On the Beat With Denny Seiwell Drummer
Hello, MD readers, this is Denny Seiwell letting you in on some info about me that is not too widely known. Obviously, my history is usually weighted with my years with Paul McCartney & Wings. I’d like to tell you a little story about how that all happened.
I started my career in New York, where I landed the gig at the Half Note jazz club. I was the house drummer there for a little over a year, and during that period I played mainly with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, which led to some great exposure within the jazz community. This ultimately led to some studio work, which then led to my gig with Paul. But there was a time, when I was hungry to play and new in town, that I would do anything to get heard. On one particular night I went to hear Elvin Jones play at a place called Pookie’s, across the street from the Half Note downtown. (I hadn’t gotten the Half Note gig yet.) Elvin was simply awesome; he truly was my main influence as to how to create grooves that mattered.
The club was almost empty, and on the break–I still can’t believe that I did this–I asked Elvin if I could play a tune with the band at the end of the night. He said, “Sure, man,” and at the end of the last set he played what seemed to be a fifteen-minute drum solo that was beyond the realm of reality for me. Upon conclusion Elvin said, “Here you go, man, have some fun,” and handed me the sticks! The band was virtually the Coltrane rhythm section–Frank Foster, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison. So I sat in—and we lifted off! It was an out-of-body experience for sure.
Elvin congratulated me on my playing, and we went outside for some air. While we talked in front of the club, this bad-looking guy walked toward us. Since it was already a bad neighborhood, I was a little nervous–even with Elvin there. As the man approached, Elvin called out to him, “Hey, man, come meet this young white dude that plays great drums–Denny, I want you to meet Art Blakey.” I think my heart stopped for a minute.
This kind of thing happened to me on a regular basis during those early years in New York, so when Paul McCartney came to town to audition drummers for his Ram album, I almost expected it to happen. It was a magical time for me, and since then I’ve had the good fortune to record close to two hundred albums and CDs, countless TV and radio commercials, and TV and motion picture soundtracks and scores–all because I had the balls to do the unthinkable and ask to sit in with the best around. It also takes the talent to pull it off when you get the chance, but you never know if you’ve got that talent if you don’t take a chance.
This is my first attempt at writing a blog, so again I am taking a chance, this time in hopes of inspiring some young drummer with a dream to take his or her chance on a great life. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned.
If you go to my Web site, you can check out my DVD from the Cape Breton International Drum Festival, where Steve Gadd and I were given the Legends Award. It includes tracks that I played on, a Q&A section, and photos. I’m sure you will enjoy it.
All the best,
For more on Denny Seiwell, go to www.dennyseiwell.com.