Every once in a while, I come across a drummer whose abilities are as intense as they are subtle. This is a pretty accurate definition of the word sublime, and that is a pretty accurate definition of Bernie Dresel.
I heard Bernie playing the other night with the Emil Richards Big Band, in Santa Monica, California, at the Typhoon restaurant. It’s a very cool jazz hang located on the Santa Monica airport, with an awesome view of the runway and the planes and jets that come and go.
But come nighttime, the attention focuses on a small stage that is well-mic’d and well lit, a very professional yet laid back setting that plays host to some of the best jazz groups in Los Angeles. Watching the legendary Emil Richards perform with amazing precision was a treat in itself, but with great and due respect to his musicianship and that of his band, it was Bernie Dresel’s drumming that drew my very intense interest.
Honestly, I’d never heard him play before. But all it took was about three bars of big band jazz time to recognize a master of the genre, a player who valued the touch and tradition necessary to impart authenticity to this venerable environment. Bernie’s phrasing and fills were just perfect. I mean seriously, you couldn’t have sung better drum parts than the ones he created.
His playing was appropriate, understated, and a pleasure to study. The hour-long set went by way too fast, but it was a lesson in big band drumming as good as I have ever seen. Bernie was playing a Craviotto kit with Zildjian cymbals, and I believe he told me later he was using two K’s for rides. One was a Constantinople and the other was a more traditional K. They sounded perfect for the night.
The up-tempo songs swung just as hard as the slower ones, aided by Dave Stone’s excellent bass playing. He and Bernie formed a solid team, and they drove the band just right. There were so many great lessons being offered that I could not drink them in enough. I didn’t want to turn my back and eat at the bar for fear of missing more perfect moments.
Later, I did a little reading about Bernie, the usual Google stuff. He graduated from Eastman School of Music with a double major in music education and performance, and then came west and landed a wide variety of gigs, from Maynard Ferguson to David Byrne, Chaka Khan, Brian Setzer, the Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, and tv/movie studio work.
Two items that really stand out on his resume are him having played with Ringo Starr on an English tv series called “Dame Edna.” He was also part of the massive collection of drummers used for “Man of Steel.”
Quite a resume, to say the least. Very impressive stuff. But it gets better… yes is does. He’s got his own big band (BBB, Bernie Dresel Big Band) as well, which I’m looking forward to hearing back at the Typhoon on May 26.
If you live in Los Angeles, you really owe it to yourself to check out Bernie Dresell and his eloquent playing. You just don’t see enough of this nowadays. He’s preserving a style with style, and honestly, I can’t get enough of that. No sir, I can’t.