Steve Smith Drum Legacy: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
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Studying the drum giants who came before is one of the keys to developing an understanding of music and finding your own voice on the drums. This highly educational DVD set presents a musical analysis and discussion of some of the most important jazz drumming greats in history. On Drum Legacy you will find the complete one-hour performance by Steve Smith s group Jazz Legacy from the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival, including two previously unreleased songs. The group s music is inspired by jazz drumming giants Art Blakey (Night in Tunisia), Elvin Jones (Three Card Molly), Philly Joe Jones (Two Bass Hit), Buddy Rich (Moments Notice), Joe Dukes (Soulful Drums), and Tony Williams (Sister Cheryl). Each tune is dedicated to one of these drum legends. Also included are two brilliant drum solos by Steve in tribute to Max Roach (Drums Unlimited and For Big Sid), plus two new original solos. John Riley master jazz drummer, educator, and author, joins Steve for an insightful discussion of the work of these jazz greats that is unprecedented in its scope and detail. Steve and John present a wealth of information for drummers from a historical/artistic analysis of each jazz giant s conceptual approach, right down to the nuts and bolts of the licks they played. Bonus features incLude: live performance footage of Steve in NYC and at a master class in Australia; a 40-page printed booklet; a complete eBook containing exercises and text from Steve, as well as complete bios from respected author Mark Griffith to round out your understanding of these drum legends. The eBook is in PDF format so it can be printed and used in the practice room with or without the DVD. Also included in this package is the new Jazz Legacy CD Live on Tour, featuring Steve Smith (drums), Walt Weiskopf (tenor sax), Andy Fusco (alto sax), Mark Soskin (piano) and Baron Browne (bass).
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For me this is like a master class and the demonstrations are mainly from a live performance by Smith and his band at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival. The performances are inspiring, but it's the between-performance segments with John Riley serving as an interviewer that are the real meat of this set. Riley is excellent in this role and on more than a few occasions asks probing questions that draws out some deep insights from Smith.
If you are already an avid fan of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Art Blakey and Philly Joe Jones you will probably immediately connect to the performances and understand the ensuing discussions. If not, you will be introduced to drummers you should be listening to regardless of the genre of music you play. Another giant who gets a lot of mention is Max Roach (and in my opinion, rightly so because the thematic approach he takes to crafting solos is a lesson for any drummer). Plus there are some drummers who are not as famous, such as Joe Dukes who should be studied for his approach to drumming. I liken Dukes' use of space to the way Ahmad Jamal plays piano.
Overall, this is probably not the best DVD for beginning drummers, but will still be inspiring to them. For seasoned drummers, however, this is a gold mine of techniques and advanced topics that are of immediate interest to jazz drummers, but should be more widely disseminated to a wider audience of drummers.
The recommended listening information is great too, because once you get into jazz drumming, you can be spending a lot of money and time to find the recordings! It is a great all round package, but it is not for beginners.
Over time, I realised that although Steve wants to pay tribute to other drummers, he takes the understandable but redundant step of playing their styles (and well known songs) with his band, which is is only going to be partially successful. For me, this is starkly illustrated when he plays the Tony Williams tune. Steve is obviously playing something very close to what Tony plays, but there is no excitement there for me - there is merely technical ability, as if he wanted to compare the sheet music with another player and say 'look how close I got to what Tony did'. The heart, fire and soul of the original players do not seem to be coming through.
Instead, something else is likely to come through - it is like someone doing 'impressions' of someone else. I do not know what that achieves. I think a more successful way of approaching it would be to completely change the arrangement to make it fresh, whic also gives one the challenge of creating same.
He did try to add some extra credibility to this venture by getting John Riley involved (someone who saw many of the original players perform first hand) - this was a shrewd move, however their on camera 'vibe' together is not always positive, perhaps due to the impression (that I have) that John is only there to add comments. John is not permitted to demonstrate things on the drums, which would have added so much more to this.
It is not often that one watches a DVD and feels that the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife.
Steve does a duet with himself on the DVD. It may have been more interesting if he had done one with John.
It is really best to be yourself when it comes to playing, but after watching this I had the the uncomfortable realisation that Steve could have used the great players' achievements to raise his own profile.
There is also the questionable but undoubtedly successful tactic of including Steve's band's CD in the package - this type of music will not sell in large numbers, however including it in the DVD package is a guaranteed way of doing so. I am learning a lot about marketing when I see how Hudson Music present some of their product.
Did I mention the superb sound and video quality?
Sit back, relax and enjoy this masterpiece!!
If you're a fan Tony Williams, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey,etc.. You will have some inside into there playing.
Also, some incredible solos and ideas to work with solos, comp, etc..
A most for every fan of jazz drumming!