Mark Guiliana

With a new label, the simultaneous release of two distinctly different records under his own name, and an acclaimed duo project with one of the world’s preeminent improvisers, it’s safe to say that for this young sticksmith, the time is now.

 

For the first five years of his professional career, New Jersey native Mark Guiliana focused most of his energy on a highly coveted gig with Avishai Cohen, the bassist/composer extraordinaire who rose to acclaim in the late ’90s as a founding member of pianist Chick Corea’s acoustic jazz sextet Origin, featuring drummer Jeff Ballard. Guiliana followed Ballard in Cohen’s own band in 2003, subsequently touring the world several times and appearing on the studio albums Lyla, At Home, Continuo, and Gently Disturbed and the CD/DVD As Is…Live at the Blue Note.

Under Cohen’s tutelage, Guiliana, then a fresh college grad, grew into his own, ultimately uncovering the distinct, deliberate, fearless, and highly musical approach to the instrument that has made him one of the most creative and inspiring drummers working today. “Those first few records of Avishai’s, with Jeff on drums, were big for me,” Guiliana says. “So early on I often found myself playing his ideas. Then I realized that if Avishai wanted to hear Jeff’s vocabulary, he could just call him. That was a big lesson, to identify and chip away the things that I was heavily inspired by but weren’t truly mine. It took some time to even see a glimpse of ‘me.’”

During the live recording of As Is, Guiliana even had to deal with the added pressure of playing for Ballard, who was in attendance that night at the Blue Note. “Of course, right?” Mark says with a laugh. “A psychological trick that I started to use whenever I didn’t feel so confident was that I would think about hiding inside the music. Where if I’m serving the compositions and not drawing attention to myself, in an outlandish way or in a negative way, then that would be successful. I’m just right in there serving the songs and then trying to use my intuition as to the few moments where I can step out and have free rein. With time, those moments became greater and greater, because we had developed the trust for each other.”

It was in 2008 that Guiliana made the tough decision to move on from the mostly acoustic jazz world of Cohen’s group to pursue other interests, including a unique blend of electronica-inspired grooves, sample-based textures, and open-ended improvisations that he first began exploring with his band Heernt in 2006 and that has continued to evolve under his current umbrella of projects, known collectively as Beat Music. “Playing with Avishai was an exceptional experience,” Mark says, “but I have such varying tastes in music, and I was hungry for new situations and opportunities.”

In the six years since, Guiliana has risen to the forefront of the contemporary creative music scene in New York City, manning the throne with several forward-thinking modern “fusion” ensembles, including keyboardist/ composer Jason Lindner’s R&B/world/ jazz/electronica ensemble Now vs. Now, saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s genrebending acoustic/electric jazz quartet, the atmospheric electro duo Mehliana with virtuoso keyboardist Brad Mehldau, and the sweet multi-influenced band of vocalist Gretchen Parlato. Then there are the drummer’s own Beat Music incarnations, which comprise a revolving cast of players in New York and Los Angeles. (Mark’s latest albums, Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations and My Life Starts Now, are out on his own label, Beat Music Productions.)

For Guiliana, success is about being creative, embracing the moment, and always supporting the music in the most compassionate and humble way possible, whether that means “harnessing the dragon” with a powerhouse fusion lick (check out the wicked hand/foot fill he drops at the 5:10 mark in “Taming the Dragon” on Mehliana), frenetically chopping up the beat on mini-China/ splash stacks and micro hi-hats (“Future Favela” from Now vs. Now’s Earth Analog), or taking a sublimely supportive yet commanding role, as heard on the soaring ballad “Butterfly” from Parlato’s Live in NYC CD/DVD.

We met up with Guiliana at his home in Jersey City and then a few days later at a restaurant in nearby Hoboken to dig a little deeper into his disciplined yet open approach to music making, and to talk about all the exciting new things going on in the world of Beat Music and beyond.

Mark Guiliana

MD: What is Beat Music?

