Jazz music is an American art form and, understandably, it is dominated by American performers. However one of the most respected small groups in jazz today, the Oscar Peterson Trio, is led by a brilliant Canadian pianist accompanied by a Danish bass player, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, and an English drummer, Martin Drew. Martin’s large, smiling figure has been a feature of the British jazz scene for, at least, 20years. He has worked consistently at Ronnie Scott’s Club in London’s Soho, which is the jazz club in Britain (Martin describes it as a “national institution”) and one of the finest jazz clubs in the world. Martin’s work at “Ronnie’s” has included playing in various rhythm sections accompanying visiting American artists and being a member of Ronnie Scott’s own quintet.
When his commitments with Oscar Peterson allow, Martin still plays at the club, in the studio, on the concert platform and various other places, including the traditional English pubs as long as the music is good and he enjoys it. He has been accused of being big time by certain narrow-minded elitists, but he does not let it bother him. “A lot of the work I do could, I suppose, be considered big time. Does that mean I shouldn’t do it? I’ll be damned if I am going to apologize for being successful! If I had not achieved anything in my career, I’d be considered a failure, but having achieved quite a lot, I’m considered big time. Help! Sometimes you just can’t win.”
Being justly proud of the world-class status he has achieved as a jazz drummer, Martin admits to being bitter about the fact that more British musicians are not receiving the recognition he thinks they deserve. This seems to be the one cloud in the sky for a happy and fulfilled man who enjoys a life in which his family and his music are the two great loves.
When he is on stage, whether in front of 5,000 people in a football stadium or 50 people in a London pub, Martin gives himself 100% to the music he is playing. There is a subtlety and delicacy about his playing that sometimes belies his physical size, but his drumming is never tentative. It always drives the music in the direction it wants to go. The drumming complements the music perfectly. To achieve this, Martin is always listening, and concentrating on all the nuances to be caught from the other players on the stand. His expression reflects this concentration and enjoyment. His eyes close for a few seconds, and he slowly lifts his head back; then he opens his eyes and grins broadly. It’s working, the music is grooving, and Martin is happy.
SG: Martin, the fact that you are one of the select few who are able to earn a living playing jazz must be put down to your ability. Could you tell me how that ability developed?
MD: I was interested in drums from the time I was five or six years old. I used to listen to the radio and bang a chair with a pair of sticks. Eventually, I started having lessons when I was about ten, and I was doing gigs by the time I was 12. I drifted into jazz. I never set out saying, “I’m going to be a jazz drummer.” I heard the sounds, practiced and just got into it. I do have a natural talent for playing the drums. It never came that hard to me. Reading doesn’t come as easy as I would like it to, but that is only because I don’t do so much of it.
SG: So it was an interest in drums which lead to jazz?
MD: Definitely, yes.
SG: And you paid your dues in dance bands doing commercial music?
MD: Oh yeah! I did all that: weddings, bar mitzvahs, big bands, small bands. It’s funny; I would like to play with big bands more than I do, but I’m not asked to very often. I recently sat in with a young band called Young Jazz. They were appearing at Ronnie Scott’s. They are an excellent band. So I sat in, read some of the charts—no problem. I loved it. I’ve been using some Music Minus One albums to get my reading up to par. That has helped an awful lot. I guess that, since I have played so much in small groups, I have been labeled as a “small-group drummer.” This is not a tag that I relish, but in this business, one can be labeled.
SG: How did you break into the world of professional jazz?
MD: The first time I turned pro was when I was 17. I worked a nightclub in Bayswater called the La Paloma Club. We played all types of music. After a couple of years, I did an audition with Edmundo Ros. He had a very famous Latin band here. I got the gig but turned it down. I either didn’t think I was ready for it, or I thought it might have been a dead end. I’m not sure. Anyway, I was about to get married, so I got a day job. This was after about two and a half years as a pro musician. I felt that, “I should have a real job!” So I got a real job, and I did very well at it: company car, pension plan, the whole bit. My father had taught me that, whatever I do, I should do it to the best of my ability, whether I like it or not.
When I was 29, I had the opportunity to play with the late and very great Frank Rossolino at Ronnie Scott’s. That was with John Taylor, who is one of my all-time favorite piano players, and Ron Mathewson, who I feel the same way about regarding the double bass. It was just three weeks of heaven! At the same time, I was working as a representative for a hair cosmetic company. I would get up at 7:00 in the morning, get myself together, put on my suit and be out starting my calls by 9:30, finish about 5:30 in the evening, do my paperwork, which took me through to 6:30, be home at 7:30, and on stage at Ronnie’s at 11:00. We did three sets in those days, and I didn’t get through before 3:00 in the morning. If I hadn’t enjoyed what I was doing, I couldn’t have done it. Talk about burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle.
