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  • Transcription Page: “Bop Boy” by Bob Mintzer (featuring John Riley) Transcribed by Michael Mester

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Sep 30, 2022

    “Bop Boy” is a 12-bar blues composed by Bob Mintzer. In the video linked above, it is performed by The John Riley Quartet: John Riley (drums), Brad Walker (tenor saxophone), Mike Esneault (piano), and Bill Grimes (bass).

    One of the traditions of jazz music is call and response, and one of the ways this is realized in performance is through trading, which is when two or more members of a band solo back and forth. Often, this will be between the melodic instruments and the drummer, but it could be between any instruments. In this performance, the musicians are trading 12 bars at a time, between the sax, drums, and piano. The song has a 12-bar form, so it makes sense why the musicians decide to trade twelves. First, the saxophone player solos for 12 bars, then everyone drops out while the drummer solos. Next, the piano player solos for 12 bars, then the drummer again. This pattern repeats until John Riley cues (with a head nod) that the melody of the song is about to come back.

    I transcribed all of John Riley’s solos during this trading section. He uses traditional bop vocabulary, but he also incorporates some modern vocabulary, including groupings of five, seven, etc. On the second excerpt from the transcription, John uses some of this vocabulary, but with traditional vocabulary in between. The traditional vocabulary helps to connect the phrasing in a clear and musical way. Here, John uses groupings of seven between the snare drum and floor tom, and repeats it. He uses this grouping at the beginning of each four-measure phrase, but ends each phrase with more traditional vocabulary. For example, in the second solo passage, note that each stroke that is directly before a “stick on stick” sound is a dead stroke into the snare, so that the stick can easily be hit.

    Observing the trading in this video, it is obvious that the musicians are listening to each other while trading. They musically answer each other's questions, and sometimes imitate each other. It is also important to use my transcription as a visual guide to what is happening musically. Listen to the music to hear the subtleties and the phrasing that transcription cannot represent.

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    Michael MesterMichael Mester lives in Philadelphia. He has a bachelor's degree in Commercial Music from Kutztown University and is currently completing his masters in Jazz Studies at Temple University. Michael works as a freelance musician and as a drum teacher. He has studied with John Riley, Ari Hoenig, and Paul Gallello, and is currently studying with Justin Faulkner. Contact Michael at, or connect through Instagram @mistermikeymester_drums.

    The Transcription Page is a destination within the R!S Blog where you can find a frequently updated library of drumset transcriptions — classic and modern, in a variety of musical styles — all available for FREE download! This page has been created as a shared resource for players, students, and teachers of all ages and ability levels.

    While the Transcription Page is FREE for all to access, you must be a PAS member to submit a transcription for publication. If interested, please check out the guidelines to follow for consideration: We welcome your contribution!

    Audio and/or video links of each transcription are included wherever possible, so dig in and enjoy!

  • In Memoriam: Rubén P. Alvarez

    by Hillary Henry | Sep 29, 2022

    Ruben AlvarezRuben P Alvarez, a Latin percussionist, drum set artist, composer, and educator, died on Sept. 25, 2022 from complications from an incurable respiratory condition. 

    Born on Nov. 20, 1951 Rubén was first introduced to Latin percussion by playing drums in Puerto Rican street "descargas" in the 1960s on the streets of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He went on to amass significant credits as a musician and educator, including playing on movie soundtracks, radio and television jingles, and performances and recordings with Junior Wells, John Mayall, Dennis DeYoung, Dave Valentine, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Palmieri, Anita Baker, The Commodores, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Guitarra Azul, Chuchito Valdes, Ramsey Lewis, Patricia Barber, Grazyna Auguscik George Freeman, Slide Hampton, Laurel Massé, Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. He regularly performed with Chicago’s premier Latin jazz ensemble Chevere, Orbert Davis and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and he was leader and musical director of El Trio Tropical, the @Raices Profundas Latin Music Ensemble, and his own company, Astro Latino Productions. He was a 2013 Latin Grammy nominee for his work on the Chuchito Valdés CD Made in Chicago. In musical theatre he was a percussionist and musical consultant for the Goodman Theatre Production of Crowns and the Broadway Chicago run of The Lion King.

    As an educator, he was on the faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, Prairie State College, Roosevelt University, Urban Gateways, the Center for Arts in Education, the Ravinia Festival's “Jazz Mentors” program, Bands of America, the International Association of Jazz Educators artist outreach, Teacher Training Institute programs, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Armonía Community outreach program, and the Jazz Institute of Chicago Jazz Links residency program. He led clinics, master classes, and performances at schools and music education conferences nationally and internationally. His educational articles were featured in DownBeat magazine, and he co-authored Rox Media’s Sheddin’ the Basics, Latin Jazz/Part One. He also served as a board member for the Jazz Education Network, a governor for the Recording Academy/Grammys Chicago Chapter, and vice-president for the Illinois Percussive Arts Society Chapter. He also served on the PAS World Percussion Committee.

  • PAS Playlist: Tony Williams by Wayne Salzmann II

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Sep 28, 2022

    Salzmann Playlist

    Tony Williams is considered one of the most important innovators of the drum set. His facility, energy, and creativity were unmatched while playing blazingly fast tempos with stunning clarity in Miles Davis’s second great quintet as a mere teenager. He has been inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame and the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, and his contributions to jazz/rock fusion drumming in the late-’60s and early-’70s influenced many rock and funk drummers in the ’70s and beyond. Tony Williams brought intensity, style, and innovation to the music he played and created a legacy that will stand the test of time.

