Background and education:
I love all the emotion and limitless power of music. You can go anywhere with it. Growing up in a suburb north of Detroit in the 70’s, I was primarily exposed to FM radio, music that is now known as ‘classic rock’. Also, my parents played me a lot of Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel, Barbara Streisand, and Neil Diamond. So I’ve got that going for me, ha ha.
In the late 80’s, I moved in with college friends in Ann Arbor and was exposed to a greater range of musical styles. In spite of all the cheesy pop of the time, there was still plenty of already-made music for me to discover. (It was still a pre-internet world, where a friend with any kind of record collection would be a great resource. If you wanted to hear ‘new sounds’, someone had to play them for you.) Having been playing drum kit in rock bands for a number of years already (culminating in joining notorious ‘Ann Arbor thunder chuckers’ Mol Triffid), I became curious about polyrhythms of Africa and India.
In 1991 I moved to San Francisco CA and enrolled at City College. There I met Kwaku Daddy of Ghana, West Africa. He taught a lecture class about drumming in the context of African culture, and an African drumming class. I immediately enrolled in both and the course of my life was changed.
Since that time, I have studied with many great teachers of hand-drumming. Although most of my learning has taken place in the USA, I have made a point of traveling to the locations of origin of the rhythms I have studied most: Cuba and Zimbabwe.
I learned Los Munequitos de Matanzas style core Rumba repertoire from my buddy Dave Lyons, who learned it from them. 10 years later I went to Cuba for a while and got to spend some time with Munequito’s elder Jesus Alfonso, RIP, confirming what Dave had shown me, as well as getting into 3 drums for one player style (having begun at 3 drums, 3 players).
Grammy Award winning percussionist Jose Rossy (Talking Heads, Weather Report, Patty LaBelle) of Puerto Rico also showed me quite a bit about playing congas and bell patterns in the context of modern popular forms. Jose is still teaching and performing all over the world. Check him out.
I studied rhythms of Zimbabwe, and some basic Congolese drumming, with Chris Berry. Chris opened a lot of doors for me and helped me really begin to understand the conversational possibilities and interplay of complementary rhythms as a language of sorts. Chris is still teaching and performing all over the world. Check him out.
Interspersed with my formal study of the roots, I was also learning their application in the context of various modern popular styles of music, mostly by trial and error. Over the years I have worked with multiple bands playing marimba music, salsa, latin jazz, latin rock, reggae, afrobeat and afropop, as well as straight ahead pop and rock music that may have any of the aforementioned layered in. And that’s exactly what I most love to be doing ……. as well as teaching.
Bands I am currently working with (seasonal fluctuations notwithstanding):
Drums and Space: A Grateful Dead Experience