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How to study Ben Riley?

Pibroch

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I am only a relative beginner drummer at the level of playing in an amateur pop rock/blues covers band, but am aiming to eventually get good enough to be a fill in drummer for local jazz players.

Have just commenced studying Ben Riley but finding it difficult to find any analyses of his playing, apart from this gem of an interview with the man himself which includes this statement of his:

"I’m working on a book now with Don Sickler that uses my drumming excerpts as examples of drum accompaniment styles. It was interesting to sit down and analyze my drumming, because it made me aware of things in my playing that I wasn’t conscious of."


(Can't find anything more about the content of this proposed book.)

For those familiar with this drummer, what is your take on what else to think about, or listen for in his playing, that possibly enabled him to become one of the pre-eminent drum set accompanists in jazz?
 
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Griener

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Why don't you ask Don Sickler? He has a website.
I certainly would be interested in this book as well.
A friend of mine wrote a thesis comparing the styles of Frankie Dunlop, Ben Riley and Roy Haynes while working with Monk.
Unfortunately it's written in German and I only have a print copy.
But I can ask her, if she has a pdf version as well.
 

Rallaei

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Why don't you ask Don Sickler? He has a website.
I certainly would be interested in this book as well.
A friend of mine wrote a thesis comparing the styles of Frankie Dunlop, Ben Riley and Roy Haynes while working with Monk.
Unfortunately it's written in German and I only have a print copy.
But I can ask her, if she has a pdf version as well.

Sounds like pretty interesting topic.

Re: Ben Riley - just listen to all recordings of him... listen listen listen - and then try to copy.


Imitate - assimilate - innovate!
 

Pibroch

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Why don't you ask Don Sickler? He has a website.
I certainly would be interested in this book as well.
A friend of mine wrote a thesis comparing the styles of Frankie Dunlop, Ben Riley and Roy Haynes while working with Monk.
Unfortunately it's written in German and I only have a print copy.
But I can ask her, if she has a pdf version as well.
Could you please? I have a son who both drums and reads and speaks German - I don't - and English. (He lives in Berlin.)
 
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thenuge

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Just wanted to say how awesome it is that as a ‘beginning’ jazz player Ben is who you are most interested in. Awesome. You’ll be fine. Listen to his records. Listen to live players. Ben’s notes are in everyone’s notes. No other comments. Except maybe get a teacher and if they don’t have anything to say about Ben, move on. You’ll be fine.
 

Old PIT Guy

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If I were a relative beginner with a lot of enthusiasm for drumming, I'd evaluate my choices and probably distill them to these two:

a). Avail myself of the huge repository of drumming information online; from forums to YouTube to Skype lessons.

b). Cancel my internet connection and instructor shop for a few years.

I'd choose B.
 

richiegarcia4

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Why don't you ask Don Sickler? He has a website.
I certainly would be interested in this book as well.
A friend of mine wrote a thesis comparing the styles of Frankie Dunlop, Ben Riley and Roy Haynes while working with Monk.
Unfortunately it's written in German and I only have a print copy.
But I can ask her, if she has a pdf version as well.
I would love to read that. Wish I could read German.
 

toddbishop

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The first thing to do is listen to the records, A LOT. Certainly all of the Monk records he's on.

He's a great player to listen to as a beginning jazz drummer-- he's about the cleanest example of a modern bop player as I can think of. You can hear all of the stuff you'll be practicing in action, played in a straightforward way.

It does take some knowledge and experience for the finer analytical points to have any meaning, so be practicing a lot, listening a lot, and playing with people a lot.

Unfortunately it's written in German and I only have a print copy.
But I can ask her, if she has a pdf version as well.

Sounds like a great way to work on my German!
 

Keith Balla

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Repeated listening to one of the many great recordings that Ben Riley made during his long career is a great way to study his playing.

A personal favorite of his tenure with Thelonious Monk is Live At The It Club

Another way to understand more deeply a player's style would be to simply learn something that they play on a recording by ear, note for note. I think that even learning a passage as short as a 4 bar drum solo, or maybe one chorus on a blues of comping (accompaniment) provides a tremendous amount of inspiration and content to be absorbed, practiced repeatedly and extrapolated upon.


