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.
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).
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).
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.
This morning, while eating a delicious bowl of oatmeal and listening to Billy Cobham’s classic album, “Spectrum”, I realized that I haven’t posted an odd meter loop in quite awhile. The whole intent of this blog is to record and write about as many musical genres as my baby soft hands can handle. I can’t just cater to the pop songwriters and dance producers… I also need to show the fusion crowd a little love as well. As the final few measures of “Red Baron” faded out, I pounded my third cup of coffee and went into the studio to lay down some tracks for those of you looking for something outside the world of 4/4.
When most people think about odd meter music, it’s typically one measure of a certain meter, repeated over and over (7/8, 5/8 etc). While this is great, and I’ve spent hours upon hours wanking some serious fusion jams in 9/8, I like to mix up odd meters alongside more straight ahead time signatures. In this case, I take a 4/4 groove and place it next to a bar of 7/8. Now, you can look at this phrasing in a lot of different ways. One could call it 15/8, or you can think about it smaller rhythmic chunks (4+4+4+3). Whatever floats your boat. These types of grooves allow the average listener to grasp on to a back beat while, at the same time, contains enough rhythmic complexity to satisfy even the most jaded of fusion musicians.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Things are pretty crazy at Gruss Headquarters right now. Not only am I busy preparing for Volume II of the loop packs, I have a few other musical projects which I’m in the middle of. And on top of that, my wife just reminded me it’s my turn to clean the cat box. As much as I’d rather be writing on this blog, making fun of certain fusion drummers and telling stories about random celebrity encounters, I have other work to do. And some poop to scoop.
On that note, I leave you with this beat. It’s an outtake from some odd time grooves in Volume II. Four bars phrase in 7/8 with a bit of a drum and bass turnaround on the last measure.
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“.
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.
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.
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.