SKF NOTE: Yesterday, driving, my drum lesson with Freddie Gruber came to mind. He was in NYC for a limited time and seemingly impossible to get to do the Modern Drummer interview he said he would do.
Our last chance took place in Buddy Rich’s NYC apartment. Freddie, a pair of drumsticks, and I are at the kitchen or dining room table — and he’s leading up to saying yes to the interview, speaking all these drum pearls of wisdom while asking me NOT to turn on my tape recorder.
FINALLY, my pleading that we should be capturing his pearls on tape hits home. Freddie gives me permission to fire up my tape recorder.
He talks a bit more. (When was Freddie ever NOT talking?) And I take the occasion of his taking a breath to insert a question and, God willing, focus the interview. At least for awhile.
“Suppose I’ve just walked into your studio for my first drum lesson. What happens next?” I ask.
Sometime later, my first drum lesson with Freddie Gruber is over. Using a pair of drumsticks and a formica table top, Freddie analyzes my playing — with amazing accuracy. For example, he says, “You don’t have much big band drumming experience, only small groups.” “How can you tell?” I ask. “By the way you hold your arms close to your body,” Freddy says.
And, miracle of miracles, Freddie corrects how I was using my left hand, clearing up a challenge dogging me for years and years. A major breakthrough for me. In the blink of an eye Freddy showed me a simple, natural way of playing and holding the stick with my left hand. Not much different from the way I had been playing. But, in practice, Freddie’s adjustment made all the difference in the world. One of those plateaus musicians reach now and then after a long struggle.
A one-of-a-kind man. I am grateful he and I had the chance to meet and share some time together.