By that time, we had three children. My youngest, Michelle, had just been born. But I came home and said to Tessa, my wife, “I’ve got to do it. Before they put me in a box, I must be able to say that I have had a crack at it.” Tessa said, “If you want to do it, do it.” So I threw away all that so-called security and turned professional again. I worked with Bill Le Sage in a place that folded after a few months, but I kept working. I’ve never looked back, and I’ve been earning good money since. It has been one big ball. I’ve had a marvelous time.
But it is a business; it’s work. I don’t really see it as work. I don’t think many musicians do, unless they are playing an awful gig. But it is work, and I think that that has to be taken into account. People are paying to hear you. They are entitled to expect you to be reasonably well presented, to turn up on time, and to play the gig to the best of your ability. I also think that it is the responsibility of the musicians as a mark of respect for the music and the other musicians, to be straight, sober, and together on the gig. When I am playing with musicians who are out of their brains and are playing badly, I take it as a personal insult. If that’s ego, then that’s ego. I figure that I’m on the stand because I love playing with them, and I assume it’s mutual. So we have a duty towards each other to give ourselves to the music and to play the best we can. If somebody is falling over every five minutes, you can’t do that. It isn’t possible. It’s like when you get people who reckon that they can have as many drinks as they like and still drive a car. Well they can’t, and it has been proven that they can’t. The brain doesn’t work as well as it should. And with jazz music, the brain is 75% of it. Okay, you need the technique to play the instrument, but without the brain giving the right messages to your hands and feet, it isn’t going to work!
SG: A moment ago, you mentioned Ronnie Scott. Could you, for the benefit of the American readers, give a brief description of Ronnie’s career and the club’s history?
MD: Well, Ronnie was a prodigy when he was very young, and he has proven himself to be one of the finest jazz saxophone players this country has ever produced. I think I have learned more working with Ronnie and his band, and working at the club than I have with anybody else. That’s probably because I’ve been around him so long. I’m very indebted to Ronnie and the club. That joint is a national institution. It is one of the finest jazz clubs I have played in, bar- ring none.
Maybe I’m biased, but when I go in there, I feel at home. Like Ronnie says, “Dirty, filthy, full of weirdos—just like home.” I have a very special affection for everyone there. I got my big break working with Oscar there. I’ve worked with a virtual “who’s who” of jazz, at the club. It wasn’t because I was available or I was cheap, or whatever; I played with them, and I kept playing with them, because I was asked to since I was able to take care of business. I’m not saying that I was the only one who could do it, but I was one of the few, and I was the one who was asked.
SG: You became house drummer at the club?
MD: Yeah. I suppose that, when you work there as often as I have, over the years, you can’t be anything else but the house drummer. I’m proud of that.
SG: Back in the ’60s, the policy seemed to be having visiting American artists being backed at the club by the resident rhythm section.
MD: Yes, in those days it was Stan Tracey on piano with musicians like Malcolm Cecil and Rick Laird on bass, and Ronnie Stephenson, Jackie Dougan and Tony Oxley on drums, and of course, the legendary Phil Seamen.
SG: And then there was a move towards bringing in full American bands.
MD: It was obviously cheaper to bring one person over rather than four people. But I would like to say that, in most cases, the British groups who accompanied the American artists didn’t give anything away to their American counterparts. This is not a false pride. I think that there was a time when British rhythm sections couldn’t handle it, but that has changed. The gulf between the various rhythmic concepts is not as wide as it was, if there is a gulf at all. There are people in the States who can’t cut it too, but we don’t hear about them here. But everyone is very quick to ram it down your throat when there are British musicians who don’t play well. We don’t have as many good people here, simply because we don’t have as many people playing jazz as they do. There are some good musicians and bands in this country, and I sometimes think that they don’t get the credit they deserve.
SG: Why is this, do you think?
MD: It’s an attitude. British jazz musicians, including myself, are very good at putting themselves down, although I am getting out of that now! It’s not good to put yourself down. There are always thousands who will do it for you, so I try not to do it too much myself. There are so many British musicians who are magnificent musicians, by any standards, but they will not give themselves the benefit of the doubt, and neither will the bloody press! I find this very sad.
