Many who know me
know I’ve played drums since I was a kid. I still play, infrequently. Yesterday I was thinking about drummers and now I’m going to write about some of the drummers that have been important to me. Most of these guys I discovered early on, in High School or College. It’s an incomplete list, of course. Anyway, here goes.
I found Stewart by accident.. I bought a John Scofield album thinking Dennis Chambers was on it. I was wrong. After a few listens, the drumming on What We Do thoroughly broke my face. The drumming smacked of Roy Haynes. I still find everything Stewart plays impossibly fresh. He also has some really weird-sounding cymbals he’s not afraid to use- there’s something absurd about them. Stewart isn’t afraid to let it get weird- that might be my favorite thing about him.
A friend lent me Pat Metheny’s Question and Answer when I was a freshman in high school. I immediately loved the spaciousness of the record and the tones of Haynes’ cymbals. The drumming was spry and playful. The dynamics were sweeping. I kept that CD for over a year and bought a copy as soon as my friend asked for his back.
Medeski Martin & Wood landed on my radar around the time I started college (’95) They were and are maybe the only Jam Band-adjacent outfit I can handle. John Medeski is a lion of the Hammond B3, which had me listening a lot. Billy’s playing is super-in-the-pocket, but it took a live performance in Philadelphia at the Electric Factory in the late 90’s for me to move into the Billy camp for good. He moved so seamlessly and smoothly between styles- within the same tune- that I remember feeling frustrated and embarrassed. Friends of mine at the concert looked at me and their eyes got big.
Billy’s got a great sense of adventure when he plays. He’s fearless about leaving mistakes on his records. It’s like he’s human and superhuman simultaneously.
James Brown’s Drummers
Chiefly Jabo Starks and Clyde Stubblefield. Discovering James Brown lifted me out of the morass of prog rock I’d been stuck in in high school. Within a year of getting a copy of Love Power Peace I’d liquidated all my prog CDs. These two defined funk drumming for me.
My introduction to Stanton was at a show in State College, PA. My friends and I drove 2 hours each way to go see Charlie Hunter at the Crowbar. We hadn’t heard of Galactic and I had no idea who Stanton Moore was. My impression that first night was- boy is that guy having a blast playing drums. It was my first ever dose of Galactic so I forgive myself for not really digesting it.
Fast forward about 5 years, to a Galactic headlining show at the Newport in Columbus, OH. I will never forget, the band was cranking. When they hit a climax Stanton stood up behind his kit, just wailing on his pies and drums. The mass of gyrating galactoids went absolutely apeshit. He was in charge and we did what he wanted. I can only imagine what it feels like to direct and control that much energy. For that moment alone I’ll always have a deep respect for Stanton.
His style is punchy and angular- I really loved the Ayotte drums he was playing in the 90s too. Badmotorfinger was a crucial record for me growing up. There’s a strangeness to his playing which I like. That strangeness really comes out when he writes- check your Soundgarden CDs for the songs he wrote- they’re usually the strangest ones. I’m glad he got that gig with Pearl Jam but I’m much happier that Soundgarden is working together now.
I got to know Amendola through the Charlie Hunter records of the mid/late 90s. His tone was rich and full. His cymbals were impossibly dry. His groove was amazing and his evil, filthy shuffles changed my life. To this day I model my shuffles after Amendola’s (and fall far short.)
To this day hearing Copeland play makes me want to jump behind a kit and start smacking drums RIGHT NOW. I’ve never heard anyone transmit the unvarnished joy of playing so vividly through a set of speakers or headphones.
Not much hasn’t already been said about John Bonham. What I appreciate most about him is the way he isn’t in a rush- his pocket is relaxed and all the more powerful for it. Crucial moment for me- the 8th notes coming out of the vocal/a capella part of Whole Lotta Love. A mere mortal would have sprayed those 8ths all over the place and the thing would have rushed into oblivion, but not Bonzo- he was in control.
Incredibly self-possessed. The deepest pockets with the most mind-bending precision. ?uestlove embodies everything hip-hop drumming should be.
Jojo gets the nod for his playing on the first Screaming Headless torsos record. Another example of prodigious facility applied with laser accuracy and suffused with groove. All the players on that one were very chopsy, and each was responsible for pushing the group into ridiculous territory from time to time. I do admire that kind of exuberance once in a while though. Sometimes ridiculous is the pocket you’re working in.
Thanks for Reading!