SKF NOTE: My self-study of drummers started in the 1960s. By age 14 I started my lifelong study of the history of drummers, drums, and drumming. Liner notes, magazines, local jazz radio stations, and books were my prime information sources. Music albums were available as vinyl 33 1/3 RPM long-playing records, holding an average 20-minutes of music per side. An album with a total 45-minutes of music was a bonus.
This October 9, 1975 Zutty Singleton obituary (Down Beat) reminds me of how difficult it was, for many years, to find records of some of the noted drummers. With the first historical drummers, like Zutty, who started recording in 1928, recording techniques didn’t do drummers justice. The popular 78-RPM records were limited to about two-and-a-half minutes per song. Drummers were often forced to record with partial drumsets. Bass drums, for instance, were verboten or covered with muffling blankets.
Obit writer Arnold Jay Smith tells us Zutty started as a New Orleans drummer who became “a major influence on Chicagoans George Wettling and Dave Tough.”
“His solos were not mere show-offy flaying of sticks, but improvisations that interwove the melody with drum, cymbals, sticks and brushes into a quiltwork…,” writes Smith.
Digital technology has made all kinds of music available as never before. Want to see/hear Zutty Singleton? No problem. Just type his name in your web browser and hit the “search” button.
SKF NOTE: A 45-year old concert review (Down Beat, Oct. 9, 1975) of the Tony Williams Lifetime. Hard to imagine. This is the Fred Lifetime: Alan Holdsworth (gtr), Alan Pasqua (keyboards), Tony Newton (bass), and Tony Williams.
DB Reviewer Scott Albin is glad Tony doesn’t sing with this band. “[S]o we no longer have to endure his falsetto voice and ridiculous lyrics,” writes Albin. (True confession: I never liked Tony’s singing either.)
The reviewer goes on to say, “…Tony Williams is still one of the supreme jazz drummers. Few play with such an elevated combination of quickness and precision. His cymbal-work is still outstanding.” Yes, indeed.
SKF NOTE: I spotted this ad for a Louis Bellson “limited edition” piano trio album, Intensive Care, on the Fall 1978 Jazz magazine back cover. I’ve heard Bellson and bassist Ray Brown on several recordings. Pianist Paul Smith plays perfect on Ella Fitzgerald’s The Intimate Ella album where it’s just the two of them on the entire album. (More musicians would have detracted from this gem.)
On closer inspection, Intensive Care is available in CD and vinyl formats — at a price – and on YouTube. But unavailable in MP3 format. From the three cuts I’ve heard on YouTube I’m not sure the Smith, Brown, Bellson trio works all that well. Still, I would like to hear the full album. And it’s always a treat to hear fresh Bellson.
SKF NOTE: My Neil Peart interview transcripts bring back fond memories. Neil was always fun to interview, due in large measure, I believe, to the interviews always feeling like two guys having casual conversation. The interviews felt that way because they were that way.
I spotted a few favorite Neil remarks last night while reading transcripts. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges circa 1989 or 1990.
Scott K Fish: What’s a typical day-in-the-life of Neil Peart?
Neil Peart: There’s an on-the-road me, a songwriting me, recording me, and an at home me. They all have different paces of life.
When I’m on the road I work late, sleep late. Often I’ll bicycle ride in the afternoon — maybe the whole day.
I go to mid-afternoon soundcheck for a couple of hours — often by bicycle.
Have dinner. Then read or work on my current writing project. Do the show. Get on the bus. Proofread the writing I did, and read, or do what everyone else is.
I sleep usually until we get to the next destination at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m.; scramble off the bus into the hotel room. Catch another few hours sleep.
It’s the most routine, although the most unrooted, the most difficult in which to establish a routine. Over the years we’ve worked hard to get our routines.
Geddy and Alex play tennis every afternoon. I do something solitary. So our time is worth something. You waste less time traveling by bus.
When the drums are recorded I’m in the studio early, checking, tuning, and everything. Electronics get sorted out. We’ll do one song or two a day. I’m always setting up for another song. When the engineer gets there, I’m ready to start. I like to get it done quickly. If you slog through it a thousand times it starts to lose its life.
I take about two hours to get a drum track — which is pretty good. That includes getting all the sounds happening: playing the song enough to make sure all the parts are happening, and then playing it perfect!
