Twenty years is a long time to work with one artist, but Joe Lizama has no complaints about his employer, Johnny Mathis. “He’s a great singer,” Lizama says, “he’s a nice person to work for, and the check is in the bank every week. Plus Johnny’s done it for a very long time, so he knows how to run the whole thing comfortably. We travel and work in great conditions.”
Musically, Mathis needs a supportive drummer. “The lyric and voice are the most important aspects,” Joe says. “If the tune is an uptempo song–he likes to sing sambas–it’s up to me to lead the band, as far as having the orchestra listen to where the beat is. If it’s a ballad, which Johnny is famous for, then it’s a matter of being the backbone of the time. I also have to be subtle about the performance and allow the music to breathe and speak for itself.”
Lizama enjoys the upbeat, samba material like “To The Ends Of The Earth” and “Brazil.” “We do a version of Mancini’s ‘Charade’ in 3/2,” Joe says, “and I enjoy that as well. When I’m not playing something that’s very challenging rhythmically, I still enjoy supporting the more melodic things and letting Johnny do what he does best.”
Photo from The Hal Magnie Big Band page on Facebook.