Category: percussion


Hi, and thanks for stopping by. I haven’t had much up lately, been way too busy, but this read will more than make up for the gap. Yes it will.

First, the usual disclaimer: I don’t do product reviews as a general rule here, simply because that’s not what this li’l blog is about. What I do is write about people and stuff I like and believe in. Usually, I prefer to surprise folks and put up something up that they never expected to see, to give them due recognition. When it comes to products, same thing.

In the case of Liberty Drums, based in Shildon, U.K., it’s a bit of both. I met Andrew Street and Kevin Lodge at the 2015 NAMM show, in Anaheim, California, where Goran Kjellgren was sharing a booth for his Percussion Kinetics Vector bass drum pedal. I wrote a blog about Goran’s pedals awhile back for the same reasons: great product, great person.

 


 

Andrew and Kevin are the heavy lifters at Liberty. Kevin’s very intense attention to the vast array of production and logistics details, as well as his experience as a sound engineer, allows Andrew to do what he does best, which is make a seriously amazing drum. But mind you, everyone at Liberty contributes to making the final product one that’s well worth checking out.

 

 

Continuing on the matter of giving due recognition, Rhythm magazine awarded Liberty Drums the best wooden snare drum in the world last year. Modern Drummer gave strong respect and admiration to Liberty’s jazz/bop kit a few months ago, and they also created a video of it. The tuning was a bit low for my taste to sample a jazz kit, and thus was born my desire to write this blog and put up a few video samples with higher tuning and more emphasis on the jazz end of things.

 

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While at NAMM 2016, I had the chance to briefly play the Liberty Jazz/Bop series kit seen here, with the following sizes of Finnish birch shells: 8×12 rack tom (12 ply), 14×14 floor tom (12 ply), 18×14 kick (15 ply), and a 14×5.5 snare (15 ply). Here’s a video clip of my exploration, shot with just a cell phone and the usual NAMMbient background madness…

 

 

Ya think?

The snare pops and sings. The kick launches, and the toms deliver from the bottom up. I say this especially, because for the following video clips I shot, I tuned the toms higher. The first clip emphasizes the kit’s overall bop performance with sticks, and the second showcases the use of brushes and how much subtle range the kit has. The third give brushes their due, and it lets you hear what makes jazz so special, at least to my ear.

The snare in particular, while not the award-winning one, stands out as musical instrument of its own. Amazing tones, the smallest little details, the stuff a jazz drummer who is close-mic’d can use to make beautiful musical statements. My jazz chops are decent I suppose, but they sounded more so to me because I could hear the sound of gen-u-ine jazz drums at my fingertips. This gave me an authentic palette to create with.

 

liberty kit

 

On a side note, as I was shedding one night, just goofing around, I could swear I smelled wood, I mean, like walking by a tree in the forest kind of wood. I mentioned this to Andrew in an email, and he said I was in fact smelling bees wax, which the inside of the shell was treated with.

Bees wax.

Yeah, kids. That’s what you do when you hand-form every single shell that goes out the door and want to put a signature on it. You address production with a deep level of focus and care. Now, multiply that level of attention to ten years of making drums. Rhythm magazine did the math and came to a similar conclusion.

 

 

Now, on to the main point of this blog: Here’s a brief up-tempo improv I shot to showcase the overall kit’s response to sticks. I used my iPhone 6S, with sound recorded using a single overhead condenser mic, run through a board and directly into the iPhone using an iRig adapter.

 

 

The drums are super light by the way, and they are running Remo Emperor clears on the toms, kick, and an Emperor vintage coated head on the snare. Tuning could go from rock to bop in sixty seconds per drum. I‘m not kidding. In four minutes, you have two entirely different sounding kits that sound authentic on both end of the spectrum. Yes you do.

Here’s a second clip, a slower example to let you hear the drums a little clearer.

 

 

Liberty’s latest achievement – and you can be sure that it is – was getting their wares into Pro Drum Shop, in Hollywood. Do that, and you’ve summited the top of the West Coast drum store hill. They are distributed by Cymbal Planet on the East Coast, in New York, and if you live in the U.K., the Dealer link on the Liberty site will take you where you need to go (www.LibertyDrums.com)

I’ll leave you with my favourite clip, the true test of any jazz kit, recorded with no external mic, directly to my iphone. Brushes are where the real finesse of this American art form really come to life, and I enjoy giving it a shot every time I pick up a pair. Use ear buds to grasp the finest levels of detail in the snare, and I do believe you will hear what I heard… some subtle truth, laid out across a canvass built by true artisans.

 

 


 

Liberty, you guys really know how to make a drum that sings. You’ve given the drumming world a beautiful and distinctive voice to express itself with.

Well done, mates. Very well done.

 

liberty logo

 

 

 

 

“Watching the waves from a ship to and from Japan and looking out of the car window on multiple trips across the USA in my childhood, gave me the space to study time itself, and the complexity and harmonics of rhythm, order and chaos.  

Subdividing and predicting the instant objects would pass, or their relationship to others in time, consumed the hours of my youth. It all comes down to time. 