Mark: Beat Music is my band and has been my vehicle of self-expression for the past several years. The template is fairly consistent, with keyboards, sample-based material, electric bass, and drums, but I’m always trying to explore new textures within that. It’s an electronic world, but I’m still employing my influences from acoustic music. Also, there’s always heavy emphasis on improvisation.

Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations features a unique lineup of Tim Lefebvre on bass, Jeff Babko on keyboards, and Troy Zeigler on electronics. We had a handful of memorable gigs in L.A., and I was inspired to document the way this specific ensemble plays together. My initial approach was for us to play the existing Beat Music repertoire, but I found that it was more exciting and appropriate to just improvise. We took that approach to the studio for a day, and I left with three hours of recorded material. I then chose my favorite start and end times and handed those over to my good friend and frequent collaborator Steve Wall to mix. What we ended up with were thirty tracks of improvised pieces, where everything happened in real time. I think it’s a good representation of the intuitive sense of group improvisation that this particular lineup developed.

MD: There are a lot of electronic drum elements on that album. Was your setup different?

Mark: The only difference was that I had a Roland SPD-SX to the left of my hi-hat, but all of the electronic drums that appear on the record were performed in real time. Another deceptive element is that Troy is manipulating the content as we are creating it. He has an elaborate pedal setup, so he receives our sounds and can choose what he manipulates. As a performer, it’s extremely humbling to be playing something that you believe in and hear it immediately being transformed into something new. That requires a massive amount of trust.

The most important thing is that we are on the same page aesthetically. We agreed on a shared vision immediately, so within the first few minutes of the first gig it felt like a band.

MD: How does that approach differ from the making of My Life Starts Now?

Mark: One of my biggest motivations to release two albums at the same time was to get to express two very different parts of my brain. On The Los Angeles Improvisations, I get to be in the moment and take a lot of chances. For My Life Starts Now, my goal was to keep the emphasis on the compositions and document them in a more minimal way. I thought it would be nice to create a new ensemble for this record, so I called Stu Brooks to play bass, keyboardist Yuki Hirano, and guitarist Mike Severson, and there are guest appearances by Jeff Taylor, Gretchen Parlato, and Meshell Ndegeocello on vocals.

The process of making My Life Starts Now couldn’t have been more different from the Los Angeles session. It was much more deliberate, where the songs were written, we rehearsed, and then we went into the studio to try to deliver the best performances we could. We did the record at the Bunker in Brooklyn with the great engineer John Davis, who also had to be on board with the concept to help create the right sonic environment that would tie all the pieces together.

MD: How do the lineups you used on the records relate to the live version of the band?

Mark: The living, breathing version of Beat Music—the band that has played the most throughout the last few years—consists of Jason Lindner on keyboards, Chris Morrissey on electric bass, and Steve Wall on electronics. These guys are the engine. They inspire me to push the music to new places every time we play. But the lineup is malleable. On a certain night, we might add Yuki, or Stu, or Cole Whittle, the bass player from Heernt. Jeff Taylor joins us often as well.

I think of Beat Music as a community of musicians, where the configuration could subtly change but the direction doesn’t. These guys have become my best friends, on and offstage, and over the years the camaraderie and intuition we’ve built allows our improvisations to often be seamless from a written part. We try to employ a sense of discipline within the improvising that allows us to blur the lines between composition and improvisation. So it’s not really, “Here’s the song, and now it’s time to improvise and go off into the clouds.” Oftentimes the improvisation just sounds like a new section.

MD: How much of what you typically play live with Beat Music is written versus improvised?

Mark: It varies. There are some songs that are completely through-composed. Then there might be a song that’s only a four-bar bass line and two chords, and that could be fifteen minutes on a given night. I place a lot of weight on the compositions, even if they’re very minimal. It’s important to pay respect to the written music and present it in a purposeful way. I don’t want to have throwaway compositions, where we just hurry up and get to the improvising. I think of it as honoring the songs and earning the right to be expressive.

