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Mixed Reviews - August 16

Balbex Drumsticks

Announcing themselves as a quality European drum stick manufacturer since 1997, I’m not entirely sure how I have never seen or heard of Balbex before; perhaps because the market is dominated by one or two brands.

I was handed a pair of 5A sticks to review, featuring a standard oval shaped tip and coated in the Balbex lacquer, which provides both a protective layer to protect the stick and a level of ‘stickiness’.

The sticks feel good in the hand, the balance is right and the sticks appear to be well paired. They’re also uniform and straight, which in all honesty is expected from all manufacturers in this day and age.

I like 5A’s, they’re a good all-around stick and I used these in a variety of situations, from jazz to heavy rock. The rebound was good and the sticks held up well to rim shots, no excessive splintering. The lacquer also didn’t become slippy as things got hotter.

For me the big problem with most sticks is the tips -  I like wooden tips and after a time they often chip away. I was thoroughly impressed with the tips on these sticks, they’re really holding up well on that front! 

It’s hard to review a simple pair of 5A drumsticks in this day and age because we’ve become so used to high quality tools with which to play and this is the most popular size for a reason. This means we’ve probably all had many great pairs of 5A’s in our time.

All I can really do is draw comparisons to the other big brands and tell you that as far as this pair goes at least, they’re holding up just as well as any other pair of sticks; whichever brand you might play!

Rob Crisp

Living Standards (CD) – Karl Latham, Mark Egan & Vic Juris

Featuring three incredible musicians and veterans of their instrument, ‘Living Standards’ is an 11 track compilation of some of the 20th centuries finest songs, but in a jazz fusion arrangement.

Opening with a version of the Beetles classic ‘Day Tripper’, there is also a reworking of Princes’ Cinnamon Girl, as well as ‘Riders on the Storm’ from the Doors, finishing with the Cream Classic, ‘White Room’.

I found some of the tracks were more instantly recognisable than others, which in some ways is rather nice; it’s not meant to be a straight cover of these songs after all, but a jazz fusion interpretation and I feel the band really delivered; not that you would expect any less!

Not only was Karl playing the drums for this release but he is also credited as the producer, once again proving that drummers can have a lot more input than just hitting the skins.

It’s a great release and if you’re into jazz/fusion music it’s one that’s well worth a look.

Rob Crisp

Dropzone Jazz Records

Rhythm By The Numbers (Book and DVD) – Ralph Humphrey

Having been a based in LA as a session drummer, playing on hit records and for TV and film; Ralph has also had an impressive teaching career. 

This book focuses on the use of rhythm, something Ralph feels can be used to create even more of a creative and expressive ideas and has put together this book to help you explore it.

The premise of the book is actually very simple, you will take a short rhythm in a space, or a motif as he refers to it on the DVD. Then he looks at how you can expand and explore that rhythm to get the most out of it. 

If you’ve ever taken George Lawrence Stone''s Syncopation and used the sets as jazz comping ideas or a solo framework then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. 

It goes beyond Syncopation though; there are two pages with sticking options for playing various note groupings and rudiments, such as playing a 5 stroke roll with a compound sticking of “RLLRL/LRRLR” rather than the usual “RRLLR/LLRRL”. The idea here is that these stickings are useful when exploring different rhythms and using them around the kit. 

The way the rhythms are constructed as ‘a note or notes within a grouping’ (e.g. 4 notes out of a possible 6), provides us with some interesting rhythmic possibilities and those who have an interest in polyrhythmic ideas will also find this is a useful book. 

Accompanying the book is a DVD with more than 2 hours of exercises and demonstration. 

Ralph does a good job of explaining his thought process and premise behind the book, as well as how to approach developing the ideas yourself on the drums. 

I actually found his DVD intro and the first couple of examples to be much clearer in explaining the concepts than the text in the book, so my advice would be read the text, watch the intro and then read the text again if you’re still stuck. 

There are many books out there that take similar concepts of looking at rhythms and how to develop them, but this one does it in a slightly different way and I think it’s a nice approach to expressing yourself on the drums. 

Rob Crisp

Alfred Music 

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