CD Reviews
Drummer Cafe 20th Anniversary
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Hudson Music - Baby Steps to Giant Steps

The third collaboration between Hudson Music and Drum Fun, Baby Steps to Giant Steps is a complete educational package that expands on the fun and developmental benefits of the popular “Turn It Up & Lay It Down” CDs by combining the play-along tracks with lesson material designed to help drummers improve their playing skills while increasing their awareness and appreciation of jazz drumming.

The professionally-produced minus-drums play-along CD features eleven tracks based on jazz standards that gradually step up in tempo from 100 to 310 beats per minute (BPM). This innovative, incremental approach gives drummers the opportunity to work on developing their speed, groove and technique one step at a time—just as the title suggests.

Written by two of today’s most respected jazz drummer/educators, Peter Retzlaff (Diane Schuur, Maynard Ferguson, Drummers Collective faculty) and Jim Rupp (Woody Herman, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Natalie Cole), Baby Steps to Giant Steps includes lead sheets, drum charts and recommended patterns for each play-along as well as an extensive tutorial on jazz drumming—covering key topics such as developing the jazz ride pattern and feel, feathering the bass drum, independence, comping, trading fours and playing with brushes. All of the songs and instructional content in the book are clearly explained, notated and accompanied by a recommended listening list.



REVIEW

Baby Steps To Giant Steps — The Road to Jazz Drumming, One Tempo at a Time is an excellent book/CD package of eleven play-along tunes which mimic a number of common jazz standards that every serious jazz musician should know. 12-bar blues as well as standards such as "There Never Will Be Another You", "Take the A Train", "Bye-Bye Blackbird", "Cherokee" and "Giant Steps".

The book starts out with a concise introduction to jazz and jazz drumming; a nice read for anyone who is new to the art of jazz drumming. Part One: Building Blocks of Jazz Drumming discusses how to approach playing the Ride cymbal, feathering the Bass drum, jazz time-keeping, as well as some basic coordination studies and combinations, phrasing, fills, and using the brushes.

Part Two: The Charts and Lead Sheets starts off with an explanation and example of what these two types of music charts actually are, followed by an explanation of the tune, lead sheet, short and long drum chart for each of the eleven tunes on the CD. There's also written-out drum solo examples for each tune, giving you a good starting place and solo concept as you work to develop your own solo ideas.

The play-along CD itself is very good. Instrumentation includes piano, bass and guitar, with saxophone appearances on several tracks. Each tune begins with a two-bar count-off then straigt into the head of the tune, followed by piano/guitar/bass solos ... and ... a section for the drums to solo, trade 4's, etc. There is no click track throughout the tune; which is EXCELLENT! The only time you hear a click (ie. stick clicks or finger snaps on beats 2 and 4) is during the count-off and any time the drums are supposed to solo. I wish more play-along products were like this. I do have two complaints about the CD however. First, all of the tracks have a 60Hz hum throughout from the guitar or bass amp; I expected more from "top-notch New York-based jazz musicians". Secondly, the saxophone is WAY too hot in the mix (tracks 8, 10, and 11). My head was nearly ripped off during my first preview of track #8; I was wearing headphones. You've been warned!

The book closes with a short list for recommended recordings for listening, plus suggested drumset and snare drum books and videos. Listening to jazz albums and the legendary drummers who played on them is paramount to learning and playing the jazz genre.

I think the Baby Steps To Giant Steps combo pack is an excellent resource for beginners to advanced drummers. If you're already a "jazzer" you might want to skip the book and just pick-up the play-along CD, but the combo pack is well worth the already low price. Educators and private instructors should find this book/CD a valuable tool for their teaching studio or school. I highly recommend it.

Order it online today through the Drummer Cafe ... of visit your local pro drum shop to pick up Baby Steps To Giant Steps.