Drummer/drum Educator Craig Pilo came to us through our interview with Ed Soph. As one of Ed’s students at the famed music program at The University of North Texas, Craig heard the interview with Ed and emailed to tell me how much he enjoyed it. I decided to ask him to be a guest on the show and he happily agreed.
Originally from Connecticut, Craig graduated from UNT in 1995 and began life as a working musician in LA a year later. One of his earliest gigs was with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson! He’s also worked with Pat Boone, Edgar Winter and was on tour for several years with rock and roll Hall of Fame’s Frankie Valli. Craig continues to work with the group Little Fish, as well as Player, which became famous for the song, “Baby, Come Back.” Craig also keeps a busy schedule recording and teaching, including a faculty position with the California School of Music.
Having studied with Alan Dawson, Ed Soph, Dave Weckl and Jeff Hamilton, to name just a few, Craig’s professional work and lifelong teaching and learning makes for a wonderful interview for Contraption’s new and returning drummers.
Like so many we’ve interviewed – wait is it all of them? – Craig started with drums very young, inspired by his father who took him to a life changing music performance with one of drumming’s royalty…
For more information on Craig’s work, teaching and schedule, check out CraigPilo.com
We depart a bit in our interview today to feature a filmmaker instead of a drummer. Jeremy Bout, a prolific filmmaker, speaker and overall inspiring individual, is the founder of Edge Factor, whose mission is to “inspire and equip communities through the power of storytelling.” The story Jeremy talks with us about today is his incredible film Masters of Resonance, which features the story of John Good of DW drums and the journey of a centuries old log from river to rock stage.
The film is actually way more nuanced than that, but it’s something you have to experience. Indeed, it’s not just about the building a a great DW kit for famed drummer Neil Peart, but also an inspiring story of following one’s passion, whether that be drumming, drum making, or any other thing you call your own.
I first learned about Masters of Resonance while doing the first interview for Contraption, which was with drummer Paul Wertico. I had actually interviewed Paul the day after he returned from LA as a panel member for a screening of Masters of Ressonance, in which he appears. Jeremy was happy to share his story and the story of the film, which I highly encourage you to see.
Detroit-area drummer/drum educator Sean Dobbins has been playing since he was a very young man. As a student in the Ann Arbor, Michigan school system, he was fortunate to study under Louis Smith, an amazing trumpet player and long time Blue Note recording artist.
Influenced by jazz greats like Ed Thigpen, Elvin Jones and his favorite drummer – Art Blakey – Sean has performed with an amazing number of artist over the years, including Bennie Golson, Frank Morgan, Tad Weed and Mose Allison, to name just a few. Interestingly, Sean is our third interview with a person whose played with Mose Allison.
While Sean keeps busy with numerous gigs and recording sessions, he also excels as a drum educator, a career move that came as a bit of a surprise for Sean who, early on, never dreamt he would teach. He’s not only an Applied Professor of Jazz Percussion at Wayne State University, but also the Director of the Ann Arbor Public School’s Summer Jazz Program. It was great talking to Sean about his approach to drums and in our interview he offers a great deal of insight for the new and returning drummer.
When I first got back into drumming a year or so ago – I mean, really taking it seriously – two of the teachers I had been studying with got me started on something known as the 8/8 concept or resolution points. Many of you already know that’s from Rakalam Bob Moses’s seminal book, Drum Wisdom.
Since learning the 8/8 concept, which Rakalam Bob Moses makes great use of in his two recent videos for his MyMusic Masterclass sessions, available now for download and live streaming, I have never had a practice session go by that I have not thought about and/or practiced singing or playing resolution points.
And I’m just one of thousands of drummers who follow this important teaching to improve their work.
I’ve been a fan of Bob Moses since his Bittersuite in the Ozone album, although I came to it a little bit later than its 1973 debut. He’s also the drummer on one of my favorite albums, Pat Metheny’s Bright Size Life.
The godson of Ed Shaughnessy, young Bob Moses was fortunate to grow up in the same building with such greats as Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. I was honored recently to talk with Rakalam Bob Moses, who shares stories of his past, news of his current and upcoming work, and his overall “drum wisdom.”
Gina is an incredibly busy, gigging Chicago drummer as well as a singer and all around entertainer. She’s even played drums in several episodes of the Fox hit series Empire – and she’s so humble, she didn’t even mention it in our interview.
So — why “embrace the mundane” – well, that’s Gina’s incredibly profound advice to new and returning drummers and by the end of this episode, you’ll see why it’s so important.
Gina’s talk about swing bands made me think of one of my teachers, Tim Froncek, who has an amazing video of “Sing Sing Sing” on YouTube that I want to share with you. As mentioned, Tim, a professor of music at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the teacher who appears in my self-deprecating podcast intro. Enjoy!
