In Memory of Wayne Delano

I woke up at 4:30 this morning. I laid in bed until 4:45, but then just couldn’t take it. I sat up, tired. For just coming off a weekend, I sure wasn’t feeling great. I grabbed my phone, and headed for the bathroom, for the scale, and for my walking gear with the dog. Oh, and for my morning Facebook check in.

And that’s when I got the news Wayne Delano had died unexpectedly.

So much of what Wayne Delano means to me can be found in this one minute clip. Allow me to elabortate.

First, listen to Wayne’s solo. Many serious Jazz players are intent on moving the art form forward. Jazz looks back, yes, but it’s never content; it is always wanting to have the boundaries pushed. Wayne Delano was that kind of player. Harmonically, he was the best midcoast Maine had to offer. His choice of notes was all about pushing, pushing, challenging, changing. Wayne wasn’t going to play a beautiful melody for the sake of nostalgia. Instead he was going to take that melody and flat the ninth and turn it inside out and shove it back in your face, flauntingly asking “How you feel about that Bub? You dig?”

Wayne was also great at pushing my boundaries. He truly made me a better player. He forced me to be. He found out I could read a bit, and so would include me when he wrote a chart. (Yes, Wayne would write his own charts, and even write his own tunes.) He would write a typical melody/chord change chart, and include the drum kicks in specific places he would want me to hit. In the clip, you’ll see I’ve got a music stand. You’d never know when Wayne would pull something out and have you play it right there on the bandstand.

I remember one Friday at work I got a call from Wayne. We would be playing this little pizza/seafood joint that evening. The Elm Street Grille had great pizza, a dedicated Friday night jazz crowd, and you played for food and almost no money. Anyway, Wayne called and said “I feel like playing “Spain” tonight.” I was all like “Oh no you aren’t.” But he did. It really didn’t go well, but he had enough faith in me to at lease give it a try. I can’t tell you how many songs I added to my repertoire through Wayne.

He’d make me play openings too. “OK, let’s play (insert some uptempo song here). Sixteen bars of drums upfront. One, two, one two three four.” And like that, it was up to me to kick the band off.

Aaron Clarke is the son of David Clarke, fellow bandmate with me in the Wayne Delano Quartet. Thanks to Aaron I have this clip I’ve shared. Aaron also said that attending a concert of Wayne’s was like “having a three hour masterclass five feet in front of you.” That’s so true. This clip shows that as well. Wayne would push me to do things I didn’t think I could do. I learned so much playing with him.

Rest in peace, God speed Wayne. I hope I’ll be seeing you again.

Another Drums and Theology Post?

I was listening to an “Ask NT Wright Anything” podcast yesterday, and he mentioned he used only one Bible. In an effort to become really familiar with “the text” he has chosen to use one Bible, and so in that one Bible are all his notes, and that’s the one Bible he uses all the time. A former pastor of mine also had one Bible that he always used. It was falling apart so badly his small group bought him a new Bible. They knew how much he loved his old Bible, so they bought him the exact same kind of Bible that he had–so it was the same Bible, only a new version of it. He didn’t use it; he continued to use the old falling apart Bible.

As a musician, I’ve always wanted to have a relationship with one instrument. I see it a lot with guitar players. Eric Clapton had Blackie, and Eric Johnson has Virginia, Stevie Ray Vaughan had Number 1. Stewart Copeland had his Pearl Jupiter snare that was used on all The Police recordings, and Ringo had his Jazz Festival. I’m not that way. I have a whole bunch of drums, and I use whatever drum fits the music and my mood. A drum I use to record a folk record won’t be the same drum I use to record a funk tune. I pick the drum that’s right for the job. It’s a tool.

I’m the same way with Bible translations. My “study” translation is the New American Standard. My current devotion Bible is the ESV. If I were called to read scripture out loud to a group, I’d probably grab the New Living Bible. It’s a tool, and I pick the right tool for the job.

Still though, I wish I was “a person of one book” (from my Ortberg reading this morning). I wish I was the kind of guy like Mr. Wright or Pastor Jason that had just one Bible. There’s a romance about it. I have one wife, can’t I have just one Bible? 😉

Approval Addiction and the Best Compliment Ever

John Ortberg in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted writes “Psychiatrist David Burns notes that it is not another person’s compliment or approval that makes us feel good; rather it is our belief that there is validity to the compliment.”

As a drummer, I’m complimented somewhat regularly with “You’re a regular Gene Krupa” or “Nice job Buddy Rich” or something like that. John and Jane Q. Public know those two drummers, and so when they want to compliment a drummer, those names come up. Those compliments mean nothing to me. I don’t think my drumming is anything like Gene Krupa’s. He is not an influence in how I play. Buddy Rich? I’ve said before that I’m not a good enough drummer to carry his sweaty towels. He was a MONSTER player, but so far above me with his technique that there’s nothing in me that’s remotely sounding of Buddy.

