Drummers as Brilliant Musicians

I grew up in Delaware, blue collar, playing mostly rock for many years. In the 70’s, we had little in the way of seeing our heros, not like we have today. All we had was vinyl for the most part.

I was introduced to jazz in 8th grade, and it changed my world. I had no idea how sophisticated drumming could be, which was not to say that rock was unsophisticated… there was just another level out there that I was blown away by. I took jazz drumming lessons, learned how to improve my coordination, and my musical mind was never the same…

In 1979, Vinnie Coliauta blew all our minds with “Joe’s Garage,” and he took polyrhythms to a whole ‘nother stratosphere. We have only on the last ten years or so, really started to get caught up with Vinnie’s ideas to where this level of playing seems “normal.”

Thomas Lang has shown us where Jim Chapin’s four-way coordination seeds can grow, and that level of playing is also becoming more the norm.

Point being: drummers continue to expand the instrument beyond anything our drumming forefathers could have possibly imagined. We have taken the instrument to levels that have expanded our minds considerably, and I feel it is our duty as drummers to continue to do so…

The problem is, and has been for years: we are so relegated to the job of being time keepers that we are not encouraged by and large to leap to new performance levels if it interferes with the beat… and this is absolutely absurd.

The drum set is a musical instrument in its own right; Terry Bozzio has led that development like no one else, and he is to be applauded for that effort. We as drummers are responsible for expanding this instrument’s limits, and we need not wait for anyone else to tell us that it is okay to do so. Thomas Lang’s solo playing may not fit most musical situations when he gets all four limbs going… but on his own, he has created his OWN musical situation, where all of that activity is appropriate, because it is defining a new level of performance.

Short version here? Go for it. Take this instrument and leap off the edge. Make Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Baby Dodds and anyone else who has gone beyond really proud of your leap. Don’t wait for permission.

Just play and see what’s out there… and let your “brilliant” out.