MD: How do you do that?

Mark: It’s all about being in the moment. Whether I’m playing a part, laying out, improvising, taking the lead, or being supportive, every decision is of equal value. I try not to make any blanket decisions, like “I don’t play on this tune, so I’m just going to lay out.” Actually, you’re deciding to lay out every quarter note that you don’t play. Thinking about these micro-decisions within the big decisions helps me stay in the moment. Because there might be that special night where, even though you’re not supposed to play on a given song, there’s something in the air that inspires you to add something and it’s like, I can’t believe that’s been missing this whole time! I try to be open to many possibilities at any time.

MD: That keeps things creative.

Mark: And it forces me to listen to the highest degree. If there’s one thing that’s made me a better musician over time, it’s that my listening and awareness of what’s around me has improved, so I can see and hear the big picture. Now I just try to make the best decisions for the moment. Many times it ends up being a selfless decision. Very rarely does the music ask for something that features the drums.

MD: Do you think about your drum parts for your own music?

Mark: I usually think about them last. Sometimes within the composition there’s a part, and that part was what inspired the composition itself. But it’s more about assessing my responsibilities, whether it’s playing a part, steering the ship, or staying out of the way. I’m just trying to use my intuition to put the other guys in the best possible situation to thrive.

MD: So you’re still supporting even though you’re leading.

Mark: Totally. If they’re happy and comfortable, they’re going to sound their best. And if they sound their best, it’s only going to make me sound better. I want these guys to have the confidence to take chances and make bold decisions and inject their own personality into the music. And based on the experiences we’ve had together, more times than not it’s going to improve the music.

Sometimes you take a chance and fall on your face, and that’s great. In those really open moments, I’d much rather take a chance and fail than play it safe. If you trust all the hard work you put in technically— you know your time is strong and you can play with good dynamics—then just go for it. Trust that your tools will help you execute it, but keep the overall intention on truly dealing with the music.

For me, those really euphoric, out-of-body experiences have taken place when taking extreme risks, succumbing to the moment, and being selfless. Then, in time, you start to make these decisions together as a band, and that’s when it really goes to another level.

MD: It’s still entertaining to see someone take a chance and not quite make it.

Mark: And in reality, people know when you’re taking a chance, but they don’t always know if you “failed.” Again, you’re relying on all the homework you’ve done. If you can confidently say to yourself, I’m not going to lose the 1; I’m not going to rush or slow down, you will always have this safety net under the risk. So even if you don’t execute exactly what you had in mind, whatever comes out will still be cool.

MD: Is there a specific way you practiced to develop these tools to a point where they allowed you to be creative?

Mark: I practice in somewhat of a vacuum. I try not to think about the context in which I’m going to use something, so that as I’m internalizing the material, it’s in its most raw form. That way I can reach for it in any situation. If I learn something as a “jazz” idea, I won’t likely use it on a rock gig. But if I internalize it as just syncopation against a pulse, I’ll be able to call on it anywhere and not be distracted by a preconceived context.

The work is deciding how to make the material appropriate for each gig. I think of it as a filter that everything has to pass through. I’m not changing my vocabulary; that’s sacred ground that never gets manipulated. But the way it’s presented gets manipulated. So I think about my sound: What would be the most appropriate sound for a given situation, both equipment-wise and in terms of my touch? What about dynamics? Maybe I’ll have to play really quietly and I might not be able to use sticks the whole night. That’s a filter. Then you have to deal with the repertoire and the style. As long as everything you play passes through these filters, it will be appropriate for the music.

But I feel you have to earn the right to inject some personality. How do you do that? By making the time feel great, by playing with the proper dynamics, by using the right sounds, and by knowing the tunes inside and out. If you can do those things, then by all means feel free to be yourself. But if that order is confused, sometimes the music can suffer.

