The Purdie Shuffle

August 27th, 2008 |

There a certain songs where the chord changes, or the drum beat, or the guitar part become more famous than the song itself. These parts often go on to spawn many songs of their own.

One example of this would be the twelve-bar blues. I’m sure we covered the origin of this set of chord changes in college but I was probably asleep that day.

Another ubiquitous set of chord changes would be the “rhythm changes.” These are the chord changes to “I Got Rhythm.” There are countless Jazz tunes written over these chords and it is quite a milestone in a young Jazz musician’s life when they learn to tackle rhythm changes. One of the tunes I did in my junior recital in college was written over rhythm changes and I distinctly remember getting lost early in my solo and attempted to fake it by playing modal over the thing which never, ever works.

Another set of famous changes are the changes to Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”. Learning to solo over this tune is considered by many to be the holy grail of improvisational accomplishment. Check out this video I found of the album version of “Giant Steps.” This is way cool and shows the brilliance of Trane. Make sure you watch it at least until he starts the solo.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I just recorded a demo of a new tune and I think it should have the “Purdie Shuffle” (or something like it) as its beat.

Bernard Purdie was one of Steely Dan’s drummers and the wicked beat he played on the tune “Home At Last” has become more famous than the tune itself.

There are a bunch of videos on You Tube with guys demonstrating this beat in its various forms and I think it is totally fascinating.

Here’s Purdie playing a kind of 6/8 version of this shuffle.

Here is a guy playing it in probably the closest way to the way I want to use it. This is a little fast but close.

Here is Jeff Porcaro showing how he used the “Purdie Suffle” as the basis for his drum part in Toto’s “Rosanna.”

At lastly, here’s a ten year old kid playing this beat. This is just plain impressive. This beat is a lot harder to play than it looks.

Lakeland Revival

June 3rd, 2008 |

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a man who goes to a church here in town. He was telling me about a trip he and some of the people from his church took to Lakeland, Florida. He told me about this gigantic ‘revival’ that is going on down there and how God is doing amazing things. This was the first I had heard of the Lakeland revival.

There have been a couple of occasions since then where this revival has been brought up, the most recent of which was Angel telling me that Hank Hanegraaff had done a whole report on it. Angel said “We’ve got to find this stuff on the Internet. You’re not going to believe some of the stuff this Pastor is saying.”

So Angel did some searching and found the clip Hanegraaf was using to incriminate (and rightfully so) this Pastor. Hanegraaf’s broadcast about this can be found here. Under “Recent Broadcasts” click the “Questions and Answers” link next to 6/2/2008.

Here it is.

There is a whole slew of this garbage. If this guy is of the Lord then why do I feel like I’m watching Satan himself mock God?

The website for this revival claims that eight people have been raised from the dead. I watched a video where a guy claimed that both of his legs (amputated at the knees) had begun the grow back during the service and that he could now see through his glass eye.

I have watched countless videos of various ‘faith healers’ who bring people up on the stage who claim that they were healed during the service. But why don’t we ever actually see the healing? Why don’t they bring up a woman with a withered arm and let us see God make it whole? Why don’t they ever bring up a burn victim and let us see God make the skin smooth again? Why don’t they ever raise anyone from the dead on stage?

It would be like going to a magic show where the magician sends his beautiful, young assistant into the crowd for the set-up to his first trick. She goes to the back of the auditorium and finds a top hat with a rabbit in it. She then grabs the rabbited top hat and races to the stage claiming that when she first saw the hat it was empty but when the magician waved his wand she actually watched the rabbit appear in the hat. The crowd goes wild. Everyone believes. Magic is real.

Then she runs back stage and brings out a guy who she claims was sawed in half only seconds before but now look at him, he’s completely all together and stuff. Once again the crowd goes totally berserk. Now he’s going to make an airplane disappear or whatever. You get the idea. But here’s the thing, this magician is selling out stadiums every night with these amazing tricks. He’s on the news. He’s on TV. Criss Angel has a tattoo of the guys face on his chest. And to all of this the rest of us offer a thundering “Huh?”

