Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Play The Style, Not Just What You Think Is Hip

I hear a complaint from a lot of musicians when it comes to drummers: "He's too busy." That seems to share the same amount of gripe about the drummer being too loud. I  will address the volume issue in a subsequent post.

Most every drummer I know has their favorite drummer(s), and/or style(s) of music. Some of us really like jazz. Some of us are into the blues, and some of us are really into the rock music scene, or the hip hop scene, etc.. I have way too many favorite drummers and styles of music to claim a favorite. I just like it all, as long as it's played well. Playing boom chick with a great bass player locking in those 2 beat half notes on a society gig foxtrot, can be just as much fun as playing a blues gig where you, the bass player, and the rhythm guitarist are locked in like an atomic clock under the soloist during a flat tire shuffle, or when you are driving a hard swinging big band during a shout chorus when the trumpet section is peeling the paint off the back wall of the auditorium.

My advice: Don't become a "style Nazi." Don't become a jazz Nazi, blues Nazi, rock Nazi. Play everything and anything you can, and with as many different players as you can. Max Weinberg, said in an article in Modern Drummer Magazine, that during his formative years he played more "polka till you puke" gigs before he made the connections that ultimately led to his success both with Springsteen, and with the TV show band. You never know who you are going to end with on a gig. That person you meet could be a very valuable connection in the future. They could land a big name gig, and the leader could be looking for a drummer. That bass player that you worked with on the boom chick gig, or that wedding band pick up gig, if they liked your playing and you got along good, just might say, "Hey, I know this great drummer who's got a great sense of time, can play a lot of different styles, and is a gas to work with." Ring, ring, ring, goes the telephone...(with apologies to Judy Garland.)

Listen to Steve Gadd. Listen to all the different styles of playing that he's done from his work with the Brecker Brothers, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, as well as the great drumming that he has done with a variety of artists, including the rock/blues work he did with Eric Clapton on the live recording from Madison Square Garden. His "pocket" is so big, you could park 50 tractor trailers in the middle of it, and still have room for 50  more.  I recently saw a Facebook posting from a drummer I know who was able to get back-stage passes for a recent James Taylor show, and got to meet Steve Gadd, playing with James Taylor.

How about the drummer who "wrote the book" on the word "Groove," Russ Kunkel. Listen to the great work he did with Jackson Browne and James Taylor back in the 1970s, as well as the impeccable drumming he did on many Dan Fogelberg recordings from the 1980s, as well as his work with artists too numerous to mention. Listen to Hal Blaine, and his LA rhythm section, "The Wrecking Crew," who were the rhythm section on thousands of pop recordings from the early 1960s for years and years and years. The last time I saw Hal, he was playing with Mason Williams, the classical guitarist, who's claim to fame hit was the song, "Classical Gas." Don't forget one of the most under-rated drummers out there, Charlie Watts, with the Rolling Stones. I don't know why he's one of the most under-rated players out there. Listen to his sense of time, and...sense of...SPACE! "Yea, but he doesn't do anything," is what I hear. Bull $&!@. His perfect time simplicity is what drives that band like a 10,000 car freight train!.That's just as much of an art as someone who can take time, turn it into a pretzel, and have it still come out on one, like the late great Tony Williams. Other suggestions: Jim Keltner, Rick Maratta, Chris Layton, Steve Jordan, John Bonham, Chad Smith, Carl Palmer, Bill Bruford, Alan White, and Ian Paice. Also don't forget drummers like Stanton Moore, Simon Phillips, Jeff Porcaro, Joel Rosenblatt, Antonio Sanchez, and Bernard Purdie. Go onto You Tube, and watch, and listen to the great big band drummers, Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Gene Krupa, Butch Miles, and Jake Hanna. You can learn a lot from those "old school" players too. There are many drummers that I haven't mentioned out of brevity. In another words, listen, listen, listen..., and learn, learn learn...

My former teacher, the late, great, Sonny Igoe, always said, "Don't get stuck in one groove." Don't! There is too much great music out there.

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