In my younger days, the great rock drummers like Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendirx), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Joey Kramer (Aerosmith), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), and Roger Taylor (Queen) first inspired me. Their power and musicality motivated me to pick up the sticks and start my musical journey by emulating their styles.
As I continued to study drums, I realized that rock was just the beginning. I learned about new and exciting styles of drumming: I found the funk with Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters) and Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown). I learned improvisational techniques from Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin, & Wood) and Jon Fishman (Phish). With progressive rock came the cerebral and technical challenges of Bill Bruford (Yes and King Crimson), Neil Peart (Rush), and Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa).
After that, my love of jazz and jazz drumming blossomed. My first taste came from Gene Krupa’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” when I was young. Harvey Mason’s performance on Herbie Hancock’s “Headhunters,” which I heard in my later years, was revelatory. Elvin Jones on John Coltrane’s Village Vanguard recordings was transcendent. Art Blakey’s legacy as a drummer and band leader expanded my concept of what could be accomplished from behind the drums. Max Roach (especially with Clifford Brown) has been, and will always be, a deep well of inspiration.
Paying It Forward
In addition to those greats, I’m influenced by players who also take on the role of educator. I owe much to my primary drum set instructor, Del Bennett. Professor Jim Latimer at UW-Madison encouraged me to expand my horizons and explore the full range of percussion beyond the drum set. Other sources were the books and videos of Tommy Igoe, John Riley, Jo Jo Mayer, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Ted Reed, Alan Dawson, Gary Chaffee, and George Stone. They have shown me how great it is not only to play the music but to help others do it too. All of these great players and educators (and many more) have shaped me as a drummer, a musician, a teacher, and a person. I have a deep appreciation for their positive musical influences, not just on my playing but on my life, and I strive to do the same for my students.