I’m not talking about myself. I don’t really have an axe to grind because I do very well, although I sound a bit bitter. But there are a lot of other musicians who should be doing well and don’t, and I think it is partly because they are British. I was talking to a guy only last week who told me that he wouldn’t bother to see George Coleman at Ronnie’s, because he was using a British rhythm section. That’s sad. A prophet is without honor in his own land. Go somewhere else and you are accepted. But if you are just part of the scene at home, the public is blase. I don’t mean everybody. There are some genuine jazz fans. God bless them, because without them, we wouldn’t have gigs to go to.
SG: Jon Hiseman said that the majority of British musicians are overawed by Americans to the point where they feel they have to copy them, rather than “finding their own voices,” as he puts it.
MD: I would definitely agree with that. But there are a lot who are starting to do their own thing. When I see my idols play, I am overawed. However, I have seen what they play, worked some of it out, gotten it off exactly, and even played things with them, but it comes out sounding totally different. This is because I am who I am, and they are who they are. It is such a personal thing. Your personality comes through the instrument; when you are happy or sad, that mood comes through the instrument. Musicians experience emotions, and they are able to translate them in their own way. There are saxophone players, like Ronnie Scott, who love the playing of John Coltrane. What sax player wouldn’t like to play like Coltrane or Mike Brecker, etc., but they freely admit that they won’t, because they can’t. One of the secrets of being an individual is incorporating what other people do, but doing it your own way.
I used to know a drummer who was nuts about Joe Morello, and when he played, it sounded like a cheap imitation of Joe Morello. Now I know that, when I play, whether one likes it or not, it is me! I have a sound on my kit and a style in the way I do things that, in a way, I can’t really change. It’s me. I have my idols and my influences: Buddy, Tony Williams, Elvin, Max Roach, Steve Gadd. But even if I had the ability to play like some of these guys, it’s never going to come out like that, simply because I am not them. I get inspiration from them, which is great, but if I try to copy them, I will do it my own way. I can take a Buddy lick or a Steve lick—the couple that I can do anyway—but I will do it my way, and it won’t sound anything like Buddy or Steve. It isn’t something I have consciously worked on, but over the years, it has become increasingly obvious to me.
SG: Playing with Oscar Peterson, did it ever occur to you that you might be obliged to try to sound like your American predecessors, Ed Thigpen, Louis Hayes, Bobby Durham, and Louis Bellson?
MD: No, never. It has occurred to me, while working with Oscar and with all the musicians I have worked with, that there are certain things I would do with one musician that I wouldn’t do with others. I wouldn’t play with Oscar the way I play with Ronnie Scott, simply because I know that there are certain things I do that wouldn’t really fit. I’m looking at it in terms of the way Oscar thinks a drummer should play with him, or the way Ronnie thinks a drummer should play with him. Some people would call it a compromise. I don’t. I call it professionalism. I would like to think that I have a reasonably good idea of what Oscar wants and of what Ronnie wants. I try my best to do what I think they want, and I hope it works.
I know a drummer who is a marvelous player, but who is totally uncompromising. He just gets up on the stand with the attitude, “This is what I do, so screw the lot of you!” Consequently, he does very little work. I work because I work at complementing whomever I am playing with. I feel great when it appears to work, because it shows that I am doing what fits. I have the technical command and the mental attitude to be able to do that. Someone once said to me, “When you play with so-and-so, why don’t you do your own thing?” I said, “But this is my thing.” It was my thing with that particular band.
My biggest kick is sitting in the middle of a rhythm section that works. A rhythm section is as strong as its weakest member, and if you have a drummer who isn’t interested in playing with the other musicians, then that is a weak rhythm section. It only works when the three musicians play together, and that requires some form of adaptability. I think that I have been able to adapt, and that is why I have been successful. Of course, you need a degree of technique, but I have known drummers with fabulous chops who just didn’t know what to do with them.
SG: Conversely, you sometimes find people with relatively weak chops who can still make a band swing.
MD: Oh yes. That is one of the essences of really creative jazz. Chops are only a means to an end, but it is the end result that is most important. If that doesn’t require chops, you don’t put the chops in. The biggest part of jazz is the mental approach—what you can think of to play. It’s what you leave out sometimes, too.
SG: Do you think you could give some specific examples of the way you have approached playing with different people?
