Freddie Gruber – A Great Teacher Shares Some Life

A great teacher shares some life
Scott K. Fish, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • November 22, 2019

Freddie Gruber was a great drum teacher. If you have a great teacher in your life, no matter the subject taught, then Freddie Gruber won’t be a total stranger.

I was thinking yesterday of meeting Freddie Gruber in 1982. Excerpts of my interview with Freddie are posted on YouTube and my blog. The years 1980 to 1983 were fun and instructive. Through my job with Modern Drummer magazine, the staff and readers were creating new, in-depth material with familiar drummers.

We were also discovering drummers with great careers who had stayed under the music publicity radar. Some played exclusively in recording studios or in orchestra pits for theater performances. For years, most music buyers showed no interest in knowing specific musicians playing on albums. The soundtrack of “West Side Story,” for example, had composer Leonard Bernstein’s name, but not the individual musicians playing that incredible music.

In the early 1980s, the MD editors and writers were starting to find and interview those kinds of unsung musicians.

Full story

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Karaoke Drumming vs Uncharted Terrain

SKF NOTE: When playing copy songs in bands, I was never big on note-for-note copying of the original drummer’s parts. Sometimes I duplicated drum parts, but most often I captured the flavor of original drum parts while creating my own drum parts. Lacking technique sometimes prompted my decision to do my own thing. Mostly I had no interest in spending time learning to copy drummers on records. Chances are the original drummers came up with their own drum parts — why shouldn’t I do the same?

YouTube is thick with videos of Karaoke drummers playing along note-for-note — including breaks and solos — with some famous record, i.e. Philly Joe Jones’s Billy Boy. I suppose there is some merit as a learning tool in dissecting and memorizing well-known drum parts. But that’s like learning the alphabet, then to spell, then to write, and spending most of your time retyping and reciting famous books: “Hey, look here. I wrote Catcher in the Rye.”

Actually, no. J.D. Salinger wrote Catcher in the Rye. You just memorized and retyped Salinger’s bestseller.

The principal in learning to copy famous drum parts and solos is the same. You didn’t create For Big Sid or Toad. You just memorized drum solos created by Max Roach and Ginger Baker.

As I said, dissecting master drummers has merit. It’s the same for writers studying the works of great writers. Of lumberjacks studying the work of master woodcutters. The principle applies to any profession.

At some point, however, drummers need to find our own voices. That’s hard.

There is a YouTube video of a drummer telling his interviewer about playing one night at The Five Spot when Tony Williams was in the audience. (I’ve forgotten the drummer’s name, but I’ll find it and add it to this post when I do.)

The drummer said during a break he was talking with some people, being somewhat apologetic about his drumming concept — which was still a work in progress. Tony Williams was in that group. He told the drummer – paraphrasing – not to be apologetic, but to consider instead that no one else had yet approached the drums the way he — the Five Spot drummer — was approaching the instrument.

I love that. Is there any doubt Tony Williams was simply passing along a consideration he had about his own way of drumming?

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Frankie Dunlop – Complete Interview Part 7 of 7

SKF NOTE: This is the last segment of my full interview, no edits, with Frankie Dunlop. The interview took place in 1984 in two sessions. The first session, on October 16, 1984, was at my former in-law’s New York City apartment. The December 13, 1984 second session took place at my rented cottage home in Washington, CT.

Topics covered in this seventh and last part of Frankie’s interview include Lena Horne, timekeeping, Thelonious Monk, judging musicians by the condition of their instrument, Mel Lewis stolen cymbals, Frankie drum and cymbal setup with Monk, Switching to Sonor from Slingerland, Jake Hanna gifted snare drum, Frankie Dunlop drum clinics, drumsticks, Steve Gadd, Shelly Manne, Philly Joe Jones, clinics about drugs and music in elementary school, Lionel Hampton, George Jenkins.

One other point. Frankie and I are the dominant voices in this last segment. You’ll also hear my landlord, Jack Jackson, and my then-wife, Claudia.

I’ve cleaned up the sound from the original audio cassettes with compression, and also noise reduction, to minimize tape hiss. Now and then there are sound hiccups. Otherwise the sound is intact. The taping starts and stops are not seamless. Our conversation does not flow undetected from one side of a tape to the next, or from one tape to another tape. While interviewing, I tried to keep my eye on the time, but didn’t always succeed.

However, where Frankie was making an important or interesting point and a tape abruptly ended, we picked up the point when the next tape started rolling.

