Holiday special: 20% off at Bandcamp

For the month of December, get 20% off everything at using the code CHEESEMAS at checkout.

This includes:

  • Mixed Messages EP (2013) – Hamilton Music Award winner (digital or CD)
  • Brad Cheeseman Group (2015) – Toronto Independent Music Award nominee (digital or CD)
  • Charts (concert pitch, in .pdf format) for “Bad Groove,” “La Choza,” “Let Me Explain,” “Make or Break for It,” “Skyglow,” and “Taiya”
  • Chart package (transposed, in .pdf) for the entire Mixed Messages EP (including the bonus track “Clouds”)
  • Transcription of the bass solo on “Make or Break for It”

Head on over to Bandcamp now to use the code CHEESEMAS and get 20% off whatever you want!

“Practice Makes Progress” on Medium

In my double-life as a David Foster Wallace nerd, I wrote an article for Medium’s Just Words series discussing Infinite Jest, tennis and improvised music. You can check it out over at Medium.

As a side note, Just Words is in support of the recent film The End of the Tour, which is based on David Lipsky’s novel Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky and Jason Segel as Wallace. I was lucky to see an advance screening (and take part in a Skype Q&A with director James Ponsoldt) at the DFW Conference back in May and, if you’re on the fence about seeing it, I would encourage you to check it out! Segel gives a create performance.

Ear-Tickler: The Bad Plus, “Iron Man,” and humour/irony in music

One thing that I love about the Bad Plus is their subtle use of musical humour, something that can be found across their entire discography and is perhaps best exemplified by their arrangement of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” (found on their 2004 record Give).

For starters, let me clarify that this cover in itself is not humorous or jokey. I think it accurately captures the intensity and raw energy of the original Sabbath recording, realized here in the sheer volume of the performance (Iverson and King are playing the shit out of their instruments), the very low range of the piano’s left hand parts (a more overtone-rich range that might compare to distorted guitar) and the free-ish right hand parts. The chaos is delicious.

But then go back and listen to Dave King’s first fill at at 0:52, which sounds straight out of Rock Drums 101; executed perfectly but also with what sounds to me like a knowing wink. The Bad Plus frequently mixes elements of various genres but usually this blatantly (his next big fill at 1:10 is more fitting of his style. Also, I love how the time pulls way back during the ends of these phrases!). And then in the middle of all of Ethan’s atonal piano riffing comes these big, consonant triads at 1:17. The “tell” for me, apart from the abruptness of their appearance, is how cleanly they’re stated (like King’s opening drum fill). Everything else is either chaotic, loose, or sludgy in execution. All of these details are most noticeable during the major variation around 4:26; awesome dissonance between the major tonality and everything that came before, there’s that same clean/clear statement of the ideas (at least for the beginning), consonant piano improvisation, and then a sudden change in dynamics for the outro (itself an “opposite” interpretation of the original).

It’s all very tongue-in-cheek but it’s also pretty triumphant. More importantly, the humour/ ironic, “wink-wink” ideas never feel cheap or without merit and are contextualized within a respectful and authentic interpretation. Instead, they partially enhance an already interesting and exciting arrangement/performance.

In the Shed: Paradiddle Raking/String-Crossing Exercise

Sometimes it’s helpful to look beyond our instrument for inspiration and/or practice ideas and I recently started trying to incorporate some basic drum rudiments into my practice routine. Mainly, I’ve been using the paradiddle sticking pattern (i.e. L-R-L-L, R-L-R-R). Instead of dealing with alternating hands or fingers, the pattern can be used as a way of alternating between two adjacent strings, while proceeding through the various rhythmic subdivisions. This originally started as a simple raking exercise for one of my students but has developed a little further and I shared a sample of this exercise recently on Instagram.

Paradiddle Exercise

Download the exercise: Paraddidle Exercise.pdf

Start slowly and work through increasing subdivisions (although the quintuplets here can be treated as optional). Once you get to 32nd notes, start working backwards (eventually ending back at the eighth notes). I arbitrarily picked G as the key here but work on it in many positions on each set of two strings (E-A, A-D, D-G). Happy practicing!

Favourite Records of 2014

It’s that time of year again: list-making time!

A lot of good music came out this year, so here are some of my favourite records of 2014:

Autobahn The River (Independent)
A bass-less trio from Toronto, featuring James Hill, Jeff LaRochelle (featured on the BCG’s Mixed Messages), and Ian Wright. Beautiful, colourful improvised music with great group interaction. Check out the whole thing at Bandcamp.

Brian Blade Landmarks (Blue Note)
This has possibly been my most-listened-to record of the year. Blade, Melvin Butler, Jon Cowherd, Chris Thomas, Myron Walden, Jeff Parker and Marvin Sewell make some absolutely gorgeous sounds, with wonderful writing from Blade. Highlight: “Ark.La.Tex.”

D’Angelo & the Vanguard Black Messiah (RCA)
14 years later, it’s finally here. And it’s dope.

Dirty Loops Loopified (Verve)
Over-the-top, explosive pop-r&b-fusion. The covers they had originally shared on Youtube were all very exciting, but I was glad to see the trio focus on original pop-based music for their debut record. Great production, killer chops, catchy tunes. Highlights: “Hit Me,” “Wake Me Up,” “Accidentally In Love”

Eric Harland Vipassana (GSI)
Harland plays on a lot of great records, but as a bandleader, I had only heard Harland’s previous record, Voyager: Live by Night (a fantastic album). This record with Walter Smith III, Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage, Nir Felder, Harish Raghavan and Chris Turner is solid with a lot of different flavours. Highlights: “Raghavan,” “Singularis”

Kimbra The Golden Echo (Warner Bros.)
Kimbra is one of the best things happening in modern pop music. It took me a while to warm up to the first single “90s Music,” but this record is killer and features a bevy of talented musicians. Highlights: “Rescue Him,” “Love in High Places”

Mehliana Taming the Dragon (Nonesuch)
Arguably two of the best musicians in jazz right now, this duo with Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana simultaneously has great grooves, some great atmosphere/textural playing, and no gratuitous displays of chops. Highlights: “Taming the Dragon,” “Hungry Ghost”

Rich Brown Between Heaviness & Here (Addo)
Rich is one of the most musical, lyrical electric bassists out there and his first solo record is a welcome change from the standard solo bass landscape. Tightly created, musically unique pieces demonstrate Rich’s melodic approach without focusing on chops. I only wish it were longer. Highlights: “Twice,” “The Traveller”

Snarky Puppy We Like it Here (GroundUP)
Snarky + Larnell Lewis on drums + some of League’s best writing to date. Highlights: “Shofukan,” “Lingus”

Unbuttoned Planes (Independent)
Another Toronto band, Unbuttoned’s Planes is a masterfully produced pop/R&B record featuring some great local talent. Check out the music video for “Listening to Me” on Youtube.

Walter Smith III Still Casual (Independent)
Although I’m missing a few releases in Smith’s catalogue, his first record Casually Introducing got a lot of spins from me and I was excited to hear about his new record. Tight compositions with great playing from Smith, Taylor Eigsti, Matt Stevens, Harish Raghavan, Kendrick Scott and Ambrose Akinmusire. Highlights: “Foretold You,” “Processional”