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You can’t keep a drummer out of work.

November 16, 2008

I just read this on Rolling Stone dot com. Roger Daltry on Keith Moon…

“His drinking problem got the better of him. He wasn’t at his best. So it was a very tricky time in that sense. But even Keith Moon at his worst was amazing. You can’t keep a drummer out of work. They have to drum. You have to get that energy out.”

It shouldn’t surprise me, Roger Daltry having spent most of his life in front of a drummer, but to hear it acknowledged like that – They have to drum, you have to get that energy out. Wish I coulda seen him play.

But I have seen my fair share of sick drummers. and being a drummer myself I know that energy he’s talking about (especially ’cause my kit is currently in 6 boxes in the loft of my garage!).

Jon Fishman
The first time I saw Phish play, was at Stowe Resort on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont on a summer evening with my older brother. Phish was opening for Santana. What I remember most about that night was actually the “dueling guitar” battle between Carlos and Trey during the closing Santana set. That jam ended with Carlos bowing (hands down) to Trey who clearly out-played te master. It was unreal. The changing of the guard. I also remember wondering why Phish’s drummer wore a dress. So it wasn’t his playing that night that made an impact so much as his frock, but then I went to maybe 12 shows over the years and he became my favorite drummer. He can rock out, he can play super-bad funk, he can play hip hop, real jazz, latin grooves, and then he has a way of laying off just right on the mellow stuff so you barely know he’s there. When I was playing in bands in college, I used to try and copy some of his more complicated beats…and some I just never got. Well, yeah makes sense. I’m sitting here writing in a blog instead of playing live tonight.

Carter Beauford
I read an interview with Dave Matthews once and he was talking about how good Carter was and he said something like Carter’s got so much going on back there, he could play the meanest beat, scramble you some eggs and then sing beautiful, drop-dead melodies all at the same time. I remember my first DMB show. It cost me $10 to get in (that’s how long ago it was) and it was at this tiny hall in Eugene, Oregon. I was hypnotized from the start. Not with Dave, who all the girls were swoonig over, but with the dude in the back wearing a hockey jersey and playing with the most perfect posture I’d ever seen in a drummer. Then there was his stick work…his drumsticks dance to a tempo so gentle and smooth, the guy can play with the speed of a metal drummer but with the grace of Norah Jones so you hear these rolls and little fills that other guys couldn’t even think about fitting in where he can fit them in. He was a drummer unlike anything I’d ever heard. Smiling the whole time, sitting straight up, and just playing with an economy of movement and skill I’ve still never seen matched.

Billy Martin
The first time I saw Billy play with Medeski, Martin & Wood, I remember walking out of that show actually considering quitting the drums. That’s how good we’re talking. Billy plays the most original style of drumming I’ve ever heard but in an intense jazz sound and method that he owns. He is surrounded by an amazing inventory of rhythm-making tools and at random times throughout a song, he’ll put down the sticks, pick up an egg shaker, a kid’s drum, and some other ancient drum and somehow find a way to keep the whole thing going. It’s like watching a stuntman do something totally nuts and wondering if he’s really gonna pull it off. I once saw him do a solo with one tambourine. And it was so far beyond what you’d expect from such a simple instrument. He played it with such a fierce funk that it literally sounded like three people playing three tambourines. I just sit there shaking my head all night long when I watch him play.

Russell Kunkel
Now I’ve never actually seen Russ play but he was the inspiration for my novel which deals a lot with quiet drumming. It’s a delicate art. He was a studio player for James Taylor in the 70s through to these days with Lyle Lovett and many more. He is (maybe) my favorite drummer I’ve never seen. He is so perfect, so tight, so clean and yet so sparse that his drums fade into the background and really do their job perfectly – just help set the beat. That is all.

I’ve seen my fair share of other brilliant drummers – Kenwood Dennard (Maceo Parker) and Randy Swartz (Brett Dennen) come to mind. But there’s a little something different about those others up there that keep me locked in with them like good ol’ straight ahead 4/4 time.

As for me, right now, I’m gonna sit back, close my eyes, take my Long Trail Hibernator Ale in my hand, turn my big fat headphones up and listen to this guy play while I think about where my drums can be set up in my house.

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