Who: Al Foster Quintet
What: Al Foster's "81st Birthday Celebration"
Where: Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
When: 1/27/24 10:30pm set
Hello, my name is Chris DeRosa and this is what I heard…
Smoke is a great venue to hear live jazz. Established in 1999 and located on Manhattans Upper West Side, the sound and layout make it a highly enjoyable venue to catch some of New Yorks finest. And as expected, tonight's show did not disappoint.
I was there to see the great Al Foster. He is a veteran of the jazz community and has played with a multitude of artists including Miles Davis when in 1972 he replaced Jack DeJohnette on drums. Foster continued to work with Miles and was one of the few people to have contact with Davis during his retirement from 1975 to 1980. