Tommy Ruskin: KC Jazz Community Loses a Major Force

SKF NOTE: Throughout my years drumming, writing about drums, or selling drums, I’ve heard stories of legendary local drummers. Living in Davenport, Iowa in the early 1970s, local music fans raved most often about Gaetan Caviola. At Modern Drummer, I took several calls from a young drummer, Chris, raving about a local drummer named Dave Weckl. Weckl, of course, became an internationally acclaimed musician.

But most local legendary drummers in my experience, remained local legendary drummers. I once suggested to founder/publisher Ron Spagnardi that Modern Drummer start featuring profiles of local legends, but my idea was nixed.

I’m reading this morning, for the first time, about Kansas City drummer, Tommy Ruskin. I am delighted to know about him, and very sorry my introduction to him is through his obituary. Perhaps there are readers who can share their personal stories of Mr. Ruskin. RIP.

Kansas City jazz community mourns the death of drummer Tommy Ruskin

Drummer Tommy Ruskin, a longtime staple of the Kansas City jazz scene known for his sense of humor and jam sessions throughout the region, died Thursday after a yearlong illness. He was 72.

His death is a blow to the jazz community, said friend and internationally known jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, who grew up in the Kansas City area.

“Besides being the best Kansas City drummer of the past 50 years, Tommy was also one of the greatest musicians I have ever known,” Metheny said….

“In every way, Tommy was the complete package; perfect time, the most beautiful touch imaginable, an elegant technique on the instrument and a true improvisational storyteller in his solos.”

Metheny said he started playing with Ruskin when he was 14 or 15 years old.

“And I trace the essential knowledge that I acquired from Tommy in the areas of groove and form as the foundations of everything that I have built on over the years,” he said.

“This is a major blow to all of us who loved him, and the KC jazz community has lost a major force.”

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About Scott K Fish
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1 Response to Tommy Ruskin: KC Jazz Community Loses a Major Force

  1. scottkfish says:

    Pat Metheny: “Another guy that I still play with every time I go home, who just kills me, is a drummer named Tommy Ruskin, who’s one of the best bebop drummers ever. This guy literally taught me how to play time. Also, both [trumpeter] Gary [Sivitz] and Tommy taught me one real important thing about playing, which is to try to tell a story rather than just play licks up and down the instrument.” Source: “Pat Metheny: Musings on Neo-Fusion,” by Fred Bourque, Down Beat, 3/22/79.

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