Jazz Drummer and Composer Matt Wilson Awarded Two 2018 Jazz Journalists Association Honors
The Jazz Journalists Association, an international professional organization of writers, photographers, broadcasters, videographers, and new media content providers, recently honored New York–based jazz drummer and MD cover artist Matt Wilson with Musician of the Year and Record of the Year awards, the latter of which Wilson received for his 2017 release, Honey and Salt. Recipients of the 2018 JJA awards were chosen by the organization’s voting members and will be receiving engraved statuettes for their accomplishments. “I’m very honored to be recognized by the Jazz Journalists Association,” says Wilson. “[Their] passionate commitment to the art form helps strengthen our great community.”
Randy Pratt of Sweetwater Sound Passes
This past May 8, the music industry veteran Randy Pratt passed away. Pratt spent more than two decades in positions at Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend, and he most recently worked for the music dealer Sweetwater Sound.
Sweetwater vice president of corporate communications Christopher Guerin shared this statement with MD: “It is with deep sadness that Sweetwater announces the passing of our dear friend and coworker Randy Pratt. Randy was a legend in the drum and percussion world, having been a mainstay in the industry for more than twenty-five years. We were privileged to have Randy join the Sweetwater team in April of 2015, when he became our senior category manager of drums and percussion. He was responsible for all drum and percussion merchandising and inventory planning, and—in concert with key vendor partners—developed exclusive product training programs for the sales team.
“Randy was a highly talented drummer himself, which made him an invaluable resource both to Sweetwater and to the music instrument industry,” Guerin continued. “And he was never without a smile on his face, a kind word, or an offer to help—as his many, many friends will readily attest. His loss will be felt here at Sweetwater, by manufacturers and artists in the industry, and by his countless friends and loving family. Our condolences to his family on his passing. We’ll miss you, Randy.”
Bob Rupp, the founder of the Denver, Colorado–based drum shop Rupp’s Drums and the current product and training specialist for Sabian, organized the following quotes from Pratt’s industry colleagues and friends.
Randy Pratt looked like a rocker. And he was. But he was far more. The duality of his appearance combined with his congenial personality revealed his complexity and originality. The first time I met Randy, I felt like I got to know him immediately. That’s the kind of transparency he had. He was self-effacing and humorous. We laughed a lot, but there was an intelligent depth that belied his easy-going demeanor and appearance. He made people immediately comfortable, and though his stature was impressive, he exuded a comfortable feeling that people naturally responded to. I experienced it many times—his soft vocal timbre disguised a clever and sometimes sardonic wit that you didn’t see coming until it passed you. He could be that subtle. Other times, Randy was as discrete as a John Bonham backbeat. Oh, how he loved Led Zeppelin and the powerful, undulating groove of the group’s legendary drummer. Randy played drums with passion and fire, bleeding notes from his drums as he rounded them in triplet lunges. His drumming expression displayed a man who lived life to the fullest and freest. Art may imitate life, but Randy imitated no one.
John Palmer, Sales Strategist/Drums at Hoshino USA
Randy Pratt was an incredible individual. It’s not often that you get to meet someone through a work relationship and truly be able to call that person a friend. His contributions to the industry through his creativity and true understanding of trying to find a win-win solution when it came to problem solving was among the best I’ve seen in my thirty-year career at DW. The industry will definitely have a hole without the incredible energy that he brought to his passion every day. I’m truly saddened by the loss of my good friend Randy Pratt, and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family.
Chris Lombardi, CEO at Drum Workshop
I’ll never forget the immediate friendship I felt with Randy when I first met him. It was as if I’d known him for a long time. He was just so kind and warmhearted. We’d sit and talk drums for long stretches of time. He had a smirky yet genuine smile that tended to get more devilish and funny when we were cooking up the next “thing” to bring to drummers, and he always wanted to be on the edge of what’s new and cool. I always trusted him and knew that I could count on him to tell me if I was in left field over some idea I had. He never stopped his belief in me and was always ready for inspiration. Little did he know how much inspiration he gave to my crew and myself. His knowledge of the industry was second to none, and he left an incredible mark on all that were privileged enough to have known him and called him friend. I’ll never forget his kindness, his really smart opinions, his business style, and most of all, his smile.
John Good, Vice President at Drum Workshop
Randy Pratt was one in a million, and he was more dedicated to the drumming community than anyone I know. He had a vast knowledge of drums, drummers and music. I had the opportunity to visit his home, meet his beautiful family, and talk drums. He helped everyone in any way that he could. He will be missed and always remembered, and that’s because he made a huge difference for all of us. Thanks Randy.