After that, the bass track gets voiced in. I’ll go outside with the Walkman and listen to the demo several times. Demos are often a very good reflection, in every sense, of what I want on the record.
Recording Presto, we finished eleven bass and drum tracks in nine days. That was terrific. We first put down a guide track pf guitar. bass. keyboards, and vocals. I played to that. Once we finished recording the drums we replaced the bass and guitar.
So it was done as a band, initially, and then, as individuals.
SKF: Are all of you in the studio at the same time?
NP: In the premises. But not recording at the same time. I like the freedom from pressure, knowing I’m not wasting anyone else’s time. If I want to stop halfway through and start again — or anything — I never feel it’s infringing on anyone else.
SKF: Now, a day in the life when you’re at home?
NP: I’ll be at the YMCA three times a week, weight training, and swimming a mile. If I’m at the cottage I’ll bicycle my usual 40 miles three times a week. Alternate mornings I get up early to get in some writing while the family’s still asleep.
SKF: Were you always so organized? Was there a time when you were Mr. Party?
NP: Never. I was always introverted. I was never physical as a kid or as a beginning musician. Drumming was the only sport I could ever do. Frustratingly, I’d try out for teams and never make them. I was too weak. But, I used to hike and take bike rides with my brother. As a teenager, I didn’t even do that. Just drumming. Through drumming I gradually built up stamina.
As a band, as individuals, we never wanted to become just a band. Not just musicians. My interests became like an hour glass. As a kid, my interests were wide. I was a voracious reader. Drums took over when I was thirteen. I was well into my twenties before my life opened up with other interests. I became interested again in reading, for instance. I never read as a teenager. Just drums, drums, drums.
At school I played on the desk. I got home from school and went on to the drums. I’d think about drum beats [while] lying in bed. It was like an addiction.
I have the discipline that brings the will that makes you want to do it. You’re not saying you should practice your drums. I’d say, “Oh, great. Time to practice.” I don’t remember ever feeling forced to practice. My parents were great. I could usually play two or three hours a day between school and supper. And longer on weekends. The neighbors were really understanding too.
SKF NOTE: Last night, quite by accident, I came across the Guitar Center video profile of drummer Camellia Akhamie Kies. I was expecting the-same-as-every-other-pop/funk-drummer. Boy, was I wrong. I can’t remember the last time I was this moved by a drummer.
Camellia Akhami Kies does a great job telling her own story in this video, so I won’t repeat it. I love her rhythms, her sounds. I love her use of electronic and acoustic drums. And her experimentation with many different types of drum “sets” is refreshing.
I did buy her album today, I Choose Love. After a fair listening I will probably write about it.
Meanwhile, Kies does have a good Facebook page with several interesting percussion videos. She also has her own Akhamie music production company.
I’m looking forward to tracking her career. What a great start.
guitarcenter.com Posted in Interviews on 10 Nov 2020 Camellia Akhamie Kies
How did your unique approach to drum kits evolve?
My husband and I were living in a small studio apartment in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I didn’t have enough room to set up a full drum set. We had a separate garage that had a lot of our household goods stored in, and I found a little space there. I thought, “You know what? I can get a drum set!” But there wasn’t room for a traditional drum set in that space. I looked around, and I thought, “All right. I’m gonna be able to get a cajon in here,” and I remember sliding my kick pedal up to the cajon. I grabbed a hi-hat, and I grabbed the Roland SPD-30 and Roland SPD-SX I was using at the time. That’s what I started creating on a hot summer day. It was, like, 100 degrees, with no AC in the garage. That’s when the sound, my sound, really started to evolve from that hybrid setup.
So lack of space led to a whole concept?
Yes—snare but no kick drum, a cajon because a cajon was smaller, and a small hi-hat. I remember recording a video with that setup and posting it on Instagram. People were like, “What is going on? This is super-cool!” I was happy people liked it, because I love it—I love the vibe, and I love the sound. It was really kind of confirming that I was moving in the right direction. It was really cool because it’s how I was evolving, and people enjoyed it. So, it was really great, and I’ve kind of just been continuing to advance that sound and that unique, hypnotic groove and vibe that I have going on.