Mark Guiliana

MD: How does this filter concept relate to your gigs with Gretchen Parlato, Mehliana, Now vs. Now, and Donny McCaslin?

Mark: A lot of the inspiration for cultivating this filter approach is that it would allow me to not have to completely change the way I think about the drums in different contexts. What is changing each time are the details of the gig, and it’s my responsibility to define those. For example, when I’m playing with Gretchen, one of the most important elements of that filter is dynamics. Her band works at a pretty low volume but still with great detail and nuance. Also, her rhythmic vocabulary is unique, so it’s always my goal to join in that conversation while making sure the groove is very strong and supportive. The other filter would be sound. Her music usually involves acoustic bass and piano, so I bring thin cymbals that will speak well at low volumes and I tune the drums in a way that’s appropriate.

Mehliana is much more of a beat-driven and electronic-inspired world, so the sound of my instrument in that context is very different. I use very low-tuned drums and have a couple different snares, and I employ the Roland SPD-SX so I have access to purely electronic drum sounds in case we go there. There is a heavy emphasis on groove. There are only two of us on stage, so all of these responsibilities are amplified. Donny McCaslin’s music and Now vs. Now have similar filters, because they’re kind of electronic yet interactive, and they’re more of a jazz environment.

MD: Do you feel that you need to play more ride cymbal with Donny because he plays saxophone?

Mark: I have a stereotype in my mind that says that as a solo builds, you need to go to the ride cymbal. But I try to fight that urge. So if I’m playing with short sounds, I’ll stay within those sounds until it really has to open up. But Donny’s music does lend itself to a more open sound because of the length of the solos and where they go emotionally.

MD: Do you practice some of these different musical elements—time, dynamics, and sound—separately, or are they all worked on simultaneously?

Mark: I always include dynamics in my practicing. But I did work on things separately, such as exploring sounds, which was heavily influenced by Jim Black and Jeff Ballard. Going to hear them play in New York, it seemed like they had an infinite palette, even on a minimal kit. So I would sit at home and only address sound. I would tap and take a mental log of short sounds, long sounds, high sounds, low sounds, loosely categorizing everything so that if I wanted to react to something that just happened with a staccato sound, I knew where to go on the instrument to get that.

I also would address my sense of time in a strict way by practicing with a metronome on a pad—going from 8th notes to triplets to 16ths and back—very slowly, so I could really examine the space between the notes. There were times within my practicing where my goal was to achieve “perfect” time, which we know is virtually impossible to achieve. But where you end up by trying to reach that goal could be a magical place.

When practicing, I would go for precision, but that doesn’t always mean that’s the right musical choice. It’s important to always assess what’s the most important thing for the moment. Maybe one phrase needs to be played lazily to make it dramatic. But if it’s all lazy, the laziness becomes normal. By practicing playing things in a precise way, I found that it gave me more options. I can choose to present something in a precise way, or I can use that as a reference to play something behind or ahead.

When students ask me about playing behind the beat, my first question to them is, “Behind what beat?” Show me the thing you’re playing behind first. Prove to me that that’s confident, and then use your personality to place things where you want. Again, it’s about earning it.

MD: You have great control at very low dynamics. Was that something you worked on that was gig specific?

Mark: Exactly. With Avishai, I needed to be very expressive at a very low dynamic. The word quiet is relative, so my goal was to have the softest definition of quiet within the group, so when everyone else was playing lightly, I was comfortable. It’s the same thing with tempos. You want to be able to play faster than you ever have to, so when something is “fast,” you’re not up against your wall. But playing quietly can be really crippling if you don’t practice it.

MD: How did the short sounds, like the stackers, come into your setup?

Mark: In Avishai’s music, there was a lot of rhythmic detail. I found that even if I was playing at an appropriate dynamic, the length of the notes could still interrupt everything else that was happening. I ended up playing a lot of that music employing a dead bass drum and a lot of rimclick and hi-hat. It wasn’t ride-cymbal heavy. It was more hi-hat, kick, and snare, which also allowed me to employ some of my electronic influences.

