"The Master Drummer" is based on over 40 years of observing and studying the master players. Throughout this DVD, renowned player, author, and teacher John Riley defines and explores the four key musical components drummers must develop in order to play at the highest level. John's insightful approach will help any drummer grow, regardless of level or style, and will lead to positive results in the achievement of one's musical goals.
Definitely a great DVD - one of the first that is really geared towards jazz drumset playing, although drummers playing any style can benefit from this material. I was lucky enough to study with John for 2.5 years in college, and I've hung with him a bunch since. He's an extremely articulate and inspiring teacher, and this DVD is really well done and deeply informative. You won't really get the gist of it from a single viewing. Like John's books, there is a serious wealth of information to delve into. You'll be working on this stuff for years!
There are four sections of roughly half and hour each covering technique, groove, creativity, and musicianship. The first section has a lot of talk and demonstration of technique, but unlike most other drum DVDs, Riley focuses on things that are important to jazz drummers playing jazz music. That having been said, drummers playing any style of music can benefit from this material.
Part of John's concept is to work on coordination exercises that really help improve your comfort level at the kit. These exercises may not sound like music when you hear them demonstrated, or when you try them yourself - John mentions this. You have to dedicate to them with the faith that they will indeed end up improving your coordination, time, groove, etc. It's kind of like in "Karate Kid" when Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel Larusso paint the fence and wax the floor. He doesn't realize it at the time, but he's learning essential skills.
There is a nice section where John demonstrates a series of classic bebop solo phrases, from the language of Philly Joe, Max, and Roy Haynes. He then shows you how to take those ideas and make your own creative language out of them by rearranging the notes or phrasing, and combining them together.
My favorite part of the DVD is the last section. John plays a recording of himself playing a gig with George Garzone, Kenny Werner, and Ed Schuller. We hear the band trading choruses with the drums on "Solar." John stops the tape after each trade and discusses what he was hearing and what inspired him to play what he played. You really get a sense of how much these guys are interacting and how closely they are listening to each other.
- Paul Wells