MD: With Ronnie Scott, I use a much freer way of playing time; with Oscar it is more conventional I suppose. Oscar likes to hear the hi-hat on 2 and 4. He likes to hear me playing time, so that he can base what he plays on what I am doing. There is nothing wrong with that at all. Ronnie doesn’t see it like that. He has a much freer approach with cross-rhythms and so on. Although, Ronnie has also said, “Do what you like, but I’ve got to know where 1 is.” So you have to get it down to that basic.
Then you have to consider the approach of the bass player. Ron Mathewson’s approach and Neils’ approach represent two different concepts. I don’t consciously think about it that much. I just slot into it. But it is an intuitive thing that I, and many other musicians, have cultivated over the years. You can get a kid from college with great technique but no experience. So when to do what just doesn’t occur to that drummer. But when you get an older person, like myself, who perhaps doesn’t have that college kid’s technical expertise, but has experience, that individual will know what to do and when to do it. Eventually, the college kid will learn from experience. That’s what life is about.
SG: You have played with some of the world’s best bass players.
MD: I would name four: Ron Mathewson, Dave Green, Neils Pedersen, and Ray Brown. There are others. Just because a particular bass player can’t do some of the things that Niels can do doesn’t automatically mean that that musician is a lesser player, but if you want me to use a yardstick to judge musicians, I will use some of the best players in the world. The fact that I have played with them gives me additional knowledge of what they can and cannot do.
I would apply these same standards to myself. When I think of the best drummers, I think of Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Tony Williams. So when someone talks to me about drummers, saying certain people are fantastic, I immediately compare them to those guys. If they don’t match up, they are not fantastic. That does not mean that they are not good players. I consider myself to be a good player, but I don’t consider myself to be a fantastic player, because I know the kind of standards I set for myself. I think that there is far too much use made of adjectives, which tend to become meaningless. A person can be a very good player without being fantastic. There are a lot of things that are not fantastic but people are sometimes afraid of voicing their true opinions for fear of what others might say. There is a lot of bullshit in this business, and I think that some of these clouds should be blown away. You can either play your instrument or you can’t.
SG: Does playing with someone of Niels’ caliber spoil you as far as playing with other bass players is concerned?
MD: Oh no. Ron Mathewson has a kind of excitement in his playing, which I have rarely experienced with anybody else on bass, except Niels and Ray Brown. He doesn’t have Niels’ chops, but he has an excitement and feel in his playing that just floors me. So, in that way, he is fantastic. I know the incredibly high standards of players that are around and the kind of players that I would like to emulate. I know, also, that I probably never will, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
I read a quote from Bjorn Borg, who is one of the finest tennis players who ever lived. He said that, if you accept limitations, then you will have limitations. It’s saying that you can do things which, on the surface, seem impossible. In my heart of hearts, I know that there are things I can’t do, but if the opportunity presents itself, I will still have a crack at it. If I don’t have a crack at it, I am not giving myself the chance to overcome it. Playing very fast tempos is an example. I can do it, but there was a time when I couldn’t. So I practiced playing fast tempos, and now I can play them. It was a limitation I refused to accept.
Every musician has what I call “brick walls.” You get to a stage where you think, “Oh God, I can’t get any further. I can’t do this. I can’t do that.” Then suddenly, you break through that piece of wall and you progress until you come up against another one. But you always have those walls there—something for you to break down—something for you to tackle.
SG: Can you give any examples of things you have developed recently?
MD: I used the traditional left-hand grip from the time I started playing up to about three years ago. Then I decided to try matched grip. I was practicing four hours a day to try to get it together, and I couldn’t play a roll for four months. I got it together to a reasonable extent, and I was knocked out with the improvement. It gave me another dimension; I wasn’t necessarily playing better, but I was playing differently. Originally, I had to play differently, because my left hand was nonexistent. It wouldn’t work. But with practice, I got it up to the level of my traditional lefthand grip, and I also had this new dimension. But recently when I was on holiday, I was sitting on the ground with my pad on a little table, and it was awkward to play matched grip, so I played traditional grip. I found that there are things that I can do better now with that grip than with the matched grip. So I have now gone back to playing with the traditional grip. I still use the matched grip, because three or four years ago I could only play one way. I had no technique with matched grip at all; now I have. It was a revelation to me. While using the traditional grip, I found myself doing things that I never thought I could do.
