PlayCajon Podcast with Paul Jennings

In December 2015 I launched the PlayCajon Podcast, (conversations with drummers and percussionist from around the world). The aim of the podcast is to bring you fascinating stories and perspectives from some of the most interesting and sometimes well known drummers and percussionists in the world.

Over the past few weeks I have been lucky enough to talk to some of the top people in the percussion world including Munyungo Jackson (Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis), Luis Conte (Madonna, James Taylor), Pete Lockett, Heidi Joubert, David Mortara, Steven Black, Jaron Mossman, and Mark Powers. With many more great people set to be on the PlayCajon Podcast.

To hear the current episodes go to: http://playcajon.org/category/podcast/

Subscribe on iTunes to get the latest episodes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/playcajon-with-paul-jennings/id1067020894?mt=2&ls=1

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Cajon Community on Google+

If you have not already checked it out, Google plus is a fantastic way to share content, have discussion and build community. Google+ is also now now integrated with YouTube bringing your video content directly to your network. I have been on Google+ for a couple of years now and I have seen its format and layout improve a lot since Google launched it.

A great feature of Google+ is the communities. You can create a community of your own and invite people to join. Then you can share all manner of content and discuss.

I started the Cajon Players on Google+ community a while back and now it seems to be hotting up with many new members and great content. If you have something to share and want to engage in good discussion, we, in the cajon community would love to see you there.

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Angel Mary & The Tennessee Werewolves – Folsom Prison Blues

Back in July this year (2013), the day before the summer NAMM show in Nashville, TN. I walked into a Wells Fargo bank to do some routine banking. After chatting with the teller and mentioning that I was in town for the NAMM show, a young, mean lookin fella shouted over to me, “Ya’ll goin to NAMM”, I said “Why yes!” After a short conversation I found out the man was not that mean at all and that his name was Christian Wolf, drummer with the fast rising Nashville based band: Angel Mary & the Tennessee Werewolves. We agreed that we should connect at the show.

After meeting on the first day and having an impromptu cajon jam at our booth, I realized Christian was not only part of an amazing  band but also a fantastic drummer. We decided to fully endorse Christian as a Sela Cajon artist.

Angel Mary & the Tennessee Werewolves have just released this great video of their version of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. The video features Johnny and June’s own son: John Carter Cash &  Anthrax guitarist: Rob Caggiano

The Folsom Prison Blues video

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Presenting Christian Wolf with his CaSela Professional Snare Cajon at summer NAMM

I can’t wait to watch Angel Mary & the Tennessee Werewolves soar to success in the months and years to come.

PJ

Alex Acuna Interview

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A while back I asked legendary drummer & percussionist Alex Acuña if I could do an interview with him. To my delight he said yes.

(Paul)
As a Peruvian, the cajon is obviously part of your cultural heritage. What are some of your early experiences with the cajon?.

(Alex)
A great player his name is Canano Barrenechea used to record all the Peruvian music at the studio where I used to work in Lima in the 60s,  he played  the rhythms from the north of Peru,  (the tonderos and marinerasstyles) He show me some beats on the cajon, later in the late 70s I went to other players in Lima from Peru negro and they show me the rhythms of the Afro Peruvian music that were and still are very popular in Peru and all over the world NOW!!!!

(Paul)
What cajon players have influenced you over your life?

(Alex)
All of the Peruvians – Cajoneros of course, to name a few,  Ronaldo Campos, Caitro Soto de la Colina, Pititi, Chocolate Argendones and, also the yonger players – present ones, Gigio Parodi, Rony Campos, Marcos Campos.

(Paul)
How do you feel about the ever growing popularity of the cajon across the world today?

(Alex)
Its fantastic!!!! – Im very proud of course.  BTW The first time a cajon was recorded in a major label, the artist was with Chick Corea 1983 in LA at Madhatters studios.

(Paul)
There are many players experimenting with new ways of playing the cajon these days. What do you feel about the development of the cajon?

