I was asked the other day who I liked out of the new modern type drummers. For me, Lenny White and Billy Hart are totally "modern" as they are master improvisers that don't sound like anyone but themselves. I never know what they are going to play.
I saw a drummer sit in with a group and they whined that he played too modern. He was doing a take on what cats played in 1965. Meanwhile they were doing a take on what went down in 1955...This was actually more entertaining than what was being played.
With the Headhunters I was just trying to pay the rent and very glad to be in Herbie Hancock's band… But still had my eyes constantly open for jazz gigs. I think what happened inadvertently with the Headhunters, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever was that we influenced a lot of musicians. For instance, let's say a guy starts drumming today and he begins with Dennis Chambers. If I hear that guy on a jazz gig, there's more to jazz than going "ding ding a ding" on the ride cymbal while stacking all of those polyrhythmic groupings against it. A lot of those groupings just don't fit into the language of jazz. That's why a lot of it sounds really square.
Reading music has always been a challenge - I can read the method books to death, but with a band it’s a whole different animal. I have seen so many figures that I can play most of them by just looking at them. I’m always able to pull it off unless something really tricky comes up.