Dom Famularo, Sabian educator and clinician
I joined Sweetwater just under four years ago, and when I came on board, drum sales were a very small portion of the overall business. They brought me in to help raise the profile of Sweetwater’s drum business, and I did what I could. Then about eight months after I started, I heard that Sweetwater had hired Randy Pratt to be the new drum buyer and that it was a real coup that we got him from his previous employer. When Randy joined we became fast friends, and I learned quickly why he had such a great reputation in the drum business. First and foremost, Randy was a great guy with a huge heart. He treated everyone with respect. And when I say everyone loved Randy, I mean it. Over the very short amount of time that Randy was at Sweetwater, he helped grow the drum business by leaps and bounds. I learned an awful lot from him. Randy will be truly missed.
Nick D’Virgilio, Sweetwater Sound, Spock’s Beard
If one were to marry selflessness, grace, and a gentle nature with intelligence, confidence, and consistency, that combination would define Randy Pratt. Working with him was always fun and adventurous. He was the consummate team player. His relentless pursuit of farming more drummers was contagious because he did it for the right reason: he loved drums and drummers. If you’re really lucky, you might meet someone like Randy Pratt once in a lifetime.”
Joey Allen, Senior Sales at Pearl Corporation
Randy initially worked at Musician’s Friend in phone sales and support and was quickly tagged to join the company’s merchandising team. He was usually the first one in the office, calling manufacturers to find ways to delight our customers. He built deep and lasting relationships with drum, cymbal, and percussion manufacturers that defined collaboration. I worked with Randy for several years, traveled with him globally, and we played in bands together. He will be missed by many but will never be forgotten.
Chris Tso, Vice President of Merchandising at Full Compass Systems
Two years ago at NAMM, Mike Dorfman of Trick Drums was kind enough to offer me a corner of his booth to display my WFL III snares. Randy came by, and after he talked with Mike he spent time with me going over my line. I asked, well pleaded, to have Sweetwater take me on, and he said yes—to one drum. The next year he took on a few more, and then at Sweetwater’s GearFest, he absolutely blew my mind when he came up to my booth and said Sweetwater would take it all! I almost fell over. He gave me the break I needed when I needed it, and was always so nice and supportive of me and gave me positive advice to hang in. God bless you Randy for believing in me and giving me a chance.
William F. Ludwig III, President of WFL III Drums
I met Randy when I was working at West L.A. Music. I used to see him at NAMM shows and knew of his reputation as not just a great businessman and negotiator, but as a kind, friendly, and easygoing person. Even though I was a competitor, he was happy to sit with me and talk about online business—something I was new to at the time. We became friends, kept in touch, and would get together every year at the show.
When I rejoined Guitar Center in 2007, Randy was one of the first to welcome me to the team, even though he was up in Medford, Oregon, working at the Musician’s Friend offices. We spoke several times a week and built up a great business relationship that helped grow both Guitar Center’s and Musician’s Friend’s business as a whole.
When the opportunity came up for Randy to move to L.A. and work side by side with me, I did everything I could to convince him and his wife Pam to come down. Once they were here, we became extremely close in both our business and personal lives. We went through everything—good and bad—and helped each other with love, concern, and support in many situations. We traveled the world together and experienced so many new things.
The day he decided to leave Guitar Center, he came to my house in tears to tell me of his decision to move away. Although it was the best for Pam and Randy, it was very difficult to watch one of my best friends move across the country. I missed him but we kept in touch by phone and would see each other at shows.
We learned, lived, and laughed together as we traveled, and I’ll always remember his giant bear hug and smile that you could never wipe off his face. We love and miss you Randy.
Glenn Noyes, Director of Merchandise/Drums and Percussion at Guitar Center
I first met Randy around twenty years ago when I was the drum and percussion buyer for Sam Ash. At the time, Guitar Center, Sam Ash, and Mars Music were the largest brick and mortar store chains, with around forty stores each. What we didn’t know was that online sales were just starting to take off in a big way, replacing old school mail-order catalog sales. Musician’s Friend was at the forefront of this online sales explosion, and Randy was at the helm for Musician’s Friend’s drums and percussion division.
Though to some degree we were initially staunch competitors, when I first met Randy at a NAMM function, it was magical. It felt like we were old friends. There was a common bond of drums and drumming. As I got to know Randy over the years, his warm and caring personality was always a shining example of friendship and camaraderie. As time went on and I eventually entered the wholesale side of things, Randy became a customer. Though Randy had immense power and clout, he was always fair, reasonable, and understanding. I found out what a true partnership felt like. All business aside, Randy was a wonderful human being, a warm and fuzzy big teddy bear in every sense of the word. I will miss him greatly. There will never be another guy like him in this industry in my lifetime. God bless!