(Alex)
Again fantastic!!!! the Cajon is an instrument that can fit any musical set up and genre, Classical, acoustic, jazz, Latin etc…  I love to see so many people playing it and of course there are many different techniques and ways of playing, etc…But I love to hear and see what’s happening with the Peruvian Instrument El Cajon Peruano.

(Paul)

You have played with many prolific artists in your career, who inspires you?

(Alex)

All of them for different reasons, there are so many it can take to long to elaborate, Ill mention some of them. Wayne ShorterJoe ZawinulElvin JonesJaco Pastorious Chick CoreaPaco de LuciaHerbie HancockJohn Williams. The list goes on and ON…

(Paul)
Was the cajon ever used in your time with Weather Report?

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Acuna with Weather Report in the 1970’s

(Alex)
No, but right after that I did it when we recorded with Chick Corea and Paco de Lucia  the name of the CD is “Touch Stone”.

(Paul)
As a set drummer, do you find the cajon, with its kick and snare type sounds, a good substitute for drum set in certain situations?

(Alex)
Well,,,,I know what you saying…but nothing can replace the real drums….I know,,,I know…But I have never thought of the cajon in those ways, but maybe  that will work when is played in a simple set up or simple beats..but when its played in the Peruvian hard core music, like the festejos, lando, etc… it is the main percussion instrument, who will dictate that style of music and the player must have lots of chops and great rhythm. The same will be when is played in the Flamenco music.  Another observation, The cajon player needs to know how to play drums to make it feel like a drummer, its all about the knowledge and attitude of the real set player…Honest opinion.

(Paul)
Do you ever use any other percussion, such as a conga, in a set up with the cajon or would you normally just play the cajon by its self?

(Alex)
Again because I am a drummer and a percussionist I have developed great coordination’s and that gives me so many choices to use the cajon in many and any ways I like.

(Paul)
In your opinion, what are some of the best cajon makes on the market today?

(Alex)
I have to say the ones made in Peru for my company – GonBops,  Alex Acuna Limited Edition,  its made the real ways because the Peruvians have been making cajons for a very long time –  some great cajons are also being made in Spain.

(Paul)
What projects are you working on right now?

(Alex)
This week I m going to play with Peter Erskine “Drummers of WR” and the next week Ill be in NY recording 2 CDs with Chick CoreaJohn MclaughlinPaco de Lucia and Jack d Johnette. Later I will be playing four concerts with John Patitucci in Peru, Santo Domingo, Chile and Argentina. In June I’ll be at the Puerto Rico Jazz Heineken, With Paquito d RiveraEddie PalmieriMichel Camilo, they’re all Jazz events Which I love so much.  And In the summer Ill be in Europe with Bobby Mcferrin…etc…always very busy, practicing, teaching and recording a lot.

It was an absolute pleasure to interview Alex. He continues to be one of the most influential drummers around today.

More info on Alex Acuna:
Alex Acuña was born in Pativilca, Peru. He played in local bands from the age of ten, then moved to Limain his teens. In 1974 Acuña moved to Las Vegas and began working with artists such as Elvis Presley andDiana Ross. The following year he joined the jazz-fusion group Weather Report, appearing on the albumsBlack Market and Heavy Weather. Acuña left Weather Report in 1978 to focus on work as a session musician in California.

Acuña has recorded and played live with Paul McCartneyJoni MitchellElla FitzgeraldJim WalkerChick CoreaWhitney HoustonPlácido DomingoPhil Keaggy, Sergeant Petter, Sam Phillips, former Weather Report bandmates Wayne Shorter and Joe ZawinulHerbie HancockCarlos SantanaAntonio Carlos JobimBeckRoberta FlackU2, and Al Jarreau. He can be found on recordings by musicians as culturally diverse as Javier Malosetti, Lee RitenourPeter GabrielJohnny CleggRobbie RobertsonJackson Browne and Flavio Sala.

