Monday, October 16, 2017

Falling Forward with Ulysses Owens Jr.

Ulysses Owens Jr.'s recent release "Falling Forward" is a wonderful vibraphone trio exploration, following the spirit of other great vibe trio albums such as Gary Burton's "New Vibe Man in Town" and Victor Feldman's "The Arrival of Victor Feldman".

The Open Studio Network has also recently released an instructional series featuring Ulysses that will certainly be worth digging into:

Owens was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his recent album and other projects of late:

1) Tell us about your latest recording! How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen? What inspired you to pursue the vibe and instrumentation that you did? Was there a particular message you were trying to convey to the listener?

My latest recording is a trio record and I am really excited about it. I really feel for the first time that I have an album that really showcases who I am and where I am artistically in the moment. It’s a place of freedom. It features Reuben Rogers on bass and Joel Ross on Vibraphone. I really wanted to do a trio album because I feel that it’s the most natural context for me. The overall goal was to create an album of great music and display the awesome chemistry between all of us. There is so much music happening beyond the music.

2) Who are your influences, on and off the drums, and why?

My influences on the drums are Papa Jo Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Lewis Nash, Frankie Dunlop, Roy Haynes, Kenny Washington, Steve Jordan, Al Jackson Jr. Non drummers: Quincy Jones, Rickey Minor, Joe Henderson, Monk, Mulgrew Miller, Christian McBride, Ella, Sarah, Billy, Dinah Washington. I love Brazilian Music, Afrobeat Music, Jamaican Music, etc…I am influenced by people’s personalities, and their emotions. I am wide open man!

3) What are you practicing these days?

I am always practicing, trying to play with better time and sit in the right place in the beat. I am always keeping my ears open and wanting to be incredibly tasteful and musical.

4) What other current and future projects do you have on the go at the moment?

Current projects include:

- "Songs of Freedom Project" featuring the music of Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Abbey Lincoln, of which I am the music director.

- Ulysses Owens Jr. THREE which is my trio featuring Joel Ross and Reuben Rogers

- My company UOJ Productions is currently in the middle of producing several projects slated for release in 2018.

- I am also on faculty at the Juilliard School.

5) What advice do you have for younger, aspiring jazz drummers?

Really focus on the basic fundamentals. Really master your rudiments, play with great time and the metronome, limb development/balance and making the band sound good. You are the engine so as the engine functions so should you. Work on having a consistent groove that is so heavy and powerful that people sign up to play with you. Don’t worry about soloing and fills. Just focus on being a solid drummer. Lastly, practice patience and all good things will come to the faithful and those who are willing to work for it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Art Blakey and the Jazz Warriors

Since today would have been Art Blakey's 98th birthday I thought it
would be appropriate to post this documentary featuring Bu and the Jazz Messengers featured along with a troupe of British Jazz dancers, The Jazz Warriors:

Personally this documentary was an important resource for me during my teens, one of my first introductions to the music of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, thanks to the diverse Jazz audio and visual collection at the Regina Public Library circa. 1994.

*Please check out my new Four on the Floor Instagram page:

I will be posting here every day (hopefully...) but only the videos will be linked and show up here, on my regular blog page.

Check back often for photos of my favourite Jazz drummers, short 1 min. instructional videos and various other "Easter eggs".

Thanks again for your support and all the gloriousness that modern social media currently affords us*

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Brush Comping Exercise

A brief demonstration of an exercise I like to practice that involves playing up beat accents, in the context of a 4/4 swing brush pattern:

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I usually stretch out each variation over the course of a two measure phrase but had to condense it to fit Instagram's one-minute time limit for videos (but I think it all still makes sense...) Hope you dig it!

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Tribute to Buddy Rich

Thanks to the kind folks over at the Avedis Zildjian cymbal company, here's a three-part tribute to Buddy Rich (who's 100th birthday anniversary was celebrated this past week) with commentary from Armand Zildjian and Lennie DiMuzio:

And in case we needed a reminder of what a genius Rich was...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Hey folks, Four on the Floor is now on Instagram!

I'll be posting photos and short videos on a fairly frequent basis, a personal companion to my existing blog. Hope you dig it.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

The Monday Morning Paradiddle

And....we're back. I hope that your respective summer month's were productive, restful and now getting into the swing of things now that the fall season is upon us. With students and teachers going back to school in September I always feel inspired to start new projects and work on brilliant new ideas. Onwards and upwards. The learning never stops.

The minions over here at the Four on the Floor offices have been hard at work lately and here's what we've compiled for you with the latest edition of the The Monday Morning Paradiddle. As always, thank you for your support and enjoy!

- Check out Jack DeJohnette's latest cover feature from Modern Drummer magazine:

I found this piece quite interesting. In particular, when asked if he had any advice for young Jazz drummers, Jack replied:

"I recommend that they have knowledge of a melodic instrument..."

- From Scott K. Fish a similar sentiment from Max Roach on the importance of learning a melodic instrument:

- Paul Wells recently compiled this excellent listening list of 50 Jazz drumming recordings to check out, for Modern Drummer magazine:

- Seattle's Matt Jorgensen interviewed by

- Antonio Sanchez speaks about his latest offering "Bad Hombre":

- An archived radio interview with Max Roach from NPR's Hot Air:

-  Another suggested listening list, this time it's Elvin Jones from DRUM! Magazine:

 - More Elvin goodness, this time interviewed by former Santana rhythm man Michael Shrieve:

Thanks to Todd Bishop over at Cruiseship Drummer for this find!

- Kendrick Scott is interviewed over at the Drummer's Resource podcast:

- Dennis Mackrel is an incredible drummer that I've always enjoyed listening to. Here he is interviewed by Drummer Nation:

And also from Drummer Nation, here's Eastman drum professor Rich Thompson interviewed:

- Not one, not two but THREE interviews with the great Art Blakey":

- More Jack DeJohnette, this time in a little "percussion discussion" with percussionist Don Alias:

- An Interview with Jeff "Tain" Watts from The Trap Set:

- Christian McBride offers some important advice drawn from his own life experience:

- What am I listening to these days?

Dexter Gordon "A Swingin' Affair" - Billy Higgins (drums)

Brad Mehldau & Joshua Redman "Nearness"

David Friesen "The Name of a Woman" - Alan Jones (drums)

Ulysses Owens Jr. "Falling Forward" - Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums)

Steve Lacy "Only Monk"

Brandi Disterheft "Blue Canvas" - Joe Farnsworth (drums)

- And today's Last Word goes to the immortal Art Blakey (via Bobby Sanabria):

"What the people want is FIRE." - Art Blakey