Ed Soph: Learning Opportunities? Times Have Changed (1985)

Ed Soph

SKF NOTE: This is another excerpt from my 1985 Ed Soph interview. The back story is posted here. Ed makes several notable points here about the passing of opportunities for young drummers to study great players in club settings. Of course, the internet has compensated for that, I think. Not in all ways, but in some ways.

Ed Soph: I ran into Papa Jo a long time ago in Frank Ippolito’s old shop on 8th Avenue. And I went up to Papa Jo and figured, well, s**t, a way to introduce myself and to ask him if he could give me a drum lesson.

I said, “Gee, Mr. Jones, I sure would like to get a drum lesson from you.”

He says, If you want a drum lesson from me, come up to such-and-such a club. I’m playing there every night.

And I’m thinking, “You dumb m**r, Soph.” Click! These guys didn’t go to teachers. They went to clubs and watched the cats play. That’s gone now. How many kids can afford to go to that…club in New York that charged $17.00 to get in to hear Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, and Miroslav Vitous — and then there was a $10.00 drink minimum.

Then, if you’ve got to pay parking on top of that? Come one!

Scott K Fish: They pay that kind of money to see rock bands.

ES: But, those kids aren’t there to learn how to play drums. How can they be if they’re in a ten thousand seat auditorium? My God Almighty, you’ll learn more listening to the record.

I’m talking about going to a club, getting up into the Peanut Gallery — like they used to have at Birdland — and just sit there and check somebody out. Or go to the [Village] Vanguard, and get there early, and get to that spot that’s right back there by the drums — and watch Elvin.

That’s the learning opportunity right there. But times have changed. It’s not happening anymore like it was. Can you wonder why people get discouraged?

Twenty-seven dollars is alot of money for anyone? If my wife, Carol, and I had gone down there it would have cost us about $70.00 in expenses. But I hope Miroslav, Roy, and Chick got every penny of it. I know they didn’t. But I hope they got their take. But it would be nice if they’d give a concert in the afternoon. In the old days clubs used to have matinees for kids or for musicians who weren’t working.

Again, you see the strength of clinics, of presenting the music in that sort of environment. You really get bent out of shape thinking about that. But something always comes along to fill the gap. But that gap will never be filled.

I mean, can you imagine going into a club and watching Sid Catlett, or Dave Tough, or Tiny Kahn? Or, for Christ’s sake, just going down and listening to Mel Lewis play. Holy s**t!

And the thing is, Scott, that you or I could take a kid — and I’m not talking about value judgement on the kid, I’m just talking about exposure — we could take a kid who’s into Eric Carr, or who is into Neil Peart, or who’s into Alan White, and you could say to this kid, “Come here. Have you ever seen Elvin Jones play drums?”

“Who?”

“Come here, kid. You’re coming with me tonight.”

You could sit that kid down in that Peanut Gallery at the Vanguard and that kid’s mouht would be on the floor after the first chorus, simply because he’s never had any opportunity to be exposed to it.”

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