Taken to School, Reprise

by Omar on September 25, 2008

in Drummers, DVD Review

Hello again!

In my previous post I spoke about the most excellent DVD by Hudson Music “Modern Drummer Festival 2006”. So many videos to watch, so little time! I really wanted to digest all of the performances and mention my favorites and why. I’d like to continue on that vein with some other observations of drummers that I didn’t mention previously, plus some new observations of ones I’ve mentioned.

I found Stewart Copeland’s interview very interesting. I did learn some things about him that I didn’t know, although I have to admit that I’m not a die-hard The Police fan. But I am a fan of his drumming. The interviewer mentioned Stewart’s extraordinary hi-hat play, which is something I also noticed when listening to him. Definitely a style I want to incorporate in my playing. What was interesting though was that he said more or less that it was by accident! He didn’t really concentrate on hi-hats per se, it just turned out that the music called for it. Whatever the case, his hi-hat play is truly amazing.

His take on traditional vs. matched grip I found intriguing. I’ve always been of the mind that you typically get more power playing matched grip vs. traditional grip, whereas with traditional grip you may be more inclined to be ‘technical’. Neil Peart spent a couple of years bettering his traditional grip playing, among other adjustments, which resulted in a complete album played that way (Rush, Test for Echo, 1997). His drum tech later mentioned that he went back to playing matched grip because he tended to lose some power playing traditional grip, although after all that training he’s the better for it! For him, traditional grip is more a tool than a “way of life” playing. But Stewart explained that he gets more power playing traditional grip vs. matched, and he gave a small demonstration. It looked convincing! That little display has made me want to practice my traditional grip more, and add it to my toolbox as well. Thomas Lang (among many others, of course) seems to get lots of power from his traditional grip, and he does switch to matched when necessary (which I will study why when I watch his videos!).

Stewart’s dislike for the studio (at least for playing drums, not so for composing, which he showed he loves) prompted him to record his parts on The Police albums in very few takes, or even one, which he says after hearing them back he could have recorded them better. Heck, they were really good already! All the more reason to see him live, where he can make up for it.

As good a drummer as Stewart is, he seems to not like drumming very much! At least as a profession. When he plays for fun, he’s loving it. But if it’s work, then he’s not so enthused. His passion is composing, which goes to show how talented he is. Well Stewart, whenever you play, we’ll be watching!

Glen Kotche proved to be a masterful multi-percussionist with his solo “Monkey Chant”. It’s amazing how he was able to maintain fluid motion and independence and actually paint a story with all the percussion tools at his disposal. That ‘prepared snare’ as he called it was down-right scary-looking! But I would never have thought of using a snare that way unless I saw it with my own eyes. Excellent presentation.

Some other highlights:

I don’t think I’ll ever play lefty, a la Phil Collins, but Mike Mangini pulled it off beautifully. And he showed that you don’t have to be perfect to play a particular style, you can just be good enough. I translate that as, “have fun!”

I’m not into heavy metal or death metal or whatever it’s called these days, but I really liked Brann Dailor’s presentation. I’m accustomed to seeing huge-o drum sets for this style of music, but Brann showed you don’t need that many drums to play in this style. Again, very fluid and precise.

I found Dave DiCenso’s solo to be a bit drawn out, but regardless he showed awesome technique and speed. I want to be able to fly around my kit someday, and if I can do it half as good as Dave showed, I’ll be very happy.

The best for last! My favorite performance was from one of my all-time favorite drummers, Steve Smith. It seems like he’s a totally different drummer from his days with Journey. From watching him play, to his interview with Thomas Lang (which I couldn’t take my eyes off of, it was that interesting), I’ve seen Steve transform himself from a powerful rock drummer to one of the great jazz drummers of our time. He’s not only incredibly fast, but spot on and you can hear ever strike of the sticks. (And yes, he dropped his stick right at the beginning – he’s human too!) My favorite drummer is Neil Peart, but Steve’s gotta be my 1b.

And he won’t stop there. In his interview he showed how he started to dabble with Indian rhythms (from India), and already his vocabulary in Indian beats and time signatures was stunning. Like learning a different language. Sort of like the Indian version of the 40 Rudiments. That’s too hard for me. I’ll just watch and enjoy! His desire to not rest on his laurels and continue to grow as a drummer is most admirable.

That was in 2006. It’s now 2008, and in fact as I write this Modern Drummer just finished with their 2008 Festival, of which again Hudson Music had a huge part. The drummers mentioned in this post and the past have gone on with other projects since then of course, and there were new participants this time around, as is the case yearly. Time to check out what happened! Time to be mesmerized. Time to go to school (again).

To purchase the DVD, click here.

Part 1

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