For example, the way he plays behind the melody of "Blue Monk" from Live at The It Club is to my ears, incredible. If you learned those first 12 measures, you would be learning:

-How to phrase the ride cymbal beat

-How to vary the rhythm of the ride cymbal beat

-How to accent the important notes of a melody ("Ensemble Playing")

-How to fill in the spaces of a melody

-A variety of tasteful, slick and swinging comping rhythms

I think that by learning a small amount of information note for note directly from the source, and then through repeated practice of that passage/chorus/solo/comping rhythm/etc. etc, that you can extract a great deal of deeper meaning that you can apply into many areas of your playing.
 

mtarrani

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Why don't you ask Don Sickler? He has a website.
I certainly would be interested in this book as well.
A friend of mine wrote a thesis comparing the styles of Frankie Dunlop, Ben Riley and Roy Haynes while working with Monk.
Unfortunately it's written in German and I only have a print copy.
But I can ask her, if she has a pdf version as well.
I would love to find a comparison between Shadow Wilson and Frankie Dunlop. Both were so similar that it's uncanny ... and both were, IMHO, the most perfectly aligned drummers to Monk's music.
 

The_Sheriff

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Repeated listening to one of the many great recordings that Ben Riley made during his long career is a great way to study his playing.

A personal favorite of his tenure with Thelonious Monk is Live At The It Club

Another way to understand more deeply a player's style would be to simply learn something that they play on a recording by ear, note for note. I think that even learning a passage as short as a 4 bar drum solo, or maybe one chorus on a blues of comping (accompaniment) provides a tremendous amount of inspiration and content to be absorbed, practiced repeatedly and extrapolated upon.


For example, the way he plays behind the melody of "Blue Monk" from Live at The It Club is to my ears, incredible. If you learned those first 12 measures, you would be learning:

-How to phrase the ride cymbal beat

-How to vary the rhythm of the ride cymbal beat

-How to accent the important notes of a melody ("Ensemble Playing")

-How to fill in the spaces of a melody

-A variety of tasteful, slick and swinging comping rhythms

I think that by learning a small amount of information note for note directly from the source, and then through repeated practice of that passage/chorus/solo/comping rhythm/etc. etc, that you can extract a great deal of deeper meaning that you can apply into many areas of your playing.

This is a great example of Ben's playing and it's recorded really, really well. Sounds like you're right there on the bandstand.

I'll add one thing to what Keith mentioned: check out the interplay between Monk and Ben behind Charlie Rouse. There's a serious back and forth going on and they never play over each other. This is the key to becoming a good comper, in my opinion: learning how to interact with your comping partner, as well as with the soloist. Leaving space and establishing a dialogue.
 

Seb77

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I had to double-check when you mentioned "Keith". I studied with Keith Copeland in Cologne, and he highly recommended Live at the It Club. He had a very down-to earth list of records he would recommend, classic modern jazz, all with a great cymbal beat, time, musicality. Interaction, yes, but based on swinging.
I think I read that Ben Riley listened to Frankie Dunlop (probably Shadow Wilson, too), to prepare for the Monk gig. He didn't just play the way he used to play, but adjusted to Monk's timing/comping style, and the drummers who had been with Monk before had found way of playing time/comping that worked well.
 

Keith Balla

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This is a great example of Ben's playing and it's recorded really, really well. Sounds like you're right there on the bandstand.

I'll add one thing to what Keith mentioned: check out the interplay between Monk and Ben behind Charlie Rouse. There's a serious back and forth going on and they never play over each other. This is the key to becoming a good comper, in my opinion: learning how to interact with your comping partner, as well as with the soloist. Leaving space and establishing a dialogue.

Thanks for the sage advice, Andy. It's nice to get some commentary on the subject from one of the really great jazz drummers in NYC!

PS...looking forward to Yankees/Stros this weekend
 

richiegarcia4

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When Riley passed a few years ago, MD recalled a story about him playing at a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan that featured jazz bands. To keep the volume down, they didn't allow drummers to use sticks, but they made an exception for Riley, since he had such a light touch. He used to brag to other drummers, "I beat the stick rule".
 
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