Terry Bissette, Executive Vice President/Retail Sales at Fork’s Drum Closet, Steve Maxwell Drums
There are no words to describe the impact someone as special as Randy Pratt has had on my life and so many other lives directly and indirectly. Randy was an imposing person, but his physical size was dwarfed by the size of his heart! He treated everyone as a friend. His passion and commitment to doing the right thing was part of who he is.
Randy was always there for me—for my fortieth and fiftieth birthdays, and for when I lost my brother. He always believed more in me than I believed in myself. His support went far beyond business. He was a brother to me. I’m honored to have known Randy, his wife Pam, and their family. It’s way too easy to get caught up in what a great human he was and forget about how he’s been an integral part of our industry
Randy defined what a “win-win” or “win-win-win” scenario is. Most actions were based on a win for the customer, a win for the manufacturer or partner, and a win for his business. He always looked to do things for the right reasons, even under the challenges and pressures of business in the good times and the bad. He not only reacted to market demands, but also created them. He was a student of his business and was just as excited to be part of the music community as he was in supporting and expanding it.
Randy understood that he had the ability to help facilitate dreams and always looked at how he could support others around him as well as inspire new generations of players through organizations like [the music education charity] Little Kids Rock. He was quick to jump into causes he believed in and was often the conduit for connecting others. His passion and excitement were always contagious.
Very few people get to do what they love, and even fewer have the ability make a difference in so many peoples’ lives and an entire industry. Randy made a difference, and it would fall far short to say the industry lost part of its heart and soul when he passed. Humanity lost one of its best. We’ll keep his spirit alive and remember why we do what we do.
Jerry Goldenson, President at KHS America
I first met Randy when he was at Musician’s Friend. Randy was the first buyer to take on the new Trick PRO1-V bass drum pedals. Randy being a gear head and Harley Davidson guy, he knew instantly what we were pursuing, and he helped explode the brand and supported and guided Trick from then on. Without Randy, Trick would not be where we are today.
Michael Dorfman, Founder and President at Trick Drums
Since his passing, a lot has been said about how great Randy was by countless people in the industry. With all that has been said, and will continue to be said, words still can’t exactly convey what it was like to know him and call him a friend. Randy Pratt was a very genuine person. I always looked forward to seeing Randy at various industry events, and all of us at Vater made sure that we made time with him for a dinner hang at every occasion. Those nights always lasted for hours and were full of laughs, amazing stories, and just all around good times. Randy was a giant. He was full of personality, humor, and incredible knowledge about the music industry.
Although Randy achieved great success with the companies he worked for, he never used his position as leverage in his business dealings. He was as fair-minded as he was generous, and he sincerely wanted every situation to be a win for all involved.
Randy’s friendship, honesty, easy going personality, and his bear-like handshakes and hugs meant a lot to me and to everyone that knew him. We will all miss him immensely.
Chad Brandolini, Director of Artist Relations and Marketing at Vater Percussion
One of my favorite Randy encounters is when he picked up a new Pearl drumset and needed cases. I happened to come to Fort Wayne [where Sweetwater is located] for a visit, and during dinner Randy expressed his feelings on what I was doing in the “drum case world” when it came to color and design. Besides business, Randy always had a way with expressing himself and always made his friends feel good. That’s what I admire most about him.
The next morning I showed up at Sweetwater where Randy was working and asked him if he had a moment to come to my car. Upon opening my door the expression on his face [upon seeing drum cases] that were the exact match to his drum kit will forever be in my memories. That day I surprised my dear friend with a Custom Shop Original “RP” series of cases. Still to this day, every time Sweetwater orders an Enduro Pro Case in their exclusive custom color, we use the color code option “RP.” Love ya my friend, and miss ya.
Michael Berg, President at Humes and Berg
As a business associate, Randy Pratt was the pinnacle of integrity, fairness and creativity. His ideas to grow the industry and make music attractive for people were driven by a passion that inspired us all. As a friend, Randy could always be counted on to lift my spirits. He always made me feel that all was well with the world. He was kind, thoughtful, and an example of what true friendship is all about. The world needs more people like Randy Pratt. He is sorely missed. His legacy of grace and goodness will be an example to me for the rest of time.
