Friday, June 17, 2005

To him who sits on the (drummer's) throne

Work is hectic and web design is giving me a headache, but I had to weigh in for Dan at Cerulean Sanctum, with whom I keep finding similarities. It's too bad Dan doesn't live in Sacramento, because I think we could have a lot of fun planting a church together.

See, Dan and I are drummers. We also appear to be among the "New Breed" drummers, as defined by Gary Chester. We not only see eye-to-eye on much of our theology, we likely agree on things like fulcrum points, that good drumming doesn't venture far from bass/snare/hi-hat/ride, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with "giving the drummer some" from time to time. You might find that not very important, but churches have been divided over less.

Apologies if I've jumped to too many conclusions, Dan, but I want to move this forward. In response to your request, I present my Top 5 All-Time Drummer Performances:

5. "Bring On the Night," Sting, dr. Omar Hakim. I still don't understand how Hakim hasn't taken his place among modern drumming royalty. Best pocket in the biz, and he can stretch with the best. Check out his stuff on "I Burn For You." Then compare it to his solo over a vamp on John Scofield's "Still Warm." Similar, but this guy can flat blow when he wants to. I wish he'd ditch the pop gigs and go back to stretching himself.

4. "Live and Living in Colour," Tower of Power, dr. David Garibaldi. This is quintessential Tower of Power, and Garibaldi is on top of his game. Garibaldi drives a horn section like nobody else, and he takes the Zig Modeliste/Meters stuff in directions I think many are still trying to decipher today. Garibaldi and bassist Rocco Prestia form the best R&B rythm section ever, and I don't care what anybody in Detroit thinks. These guys aren't the original greasy Oakland pork chop, but they are the greasiest!

3. "Document," Karizma, dr. Vinnie Colaiuta. There have been so many Vinnie personal highs, I can't count all of them. His work with John Patitucci, John Scofield and Chick Corea remains at the pinnacle of "crazy drum stuff" in my estimation. I'm told he kills on Ron Kenoly's live album -- my heart was bursting with joy upon hearing of Colaiuta's salvation. However, if you're looking for the one-stop CD for glimpses of Vinnie, this is it. His interaction with the piano on "Nothing Personal" is absurd. Vinnie remains my favorite drummer today. I don't think there's any doubt he's doing what he was born to do.

2. "The Leprechaun," Chick Corea, dr. Steve Gadd. I grew up a drum corps geek, so Gadd's linear approach to funk/fusion on this album immediately appealed to me. Once past the obvious, I have grown to appreciate the depth of this performance, the subtle nuance of Gadd's musicality. This remains, I think, the very definition of what a modern drummer is supposed to sound like, even if the mini-Moogs of Corea's music in that era were outdated the moment the music went to press.

1. "A Love Supreme," John Coltrane, dr. Elvin Jones. I once sat down with an instructor and asked him to show me how to play loose like Elvin on the verses of the second track, Resolution. He laid down a hi-hat with it's hard 2&4 chick and told me to go for it. I played a little and he said, "You seem to have the right idea already." He didn't understand what I was asking. I wasn't wanting to know how to play the notes, I was wanting to know how to interpret the lazy space in between. With great frustration I tried to explain this. My instructor told me bluntly, "What you're asking me is to give you something God only endows." I gave up trying to be Elvin Jones after that day.

On a side note, there are many performances that have influenced, but perhaps none more than Bill Maxwell's drumming on the original recording Andre Crouch's "Soon and Very Soon." Maxwell is not the drummer if the guys above, but I can't help but think he just "gets it" when it comes to playing drums for God. Yes, Maxwell is capable of more, but he lays down his pride and really focuses on exalting God in the music. Honestly, I strive to be more like Bill and not so much like those above mentioned chopmeisters when I sit behind in the drums in worship.

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