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!
Mark Lanter, musician, drummist, vocalist, educator, author, producer, and wilderness enthusiast, has been a working musician since age 14, with a steady schedule of touring, recording, and teaching. In addition to his work with the Black Jacket Symphony, which performs covers of iconic albums, Henri’s Notions and other bands and projects, Mark teaches private lessons out of his Birmingham, Alabama studio, as well as jazz studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and his own hybrid Music Appreciation class with an emphasis on The Beatles, American Music, and Jazz Appreciation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
His most recent project as producer and drummer is titled Big Band Of Brothers, a tribute to the Allman Brothers. Over the years, Mark has played or recorded with an incredible number of notable musicians, including Mose Allison, Michael Hedges, and legendary jazz guitarist Mundel Lowe to name just a few. Mark is a regular performer-in-residence at the W.C. Handy Blues and Jazz festival and teaches the Handy Jazz Camp.
Mark talks about his path to the drums, his career, his approach to the kit, the importance of getting his “10,000 hours,” and the hard-to-define concept of “swinging the band.”
Bob Everett, owner and founder of Beat It Music, Ltd., Canada’s biggest vintage drum shop, has worked as a touring pro since he was twelve years old. He’s also owned a restaurant, worked as a contractor, done stand up comedy, and been a part of the famed Canadian group, Done on Bradstreet. He’s also the proud father of three-time Grammy Award winning drummer/producer, Sean Everett.
Bob’s Calgary, Alberta Beat it Music, Ltd. is a cross between vintage drum shop and museum. I had the chance to catch up with Bob via Facetime from his home in Brad Creek, Alberta, which lies between the beautiful Banff National Park and Calgary. Bob and I had a wonderful conversation about vintage drums, his career, his playing, the line of Agean cymbals he carries, and his advice to new and returning drummers, including his secret key to successful drum tuning!
Famous for his work with the Pat Metheny Group, Paul Wertico is a seven-time Grammy Award winning drummer. Paul’s discography includes a veritable who’s who of music, and he has won the reader’s poll in both Modern Drummer and Drum magazines. In addition to his work with his own Paul Wertico Trio, Paul is an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts. He has been featured in the new movie, Masters of Resonance, and is a frequent guest on panels and at special music events. In this interview, Paul talks about his path to drums, his career, and his philosophy of drums. Paul also talks about his exciting new book, Turn the Beat Around: A Drummer’s Guide to Playing Backbeats on 1 and 3 (Alfred Music 2017), as well as his successful battle with prostate cancer.