I don’t walk around with my head in my hands, thinking of things to do all the time. There is more to life than playing. It just happens that playing is a very important part of it for me. Another thing, as far as improving my playing is concerned, is that I always learn from experience. I feel that I am playing with Oscar much better now than I was when I first played with him. It’s a constant learning process. It happens with whomever I am playing with. I have had a lot of experience. I’m 39 1/2 now— that sounds better than 40—and a kid of 18 can’t have had that experience. That’s nothing against that kid of 18. As you know, with each generation kids pick things up faster. I hear kids who are 12,13, or 14 years old, and I know for a fact that I could never play like that when I was that age. In some cases, I can’t play like that now! But I have experience, which you can’t buy.
You get the geniuses—people like Elvin Jones. I know drummers with better chops than Elvin, but his approach to playing the drums is genius. Sax players, like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker—sure they had incredible chops, but they had a kind of genius that the majority of people just don’t have. It’s no fault of theirs; it’s the way life is. But with geniuses, it is the way they are and the way they project through their instruments that gives them a certain uniqueness. This can’t be duplicated, although certain aspects can be copied to a certain extent. My own playing has gotten to the level it has through practice, but also through experience, and a willingness to accept that experience and interpret it in a positive manner.
SG: Having talked about the things that you can’t buy, could we now switch the subject to the things you can buy and talk about the gear you use?
MD: I use all Pearl equipment. It’s good stuff. I don’t think any company makes bad equipment. These days, I don’t think they can afford to. One of the reasons I went over to Pearl initially was that, previously, I used to find that having to schlepp my own gear about was sometimes a problem, but if there was some Pearl gear to use, I knew I would be okay. If it was anything else, I had to mess around with it. But if it was Pearl, I could get on it and play. Then I started thinking, “Why don’t I use this stuff in the first place?”
Their attitude is great and they are very obliging. For example, I played for years with a 22″ bass drum, and then someone suggested an 18″. It goes in the back of the car easily. So I used that for some time, and I was very happy with it. Now I’ve gone to a 20″ bass drum. Pearl swapped over the two bass drums I have, and that was it—no big deal.
Cymbals are very personal. I play Sabian cymbals. I have an old original Turkish K., which I love. I don’t use that one with Oscar though, because it is very low in pitch, and he doesn’t care for it. So I use a different ride cymbal with him. I have just started to use 13″ hi-hat cymbals, because I like to hear my hi-hats, and these are great for that. My 22″ Sabian heavy ride is an absolute dream, and I use a 22″ Sabian swish, which unfortunately, has a couple of cracks in it, but it is one of the most beautiful cymbals I have ever used. With Oscar, I use a 20″ Sabian sizzle instead of the K., and when I do a rock or big band gig, I add a 16″ crash.
SG: When you are playing jazz, you get your cymbal accents by playing with the shaft of the stick on the ride cymbal?
MD: Yes, that’s right.
SG: Could you give us a rundown on the drum sizes and heads you use?
MD: Well, as I said, I have recently switched to a 20″ bass drum. On that, I use a Pinstripe batter head, and an Ambassador on the front with a hole cut in it. There is a pillow with 75 % of the stuffing taken out of it. I have this held against the batter head with a piece of metal, which I bolted on by using the same bolts that hold the tension brackets in place.
The snare drum is a 5 1/2″ metal-shell drum. I use an Evans, coated, heavy-duty Rock head—not the oil-filled sort—on the batter side, and the usual Ambassador snare head. I have coated Ambassadors on all the tom-toms, top and bottom. The sizes are 12″ and 13″ mounted on the bass drum, and a 16″ floor tom. I have recently started using that instead of a 14″.
SG: What about tuning? The jazz tuning is often higher in pitch than rock tuning.
MD: Jazz tuning has much more leeway. It is more individualistic. If a drummer turns up at a jazz gig with a drumkit that rings like hell, that’s the way it is and nobody gives a damn. But if that person takes the same kit to a rock gig or to a studio, people start thinking, “This drummer’s an oddball.” Now, I’m not saying that that attitude is right. What I am saying is that there is a certain kind of approach, as far as sound is concerned, where certain things are required. I originally had to concede it, but now I find that I enjoy it. I like playing my rock kit. I like the sound that I get out of it. It’s nothing like my jazz kit, but I really like it.
Tuning for the studio is a very specialized thing, if you want to do it properly. Like so many jazz drummers, I used to think that it was just a matter of taking the bottom heads off and leaving it at that. I prefer to leave the bottom heads on, in most situations. Steve Gadd has his bottom heads on. I’m not saying you should do it because he does it, but there is a column of air inside the drum, which is contained between the two heads. When you hit the top head, the air hits the bottom head and bounces back. I am convinced that this throws the stick off the drum more quickly than if that column of air just goes straight out at the bottom of the drum. I have found that, when I play single-headed drums, they slow me down, apart from which, I don’t like the sound. You can get a nice tension on the top head, and vary your sound by using the bottom head.
