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Gig Bag: The latest must-have gear

Two new books and a mouthpiece from RS Berkeley

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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.)

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.

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