One night I was playing a gig in Camden. It was a private party, a Christmas party I believe. BIG house. We played upstairs. At one point the host said to me “You sound like Shelly Manne.” Now THAT was a compliment. There was VALIDITY to that compliment. Shelly Manne I HAVE studied. Shelly’s name isn’t going to be dropped randomly like Gene or Buddy or Ringo. Obviously this guy knows a thing or two about Jazz and Jazz drumming , and has the ears to know that there is some Shelly Manne in my playing. There are things I do in my playing because of Shelly. He is an actual influence on my playing. And so, because of the credibility of that compliment, I remember it to this day. And it makes me feel good to know that at one point at least someone appreciated my drumming on a deeper level than say the way my Mom loves my drumming.

Not much spirituality in today’s post; it’s mostly about drumming. But hey, let’s praise Him with resounding cymbals. 🙂

My First Ride Cymbal

In my previous post, I mentioned I bought my first pro cymbal, and that I had a video of me in high school playing my first battle of the bands, and using that crash. At that particular band battle, I didn’t yet own a ride cymbal! I had to borrow a ride from another drummer. I don’t remember the exact model ride, but I borrowed a Zildjian Platinum ride from one of the guys at the show. I was impressed by how much ping and cut came out of that cymbal. I was very impressed with it. By the next year, and the next band battle, I purchased a Zildjian Ping Ride from my local music store. I would’ve been a sophmore in high school, I think. Again, I have a video of that Battle of the Bands. I so much loved that cymbal that I asked the sound man to make sure it was heard in the mix. He mic’d it up separately! It was heard, alright. A mic’d Ping ride will get some attention. You can see that VHS on Youtube if you click here.

I still own that ride cymbal. My tastes have changed over the years. I prefer thinner ride cymbals now, lighter cymbals I can get a crash out of if needed. So this ride doesn’t get played much, but it still gets played at the occasional rock show. As I reflect on my friend Harvey, and the closure of my local music store, I think with fondness about my love of ride cymbals (only eclipsed gear wise by my snare drum love), and how it started when I was a young teen, 15 or so, at my local music shop. And now, now that it’s gone, young drummers won’t have a shop to go listen and pick out a cymbal. They’ll have to travel an hour or two, or buy online (where you can’t hear the cymbal before you buy it).  #NK2Music


Harvey and the local music store

My very first real drum set was purchased at Northern Kingdom Music, probably 1984 or so. For the last 35-ish years, I’ve done business with my local music shop. Northern Kingdom closed up a few years ago, but a couple of the employees picked up the mantle and opened K2 Music. Midcoast Maine continued to have a local music store through the line of NKM. Until yesterday. Yesterday K2 Music closed, and with it an era. I’m without a local music store. The closest one is now an hour away.

I’ve decided I want to highlight some stories, and show off some gear I purchased from NKM and K2 over the years. What musician doesn’t like talking gear?

This cymbal is a 16″ Zildjian thin crash. It’s the first professional cymbal I ever purchased, and I got it from NKM. I have a video of me playing a battle of the bands as a freshman in high school. In that video I was playing this cymbal. On a side note, in that video I’m playing a borrowed ride cymbal; I didn’t own my own ride at the time. Anyway, this crash is still in my possession, and currently is on a stand at my practice kit down in the teaching studio as I write.

Ear Plugs

I remember it was in the trailer where my beloved and I lived during our first two years of marriage–so this would’ve been 1994 or 1995-ish. I was an active musician, and we had recently been to a concert of some nature. My ears had been ringing. And would you believe, in the newspaper was an article about hearing damage, and a phone number to a telephone based hearing test. You called the number, and listeded to three tones. I remember calling, and remember I couldn’t hear all three. A recording at the end of the test said something like “If you’ve recently been exposed to loud noises, give your ears some time to rest, and then take the test again.” I did, and thankfully the test that time was normal. Since then, I’ve been routinely wearing earplugs when playing the drums.

Fast forward 23 or so years. I was listening to a drumming podcast, and the subject or ear protection came up. Specifically, a company was promoting high fidelity, but affordable and non custom made, earplugs. I decided I’d try a pair. And so, I’ve been on a bit of a quest. A quest to find the best, not custom, affordable earplugs.

I now own four different sets of earplugs, all less than $25. I’m going to give honest reviews of these earplugs here on the blog, with the hope other musicians find these reveiws and find them helpful in choosing something that will potentially save their hearing. Reveiws will begin soon.

In Memory of Steve

Monday night, at my jazz gig at The Slipway, I was discussing an upcoming absence of mine, and inquiring with the guys in the band about a sub. Steve Grover’s name came up as a possibility as a sub, but guitar player Dave said “I think I heard he’s struggling with cancer.” That’s the first time I heard such a thing.

In 1990, I was a Jazz and Contemporary Music major at the University of Maine, Augusta. The jazz program there was highly regarded at the time; it was where players went who couldn’t afford Berklee. I, of course, couldn’t afford Berklee, so UMA made a good choice. It was affordable, a fine school, and only an hour away from my parent’s house, so I could live at home. So I did. And Steve Grover was my drum instructor.

