Saturday, January 22, 2011

Inside the Drummer's Studio Installment 2

Today we're going to be conversing (electronically, at least) to the great Jerry Bergonzi.
Here's a brief bio from his website:
Tenor saxophonist, Jerry Bergonzi, is an internationally recognized jazz performer, composer, author and educator. His music is renowned for its innovation, mastery, and integrity. Relentless drive, inner fire, total command, awesome technique, elastic lyricism, rich resonance, world-class, a musical visionary, are among the rave reviews credited to his sound. Bergonzi's music has been applauded throughout the world at festivals, concert halls, and jazz venues and his dedication to jazz music has been well documented by an extensive discography.

What isn't mentioned above is Jerry is a pretty serious drummer as well. Jerry was kind enough to answer my questions about drumming and music. His responses (like all aspects of his music) were brimming with intelligence, passion, and humour.

1) Can you name a particular live performance by a drummer that had a strong impact on you?

The first time I saw Trane in 62 (could have been 61) with Elvin I was blown away at the intensity and passion of Elvin. Everytime I saw Elvin I was mesmerized, not from a intellectual level but from another place. Something in his playing was beyond the notes. It was other worldly. That being said, everytime I hear great drummers I am startled. Being an novice drummer, I am fascinated with everyone's approach and feel. I went to see Charles Lloyd last night and Eric Harland was playing drums and he was amazing.

2) What benefits do you think other instrumentalists can gain from studying the drums?

I think that everyone should study drums as time and rhythm are the most important things in playing. As you told me once, "It is Harmony and Melody that have fucked up music" I really took that to heart and I try to play with as little melody and harmony as possible now. I have even stripped down my tenor so it only plays 5 notes now.

3) Who are some of your favorite drummers to play with?

I have always loved playing with you, Adam Nussbaum, Andrea Michelutti, Jack Dejonette, Roy Haynes, Tom Molito and so many others.

4) Is there something you frequently find lacking in younger drummers?

I think the only thing lacking in young drummers is experience. You can't rush that and they have a different world to play in and that gives you another sound. Jazz drumming is an evolution and it is still evolving.

5) You have studied your main instrument (Saxophone) very extensively and have written many books dealing with it, yet when you play you never sound calculated or cold. Did you consciously work on separating practice and performance?

When I play I do not think of any of the things that I teach or have studied. I try to think the least amount possible and be in the moment. If I don't feel anything I don't hear anything. I have to feel something and when that happens a whole world of sound opens up. When the conscious mind comes in the creative mind leaves. 90% of the stuff that I ever practiced never got in my playing but it help develop some other things. It is a work in progress. There is no end and we are lucky for that. What else would we do. Make Money?

Well, there you have it. There's a lot of information for us to chew on for some time to come. I can hardly wait to hear that Tenor with a five note range!

I thought I'd post some video of Jerry. I've always loved the way Adam Nussbaum and Gonz play together. Here they are with Mick Goodrick and Mike Richmond playing Jerry's tune "Dexter"

and since Jerry mentioned Charles Lloyd's band with Eric Harland (which I saw last fall and was awesome) I'll also include them playing , although in this case it's a slightly earlier band with Rueben Rogers.


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