By the way, I just have to say I love that story of five-year-old Gina telling those boys at Radio Shack how NOT to play piano! A lifelong educator if ever there was one. So grateful to Gina for her time and her profound thoughts on drumming. You’ll all really enjoy this one!
In January 2017, when Drum! Magazine published “10 Drumming Educators Share Their Number One Piece Of Advice For Students,” they talked with a veritable who’s who of those at the very top of their field. Among them, today’s most honored guest, Ed Soph, whose work as a professional drummer, clinician, and ground-breaking college professor has made him one of the most respected people in drumming today.
Soph’s career includes playing with such as Stan Kenton and the Woody Herman band. You may have even played along with him as the drummer on a number of the Jamey Abersold play-along records. In 1987, after twenty years on the East coast, Ed and his wife returned to his alma mater, the University of North Texas, where he eventually became the first tenured professor of drumset at any public university in the US. Some of Ed’s students have become famous in their own right, including Jazz drummer Ari Hoenig, LA-based Jason Sutter, and the legendary Dave Weckyl.
Born in California and raised in Houston, Ed—like so many of the drummers we’ve talked with in this series, began around age four or five, when his father, who enjoyed playing ragtime piano, came home with a wood block and encouraged Ed to play along. Drum lessons soon followed with teacher Elder Mori. Soon Ed was playing gigs and learning from the older, more experienced member of the band.
Recently retired from UNT, students still learn from Ed, his books and videos, and the many YouTube interviews and lessons, including a series of Quick Tips he made for Evans. A new series of videos is coming soon to The Drum Channel.
There are few musicians who, although strongly associated with a particular instrument, transcend that instrument to exhibit an overall musicality. It’s not about technique, proficiency or virtuosity — It’s about serving the song as the music pours out of every pore of his or her body. Jaco Pastorious was such a musician – the man who changed the role of the bass and the way it’s played.
Johnny Vidacovich, our special honored guest for this episode, is that same kind of musician. An incredible drummer like fellow New Orleans hitters Zigaboo and Herlin Riley, Johnny goes beyond the drums to infuse every set and song he plays with a rare musicality that touches those he plays with and those he plays for.
In this interview, Johnny credits growing up in New Orleans and hearing the sounds and beats of the bands that passed his modest childhood home. It began, he says, during his infancy, before he could walk or read. It’s part of his DNA – part of his very soul.
You’d think someone as gifted and talented as Johnny Vidacovich had set out his whole life to be a working musician, but he was working as a drummer without really thinking about it as a career – that was until his daughter was born when he was 31. The truth of the matter is Johnny has worked very hard for his legendary reputation. Taking lessons with New Orleans drummer Charlie Suchor after getting his first drum kit when he was twelve eventually led him to a life changing scholarship offer from a private school that his mother could not otherwise have afforded.
Johnny reveals how he’s gone beyond the “drum-istic” aspect of the kit to learn to listen, react, and, most importantly, think musically. To think in terms of phrases. To see the drums as an orchestra. Embracing his strengths, he became a great drummer who is a phenomenal musician. It was on that strength that he came to play with greats like Mose Allison and Professor Longhair, as well as his own, lauded and famed Astral Project.
Today Johnny is as vital and as active a player as ever, with an incredibly full schedule of playing, including weekly gigs at the Maple Leaf in New Orleans, as well as appearances all over the world. He is a sought after master who has the respect of his audiences and his peers. A drummer’s drummer who has gained legendary status to become a national treasure, yet he remains a humble, appreciative family man, a person who, through the work of his wife and best friend Deborah, shares his learning and lessons with the children of New Orleans through the Vidacovich Music Workshop. Just as with his music, Johnny is a giver. In addition to teaching in colleges, he offers private lessons as well as Skype lessons via his Facebook page.
To learn more about Johnny and keep up to date with his appearances as well as get the chance to see some incredible Facebook live posts of the master at work, like and follow his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/neworleansdrummer/
To learn about Deborah Vidacovich’s work providing music lessons for the children of New Orleans, visit the Vidacovich Music Workshop.
To hear one of my favorite recorded examples of Johnny’s Second Line 3-2 clave, check out the YouTube track “Big Brother” from the Mose Allison album “My Backyard.” Johnny plays drums throughout the album and I highly recommend you find and buy yourself a vinyl, CD or streaming copy.
Johnny’s work with the cutting edge Astral Project, which has been together over forty years now, viewed at astral project.com. A simple YouTube search of “Johnny Vidacovich,” by the way, will reveal hours of wonderful examples of his playing, and, more importantly, other interviews, appearances and clinics that have taken place over the years. Enjoy!