Product Spotlight: Groove Alchemy
Stanton Moore is widely regarded as one of the funkiest young drummers on the scene today. With his New Orleans background and obvious strong ties to the roots of funk drumming, he is uniquely qualified to write what may well be the definitive book on the development of funk drumming. Groove Alchemy is available as a DVD, method book or both and is also the title of Stanton’s latest album (available from Telarc Records). The book (and DVD) is heavy on history and specific examples. You will know exactly who played which beat on what tune when you get through this book. Let’s take a close look at some of what the book/DVD has to offer.
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My first reaction to the book is that it is heavy – both in weight and in information. You’ll certainly get your money’s worth! At 151 pages, it dwarfs most other drum method books. There is not a page to be skipped, so if your reading chops aren’t quite together the mp3 disc will help you out. (Or maybe you would be better off with the DVD.) There are over 600 recorded examples and play along tracks. This will keep you very busy for quite a while!
From a teaching standpoint, the book excels in its in-depth historical perspective. Beginning with the drummers of James Brown, Stanton deeply examines the playing of Nat Kendrick, Clayton Fillyau, Melvin Parker, Smokey Johnson, John “ Jabo” Starks and Clyde Stubblefield. His knowledge of these drummers is very extensive, and his examinations of their styles could be the subject of a doctoral thesis. Next up is a very intimate look at the drumming of Joseph” Zigaboo” Modeliste. Very few drummers share the unique insight into Zig’s playing, as Stanton regularly performs together with him. The next section of the book focuses on getting creative with the concepts taken from those earlier drummers and making those same concepts fresh and your own.
From a teaching standpoint, the book excels in its in-depth historical perspective. Beginning with the drummers of James Brown, Stanton deeply examines the playing of Nat Kendrick, Clayton Fillyau, Melvin Parker, Smokey Johnson, John “ Jabo” Starks and Clyde Stubblefield. His knowledge of these drummers is very extensive, and his examinations of their styles could be the subject of a doctoral thesis.
The section on Clave inspired beats is interesting, and Stanton refers to what he calls the “3-3” clave, which is essentially just the three side repeated. While not quite obvious at first, once you hear these groove played well you can begin to hear the fusion of the New Orleans second line style with the Afro Cuban influence underneath. In keeping with the rest of the book, he references specific grooves in many songs with great detail. Some drummers that are examined are Idris Muhammed, John Bonham, David Garibaldi and James Black.
The section on Swing and Shuffles addresses one of the most neglected areas in today’s drumming landscape – triplet based grooves. Once again this section is presented in its historical context, with an examination of the evolution of the ride pattern, feathering the bass drum and their development into shuffle grooves. Many of the different shuffles sub-styles are explained, with some interesting hi hat foot patterns.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is Stanton’s suggestions for further study. He regularly points out other resources, such as Jim Payne, Allan Slutsky and Chuck Silverman, and Zoro’s books as well as Jabo and Clyde’s DVD Soul of the Funky Drummers. As I mentioned earlier the book is quite long and detailed, but one can still learn a great deal by checking out these excellent texts.