    “Seven Steps to Heaven”
    Miles Davis, Seven Steps to Heaven (1963)
    This is one of the breakout performances of a then 17-year-old Williams. The tempo is relatively quick, and the melody features drum breaks that are as recognizable as the tune itself. In addition to playing clear, tasteful comping throughout, Williams plays a simple, melodic solo over the form. This is a great entry point for people who have never listened to Tony Williams or Miles Davis’s second great quintet.

    “Blue Rondo”
    Jackie McLean, One Step Beyond (1963)On the verge of avant-guard, this tune and band push the boundaries of a straight-ahead approach to a hard-bop by playing a little more “out” melodically and harmonically. The melody is simply a riff that is repeated while the band improvises around it, and Williams provides an interactive drive throughout.

    “So What” (Live)
    Miles Davis, Four & More (1964)
    This is a great rendition of the first track from Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. A notably faster version of the tune, Ron Carter kicks the bassline off at more than double the pace of the original. There is great interaction, repetition, and energy throughout this tune.

    “Four” (Live)
    Miles Davis, Four & More (1964)
    Also faster than the original, Williams plays a subtle hi-hat and snare intro calling back slightly the original played by Philly Joe Jones. Williams keeps the energy high and the dynamics relatively low throughout all the solos, but his ride cymbal playing is the real star of this track. It is light, varied, with a clear articulation, and often played without the other limbs, yet the time is pushing forward with a constant momentum.

    “Cantaloupe Island”
    Herbie Hancock, Empyrean Isles (1964)
    Crossing over into an almost R&B approach to the time feel, this is some of the most repetitive playing Williams ever recorded. The concept here is more “part-oriented” accompaniment than in most jazz drumming. This is a great “gateway to jazz” for people who listen to pop or rock.

    “Out to Lunch”
    Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch (1964)This tune and album are cited among the classic “free jazz” recordings. The soloists abandon the form, harmony, time, and tempo of the melody, and the entire band responds in a completely spontaneous way. Although it can be a challenge for some listeners, free improvisation like this allows for unique moments that can’t be planned or recreated.

    Miles Davis, E.S.P. (1965)
    Named after the telepathic-like musical communication between the members of the band, this tune is a great example of exactly that. This band started abandoning the formal structures and chord changes of the tunes and started getting more “out” with their improvisation style. Another uptempo tune, this one has a particularly nice hookup in the bass and drum time, and in the soloist and comping interaction.

    “Stella By Starlight”
    Miles Davis, Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965)
    Played as a rubato ballad, the band takes the tune into medium swing time around the two-minute mark, and into double-time shortly thereafter. Williams toys with half-time and double-time feels throughout, which changes the vibe and energy during the solos. This is a good representation of stretching the boundaries of a standard while improvising.

    “Maiden Voyage”
    Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage (1965)
    Breaking from the swing tradition in most of the earlier examples, this piece has an almost “boogaloo” time feel that falls between straight and swing. With a modal harmonic approach, this tune is very repetitious in the bass and piano, giving Tony lots of room to stretch out and be creative with the drum part.

    Miles Davis, Nefertiti (1967)
    This album features one of the most legendary cymbal sounds of all time, often emulated and referenced by cymbal companies and independent cymbal makers worldwide. This song has an incredible slow-build arc that lasts for the entirety of the track. In a break from the traditional head-solos-head form, the horn players continually repeat the melody as the rhythm section improvises collectively.

    The Tony Williams Lifetime, Emergency! (1969)
    This is a perfect example of Tony’s “four on the hat” approach; he plays quarter notes on the hi-hat with his left foot throughout. This trio maintains fierce energy through the virtuosic improvisations, paving the way for some even more intense recordings and bands to come. It could even be said that this drumming style is the precursor to punk and blast beats.

    “Vuelta Abajo”
    The Tony Williams Lifetime, Turn it Over (1970)
    This has perhaps the most “rock ’n’ roll” sound and feel of anything on this playlist. The riff in this tune could easily be mistaken for something by Iron Butterfly or The Doors. However, Williams’ shredding over said riff is unmistakably him. By this time in his career, he was playing bigger drums, bigger cymbals, and more single-stroke oriented improvisation.

    “Some Hip Drum Sh*t”
    The Tony Williams Lifetime, Ego (1971)
    A venture into percussion ensemble music, this recording features multiple drummers and percussionist playing a mix of ensemble passages and improvisation. This recording features classical percussion such as timpani, as well as drum set and Latin percussion rhythms and instruments such as cowbell and timbales.

    The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Believe It (1975)
    One of Tony’s many great recordings as a leader, this tune has a simple almost pop-like melody with driving bass and drums underneath as well as epic rock-style drum fills. The solo sections feature shredding keyboards and guitar with a wall of sound being created by the bass and drums.

    “Dark Prince”
    Trio of Doom, Trio of Doom (1979)
    This band plays blazing tempos of jazz and concepts of free improvisation with amplified guitars and electric bass employing rock sensibilities. This is fast, loud, and busy playing that inspired a whole genre of rock and funk fusion musicians. It truly is three virtuoso players all giving it everything they’ve got.

    Wayne SalzmannWayne Salzmann II is a drummer, educator, composer, and author who spent 12 years on the Jazz Faculty at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to extensive touring and six studio albums with Grammy-winning guitarist Eric Johnson, Salzmann has performed/recorded with Steve Miller, Kenny Rogers, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Cross, Joe Satriani, Mike Stern, Robben Ford, Chris Potter, Dick Oatts, Bob Schneider, the UT Jazz Faculty, and the San Antonio Symphony among others. He is a member of the PAS Drum Set Committee and teaches online and in person from his private studio in central Wisconsin. For more information, visit

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