So intense was that music instruction that the one hour weekly lesson actually counted as two credit hours. I learned so much from Steve in that one semester, it’s unreal. So much of who I am as a jazz player came directly from Steve. I took jazz band in high school, and studied drums privately, but not really JAZZ drumming. That all came from Steve. Steve taught me the hemiola. Steve taught me independence, and comping. Steve beat alternating sticking into my head. He taught me how to count out loud by insisting that I do it–something I try to get MY students to do. And it was Steve that realized I’d been playing my right and left flams backwards for years! He made me go back and re-learn them–something that was very hard to do. All this stuff from Steve.

Wednesday night, two days after the initial news that Steve might be sick, I see a note from a mutual friend and trumpet player on Facebook. Steve’s in hospice. Hospice?! As I read down through the comments, I see “Steve’s taken a turn for the worse. He’s not in hospice. He’s in the hospital. He’s not expected to ever come out.”

Last night, just before 6pm, I was just about to start another gig, when I took a quick glance on Facebook. Steve died. Rest in peace Steve. You made a difference in my playing, and you made a difference in me.

A Youtube Clip You’ve Nailed

I started working with a new drum student a month ago. He’s very talented, hungry, ready to practice, and already studying out of my college freshman textbook. He’s a freshman too: in high school. Anyway, I asked him a series of questions about what he’s learned from Youtube. Youtube is, in the words of my former pastor, free music lessons for people who can’t take music lessons. And that sorta is right. There’s lots on Youtube for us to learn. My student has learned a lot from Youtube, since he hasn’t been able to me challenged as much as he’d like from teachers around here. (Incidentally, I think I’m going to be another such teacher; I don’t think I have the chops to teach him much. I’ll probably learn more from him than he does from me.)

Anyway, one of the questions I asked him was “What Youtube video inspired you to practice a particular lick/feel/groove/fill/system, and that you worked on so much you actually learned it?” Here’s my answer…

I’ve posted before about Steve Gadd’s “Crazy Army” solo. The video of Vinny Colitua and Dave Weckl displaying their drum polyrhythm madness, and then how Steve plays a solo based on a drum corps marching beat. Well, I loved that video so much, I found the music for “Crazy Army.” And, based on some videos I watched on Youtube, I learned how to play it.

So now, music type person, what video on Youtube got you to get into the practice room, learn something new, and now you have mastered that particular lesson? Post a link in the comments!

Getting Into the Woodshed

So what was the impetus for me getting into the woodshed? Why have I all of a sudden been on a practice jag? I’ll tell you the story. Listen my children and you shall hear…

Iburgundy sparkle ludwigs was playing a gig at a local place here in Rockland ME. On this particular gig, I opted to use my ’66 Ludwig Super Classic kit. (Here’s some vintage drum knowledge for you.) Burgundy Sparkle was only available for 3-4 years, from about ’66 to ’69, with maybe some spill over on either side. Usually, you could count on Burgundy Sparkle being dated somewhere in those years. The Super Classic is a designation Ludwig used for a 22″ bass drum with a 13″ tom tom and a 16″ floor tom. This particular drum kit is everything one would want to see in a Super Classic; matching “keystone” badges, rail consolette tom mounts, “baseball bat” mufflers, and white painted interiors. It’s just a regular, unmolested, honest Ludwig drum kit in somewhat rare finish.

So anyway, on my break, I head to the bar for coffee (my usual drink of choice), and there’s a guy sitting there, regular looking guy, and he says to me “That’s a pretty interesting Ludwig kit you’ve got there. Is it vintage?” So of course I drum geek out on him, and tell him all about it. I ask him if he plays, and he says that he does. He then says to me “I also noticed your grip; you must’ve studied somewhere.” And so I recount how I was a music major for a little while at UMA, and at the time I was there the jazz program was highly regarded, and it was known as the jazz school you went to if you couldn’t afford Berklee. And I said, not a little smugly, “I studied with Steve Grover.” I looks at me quizzically. I inform him that Steve is the jazz cat to call for drums in ME.

So this part gets a little hazy. After this little bit of bragging on my part, the guy I’m talking to mentions his name; it’s Tom Oldakowski. Then Tom drops this other little bomb on me: he’s the drummer for Radio City Music Hall.

Over the last year, Tom and I have hung out a few times. When he’s in the area, we have lunch, talk drums, catch a local act, or whatever. And his aquaintance has really inspired me. As we talked that night, I told him that my hand work stinks. And it does. He, very kindly (everything he says is very kind), said he thought my hands looked good. They don’t. He’s being a gentleman. But meeting him has made me work on my hands. I’m actually practicing, not just playing drums along with some music on the stereo. And it’s because of a chance meeting in the little town where I live, where a big fish in a big pond let the big fish in the little pond know… Hey, you’ve got work to do.