno and my former NYC roommate, Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff on guitar. While the band was officially billed as “Chapter 2″, it also consisted of half of the members of Lettuce. If you haven’t checked out their 2008 release, “Rage!”, then you’ve missed out one of the funkiest, most soulful albums of the past five years. These guys graduated from the University of Wally’s with honors and keep getting better every year.

Adam Deitch
Adam Deitch

Loop #93

With the snare cranked up tight, and a steady flow of ghost-notes, today’s loop cops more than a few of Adam’s licks. You’ll hear I still haven’t tamed my overly live tracking room (weekend project #172), but for this groove, it seems to work in favor of the mix. I’ll be including the rest of the grooves and fills from this session in the release of Gruss Loops V.

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93 BPM

Jazz Week

So, rather unintentionally, it’s turned into “jazz week” over here at ryangruss.com. Maybe it’s the large supply of ride cymbals I currently possess, or maybe it’s just the warm spring air inspiring me to play something other than Top 40-friendly backbeats. Whatever the case, I keep recording various jazz grooves every time I step into the studio… and like REO Speedwagon once said, “I can’t fight this feeling anymore“.

Loop #62

Tony Williams
Tony Williams

Today’s loop is an eight bar phrase that incorporates a few things that were inspired by the great Tony Williams. No, I didn’t paint my kit canary-yellow and put black dot heads on every drum (though I’ve thought about it). I incorporated Tony’s distinct, hi hat on every beat approach (instead of the more traditional 2 & 4) along with some single stroke rolls and aggressive ride playing.

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220 BPM

Five for the rest of us.

Odd meters aren’t just for fusion jams and epic, prog rock instrumentals. They can even be used in hit songs, especially when the meter is in five. From Dave Brubeck to Radiohead, this odd meter has been working it’s way up the charts and into the public consciousness for decades.

5/4 isn't just for these guys.
5/4 isn't just for these guys.

Loop #38

Today’s loop is a groove in 5/4 (sans splash cymbals and octobans). To keep it from falling into the hands of someone holding a seven string Ibanez, I downsampled the output and made sure it didn’t live in its parents’ basement.

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97 BPM

ECM.

Recently I’ve been digging through my collection of albums on the ECM label. It’s been a refreshing change to the over-compressed (then compressed again to mp3) music that’s usually jammed into my eardrums throughout the day. ECM records tend to have a very distinct, clear and present sound that are particularly complimentary of cymbal work.

Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette

Several of my favorite drummers have recorded on albums produced and released by ECM. The two that have probably influenced my playing the most are Jack DeJohnette and Peter Erskine. I highly recommend checking out Jack’s work on the Keith Jarrett trio albums or Peter’s 1992 record, “You Never Know”.

Peter Erskine
Peter Erskine

Loop #32

Today’s loop is inspired by all of those great ECM recordings. It’s also a great opportunity to fine tune my overhead mics (and play fills over the bar line).

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123 BPM

One for the Hippies.

Get those djembes out! If you’ve ever met me, then you know there’s nothing I love more than a good drum circle. Take a large group of hippies (preferably ones that haven’t showered in at least a week), light some incense and place them in a public park. Give them a wide assortment of hand percussion and lose yourself in hours of endless tribal drumming (with origins that stem deep into the suburbs of Boulder and Santa Cruz).

Masters of Rhythm.
Masters of Rhythm.

Loop #27
Inspired by a rare Phish b-side, here’s a loop you can really jam to, brah.

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108 BPM