Drummer Girls: The ladies who are taking over♀

Like many things throughout history it is unfortunate that drumming has traditionally been a male dominated activity. Not any more!

When I saw Dumpstaphunk in Denver, CO on new years eve 2012 nothing could prepare me for the power and groove that was about to hit. I had bearly heard of Dumpstaphunk at that time and I had no idea that the bands drummer: Nikki Glaspie was about to have me dancing the hight of my self in excitment every time she hit the snare drum. Nikki’s groove was so in the pocket, it put a hole in it. The whole band put on quite a show that night but for me, it was Glaspie who stole the show. A few days later I decided to check out some of her other work, I found out that she had played with Beyonce on her 2007 world tour and after checking out some videos on YouTube I began discovering some other incredible female drummers who I had not heard of before. I suddenly realized that the girls were taking over and drumming’s age of women was truly upon us.

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Sheila E who is regarded as one of the most iconic female drummers of all time.

Of course Nikki Glaspy was not the first great female drummer. There are a long line of greats who came before such as Cindy Blackman-Santana who’s career spanning 3 decades has seen her play with greats including: Pharoah SandersLenny Kravitz, and of couse her husband: Carlos Santana. Grammy nominated Sheila E  is probably one of the most well know female drummers who is best known for her long career with Prince. Her wide percussive ability on drum set, congas, timbales, and dosens of other instruments has seen her play with greats such as: Lionel RichieGeorge DukeRingo Starr, & Gloria EstefanKaren Carpenter who was the lead singer and drummer for the Carpenters, who scored a string of Top 10 hits in the early ’70s probably influenced hundreds of women to pick up the sticks over the years. These great drummers amongst others have led the way for a new age of female drummers who are now taking the gigs from the boys and deservedly so.

Girls to watch out for

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Nikki Glaspie who has performed with Dumpstaphunk, BeyonceChaka Kahn, Jay-Z, Kanye West

After attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Nikki Glaspie has gone on to play with some of the worlds biggest artists including being chosen to be part or Beyonce’s all girl band in 2006 taking her on a world tour in 2007. Glaspie’s style is very much in the gospel funk tradition with a technical ability to rival anyone who dares. Check out Nikki playing

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Hannah Ford who’s band 3rd Eye Girl are now performing as the backing band for Prince.

Ford has taken influence from drummers like Buddy Rich, Tony Williams, Sheila E & Cindy Blackman. Her short career has already led to her playing drums with Prince, not an easy seat to fill after drummers like Bobby ZJohn Blackwell, Kirk Johnson & Sheila E have been there before. Check out Hannah Ford playing

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Cora Coleman-Dunham has performed with Prince, Yusef LateefFrank McComb

After Prince attended one of her performances with Frank McComb he took an interest and upon her return from a Japanese tour, Prince put together a new Band with Cora on drums and her husband, Joshua Dunham on bass. Cora is a power house of a drummer winning Guitar Center’s Annual National Drum-Off competition in 2003. Check out Cora Coleman playing

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Samantha Maloney has performed with HoleMötley CrüeEagles of Death Metal

In 1998 Maloney auditioned for Hole after the departure of Patty Schemel. She got the job and at the age of 22 Maloney was on the road with Hole at the hight of their success. In 2000 she joined Mötley Crüe to fill in for Randy Castillo who was ill at the time. After Castillo died in 2002 Maloney went on to play with the band until 2004. Maloney now tours with Brother Clyde an alt rock band formed by Billy Ray Cyrus. Check out Samantha Maloney playing

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Kim Thompson has performed with Kelly Rowland, George Michael, Destiny’s Child

Kim Thompson is origionaly from LA but grew up in St Louis, MO. Like Nikki Glaspie Thompson was part of Beyonce’s all girl live band in 2007. She has toured in over 33 countrys and endorses Yamaha drums, Zildjian cymbals, and Vater sticks. Check out Kim Thompson playing

PJ