SKF NOTE: My personal growth as a drummer often came in the wake of painful moments. For example, I’m remembering the day I subbed on live t.v. with the Warren Parrish Trio in Moline, Illinois. The trio’s regular drummer, Tommy Phares (pronounced Farris), couldn’t make it and asked me to take his place.
Warren Parrish was a first-class jazz pianist. The trio’s bassist, Craig Dove, described Warren as “a cross between Horace Silver and Oscar Peterson.” I was drummer with the Millard Cowan Trio in Davenport, Iowa – a group getting a decent amount of attention playing at Millard’s club, The Steamboat Lounge.
Iowa night clubs closed earlier than Illinois night clubs. So whenever possible, we would drive across the Mississippi River to the The Plantation restaurant in Moline, where the Warren Parrish Trio held court.
I showed up at the t.v. station. It was a brief interview with Warren Parrish, followed by one song. I set up my drum kit, ready to impress Warren and Craig. Craig leaned over and asked if I had ever heard their trio play Get Me To The Church On Time. No, I said, but I knew the tune. “We play it really, really fast,” said Craig. I said something like, “Ah, no sweat.”
Famous last words! Warren counted off Get Me To The Church at a tempo much, much faster than I had ever played. I barely had enough chops to fake my way through the tune, but not without Warren shooting me dagger eyes, and bassist Craig Dove giving me a disappointed, “Come on!” — all on live television!
When the gig was over I packed up my drums, drove home, and felt like throwing my drum sticks in the garbage. Instead, I told Tommy Phares what happened. He, in turn, shared a technique for playing uptempo that helped a great deal.
Temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement.