SKF NOTE: This exchange is from my interview with Alan Dawson for Modern Drummer’s January 1986 10th Anniversary Issue. The interview took place in 1985 in Alan Dawson’s Massachusetts’ home living room over Dawson-made tuna fish sandwiches.
This is part of Mr. Dawson’s reply to my question: When you were starting out were drummers separated by titles such as swing” drummer and bebop drummer?
Alan Dawson: I revered Jo Jones. I tried to play like him. Then I revered Max Roach and tried to play like him. Something happened that is inevitable if you’re going to do any kind of growing. There’s some point where you get up on a bandstand and suddenly discover that you’re playing the drums by yourself.
In your mind you can’t say, “Yeah, well this is how Jo Jones would do it,” or “This is how Max Roach would do it.” You’re by yourself and you’ve got to figure out how you do it. You have to start listening to the music and reacting on your own, rather than what you think somebody else would do.