Category: Latin

A Loop Supreme

Loop #131

Another taste of the new Gretsch kit. If this loop was on the menu at Taco Bell, it would be topped off with a generous amount of sour cream.

Coltrane and the infamous 'taco session'

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271 BPM

Bring On The Soca

It’s another cold and snowy day in Boston. I love living in New England because I really get to experience all four seasons, but I also hate this time of year. Three months into winter, late February is when I usually start perusing various travel websites, looking for an escape from the daily routine of scraping ice off of my windshield.

I have a rather vivid imagination, so rather than dropping a few grand on a trip to the Caribbean, sometimes I’ll just crank up the heat in my studio to about 95°F, crack open a few Coronas, and play some grooves indigenous to tropical regions. Reggae, calypso, samba… anything to feel like I’m within a 500 mile radius of the equator. My wife doesn’t seem to agree that this is the same as lounging around in a beach chair, somewhere on a white sandy beach. My response to this is usually a snap of the fingers, and a request for more guacamole.

Traditional Soca Dancing - Thanks Google Images!

Loop #124

Today’s “take me away” groove is Soca. An offshoot of Calypso music, Soca originates from the islands of Tobago and Trinidad and is usually based around a heavy drum and percussion ostinato. Some examples of Soca grooves in popular music are Buster Poindexter’s 1987 hit, “Hot, Hot, Hot” and Kevin Lyttle’s “Turn Me On”. This particular loop is a four bar phrase consisting of just kick and snare. With an almost march-like quality, this groove makes for an ideal drum break on any Caribbean dance floor. Look for more Soca grooves in the upcoming and highly anticipated release of Gruss Loops Volume X.

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108 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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Backwords Bembe

Loop #82

Well, not totally backwards… but I did displace the traditional bembe bell pattern by two eighth note triplets. Does this really matter? Nope. I think the Afro-Cuban police will let it slide.

It’s one of those grooves that can be felt in 3, 4 or 6/8. Throw this under your next arrangement of “Afro Blue” or “My Favorite Things” and let the 20 minute modal improvisation begin. If this groove has you foaming at the mouthpiece for more, you can get the complete set of fills and groove variations in the upcoming release of Gruss Loops Vol III.

John Coltrane - Bembe Fan
John Coltrane - Bembe Fan

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136 BPM

Mambo!

Apparently I drank something over the 4th of July weekend that inspired me to play nothing but jazz grooves from the late 50’s. Every time I sit down at the kit, all I want to do is put on my trashy, old ride cymbal and pretend I’m Elvin Jones or Art Blakey. Who knew Colt 45 would have that effect?

Speaking of Art Blakey, today I wanted to talk about one of the grooves he’s best known for: The mambo. I first learned how to play this groove after hearing Art lay it down on his 1957 classic, A Night In Tunisia.

Stop whatever it is you’re doing (besides reading this blog, of course) and focus on this track for the next 11 minutes and 17 seconds:

If that didn’t inspire you, then you should probably check your pulse. You may have been prescribed something by one of Michael Jackson’s doctors.

Art Blakey - Mambo Master
Art Blakey - Mambo Master

Loop #79

Today’s loop takes Art’s patented mambo pattern and chills things out just a bit… all the way down to 240bpm. You’ll have to add your own percussion section and 3:2 clave (sorry, I was out of limbs), but you should be able to get that hard bop sound you’ve been looking for.

The rest of the grooves and fills from this session will be available in the highly anticipated release of Gruss Loops – Volume III.

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240 BPM

Funkifying the Clave

I was 16 years old when I first learned how to play “real” Afro-Cuban and Latin grooves. Prior to that, my only exposure to anything close to that style of music was hearing Santana’s cover of “Oye Como Va” on the radio. You have to keep in mind, I grew up in Iowa.

Robby Ameen
Robby Ameen

Pete Simonson, my drum teacher at the time, wanted to help expand my vocabulary of grooves beyond the borders of FM radio. He recommended that I check out a new instructional book called “Funkifying the Clave”. It was written by NYC heavyweights, drummer Robby Ameen and bassist Lincoln Goines and featured a play-along cassette tape (really, I’m not THAT old).

From Mozambique to Guaguanco to Songo grooves, I spent the next six months with my head inside of that book, eating nothing but beans and rice and rarely playing the bass drum on one. This was definitely an import period in my development as a musician.

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Loop #44

Today’s loop is one of the songo grooves that I first learned fifteen years ago. I’ve taken some small liberties with the basic pattern, but for the most part, it’s the beat transcribed below.

Basic Songo Pattern
Basic Songo Pattern

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112 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

Fun with filters.

Today’s loop started off as your typical 6/8 Afro Cuban groove. Well, not that typical. I took the traditional bembé clave which is normally played on a cowbell and moved it around the toms. If you want authentic latin beats, don’t turn to the kid who grew up in Iowa. I mean, I went to high school with these clowns.

6/8 Afro Cuban, from someone who has never been to Africa or Cuba:

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Anyway, to bastardize this loop to the fullest, I ran all of the drum tracks through Logic’s EVOC 20 Filterbank. I played with the stereo width, LFO rates and resonance levels until my vanilla, 4 bar beat turned into something that didn’t even resemble a drum set.

Geekfest '09
Geekfest '09

Loop #13

Björk just called. She wants her production style back. But I’ll post it anyway…

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120 BPM