Alan Dawson: Students as Studio Drummers

SKF NOTE: Ron Spagnardi asked me to interview two drummers for Modern Drummer‘s 10th Anniversary issue published in January 1986: Neil Peart and Alan Dawson. I don’t know exactly when this interview took place, but it was certainly in 1985.

Mr. Dawson and I met at his home in Massachusetts. The overall focus of these 10th Anniversary interviews was to ask drummers to reflect on drumming highlights from the decade just past, and also, on what was likely to happen in the drum world over the next ten years.

In this excerpt, I ask Alan Dawson about changes in his students. His answer leads into a broader discussion of the role of studio drummers past and present, and also, a glance into Dawson’s years (1963-68) as a popular studio drummer for Prestige records.

Posted in Audio, SKF Blog | Tagged , ,

A Sound All Your Own is Most Important



SKF NOTE: I always read books with a pencil nearby for underlining good passages so I can easily return to them.

Sound is at the heart of the musical conception of great jazz musicians. Miles Davis once said to me: “Sound is the heart of my music. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but creating a sound all your own is most important.”

Sonny [Rollins] agrees[:] “I think that sound is the overall biggest component. It’s more important than ideas, really. …I have found that sometimes ideas can help generate a sound. That can happen if you have a definitive style, that your ideas are usually part of the sound itself. But sound itself supercedes ideas in general.”

Source: Open Sky: Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation, by Eric Nisenson (Da Capo Press, 2000)

Posted in SKF Blog | Tagged , , , ,

Alan Cornett: The Guts, Talent to Start All Over


Photo courtesy Alan Cornett Facebook page

SKF NOTE: Alan Cornett practiced, became a good drummer, and then misfortune forced him to either start all over or quit. Mr. Cornett chose to start all over. God bless all musicians like him.

What first caught my attention is the loose, swinging feeling when Cornett is drumming in the video accompanying his Washington Post story. I’ve heard drummers whose arms and legs work fine unable to play as loose and swinging. Mr. Cornett is literally singing his bass drum parts. Here’s a more detailed account of Alan Cornett.


Washington Post

A car accident cut this drummer’s career short. He wouldn’t let the music stop.
By John Kelly Columnist August 8

What did Alan do before he was flung from his seat and struck his head on the pillar of the car, severely bruising his spine between the C5 and C6 vertebra?

“I’m a musician,” Alan said. “I play the drums.”

“Well, I don’t think you’re going to be able to do that..,” the doctor said. “I think drummers need to use their legs.”

Alan played with various bands around Washington and twice won a DC101-sponsored “Best Drummer in D.C.” contest.

But the same way he’d become a drummer in the first place was how he became a drummer in the second place: He practiced.

Alan needed his right foot to [play] the bass drum thump. But…didn’t have the strength…

In 1992, Alan…donned a headset microphone attached to a computer module made by…Ddrum. By making a clicking sound with his tongue, Alan could trigger a digital bass drum sound through a set of speakers.

He was a complete drummer again.

Full Story

Posted in Drum/Music News, SKF Blog | Tagged , , , ,

Steve Hideg: Pursuing Freedom Through Jazz Drumming


SKF NOTE: Take a moment to read Steve Hideg’s, Neither Bills Nor Advancing Age Can Dim the Glow of a Drummer’s Dream,  and watch the accompanying video. I almost didn’t. That would’ve been my loss. For me, Mr. Hideg’s story is as much about loving freedom as it is about drumming. Although, in Mr. Hideg’s case, his lifelong struggle to play “American jazz” on his drumset is about his love and pursuit of freedom.

Thank you, Kat Chester, for bringing Mr. Hideg’s story to my attention. Thank you to the dedicated members of who also find true inspiration in Steve Hideg’s story. Readers can follow updates on a GoFundMe campaign Tim Lawler started to help Mr. Hideg.

Finally, thank you, columnist Steve Lopez and photographer Francine Orr of the Los Angeles Times for their insight in telling Steve Hideg’s story.

Posted in Drum/Music News, SKF Blog | Tagged , , , ,

Name the Drummer, Solve a Mystery

2017_07_06_16_08_59SKF NOTE: Thanks in advance to the person who solves this mystery.

A member of drummer Gary Chester’s Facebook page would like to identify the drummer in these photos. My best guess: Irv Cottler.

As of this writing we don’t have a verified winner. I can be reached through this blog, or you can respond on Gary Chester’s Facebook page.

SKF NOTE 8/13: Paul Testa on The Great Drummer’s Group Facebook page solved the mystery. The drummer in these photos is the splendid Vernell Fournier.


Posted in Drum/Music News, SKF Blog | Tagged

Audio: Artimus Pyle – Where My Style Comes From (1982)

SKF NOTE: I don’t have much to add to my written introduction to Artimus Pyle’s Modern Drummer interview in April 1983 – which is available here.

Paul T. Riddle as co-interviewer was great. His friendship and history with Artimus were invaluable. I’m sure Paul’s presence helped Art feel more relaxed. And Paul could ask questions on topics only Paul would know.

I remember the three of us were sitting outdoors on a sunny day at a small circular table, but I don’t remember exactly where we were. Probably somewhere in New Jersey at either Artimus’s hotel or at a nearby restaurant.

Artimus’s is the predominant voice here. Paul T. is a bit off mic, but still audible. And mine is the third voice.

Posted in Audio, SKF Blog | Tagged , , , , ,

Thinking of Paul Humphrey


SKF NOTE: Thinking – a few posts ago – about service drummers vs solo drummers, I was reminded by this 1980 Premier ad of a key service drummer: Paul Humphrey.

Growing up believing that a professional drummer had to know how to play everything – all music styles – convincingly, authentically – Paul Humphrey was that kind of a pro drummer. I would study Mr. Humphrey’s drumming on The Lawrence Welk Show tv show and listen to him on different albums. He was one of those drummers who could turn up on any album playing very, very well.

Just this morning I was surprised to learn Paul Humphrey is the drummer on Joe Cocker‘s Feelin’ Alright. How did I miss that?

Anyway, thank you, Paul Humphrey for being a role model for me and thousands of other drummers.

Posted in SKF Blog | Tagged , , , ,