12/31/13

Gig Bag: The latest must-have gear

Two new books and a mouthpiece from RS Berkeley

The Roots of Rock Drumming
Remember when great rock and pop could actually swing? When the most famous, well-heeled rock and rollers were also Gene Krupa or Elvin Jones obsessives and collectors of New Orleans R&B singles? A terrific new book/DVD set from Hudson Music, The Roots of Rock Drumming, edited by Daniel Glass with additional editing by drummer Steve Smith (Journey, Hiromi’s Trio Project), invokes a rock era that aspired to accessible yet very real musicianship. Roots kicks off with lucid, compact history lessons on jump-blues, bebop, the development of the drum set and more, but the majority of this 255-page book comprises long-form interviews marked by informed proddings and (mostly) forthcoming responses.

Among the conversations are those with Steve Gadd, Louis Prima drummer Bobby Morris, Elvis Presley sideman DJ Fontana, Dick Richards of Bill Haley’s Comets, Sun Studio session player JM Van Eaton, bluesman Sam Lay, soul and jazz master Idris Muhammad, Muscle Shoals veteran Roger Hawkins, NOLA groovers John Boudreaux and Smokey Johnson and others. You don’t need to have mastered rudiment names to enjoy this tome—most of the dialogue is historical rather than technical—but drum geeks will savor the revelations (Earl Palmer’s Q&A, oozing with wisdom), lore (Bernard Purdie’s cagey response to a Beatles query) and, of course, plenty of swing and bop worship. (The included DVD features excerpts from the interview footage.) hudsonmusic.com

The Jazz Guitar Handbook
So many method books still flaunt all the visual appeal of midcentury medical texts. But not The Jazz Guitar Handbook (Backbeat), a new resource by London-based writer-musician Rod Fogg. This handsome, spiral-bound 266-page book (with 96-track CD of audio demonstrations) boasts a striking clarity in its layout and design (no photocopied-lead-sheet scrawl here). The Handbook also scores points for its totality, including smartly written mini-histories of both the jazz-guitar tradition and of the actual instruments. When’s the last time you saw an instructional book with reproductions of advertisements featuring Wes Montgomery, Larry Coryell and John Scofield? What about the last time a book that introduces students to the pentatonic scale also include discussion, albeit brief, of Derek Bailey and Marc Ribot?

In terms of its musical lessons, the book features a similar sort of completeness. With written instruction and examples in standard notation and tablature, it starts with absolute basics and progresses through basic blues language, chords, inversions and extensions, major scales and modes, arpeggios, rhythm playing, chord-melody arranging and more. Combined with a Real Book and a healthy CD collection, you could spend decades with The Jazz Guitar Handbook. backbeatbooks.com

Legends Series Mouthpieces by RS Berkeley
Think you’re experiencing déjà vu because we reported on and reviewed Legends Series mouthpieces in 2011? Well, you’re sort of right. No longer in collaboration with Drake Mouthpieces, RS Berkeley is once again producing its historical-replica series, this time under its own name and the tutelage of Jack Onque. (Industry folks might recognize that name from his work as shop foreman for Robert Giardinelli.) Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and James Moody are being announced as the initial offerings sans Drake, and a press release makes a claim for unerring authenticity through the use of 3D scanning by Konica Minolta. Each artist model is available in two tip openings, one of which is the original: Dexter Gordon tenor (.080-inch, .100-inch), James Moody tenor (.105-inch, .115-inch), Stan Getz tenor (.075-inch, .095-inch), and Charlie Parker alto (.060-inch, .075-inch). It’s also worth noting that Drake Mouthpieces still produces a signature Masters Series—collaborations with living greats Dave Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi, Pete Christlieb and Eddie Daniels. rsberkeley.com

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