A few months ago some southern blues type musician friends asked me to do some playing with them. They were covering Little Feat, Allman Brothers, Robin Trower and had some loosely written songs. It was stuff I haven't played in a while and felt compelled to do some homework. My first task would be listening to all that could be found by these bands and related groups as to Spotify and Pandora's recommendations. I'm currently in writing mode for a new drum book, In the Pulse of New Orleans. My go-to excuse for writing books is usually wanting to learn and explore drumming, improve on it and get more proficient at performing that style idea or melodic phrasing. That motivation has served me well in the past, even in failure, the amount of acquired information is always and has been a lucrative reward. Making that expedition and doing homework to play music with my friends along with my everyday obligations was sounding like an amount of work that might hit the wall of limitation but the challenge seemed invigorating, so I went with it.
When digging in, I was taken aback at the enclave of greatness in blues by young and influential players. The contributions I wasn't aware of or had forgotten about were an unexpected bonus. It struck me there weren't a lot of scientists in the creative bulk of this music, that trying things that may or may not work was a viable option. These musicians relished freedoms of a wider circumference certainly greater than the latitude available in the more recent situations I've been immersed in. It seems that rules weren't etched on tablets, carried down the mountain and dictated by the songwriters. Not speaking about good direction, just close minded concepts that distance musicians with viable contributions. Conversely, when I listened to the tracks that were interesting, it was apparent that the song composer had no idea what the drummers were doing. The drummers were de facto music composers with trails to blaze that were hardly traveled.
With all the new found ideas from my quest over the last few months, I felt somewhat guilty and refreshed at the same time. I was enamored and fulfilled after finding drumming ideas that have stimulated my love for the instrument again and drove me to spend copious amounts of time transcribing and improvising on the many findings.
After decades of listening to countless mythical legends about a favorite young jazz drumming student at UNT standing up listening to music in his dorm room with the door open and waving at fellow students to come in and hear the things he was unearthing. I get it - music without any help from liquor or drugs can bethe ultimate aphrodisiac. If you are a musician, it's a blood infusion. The excitement of these new and old discoveries has got me sending the gems I've run across to a list of players of whom I haven't had a musical conversation with in years. Hell, the amount of time I haven't shared and enjoyed music with these old friends probably surpasses the age of half the players playing the music I've been discovering. Many of these friends were musicians I came up with and were very close to, but with my moving to the sun belt and time, our similar tastes and friendships have slipped away.
Some newer bands make you dig deeper when listening to their euphony, forcing you to go back to music that might have been its stimulus. Older music tends to drive you down memory lane. Listening to some older music, the people who mutually enjoyed the music with me became visions in my mind. In a few songs, the memory glands swelled enough, that I remembered where we were, how and where we were sitting when listening to it.
A while back reading The Roots of Rock Drumming book, I researched the drummers interviewed in the book. Checking out some performances mentioned in the book, learning and trying to digest their contributions. Not long after that, we started messing with Austin Drummer Magazine, doing interviews with some local greats who gave impressive lists of music they went to school on to get their gigs. Since they were gracious enough to pass on extensive lists of music they learned from, I felt obliged to go at it like I was trying to get their gigs and soak up as much of their music as possible. The results were something I have to recommend you do for yourselves. Take it out of your usual listening pleasures, go where you have an interest but haven't spent time recently, or dig into a style you want to play better. Don't bother wasting time listening to music you don't enjoy. There is enough available that is lovely and educational to keep you busy for a lifetime. Modern technology has put it at our fingertips; Don't get hung up in thoughts like Spotify's not paying the artists enough. Don't ask why does Pandora thinks Led Zeppelin and Paul Simon are similar. Just listen -if you don't like it, change to another tune and keep looking until you have stimulated your musical senses to the point of having to get behind your instrument and begin jamming with music you have never heard and a style you have never played. Just have fun like when you first discovered you could screw up your favorite songs with your drumming.
I went to school on the drummers we interviewed homework, in fact, I did their homework, and collectively it has sparked interest in areas I hadn't listened to in years. It's all different at this juncture in time (no pun intended) with the present knowledge I've acquired over my many years of playing, teaching, practicing and going to school. Being where I am musically today and expanding for no particular reason, rediscovering and discovering music that is exhilarating seems so important that I can't wait to get back to it. Monday through Friday unless it's colder than 30 degrees or raining cats and dogs I take a walk with my phone and some earplugs. I get the health benefits of the walking while I'm doing my work of listening. When I get back to my truck, I write down the music that was exceptional. That usually means I had to play it three times - and I buy it.
Short discography of what I've bought recently:
What You Never Want To Do
If You Believe in Me
Make Up Your Mind
Try Love Naima
A Sprng Fantasy
The Derek Trucks Band:
You Must Believe in Yourself
The Marcus King Band:
The Blues Keep Coming
Blue in Green
North Mississippi Allstars:
Brush up Against You
In The Name of Love