Sherrie Maricle’s Swinging DIVA Jazz Groups

SKF NOTE: After sharing my Gordon Lightfoot Band post on Linkedin‘s THE JAZZ NETWORK WORLDWIDE & NOT JUST JAZZ NETWORK group, Sherrie Maricle gave it a “like.” Her Linkedin profile says Maricle is “Leader and Drummer for The DIVA Jazz Orchestra and FIVE PLAY. Member of 3Divas.”

Maricle’s brand new to me musical groups were intriguing. She was intriguing too. The music and background info I discovered on the DIVA web site surpassed my expectations. Although, time has taught me to listen to new musicians and music with, if possible, no expectations. Expect nothing. Take the music at face value.

Setting aside for a moment the experience and qualifications of all of the musician members of DIVA Jazz Orchestra, FIVE PLAY, and 3Divas, let me cut to the chase: Sherrie Maricle swings like crazy; a pleasure to hear whether she’s drumming for big band, quintet, or trio. Even her drums and cymbals sound musical.

I love the DIVA web site. Lots of music videos to watch, listen to, and learn from. And one, new to me excellent jazz player after another.

Are there DIVA CD’s available? I’ll say! The orchestra, quintet, and trio combined have 22 music CD’s listed on the “Meet the DIVAs” section of the web site.

Each DIVA member has her own bio available on the “Meet the DIVAS” section of the web site. After Maricle, pianist Tomoko Ohno caught my attention during a 3Divas trio performance. Ohno’s bio took me to her own web site, which listed her extensive musical credentials, and several CD’s under her own name and with other musicians.

I haven’t looked at all DIVA members bios, but apparently all DIVA members have extensive musical accomplishments. For example, trumpeter Jami Dauber‘s web site says of her, in part:

Jami has toured the world as a longtime member of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra and its breakout quintet, FIVE PLAY. Other tours include the Washington, DC and Atlanta productions of Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life and the Living Arts, Inc. international tour of Porgy and Bess.

She has performed with the jazz orchestras of Christian McBride, Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, and Bria Skonberg, as well as with The Smithsonian Jazz Works Orchestra, The New Alchemy Jazz Orchestra, and the George Gee Swing Orchestra. She is also a member of the Duke Ellington Legacy Band, performing alongside Edward Ellington (Duke’s grandson).

And Sherrie Maricle? Her impressive bio says, in part:

From the drum set Sherrie leads The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, her quintet FIVE PLAY and co-leads the 3D Jazz Trio. She is also a busy freelance performer, a published composer/arranger and a dedicated educator, clinician, guest conductor and soloist.

With her bands Sherrie has performed at many of the world’s most acclaimed music venues and festivals, from Lincoln Center to the Kennedy Center and the Hollywood Bowl, to Jazz Festivals in Germany, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Ireland, England, Croatia, Japan, Vietnam, and Israel and beyond. Additionally, Sherrie and DIVA were featured at the 2017 NEA Jazz Master’s Awards Ceremony, the soundtrack for the NBC-Macy’s Fireworks Spectacular; on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, on TCM’s televised broadcast of the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center and NHK Japan’s New York Jazz. The band also co-stars in the award-winning documentary film The Girls in the Band.

What a treasure trove of music and musicians. Navigating my way through it all will be a blast.

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RIP Gordon Lightfoot; RIP Lightfoot Band

Gordon Lightfoot and his band in concert. (Photo courtesy Gordon Lightfoot Facebook page.)

SKF NOTE: The passing on May 1 of Gordon Lightfoot is the passing of one of the world’s greatest singer songwriters. Lightfoot’s passing also ends one of the world’s greatest singer songwriter bands.

I was going to say I doubt many Lightfoot fans realize how central the songwriter’s band is to his songs. But I don’t think that’s true. I’m no authority, but from observing many fans at several Lightfoot concerts, I’d say the majority of Lightfoot fans fully appreciate the Lightfoot band, individually and collectively.

The Lightfoot band I first heard in concert in Saratoga Springs, NY was Rick Haynes (bass), Terry Clements (guitar), Pee Wee Charles (pedal steel guitar), and Barry Keane (drums). That was in 1980 with the release of Lightfoot’s excellent Dream Street Rose album.

