Baby Steps To Giant Steps – The Road To Jazz Drumming One Tempo At A Time

Former Ferguson and Herman drummers show how to stick through standard forms ranging from the blues and Take The 'A' Train to Giant Steps

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Drummers have been blessed with lots of great educational product recently, largely thanks to some strong releases from Hudson Music. Baby Steps to Giant Steps follows hot on the heels of other jazz-based books such as John Ramsey’s Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary, Steve Smith’s Drum Legacy and Mike Clark’s Post-Bop book and is no exception.

Co-authored by New York-based drummer and educator Peter Retzlaff (who’s playing credits include Maynard Ferguson, Greg Osby, Diane Schuur and the organ trio Flow) and Jim Rupp (Woody Herman, Ray Charles, Joe Lovano, Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole), this unique and impressive play-along package offers drummers of varying experience the opportunity to sharpen their swing and work on their technical prowess and reading skills. It’s packed with informative text, exercises and 11 well-presented and challenging play-along charts.  

The first part of the book covers such topics as the development of the ride cymbal pattern, “feathered” bass-drum technique, basic coordination and syncopation, approaching jazz fills and brush playing. All of this, of course, makes for great prep when moving onto the main chart-reading section which offers both the tune’s lead sheet and then drum part, giving the student a good overview of the tune’s form (essential to playing with a strong flow) and any phrasing they might consider bringing to their part. Also added for each piece is a written solo, complete with sticking, that the student can work up and play over the relevant section or space within the track.

The 11 downloadable tunes (starting at 100 bpm and running up to 310 bpm) are written around major and minor 12-bar forms or based on well-known standards such as Bye Bye Blackbird, Take The ‘A’ Train, My Romance, Cherokee, You Stepped Out Of A Dream, I Love You, There Will Never Be Another You and Giant Steps. Each track is finely recorded giving the student the rousing feeling of playing with a real small group or big band.

Indeed, having worked through many of the great jazz drum books on the market, I can say Baby Steps To Giant Steps is up there with some of the real great ones I come back to again and again. Perfectly titled, this is an essential book for any aspiring jazz drum student.

Baby Steps to Giant Steps – The Road To Jazz Drumming One Tempo At A Time by Peter Retzlaff and Jim Rupp. Hudson Music