There are many people who think that these signs and wonders will once and for all prove that God does exists and that it will lead many unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ. But here’s what I know to be true; if God Himself came to earth and walked and talked with us most of us wouldn’t believe. If God Himself came to earth and raised the dead most of us wouldn’t believe. If God Himself came to earth and healed the sick most of us wouldn’t believe. If God Himself came to earth we would murder Him. If He rose from the dead most of us wouldn’t believe. I know all of this because it actually happened. Even the people who walked with Him and talked with Him and touched Him and ate with Him; the vast majority of them didn’t believe. So what is to make us think that a guy kicking people in the face is going to yield different results?

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It’s the good news of Jesus Christ that will bring people to belief, not miracles, and certainly not assault and battery.

If the Lakeland folks want to see lives changed, here is the message: Jesus Christ is God Himself in human flesh. He came to earth to seek and save that which was lost. He lived a perfect, sinless life obeying all of God’s laws. He was crucified and suffered the punishment for our sin. He died and rose again on the third day. He appeared to many and told them that He is going to prepare a place for us. He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God and makes intercession for us.

Without Christ we are without hope. If we repent of our sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we will be saved, saved from the punishment we deserve for our sins. There is no other way to inherit eternal life. When we believe, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, and God imputed our wickedness to Christ on the cross. The great exhange.

Did I hear any of that in any of the videos I watched of the Lakeland thing? No.

So why is it that I believe in Christ and so few others do? Is it because I’m a simpleton? Is it because sex, drugs, and Rock-n-Roll just didn’t really hit the spot for me? Is it because I sat down and weighed the pros and cons of Christ verses everything else that might help me sleep at night? No! None of that. I believe because God has granted me belief. God has opened my eyes. God has given me spiritual life. That’s why I believe. It wasn’t anything I did. God showed me His mercy and I’ll never be the same.

Don’t look at the psycho evangelists, look at me. Look at the miracle God has performed in me. I was dead and now I’m alive. Christ did not come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men live.

Sgt. Pepper

June 1st, 2007 |

I dug out my copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band tonight. It’s playing right now. Everyone who is able to locate your copy in under twenty seconds, high five or whatever. Today is the fortieth anniversary of its release. If you have any form of media outlet in your house you’re already aware of this fact I’m sure.

I think it was Tarantino who suggested that there are two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. I sort of agree except I prefer to say that the two types of people are Beatles people and Communists. I’m a Beatles person. My wife is also a Beatles person though she is a communist sympathizer.

People who were old enough to appreciate music in and live through the 60s are incredibly fortunate people, save the whole Vietnam thing. The Beatles, Hendrix, Coltrane, and The Zombies (I am fully aware that this list goes on indefinitely) all did their greatest work in the 60s. My favorite album of all time (Spilt Milk – Jellyfish) sounds like it was written in the 60s even though it was made in 1993. I believe that anyone who is interested in learning how to write great Pop music should start in the 60s.

A couple of weeks ago at my worship band’s practice, my cousin Jake, who is 18 and plays electric guitar, made the statement that he didn’t think he’d ever heard The Beatles before. Now Angel would claim that anyone with ears who has been on planet Earth for more than three months has heard The Beatles. She’s probably right. The point is not really whether or not Jake had heard The Beatles but that he didn’t know if he had. I actually found this rather exciting because I made a very similar statement in my first sax lesson in college.

Paul DeMarinis

Paul DeMarinis is one of the most renown Jazz educators and saxophone teachers in the country. In my first lesson with him he was wanting to learn about my playing background and what I had been listening to. He asked how much Coltrane I knew. At that time I didn’t even know what instrument Coltrane played. This is like being a wife-beating drunk and not knowing what NASCAR is. I was incredibly embarrassed but Paul was ecstatic. He knew there was an entire world of saxophone incredibleness that I had never even heard. [Incidentally – Coltrane died only a month and a half after The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s]

That is why I thought it was so cool that Jake had never heard The Beatles. Some of the greatest popular songwriting in history is there for him to discover. His brain is going to explode. Like mine is doing now as “She’s Leaving Home” is playing.

That reminds me, check out this version of that very song. This is stunning. Vic (a regular reader of my blog) turned me on to this and I’m so glad he did.

On Songwriting On Blitzen

February 28th, 2007 |

A few minutes ago I was replying to an email from Dino when I realized that I should use it here. We were talking about songwriting. I was comparing the relationship between Free Jazz and Bebop to the relationship between composing ‘mood’ music (for film or whatever) and writing songs. Here’s part of what I said.