MD: Did using these shorter sounds force you to change the way you played?

Mark: Yeah. When you play with short sounds, it puts even more demand on your time, because the attack is so strong and you don’t have this wash to disguise any blemishes. When I started playing with this shorter, quieter palette, it felt like I was naked and you could see all the guts of my time. It forced me to go home and practice within that sound to iron out those kinks.

MD: Do you find yourself filling the space internally since the notes sound so short?

Mark: Yes. I’m often subdividing the time even though the listener may not hear the subdivisions. If I’m playing slow swing, I might be playing quarter notes but I have triplets going in my mind. There was a time where I thought I needed to be playing everything I was thinking about. Over time, I started to enjoy the space. Leaving space can be scary, but since the time was confident in my mind, I didn’t need to hear all the subdivisions from the instrument.

On the other side of things, I also trained myself to hear the ride cymbal as having a finite, short attack. Even though you might hear eight beats of sound per stroke, I don’t want the sustain to confuse me about the placement. It still has to be deliberate.

MD: How did you get involved with Brad Mehldau for your duo project, Mehliana?

Mark: Brad is an example of somebody who I was a fan of long before I met him. I had all his records, and I would go hear his trio at the Village Vanguard when I was in school. I met him at a festival when I was on tour with Avishai. We talked about playing together, but it wasn’t until after he came out to hear an earlier version of Beat Music in the city that we decided to get together.

In 2008, he came out to my rehearsal space in Jersey City, and we agreed that it would be exciting to play in an electronic-type setting. There’s a bunch of gear there, so I put together a setup for him with a Rhodes, a Moog bass module, and a Korg synth. We turned everything on, got some sounds, and started improvising. Ten minutes later it sounded like he had been living in this world forever.

What we did that day doesn’t sound that much different from the way we play now. The intention and the concept is still very much the same—it’s about playing together. The palette is predetermined, since I have my drums tuned a certain way that leans more toward the electronica influence, and he’s fixed in the electronic world with some occasional piano. But we’re just playing together and trying to be true to the moment.

We got together one or twice a year over the next four years. It wasn’t like, “Hey, let’s start a band and make a record.” We were both very casual and patient with it. Then we played our first gig, in 2011, at this place called the Falcon in Upstate New York. We just improvised and it totally worked, so we said, “Cool! We should do this again.” Since then we’ve done multiple tours in Europe, and every night is a blast. It’s really the essence of what I love most about making music: compassionate listening and improvising mixed with a healthy dose of risk taking.

MD: Was any of the material written ahead of time?

Mark: In the beginning nothing was written. When we did our first tour, Brad sketched out some four- or eight-bar ideas and some specific sonic combinations that he preferred. Over time we started to repeat a few themes, and by the end of the tour we had ten or twelve things that we could loosely call songs. Then, just before we went to make the record, we refined them.

MD: For people who’ve played only songs and drum parts, what would you suggest doing if they want to start improvising?

Mark: My most successful improvising moments have come when I’ve felt like I could do no wrong, when I’ve felt like there were no consequences and it was virtually impossible to make a “mistake.” I was comfortable and confident, and therefore I had the courage to create in the moment and take chances. There are a few ways to create that environment for yourself. The most obvious one would be to do it in a controlled environment. Call your buddy who plays bass, and just start playing. Do it in your basement where no one can hear you so there are no consequences. If you convince yourself that bad things are going to happen if something goes wrong, then you’re reducing your chances of successful improvising, because you’ll be very hesitant. You have to play with confidence.

So how do you build that confidence? It goes back to having a strong and impenetrable foundation. If I feel good about my time, I feel good about my sound, I feel like I can play with appropriate dynamics, and I’m confident in my ability to listen and interpret the music around me, then what can go wrong, really? That’s what I’m always relying on to make bold decisions, to take chances, or to believe in myself in the moment.

