In addition to interviewing some of the most cutting-edge drummers on the planet—such as two of the featured artists in this issue, modern-jazz prodigy Marcus Gilmore and forward-thinking electro-funk artist Louis Cole—we also like to check in with some of the living legends of our instrument, those unique personalities who paved the way for us years ago and continue to inspire future generations via their ageless artistry and sage teachings.
This month we caught up with the one and only Ra Kalam Bob Moses, who cut his teeth in the 1960s with legendary jazz saxophonist Roland Kirk, fusion guitarist Larry Coryell, and vibraphonist Gary Burton, and who’s since gone on to become one of the most respected educators and drum artists on the planet. Moses also authored one of the first conceptual drum method books, Drum Wisdom, in 1984. Although currently out of print, much of what Moses discusses in that book remains relevant today. I spent many hours reading, contemplating, and trying to apply the various concepts covered in those brief but dense fifty-one pages.
Since we have a modern-day interview with Bob in this issue, I thought it would be fun to complement that story with a few juicy quotes from Drum Wisdom for you to ponder. The first two come from the chapter titled “Attitude.” “I always play from something; I never play from nothing,” says Moses. I wish I could say that I understood this idea back when I first read it. There have been many times when I’ve sat down at the kit to practice and thought to myself, I have no idea what to play. But it doesn’t take much to get the creative juices flowing. Sing a bass line, hum a melody, beat box a groove…anything will do.
Along the same lines, Moses adds, “There should be a musical idea behind everything you practice, just as there should be a musical idea behind everything you play.” I’m going to print that one out and plant it right next to my kit.
Here’s some food for thought, from the chapter “Internal Hearing,” that’s most applicable to times when we’re playing behind a soloist and want to get in on the action: “Trying to play with the soloist is like two people trying to get into the same end of a canoe—it’s going to tip over. Therefore, you must continue to play off of the basic melody even when the soloists have abandoned it.” There are countless examples of this concept being applied on classic records. Even the most interactive players, like jazz greats Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams, are often heard hinting at the melodies while supporting soloists. This is the secret sauce, really.
This final excerpt is pulled from the chapter titled “The 8/8 Concept,” and it’s one that I felt was particularly relevant for the overzealous rhythmist living within each of us: “Some drummers get into the habit of filling up every possible space, because they practice by themselves and forget to think about the fact that there will be other musicians playing with them.” So don’t be selfish—space is the place. Enjoy the issue!