When Charles left the band to tackle other pursuits, keyboardist Mike Heffernan took his place. And when Clements died, Carter Lancaster became the Lightfoot band guitarist.

Each new player, naturally, added his own personality to Lightfoot’s music. But whenever you heard the band accompanying Lightfoot in concert, it was always the Lightfoot sound, always a band of attentive professionals creating Lightfoot music, Lightfoot songs.

In 2016, Lightfoot told a reporter for the Pocono Record newspaper in Pennsylvania, “This really is a folk rock band. Everything I do has a momentum of its own. Some if it really is really good, solid folk rock. Everything I do has a beat to it. I like everything to swing.”

It speaks well of Gordon Lightfoot that, for so many decades, he had such loyalty from a band that set the bar very high for other singer songwriter bands.

For readers interested in knowing more about Gordon Lightfoot’s band, here are two interviews with drummer Barry Keane spanning 41-years.

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Tom Staley – We’re Gonna Be OK

SKF NOTE: Referring to Tom Staley as a renewed-to-me drummer is more accurate than saying he is new-to-me.

On October 13, 2021 I added a post, Haunted for 52 Years by NRBQ, to this blog. Here is, in part, what I wrote:

Two days ago I bought the digital format of NRBQ’s first album. I owned a vinyl copy of the album when it was originally released in 1969. (Full disclosure, I was given a brand new promotional copy of NRBQ by my neighbor, Ed Matthews, who was, if memory serves, head of Artists & Repertoire at CBS records.)

What happened to my copy of NRBQ’s album, I don’t know. But for the last 52 years, in those life moments when I sing out loud some song snippet, my snippets were often from NRBQ’s first album recording of Rocket #9 or C’mon If You’re Comin’.

Truth to be told, until I sat down to write this post, I didn’t know Tom Staley was the drummer on NRBQ’s first album. I couldn’t tell you the drummer. My affection for NRBQ’s first album was for NRBQ as a many-sided band. Yes, it was/is a band of imaginative players sounding as if they were pulled from jazz, traditional country, rockabilly, and country blues bands.

If I was influenced by any specific about Staley’s drumming – which, if 52 years later I’m still singing the album songs, and downloading a new digital version of the album, Staley certainly influenced me – it was his contribution to NRBQ’s overall sound. It was Staley’s knack for bringing the best out of salad of songs ranging from rockabilly Eddie Cochran to avant garde jazz musician Sun Ra.

Today, for people who like to label music, NRBQ’s music might be called Roots or Americana music.

Staley played on NRBQ’s first four albums: NRBQ, Boppin’ the Blues (with Carl Perkins), Scraps, and Workshop. I’ve listened to them all while prepping for this post.

According to a 2017 Not So Modern Drummer interview:

Soon after Tom Staley joined NRBQ he was first exposed to the music of Thelonius Monk and Sun Ra. Jazz drumming was already on Tom’s radar…. Tom had begun taking lessons when he was ten, while also playing in the Fort Lauderdale Drum and Bugle Corps, and his junior high, and high school bands. Tom’ s main drumming influence was the legendary jazz drummer Joe Morello. He attended numerous Dave Brubeck Quartet performances, and also Morello’s drum clinics. This provided Tom with the strong foundation needed for NRBQ’s eclectic – jazz improvisational approach to playing music.

After leaving NRBQ, according to several internet accounts, Staley played drums in other bands, mostly in southern states. He also has a handful of albums under his own name. Twitchin’ in the Kitchen, Thenceforward, and We’re Gonna Be OK.

Tom Staley’s internet drum activities end at year 2020 and Staley’s wife, Karen, launching a GoFundMe page to help pay for treatment for what Karen describes as Tom’s “degenerative disc disease.” She said, “A little over a year ago, Tom started experiencing pain in his lower back so severe that he had to cancel all his gigs. Over fifty years of playing drums, gigging, late hours and lugging his gear have taken a heavy toll.”

I’ve written to Mrs. Staley, hoping to hear back good news about Tom. Wouldn’t it be great to thank him personally for making music that’s embedded in my head and heart for over a half-century?