Also, one of the most traditional ways of improvising is to start with a theme and then create variations. That’s often the way I improvise, by having a theme in mind, even if it’s incredibly simple. It can be intimidating to create new content from scratch, so take a preexisting idea, which might be a tiny phrase like “snare-snare-kick- kick-snare.” Now use different ways to manipulate that idea. Play it quieter. Play it on the floor tom instead of the snare. Play it stretched out so that the 16ths become triplets. Change where you start the idea, so that instead of beginning on beat 1, you begin on the “&” of 1…. These are pretty fundamental ideas, but it’s really more about the ways in which you’re manipulating an idea than the idea itself.

But believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time behind closed doors challenging myself to play in the moment and improvising with my peers. That’s what really gave me the confidence to do it…basically for a living. [laughs]

 

Recordings

Mark Guiliana My Life Starts Now, Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, A Form of Truth, Beat Music (EP) /// Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana Mehliana: Taming the Dragon /// Heernt Locked in a Basement /// Avishai Cohen At Home, Continuo, Gently Disturbed /// Gretchen Parlato Live in NYC /// Now vs. Now Earth Analog /// Donny McCaslin Casting for Gravity /// Lionel Loueke Heritage /// Chris Morrissey North Hero /// Dhafer Youssef Abu Nawas Rhapsody /// Matisyahu Akeda

 

Favorites

Miles Davis Nefertiti (Tony Williams) /// John Coltrane A Love Supreme (Elvin Jones) /// Roy Haynes Out of the Afternoon (Roy Haynes) /// Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Free for All (Art Blakey) /// Bob Marley and the Wailers Live at the Roxy (Carlton Barrett) /// Aphex Twin Drukqs (programmed) /// Squarepusher Feed Me Weird Things (programmed) /// Photek Form & Function (programmed) /// Brad Mehldau Largo (Matt Chamberlain, Jim Keltner, Victor Indrizzo, Jorge Rossy) /// Jim Black AlasNoAxis (Jim Black) /// The Mars Volta De-Loused in the Comatorium (Jon Theodore) /// Tedeschi Trucks Band Revelator (Tyler Greenwell, J.J. Johnson)

 

 

Mark GuilianaDrums: Gretsch Brooklyn series in smoke grey oyster wrap finish
A. 5.5×14 snare
B. 16×16 floor tom
C. 16×20 bass drum

Cymbals: Sabian

1. 14″ HHX Click hi-hats
2. 10″ HH China Kang stacked on 10″ AA splash
3. 9″ Vault Radia Nano Hats
4. 23″ Artisan ride (prototype)
5. 16″ HHX Evolution O-Zone crash with rivets

Hardware: Gibraltar 8700 series stands and 9707XB hi-hat attachment, Yamaha bass drum pedal with Danmar wood beater

Heads: Evans Level 360 G1 Coated snare batter, G2 Coated floor tom batter, and EMAD Coated bassdrum batter

Sticks: Vic Firth custom Mark Guiliana signature 85A model

Miscellaneous: Sabian 7″ Vault Radia Nano Hats, prototype splash, Gregg Keplinger metal percussion, metal pot from 99¢ Only Store

 

 

 

Giving Thanks

While always pressing forward, Guiliana is careful not to lose sight of the drummers who’ve impacted his musicianship most. Here, he calls attention to a select few. From Chad Smith and Dave Grohl to Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, I’ve always drawn inspiration from a wide variety of drummers. Over the years I’ve found myself examining the nuanced genius of Carlton Barrett, working through drum corps flam exercises, trying to make sense of a seemingly impossible Vinnie Colaiuta fill, and playing along to Art Blakey records—often in the same practice session! We are all unique combinations of our influences, and I would like to single out a handful that left a strong impression on me, all of whom I consider mentors…whether they know it or not.

Joe Bergamini
Joe was my first drum teacher and is the reason I play drums today. He provided me with the foundation on which every musical decision I’ve made has been built.

