Does it Swing?

I got the “old school” response yesterday at a rehearsal studio. The conversation turns from politics (of course) to music. I put it out there: “For me, it has to swing!” Michael snaps back: “Forget about Count Basie, that era is over. That’s old school.” I was stunned at the immediacy of the remark. And then it was over. Everybody left the room to rehearse and I’m standing alone, thinking about what just happened, and no time for a rebuttal.

… Read more »

Heroes

buddy rich

Have you been disappointed in your heroes? Kids growing up have heroes they look up to- Superman, Superwoman, Batman, Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan…the list goes on. As I got older my heroes were drummers. At an early age, I thought the coolest thing in the world was to be a drummer. When I went to a dance party and there was a band, I stood in amazement watching the drummer do all these fantastic moves. Sitting back, playing a groove… Read more »

Nature/Nurture: A Meditation on the Bee Gees

The Bee Gee’s on PBS TV recently reminded me of Clive Davis’s impression of sounding like they had all been castrated! Ouch! Voices pitched that high are not usual. I was never a fan and remember vividly the “four on the floor” disco soundtrack. Once “Saturday Night Fever” hit the Bee Gees were everywhere. The PBS special was a 1997 concert in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand. To their credit everything was live with an excellent band and the… Read more »

A Light on the Future

My family reunion is canceled. Scheduled for mid-June; canceled due to lack of interest. This reunion has been held every two years since the 1950’s. The beginning celebrations were well attended and enthusiastic. The interest began waning 15-20 years ago. It isn’t that the older generation has died; the younger family members are not invested in continuing the tradition. They have very little involvement or curiosity beyond their immediate families and friends. It is unfortunate for them. Their unwillingness to… Read more »

Big Ears

big ears

Learning to play the instrument does not necessarily mean you are learning to play music. When we spend hours on technique and execution how many hours are we actually playing music? Advice from great players indicates the need to develop the art of listening in your playing as well as listening to others. Taking in the whole, not just what you are doing. I have come to appreciate listening to all kinds of music — classical, rock, world, jazz, etc.… Read more »

Hip Cornball

anachronism

I read an article about anachronisms last week and it caught my attention. By definition, an anachronism is “a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.” An example cited was a sword used for modern warfare. So, how about some current politicians we suffer watching and listening go on about ideas that belong in our grandparents’ generation; much like flying the Confederate flag in South Carolina.… Read more »

Music Machines

I was in the audience of a modern dance performance at City Center in NYC. The dancing was great…very graceful and expressive. The choreography was inventive and the energy of the dancers impressive. The music was modern, contemporary, shifting meters and lots of percussion. A couple of segments featured pop tunes. At intermission I turn to my friend and ask, “How do you like the orchestra?” “Great!” What? Oh no! Just as I suspected. There is no orchestra and the… Read more »

Back To School

I was doing a little research and discovered one of the most popular sports in 1780 was boxing, especially in England. I imagine these two guys would get into some form of a “ring” and would fight it out until eventually one would either drop or just give in. Probably went at it bare fisted and protection was not high on the list. It is difficult for me to recall any of the great boxers from then; however, I do… Read more »

The Connection

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

While watching the basketball game I start thinking about the day Kareem came into the store, obviously, very visible over 7 feet tall, and immediately recognizable. I ask if I can help him and he tells me he is looking for a djembe. I pull out 4-5 African djembes and he checks them out. I couldn’t help notice his hand spread was almost the size of the top of a couple of the drums. He makes his decision and by… Read more »

The Tailor

Mel Lewis at the Drumset

Mel Lewis at the Drumset

Recently I posted a photo of Mel Lewis on Facebook and received many responses. Anyone who had ever seen Mel play drums would be baffled at how effortlessly and natural he was. His solos are often described as sounding like a “stack of boxes falling down a long staircase.” Yet his time, touch, feel and sensitivity epitomized good taste.

We would often have discussions concerning technique, especially hand grip, such as match vs. traditional… Read more »

Music Joy

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Music…..will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I came across this quote recently and was impressed with the depth of thought involved. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor born in the early 1900’s and was executed in 1945 in a concentration camp. He was involved in the German Resistance Movement against Nazism. Music to him was a… Read more »

What Happened?

The busy “Music Row” on 48th street not too long ago.

The busy “Music Row”
on 48th street
not too long ago.

Last week after lunch I walked over to 48th Street between 6th and 7th avenues in midtown Manhattan with a friend. After arriving we looked at each other in amazement. What was once a thriving, vital music scene looked like a depressed, deserted neighborhood. All the music stores gone, except for one. Music row or “the street” as it was affectionately labeled by the music community is no more. The rumor is the buildings will be leveled and high rises… Read more »

The Sound

A few days ago a fellow drummer and I were discussing how important it was when we were coming up to have a ‘sound’. We had good teachers, studied “Stick Control”, “Syncopation”, “Wilcoxon”, etc. We would listen to influential players and imitate their trademarks. In doing so we were building a vocabulary to express what we wanted to say. We would listen to drummers and immediately identify them by their sound, phrasing, feel. You knew it was Gene, Buddy, Max,… Read more »