Tom Staley second from left. Photo included with Omnivore Records’ release of NRBQ’s first album.
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Remembering Killer Ray Appleton

SKF NOTE: In my last post I wrote about “new to me” drummers and their influence on other drummers. Certainly they have influenced and continue to influence me.

Earlier last week I realized I don’t often write about “new to me” drummers when drummer Ray Appleton came to mind. Appleton plays on one of my favorite albums, “The Blues is Now,” by singer Jimmy Witherspoon, which I did write about on May 19, 2019 in a post titled, “Ray Appleton: A Marvelous Blues Shuffle.”

Last week, after reading an email announcing the Jimmy Witherspoon/Charles Lloyd Witherspoon & Lloyd album, I wondered if Appleton was the album drummer. As of this writing I haven’t found a personnel listing, but I will keep looking.

Appleton, born in 1941, grew up in Indianapolis, childhood friends with jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. His name is written as Otis “Ray” Appleton, Ray Appleton, and on his own website, “Killer” Ray Appleton.

According to Appleton’s online biography:

“…“Killer” Ray Appleton was blessed to begin his career in the best possible environment. Mentored from an early age by the slightly older Freddie Hubbard, Ray had his first professional gig with Wes Montgomery at fourteen. By the age of nineteen, Ray had followed trumpeter Kenny Dorham to New York, there meeting such jazz icons as Philly Joe Jones and John Coltrane. In the mid-60s, Appleton toured and performed with Coltrane and Hubbard, appearing on Coltrane’s Infinity and Cosmic Music and playing a crucial role on Hubbard’s Backlash.”

Appleton plays percussion on two Infinity tracks and two Cosmic Music tracks. But he is the drummer on Freddie Hubbard’s entire Backlash album.

In fact, while researching for this post I discovered it was Ray Appleton playing drums on the Backlash tracks included in a double-LP I owned decades ago, The Art of Freddie Hubbard: The Atlantic Years. The track I remember best from The Art of…. is On the Que-Tee.

In an online interview, Appleton said of his playing, “…I’ve always been able to swing. The power of my drumming is in my right hand and in my cymbal ride.”

Researching this piece I discovered Appleton has albums under his own name: Naptown Legacy, Killer Ray Rides Again.

His bio tells us during the 1970s and 1980s Appleton lived and worked in Europe. In 1997 diabetes caused partial amputation of his left leg.

Appleton said, “I had to learn how to play differently, because of all the stuff I used to do on my left side. Before, I could do more things on the drums.”

To what extent Appleton’s amputation impacted his drumming – I don’t know. Appleton’s albums sound complete. Excellent bands and song choices, imaginative arrangements, and many first class soloists including, but not limited to, Charles McPherson (alto sax), John Hicks (piano), Slide Hampton (trombone), and Appleton himself.

Ray Appleton was new to me as a wonderful blues drummer. He is still a wonderful blues drummer. Any time a drummer asks how to play a blues shuffle, I point him or her to Appleton on Good Rockin’ Tonight from the Blues is Now album.

Appleton also left a legacy as a swinging, straight ahead jazz drummer well worth listening to and remembering.

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What About ‘New-To-Me’ Drummers?

SKF NOTE: I don’t often write about them, but drummers owe a lot to players we might refer to as “one hit wonders.”

Think of Ronnie Wilson, the Surfaris’ drummer who gave the world the classic drum hit, “Wipe Out.” When I was a kid, and for many years after, the ability to play “Wipe Out” was the standard by which drummers were measured. A drummer who could play Ronnie Wilson’s “Wipe Out” solo was “a good drummer.”

Neither have I written very much about “new-to-me” drummers. Much of my enjoyment studying and writing about drumming is through discovering “new-to-me” drummers. Hearing unfamiliar drummers for the first time is often rewarding, and a great way to expand my knowledge about drummers and drumming.

Unfamiliar drummers grace our ears often. Some aspect of their drumming surprises us – their infectious beat, beautiful sounding drums, a surprising fill – and it leaves a lasting impression.

Time and again such drummers pass quickly through our lives. So quickly we rarely get their names. Consequently, I rarely write about such drummers.

That’s my mistake.

Right now I have a number of “new-to-me” drummers to write about in the days ahead. Up-the-road I will do better at identifying, researching, and writing about “new-to-me” drummers I come across.

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