SG: Do you have your drums miked up when you play in big halls?
MD: Very, very rarely. The majority of sound engineers tend to be deaf, and they are sound engineers! I’ve found that, in big halls, I can produce enough sound to blend in with anything that Oscar is playing. I don’t need to be miked up. Sometimes though, they do put a mic’ on the bass drum, one on the snare, and one above me. Then I just have to trust to God that they get it right. I have played football stadiums with Oscar with just one mic’ on the piano and one on the bass.
SG: Do you find that you have to play harder?
MD: Oh no. We don’t have any monitors on stage. We are a purely acoustic group. If I can’t hear the piano, I am too loud, so I play more quietly. If Oscar wants more of me, he will give me a sign to play louder. It’s the same with Niels. It could be said that we use the same kind of dynamics wherever we play. We have played in a nightclub in Chicago one night, and a couple of nights later, we were in a football stadium in Spain. The amount of acoustic volume we produced in each case was virtually the same. Arguably, in order to fill a football stadium, Oscar would have to jump up and down on the piano to produce the volume required. Conversely, if there is slight miking on the piano, and the audience shuts up and listens, which they did, you are alright. There was an American band on before us. They obviously thought that they had to be loud to fill the place, and the noise was insanity. You should have heard it. We went on with one mic’ on the piano, one for the bass, and, I think, one overhead for me. You could have heard a pin drop.
SG: You have a project as a bandleader at the moment, haven’t you?
MD: Yes. The band is led by myself and the piano player, John Critchinson, with Ron Mathewson. We have Dick Morrissey on saxes and Jim Mullen on guitar. I call it Our Band at the moment, but I am going to call it the Martin Drew Quintet to avoid any confusion with another band run by Dick and Jim called the Morrissey/Mullen Band. The Morrissey/Mullen Band is a jazz/funk outfit that is really great, but it’s not my band and I don’t play in it! I would like to have a band like this myself one day and a Latin band as well, but I can’t do everything at once! I like leading. I don’t necessarily mean bossing everybody about, but I like making decisions and organizing things as I have some experience on what does and does not work. I have never shirked responsibility. I don’t mind carting people around, getting them out of bed, and putting them to bed! If they play the gig as well as they can, I don’t mind all that aggravation, which basically, of course, has nothing to.do with the music, although some people will tell you that it has everything to do with the music. I don’t know. While I can do without all of the hassles that one gets running a band, I don’t mind as long as the end result is worthwhile. I will do almost anything to achieve that end result. If at the end you still fall short, it’s alright, as long as everybody tried. The most important thing to me is trying. And I get very mad with myself and everybody else if we don’t try. One of my handicaps is that I never learned piano. So I can’t write proper music. I can write drum music until it comes out of my ears, but not melodic music. I rely on the guys in my band to contribute the sort of music that we want to play. This is not always easy for one reason or another.
SG: You seem to have a very wide taste in music.
MD: Yes, as long as it is, in my opinion, good music. I love Latin music. I started out playing a lot of that, and it never leaves me. Modern jazz-funk music has its rhythmic roots in Latin. In Britain, I enjoy a lot of this music because the majority of it is unpretentious and groovy, unlike some jazz played here. I really like to identify with it, and very much wish to be a part of it in addition to what I already do.
Of course, there is a lot of conventional jazz that I listen to which is fantastic, and I am a part of that. I love good, straightahead jazz, but when I hear some of the good jazz-funk bands in this country, like Morrissey/Mullen and Paz, I think, “I really like that, and I would like to play some of that.” I don’t have any boundaries. I either like it or I don’t, and I don’t care what it is. I love reggae! We went to the Notting Hill Carnival, and there were some of those steel bands that knocked me out, absolutely. I love it. When I’m with certain jazz musicians, I feel that I have to apologize for liking that kind of music—and that is rubbish. If I like it, why should I be ashamed? If it is good music, played by good people, and I like it, that is all I need.
SG: You are involved in playing some good music with good people, yourself.
MD: Yeah, right. Playing with Oscar is the finest gig I have ever had in my life. It has been, it is, and I hope it will continue to be. I love playing with the man. I love playing with Niels. It’s the high point of my career. There will be different jobs, but there will never be a better one. I must be the envy of so many people, and I’m extremely flattered, and honored to be playing drums for Oscar.