Ben Cole, Director of National Accounts at D’Addario
Randy Pratt was not only a business associate but also a great friend. I first met Randy at a Summer NAMM show in 2000 when he took over as the buyer for drums and percussion at Musician’s Friend. Randy had a passion for the industry, and he had no problems taking chances to help the business grow, which he did very successfully. He literally changed the online drum and percussion category like no other. I was also one of Randy’s first vendor visits in November of 2001. He had a heart of gold and treated everyone and every brand that he dealt with like they were the only one. I was very fortunate to travel with Randy on business trips to Las Vegas, New York, and Germany. Even when Randy became ill, he had a work ethic that never stopped. He loved drums as much as he loved his wife Pam, their children, and their grandchildren. A hole will be left in the industry for sure, but what he built will live on forever.
Steve Grecco, Drum Workshop and Latin Percussion
As the owner of Rupp’s Drums in Denver, I always strived to offer the best inventory and price for the consumer. Whenever anyone would drop the Musician’s Friend catalog on our counter—after we had already spent much time with that customer—we’d always sigh and see what the “better deal” was. We’d be forced to do anything we could to keep our customers captive by lowering a price or adding something extra, for instance. I think most drum shops across the country hated that catalog. This era was long before internet sales and MAP policy. So, we’d often speculate on who was doing Musician’s Friend’s buying, and who was putting this incredible catalog together. I thought that if I ever found out who it was, I’d have words with them!
So, lo and behold at a NAMM show, I bump into Randy Pratt, and got formally introduced to him. Well, any “words” I wanted to have with him went right out the window, and we became immediate and lifelong friends. We shared a love of drums, Harley Davidsons, and retail business.
After I sold Rupp’s Drums, I went to work for Sabian. Randy had moved on to Guitar Center, an account that I have been involved in for many years. My close relationship with Randy was a plus during product negotiations along with the Sabian team.
When Randy took a position at Sweetwater, once again, our long friendship had helped grow the Sabian brand within Sweetwater. He was a smart buyer with brands that the retailer wasn’t carrying, and those brands also showed fast growth once Randy got his mojo rolling. I was visiting Sweetwater about six times a year for Sabian and Gon Bops, and I’d always spend time with Randy and his wife, Pam, for dinner.
In late 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Cancer, a disease that I’m still recovering from. In 2017, Randy called me and said that he had “joined my club.” I had no idea what he was referring to. Then he said, “I have cancer too.” My heart sunk. I was in constant contact with him, giving him words of encouragement. I still continued to see him whenever I came to Sweetwater, until he was too sick to meet.
He and Pam moved to Arizona to attend a clinic there. His condition was worsening, so a few of us from the drum industry went to see him in late 2017—Steve Grecco, Mike Nieland, Terry Bissette, Glenn Noyes, Bill Detamore, Ben Cole, and myself. It was a bittersweet and emotional day for all of us. We laughed all day and kept him upbeat until it was time to leave. Every one of us cried on the way back to the hotel, knowing it was the last we would see of him.
Bob Rupp, Product and Training Specialist at Sabian
KoSA Celebrates Seventeenth Edition of Cuban Drum and Percussion Camp
The seventeenth annual KoSA Cuba drum and percussion camp was held this past March 4–11 in Havana. Organized by KoSA’s directors, drummer and percussionist Aldo Mazza and Dr. Jolán Kovács, the week-long event was scheduled in conjunction with the Fiesta del Tambor, a local rhythm and dance festival. The KoSA program offered hands-on classes, workshops, concerts, and lectures for international participants. Students studied drumset and Afro-Cuban percussion while immersing themselves in Cuban rhythms. The ethnomusicologist Dr. Olavo Alén Rodríguez also delivered seminars on Cuban music. Participants studied with top Cuban artists such as Amadito Valdés (Buena Vista Social Club), Enrique Plá (Irakere), Juan Carlos Rojas Castro (Chucho Valdés), Tomás “El Panga” Ramos (studio), and Adel González (Afro-Cuban All Stars). Special guest artists including Jim Riley, Antonio Sanchez, and Nanny Assis (Nanny Assis Trio) were also featured during the Fiesta del Tambor concerts, and one night was dedicated to select Sabian artists. A “Nights in Brazil” concert featured Assis, Janis Siegel (Manhattan Transfer), and the Brazilian artists João Donato and Fabiana Cozza. Next year’s KoSA Cuba event is planned to take place in early March of 2019.
WHO’S PLAYING WHAT
Hayley Cramer (Pop Evil), Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour), and Lilliana de los Reyes (George Benson) have joined the Vater artist roster.
Paris Jeffree (Years & Years) and G. Maxwell Zemanovic (Miranda Lambert) have joined the Gretsch artist roster.