That is why I chose drumming, Jazz, Indian classical and African. All the great rhythm traditions. When I drum, I sing the melody of the arrow of time. “

 


About a year ago in Los Angeles, I met the author of this quote, at a gig led by my bass player friend, David Hilton. Leonice Shinneman had a very interesting set-up, a small jazz kit with some tablas. His playing was very light and elegant, sophisticated, without question. He played the tablas briefly, and I thought, kinda cool to see that…

 

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I had no idea I was in the presence of a recognized world tabla master, a former faculty member at Cal Institute of the Arts, an innovative inventor and patent holder, and an artist whose drumming and percussion credits included work with Frank Zappa, along with contributions to soundtracks for “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Aliens 3.”

 

leonice-3

I just knew the guy could play.

 

Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be six months to a year before Leonice can resume his art, because he was recently in a very serious car accident. Broken neck, broken back.

 

Yeah… that kind of serious.

 

His sister, Joy, created a Gofundme account to help get through what is obviously going to be a rough road, so if you have a minute, please visit the site. You may not have heard of Leonice or know of his work, or perhaps you have and already heard about his accident. No matter. He’s a drummer, he’s one of us.

 

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Here’s the gofundme link: https://www.gofundme.com/u5jxgb2c

 

For more information about Leonice, here’s the link to his website: http://www.leoniceshinnemandrums.weebly.com

 

During a break at the gig where I met him, Leonice and I had a great conversation about his ride cymbal and how he played it. I asked about his tablas and said I was interested in learning a little more about them. He offered to share information, and he said I was welcome to sit in during the next set. I had to leave, but I appreciated the offer.

 

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Leonice, when you get back to bandstand, I’d like to take you up on that offer. Meanwhile, you take it easy. The universe has got this.

 

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A couple of years ago, I went out to the Remo Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood, California, to attend a memorial for Layne Redmond. She is best known for her work in bringing the legacy of women drummers and frame drumming back into the 20th/21st century world.

LRedmond new Remo Ad_1

Layne authored When The Drummers Were Women (Three Rivers Press, 1997), and in doing so, opened a door to the past that flooded the future with beautiful rhythmic truth.

laynebookcover

Several performers honored that truth and Layne’s efforts to keep it alive, and Candy Eaton was one of them. She performed with her Rhythm Sisters, a troup of women percussionists who as I recall played primarily frame drums. I’d never really listened to the instrument that much, but the sounds they created were haunting. I was also struck by the ceremony of the performance, the deep honouring and respect.

I spoke with Candy briefly afterwards, and she was the real deal. Her percussion interest stemmed from a lesson with George Medlock about eleven years before, on a hand drum, and she took to it like a proverbial fish to water. But how does a heavy metal rock fan who knows every song Black Sabbath ever recorded translate her passion into hand drumming?

candydumbek

With serious slap!.

I’ve watched Candy’s drumming videos on YouTube, and she hits a darbuka like John Bonham. She pretty much inverted my preconceptions of what a woman drummer could do, I have to admit. The slam and the tone were intense, even at low volumes. Candy’s presence is what caught my ear.

Candy’s knowledge of Middle Eastern and African drumming is equally impressive. Ask her about a rhythm and you’ll get its authentic name, sound, and history. I love this in a drummer (which I lack a lot of it, quite honestly), so it’s very cool to speak with someone who really knows their deep history and technique. She also plays congas, tabla, and a wide assortment of percussion instruments that reflect a broad approach to her passion for world drumming.

candyframe

But getting back to the Layne Redmond Remo memorial… it was reverent to watch a group of women in a slow procession, singing a simple song of memory and honoring. It’s something that for drum set players is a rare sort of thing, because we only have about 100 years of background, and short of Daniel Glass’s great efforts, not too many of us play in period events to preserve the history and education.

Candy Eaton’s Rhythm Sisters did exactly that, and watching such a powerful presence lead the group was edifying. It made me appreciate the other energy of drumming, the connection with the past. What I saw in Candy’s playing was a sincere devotion and dedication to the authentic, the preserving of tradition. Like I said, the real deal.

Candy plays and teaches in the Southern California area, mostly around Los Angeles, and she performs annually at events such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She also leads drum circles for private groups, playing various percussion instruments such as dumbek, darbuka, djembe, and of course, her frame drums. By the way, the sound Candy gets out of her 22” Remo frame drum with the Renaissance head sounds awesome!

So why should you know who Candy is if you are primarily a drum set player? Well, I think one answer is in watching how someone with a heavy metal drumming sensibility brings it to other hand drums, particularly the darbuka. When you consider that Danny Carry’s knowledge of tabla carries over to the very musical interpretation on much of his drumming with Tool, you get the idea…

It’s about opening our ears to other worlds and hearing what we might be able to take away as a lesson to expand our perspective, both musically and culturally. I’ve had some very interesting conversations with Candy about this since meeting her at Remo, and it’s inspired some pretty cool ideas for a project that I’ll share more about shortly.

In the mean time, check out Candy’s website (www.candyeaton.com) for her videos, and find her on YouTube, WordPress, Twitter or Facebook and say hello. She’s a powerful player with a powerful message for women, which I also like as well: Hit the drum, ladies, because it’s your birthright.

That’s what Layne Redmond taught, and as one of her students continuing the legacy (which is some pretty respectful credential), that’s what Candy lives to do. And when she really wants to, she does so very loud and proud.

candyhands

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