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The Art of Playing with Brushes: Liner Notes

Making the New Brushes DVD from Hudson Music
by Steve Smith

Adam Nussbaum had come up with a fantastic idea for an educational DVD and explained it to me one day in mid-2006. Since all drummers have their own distinctive way of playing with brushes, it would be fascinating to film a number of drummers playing brushes to the same tempos and feels. This way, we would have a direct comparison of how different players approach the same tunes.

I presented this fresh idea to Paul Siegel and Rob Wallis of Hudson Music. They loved the concept and wanted to go ahead with the project. Since they had so many projects currently in the works, they asked me to get involved as a co-producer and work with Adam to develop the idea into a full-blown production.

The first thing Adam and I did was determine which tempos we wanted to focus on. We got together a number of times at The Drummers Collective in New York City with brushes, two snare drums, our iPods full of tunes, and a metronome.

We tried to determine what would be the most interesting feels and tempos to address where the players would possibly use different techniques, or have to change their moves. That way, we would see the greatest variety of approaches.

Adam and I zeroed in on a number of different feels and tempos incorporating 4/4 swing, ballads, 3/4 time, and Latin. Since we wanted all the drummers to play along to the same tracks, we enlisted jazz veterans Vic Juris (guitar) and Jay Anderson (bass), to record the tracks.

We spent a day at Jay Anderson's upstate NY studio where we recorded 17 tracks. We used 7 different tracks for the DVD, but we made sure we had enough tempos for a state-of-the-art 17-track play-along CD to include with the final package.

Adam, Rob, Paul, and I worked on a list of brush masters who we wanted to see perform on the DVD. Adam made the calls and over a period of months we confirmed five incredible drummers: Charli Persip (Dizzy Gillespie/Billy Eckstine), Billy Hart (Herbie Hancock/Stan Getz), Ben Riley (Thelonious Monk/Ron Carter), Eddie Locke (Roy Eldridge/Coleman Hawkins), and Joe Morello (Dave Brubeck/Marian McPartland).

Adam and I then developed our ideas for filming over a series of e-mails and meetings. We performed and videotaped a brushes clinic at The Drummers Collective on January 27, 2007, to clarify our approach. Meanwhile, Rob and Paul where checking out studios and assembling a team to record and film the DVD. It was determined that we would film at Bennett Studios (owned by Dae Bennett, son of Tony Bennett) in Englewood, NJ, February 4-6, 2007.

The three days we spent in the studio were life-changing for me. It was enlightening to see how different drummers played the same tunes with such vastly diverse approaches and techniques.

Each one of the players sounded superb, swinging hard and playing with extraordinary musicality. Adam and I interviewed the players about their concepts, techniques, musical influences and experiences. To hear them talk about music was one revelation after another -- these drummers were as articulate as they are wise.

We have more than one hour of documentation from each drummer, including Adam and me, plus we have 30 hours of behind-the-scenes fly on the wall footage of some funny and revealing anecdotes with the drummers hanging out and trading stories.

What remains is the gargantuan task of viewing the footage, taking notes, and organizing an edit of all of this valuable information. I'm confident that this DVD will be a vital resource for all drummers, which will never go out of style; the information is timeless and priceless.

We'll also be including bonus material in the form of historical footage, essays, listening lists, a play-along CD, and more.

- Steve Smith, February '07

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