Stu News and Photos

My name is Stu and I am here to share what I can.

4:13 PM

On Drummers


Jon Armstrong writes an excellent blog, Blurbomat. One of his recent posts last month was on Buddy Rich and Stewart Copeland, Buddy Rich of much jazz fame and Stewart Copeland, famous for his astonishing contribution to The Police.

As a comment to his essay, I wrote the following, which might appeal to one or two of you. A word of caution, the following is pretty jazz-heavy, so you may want to put on your very black baret:

    First, Stewart Copeland was the Buddy Rich of his time. I’m a Neil Peart fan, to be sure, but he doesn’t quite have the finesse, the gentility of Mr. Copeland.

    Second, in case anyone is actually reading this besides Mr. Armstrong, “Don’t Box Me In” is a tune that you must find, hear, absorb, and become one with.

    Third, while Buddy could solo better than anyone, ever, I’m not as blindly devoted to his playing in a groove with other musicians. He was great. No doubt. And he worked with giants - Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Lester Young, Louis Armstrong, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz… and that’s not half the list of the greats he played with.

    However, when he played, in my opinion, he was a different drummer than when he soloed. He was less fierce, he was less risky, he was less awesome. And I get why, because he was the consummate professional in the studio. He knew what the composer/lead musician wanted, and gave it to them. He was supportive before he was anything else. No other musician has that lack of ego on recordings.

    Which begets a lesser rating from me, because I’m partial to the drummers who hang it over the edge, no matter what. I love jazz that’s truly wild, unpredictable, like being the passenger of a drunk taxi driver.

    So for group playing, I’ll take Jack DeJohnette over Buddy Rich any day.

    Fourth, what the hell happened to Stewart Copeland? He was astonishing back in the 80s. And yeah, he still records now and again, and he did some great work for Tom Waits a few years ago, but really, he just never turned into the giant that was Buddy Rich. Maybe that was Mr. Copeland’s choice, I don’t know. I’d like to think so, that while he was a genius at the drums, it was just a day-job to him, and that when he’s not adding his magic to Mr. Waits or Mr. Claypool’s music, he’s enjoying his life on his terms. G-d bless him if that’s the case.

    Fifth, thanks for this, John. You woke me up with this post. I think I’ll head into the garage with the wife and see if I can persuade her to pick up the guitar while I caress the skins.


Suldog said...

Always love me some good drummers, Stu.

My Faves:

Ian Paice (of Deep Purple, among others. Almost never mentioned in polls and such, but he is easily my #1)

Max Roach
Buddy Rich
Gene Krupa
Davey Tough (played some wonderful sides for Goodman)

Mick Tucker (of... don't laugh... The Sweet. Magnificently powerful.)

Cliff Davies (sometime player in Ted Nugent's outfits, and always a highlight on his mid-70's records)

Neal Peart, of course. Hard to match him for sheer exhilirating speed on a kit.

Billy Cobham

I could go on, but it's time to get back to work.

Stu said...

I had three great, perfect audience moments with regard to drumming - wait, that's terrible writing. Let's try that again.

Breath, Stu, breath, in, and out...

Of all the drummer's I've seen live, 3 are tie for first place.

*Connie Kay, with the Modern Jazz Quartet. I was in college, a few years too young to fully appreciate what I was witnessing. At one point, Mr. Kay had a solo that went from big to small, instead of the other way around, so that he finished by just playing delicate touches on the shells and rims and cymbal stands. Amazing.

*Neil Peart, with Rush. He sat in the center of a full, and very dense set of drums, which sat on a circular riser. The first half of the show, he played the front half, lots of electronic gee-gaws and such. Amazing sound, jaw-dropping technique. He did it all while wearing cans, which I assume were for keeping tempo. Anyway, at the end of the first half, he stood up, threw his headphones straight up in the air, turned a hundred and eighty degrees, sat back down, while the stage hand who caught the headphones placed them back on his head, and Neal then started playing the other side of the drum circle, an all-acoustic kit, without missing a beat. As he started, and Alex and Geddy started as well, the entire drum riser rotated 180 degrees, so Neil was once again facing the crowd. Wow.

*Tim Alexander, from Primus, who opened at the previously listed Rush concert. I've not seen a finer, sensible, yet free-wheeling rock drummer perform. His touch was impeccable, yet he kept up a very fluid conversation with the guitarist, Larry LaLonde.

Thanks Sul, great memories.