John Riley
I had the privilege of studying with John in college. Whether we were analyzing Tony Williams transcriptions or working on odd meters, he provided an invaluable perspective with rich historic and creative depth. His teachings pushed and inspired me to become the best musician I could be.

Jim Black
The first time I saw Jim play, I was speechless. His virtuosic drumming and improvising was some of the most courageous I had ever heard and was always at the service of the music and the moment. I sat in the front row of almost every show of his in New York City over the few years that followed, and each experience was a lesson.

Jeff Ballard
Jeff is another guy who probably got tired of seeing me seated right next to the drums at his gigs. It was incredible to witness his deft touch and worldly feel in a wide variety of situations. The way he interprets and supports the music always feels like the right decision, with a unique balance of youthful exuberance and effortless musicianship.

Jojo Mayer
My obsession with electronic music led me to Jojo’s work, and it was humbling to witness him emulate the vocabulary of programmed music in a live situation. It was only later that I found out that the shows were predominantly improvised, which inspired a similar formula that I explore with Beat Music. Jojo has always been generous with his time and knowledge, and I learn something new technically and conceptually every time we hang out.

Zach Danziger
I was a fan of Zach’s long before meeting him, and after being introduced by our mutual friend Tim Lefebvre, we became fast friends. I feel lucky to have been able to work closely with Zach over the past several years, including a duo project that we plan to record soon. He is a true visionary and the hardest worker I know. I’m grateful to have him as one of my closest friends.

I could fill this magazine paying debts to the drummers who’ve helped shape the way I play. Dan Weiss, Jon Theodore, Dave King, and Matt Johnson are examples of some others who’ve frequently sent me running to the practice room to reevaluate my relationship with the drums.

The music and teachings of the aforementioned guys, plus many more, have brought great joy into my life, reminding me every day of why I play the drums. And for that I say THANK YOU.

 

BEAT SAMPLER

While Guiliana’s sound is clear, his touch is clean, and his ideas are as deliberate as they come, his grooves are always morphing and evolving, even when he’s laying down a seemingly static electronica-inspired drum part. We’ve transcribed six nuggets to give you a taste of Guiliana’s multilayered, dynamic, and explorative approach.

“Stadium Jazz”
Here’s the first measure of the super-syncopated groove in the opening track from the Donny McCaslin album Casting for Gravity. Notice how Guiliana melds the hi-hat pattern within the intricate snare/kick groove. The tempo is 125 bpm. (0:46)Mark Guiliana

During a drum break that occurs later in the tune, Mark really starts chopping things up between the kick, the snare, and a mini-China stack. Here’s the first measure. (2:39)

Mark Guiliana

“Activity”
This track, which appears on the Now vs. Now album Earth Analog, features a slick, super-melodic 3/4 groove that perfectly matches the contour of the opening keyboard riff. The tempo is 114 bpm. (0:00)

Mark Guiliana

“The Everywhere Spirit”
Guiliana’s pattern in this snippet from Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations is played on electronic sounds and requires some nimble finger technique in order to execute the 32nd notes on the hi-hat cleanly and precisely. The tempo is 88 bpm. (0:00)

Mark Guiliana

“My Name Is Not Important”
This track, which appears on Guiliana’s album My Life Starts Now, showcases the drummer’s ability to play in a very disciplined manner in order to replicate a programmed drum ’n’ bass feel. Here are the opening eight measures, which were edited and mixed by engineer John Davis to sound like a drum machine being played through an old radio speaker. The tempo is 180 bpm. (0:00)

Mark Guiliana

“Taming the Dragon”
Lastly, here’s the over-the-top 32nd-note fill that occurs in the opening track of Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, Guiliana’s duo project with keyboardist Brad Mehldau, showing how even clichéd licks can sound fresh and new when thrown in at just the right moment. The tempo is 120 bpm. (5:09)

Mark Guiliana