SKF NOTE: In 1985, freelance writing again for Modern Drummer magazine, I was asked to contribute two drummer interviews to MD‘s upcoming January 1986 10th Anniversary issue: Neil Peart and Alan Dawson.
Unlike MD‘s other feature interviews, 10th Anniversary interviewees were asked to answer two basic questions: In the last ten years, what were the drum world’s key moments? And, gazing into the crystal ball, what are the probable key moments in the ten years ahead?
This is part one of my conversation with Alan Dawson at his Massachusetts’ home. Listening to it almost 40-years up the road, I’m reminded of how music styles like “fusion,” and electronic equipment like the LinnDrum machine, had, and were, blurring the lines among music styles.
At the start of this interview, when I ask Dawson who he thinks are the greatest jazz drummers to have emerged in the last ten years, the two of us first have to answer Dawson’s question: What’s a jazz drummer?
Looking ahead ten years, this great drummer/teacher had learned to take drum innovations and fads in stride. We talk about Dawson’s own drum sets over the years, where his choices are based on need versus practicality. In 1985, Dawson played a five-piece kit. Maybe he would play more drums, he said, if he had a roadie.
Starting with a mutt set of drums acquired at different times from pawn shops, Dawson graduated to Gretsch drums, then Fibes drums, and then to Ludwig drums. Partially influenced by the times (All the BeBop drummers like Max Roach and Art Blakey were playing Gretsch.), Dawson’s drum choices were based primarily on sound and functionality.
Regrettably, part two of this conversation seems to have survived on paper only, not on tape.