There are seven approximately 45-minute sessions in total, roughly three-and-a-half 90-minute tapes.

I will give each session a full listen before uploading them, and provide topic highlights — an index — for listeners.

I believe this is the only taped interview with Frankie Dunlop in existence. Since 1984 no other taped interviews have surfaced. For that reason I would like to make these tapes available to the public for posterity. Especially for drummers and music historians.

I’m happy to answer questions. The best way to contact me is through my SKFBlog.

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Frankie Dunlop – Complete Interview Pt 6 or 7

SKF NOTE: This is the first of two interview segments with Frankie Dunlop on December 13, 1984 at my rented home in Washington, CT. I am making available my full interview, no edits, with Frankie Dunlop. The interview took place in 1984 in two sessions. The first session, on October 16, 1984, was at my former in-law’s New York City apartment.

The December 13, 1984 second session took place at my rented cottage home in Washington, CT.

Topics covered in this sixth part of Frankie’s interview include Charlie Mingus, Bill Triglia, Booker Ervin, Don Friedman, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Julian Priester, Max Roach, Grachan Moncur III, Larry Ritchie, Ike Isaacs, Jimmy Wormworth, Henry Grimes, Roy Haynes, Monk’s funeral, Barry Harris, Charlie Rouse, Ray Copeland, Gerry Mulligan, Drummers who played with Monk, Thelonious Monk, Jr., Nica the Baroness, Monk played modern chords and that old, driving, Swing beat, Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland, Lena Horne, Grady Tate.

This segment includes two wonderful stories Frankie tells. The first story is about a Charlie Mingus rehearsal. The second story is about a Sonny Rollins club date. Frankie’s mimicking of both Mingus and Rollins still makes me laugh.

I’ve cleaned up the sound from the original audio cassettes with compression, and also noise reduction, to minimize tape hiss. Now and then there are sound hiccups. Otherwise the sound is intact. The taping starts and stops are not seamless. Our conversation does not flow undetected from one side of a tape to the next, or from one tape to another tape. While interviewing, I tried to keep my eye on the time, but didn’t always succeed.

However, where Frankie was making an important or interesting point and a tape abruptly ended, we picked up the point when the next tape started rolling.

There are seven approximately 45-minute sessions in total, roughly three-and-a-half 90-minute tapes.

I will give each session a full listen before uploading them, and provide topic highlights — an index — for listeners.

I believe this is the only taped interview with Frankie Dunlop in existence. Since 1984 no other taped interviews have surfaced. For that reason I would like to make these tapes available to the public for posterity. Especially for drummers and music historians.

I’m happy to answer questions. The best way to contact me is through my SKFBlog – Life Beyond the Cymbals.

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Frankie Dunlop — Complete Interview Pt 5 of 7

SKF NOTE: Over the next few weeks I am making available my full interview, no edits, with Frankie Dunlop. The interview took place in 1984 in two sessions. The first session, on October 16, 1984, was at my former in-law’s New York City apartment.

The December 13, 1984 second session took place at my rented cottage home in Washington, CT.

Topics covered in this fifth part of Frankie’s interview include Maynard Ferguson, Sonny Rollins, Five Spot, Playing slow is harder than playing fast, Charlie Rouse, John Ore, Tony Williams, Tootie Heath, Randy Weston, Clifford Jarvis, melodic drumming, Lionel Hampton, stamina and power, Hamp’s Boogie Woogie, Flyin’ Home, Hampton working drummers to death, Wilbur Hogan, Jazz Tribute at Reagan White House, Columbia albums, Riverside albums, Hal Overton, Monk small bands vs big bands, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Ben Riley, Art Taylor, Monk song titles. Teo Macero, Bright Mississippi, James Meredith.

One other point. Towards the end of this interview segment, I ask Frankie about his playing on the Columbia Monk dates versus the Monk Riverside dates. We are talking apples and oranges a few times. I guess I didn’t phrase my question well enough. Frankie’s answer indicates he thought I was talking about the Columbia album, “Thelonious Monk Big Band and Quartet in Concert” arranged by Hal Overton. And when Frankie mentions Overton and big band, I thought he was talking about Riverside album, “The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall,” arranged by Hal Overton, because I had never heard of the Overton Columbia big band date. I don’t think it was in print at the time.

At any rate, Frankie and I navigate through the confusion. And this tape ends my first session with Frankie in October 1984, NYC.