[The reason I think a person should practice] writing complete tunes is sort of the same reason a person should learn to play traditional Be-Bop before learning to play Free Jazz. The ‘Free’ stuff sounds so inviting because it apparently has no rules and you just kinda freak out and go for a vibe. But I believe it’s much harder to be creative when there are no rules or structure than when there are. I think that’s why Phish is such a great jam band. It’s because they understand traditional songwriting and understand how to create form on the fly. On the other hand you have all these kids starting up jam bands because they think that jamming is so easy and they totally reek because they haven’t learned the rules enough to be able to play without rules.

So I said all that to say that atmospheric music can be deceptively inviting because all you have to do is create a vibe or a mood. But it’s not easy at all if you don’t have a solid songwriting foundation. Grooves still have to go somewhere. They still have to develop. They still have to have a beginning and an end. That’s what makes them compelling.

That reminded me of a great quote from Igor Stravinsky. “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution”.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7

January 14th, 2007 |

I’ve been trying to talk my wife into doing a tag-team blog but she’s not really going for it yet. She used to do a blog at MySpace and her writing was so funny it made me furious. How dare she out wit me! So I’ll keep working on her and see if she’ll agree to dumb it down a smidge and dust off ye old Innerwebz and make us all jealous again.

I read a passage of the Bible the other day that left me completely stunned. I don’t think I’d ever noticed this passage before. This particular style of imagery is not something I’ve come across, at least not in the Bible. Check it out.

Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (NASB)

1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them”;

2 before the sun and the light, the moon and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain;

3 in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few, and those who look through windows grow dim;

4 and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low, and one will arise at the sound of the bird, and all the daughters of song will sing softly.

5 Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags himself along, and the caperberry is ineffective. For man goes to his eternal home while mourners go about in the street.

6 Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed;

7 then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

So if you see that show up in a song on my next album, don’t tell God I stole it.

In verse three Solomon starts describing the withered body of an elderly man. (yeah like I totally knew that) The watchmen are the arms, the mighty men are the legs, and on and on. You get the idea. Wow. Color me impressed.

Today I was asked to play and speak at a church event next month. I was told I could play a couple of songs and then tell my story. My story?!? You mean like how I was a gang-banger from the age of three? Or how I smuggled Cuban cigars “the old fashioned way” with a Chinese boy named Hector until we were jailed for 41 years in a Turkish prison where I came across a Bible while playing poker with the cook? I guess I’d better come up with something fast. I guarantee these folks do NOT want to know the truth. Nor shall they get it.

I came across this old picture of Riley and it made me laugh.

Riley Johnson

That new blog smell

January 13th, 2007 |

It looks like this new site actually works. So this will be my new blogging hangout. This blog will probably be a lot more personal than one I did at The Formula Kid site. There will still be a lot of talk about music and stuff like that of course but this will be more of a diary than a what’s-going-on-with-the-band thing.

This site is going to function a little different from the last. This will only be a blog so if you want to find music you’ll click the “Mp3 Downloads” link under the Categories over there at the left. Then all the blog posts with music will be shown. If your looking for pictures, you’ll click the “Pictures” link. You see the pattern developing here? Or if you’re interested in more pictures you can get to our Flickr page over there at the right.

I’m going to do the blog comments just like The Formula Kid blog for now. You won’t have to register or anything like that. But if I start to get a bunch of spam I may have to re-think that. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen.

I got together with Dino last night to hang out and talk about the music he’s been writing. He played me a bunch of recordings that were really cool. A lot of it was loop-based (with live drums of course), moody, groovy tunes. We’re going to be working together on some more of this same type of stuff.

We also talked about my solo album and when we could get started recording it. I’ve got a bunch of new songs but most of it is only about half way written so I’ve committed to finishing up the lyrics and arrangements before jumping into any real recording.

I don’t have any new music to post right now but I do have this mp3 of my son Riley singing. Pretty funny stuff. The first song he does is one that Angel sings to him every morning to wake him up but after that he just starts riffing and it’s hilarious.

Check it out.

Here are the two songs that were on the old site.

All I’m Living For

Fall Fights

Here are the original, full-band versions of these songs.

Fall Fights

(from the album Invention of the Wheel – Drew Johnson Band)

All I’m Living For

(from the album Without Benefit of Clergy – Koffterweid)

Since this is my first post I have to tag it in every category to get the categories to all show up under the categories header. Just letting you know why.