Vinnie Colaiuta Tackles Classical Jazz

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To watch Vinnie Colaiuta play is to witness a master. It seems as if there is no lick, chop or style that can escape his grasp. It’s no wonder that a guy with this much talent has done so much. Even if his high visibility gigs with Frank Zappa and Sting escaped your notice, no doubt you’ve heard at least some of the studio work he has done over the years. So when a new piece of his recorded work came to our attention, we thought it time to dissect some of it.

These transcriptions come from Wigged Out, a recording by pianist Randy Waldman, who also is no slouch. He’s played with Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Madonna, to name but a few. His latest work is a collection of “classical standards,” like “Peter and the Wolf,” “Flight of the Bumblebee,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” and “Beethoven’s 5th Symphony,” believe it or not. Colaiuta attests to this guy’s chops. “Randy knows that stuff inside and out and he can blow too,” Colaiuta says. “So he wanted to do the music that he likes.”

Waldman arranged these classics with a jazzier overview. Lucky for us it took a monster like Vinnie to cover all the styles contained within these formidable charts. “It’s actually really hard,” the drummer says. “It’s almost like cartoon music – real notey.” Waldman was also wise enough to give Colaiuta a fair amount of room to solo in these challenging arrangements.

Ex. 1 and 2 come from “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” where you’ll find Colaiuta blowing over hits. Both the examples are phrased in 3/4, 4/4 and 5/4. The first of these examples starts at about two minutes and eight seconds into the tune, just before the bass solo, and the second, longer example starts at about three minutes, 18 seconds. We’ve also included the rhythm of the hits that the band plays, so you can see how Colaiuta navigates these musical markers.

DRUM! Notation Guide

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