I’ve cleaned up the sound from the original audio cassettes with compression, and also noise reduction, to minimize tape hiss. Now and then there are sound hiccups. Otherwise the sound is intact. The taping starts and stops are not seamless. Our conversation does not flow undetected from one side of a tape to the next, or from one tape to another tape. While interviewing, I tried to keep my eye on the time, but didn’t always succeed.

However, where Frankie was making an important or interesting point and a tape abruptly ended, we picked up the point when the next tape started rolling.

There are seven approximately 45-minute sessions in total, roughly three-and-a-half 90-minute tapes.

I will give each session a full listen before uploading them, and provide topic highlights — an index — for listeners.

I believe this is the only taped interview with Frankie Dunlop in existence. Since 1984 no other taped interviews have surfaced. For that reason I would like to make these tapes available to the public for posterity. Especially for drummers and music historians.

I’m happy to answer questions. The best way to contact me is through my SKFBlog.

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Frankie Dunlop – Complete Interview Pt 4 of 7

SKF NOTE: Over the next few weeks I am making available my full interview, no edits, with Frankie Dunlop. The interview took place in 1984 in two sessions. The first session, on October 16, 1984, was at my former in-law’s New York City apartment.

The December 13, 1984 second session took place at my rented cottage home in Washington, CT.

Topics covered in this fourth part of Frankie’s interview include Jake Hanna, Birdland, Maynard Ferguson, Don Sebesky, big band drumming, John Bunch, Ann Marie Moss, playing louder without hurting yourself, Big Jay McNeely, back beat, rhythm & blues, shuffle beat, Lena Horne, Lenny Hayton, Duke Ellington, playing all styles, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Monk rhythm sections play like big band rhythm sections, healthy diet and exercise, Mel Lewis, Monk listening habit, Jimmie Lunceford, Clark Terry, and swinging.

I’ve cleaned up the sound from the original audio cassettes with compression, and also noise reduction, to minimize tape hiss. Now and then there are sound hiccups. Otherwise the sound is intact. The taping starts and stops are not seamless. Our conversation does not flow undetected from one side of a tape to the next, or from one tape to another tape. While interviewing, I tried to keep my eye on the time, but didn’t always succeed.

However, where Frankie was making an important or interesting point and a tape abruptly ended, we picked up the point when the next tape started rolling.

There are seven approximately 45-minute sessions in total, roughly three-and-a-half 90-minute tapes.

I will give each session a full listen before uploading them, and provide topic highlights — an index — for listeners.

I believe this is the only taped interview with Frankie Dunlop in existence. Since 1984 no other taped interviews have surfaced. For that reason I would like to make these tapes available to the public for posterity. Especially for drummers and music historians.

I’m happy to answer questions. The best way to contact me is through my SKFBlog.

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

Frankie Dunlop – Complete Interview Pt 3 of 7

SKF NOTE: Over the next few weeks I am making available my full interview, no edits, with Frankie Dunlop. The interview took place in 1984 in two sessions. The first session, on October 16, 1984, was at my former in-law’s New York City apartment.

The December 13, 1984 second session took place at my rented cottage home in Washington, CT.

This third part of Frankie’s interview, at the time, was a little frustrating. Here Frankie focuses the entire 45 minutes on his 18-months of being drafted into the US Army during the Korean War. But I also realized at the time how much his Army experience impacted Frankie. Because this experience was so important to Frankie, I was careful not to interrupt him, or to steer his conversation in a different direction.

Frankie was a young man on track to be a professional drummer when he was drafted. As you will hear, getting drafted was, at first, so depressing, Frankie seriously thought of committing suicide. Instead, he reassessed his situation and, in the end, he ended up playing drums in the US Army.

I’ve cleaned up the sound from the original audio cassettes with compression, and also noise reduction, to minimize tape hiss. Now and then there are sound hiccups. Otherwise the sound is intact. The taping starts and stops are not seamless. Our conversation does not flow undetected from one side of a tape to the next, or from one tape to another tape. While interviewing, I tried to keep my eye on the time, but didn’t always succeed.

However, where Frankie was making an important or interesting point and a tape abruptly ended, we picked up the point when the next tape started rolling.

There are seven approximately 45-minute sessions in total, roughly three-and-a-half 90-minute tapes.

I will give each session a full listen before uploading them, and provide topic highlights — an index — for listeners.

I believe this is the only taped interview with Frankie Dunlop in existence. Since 1984 no other taped interviews have surfaced. For that reason I would like to make these tapes available to the public for posterity. Especially for drummers and music historians.

I’m happy to answer questions. The best way to contact me is through this blog.

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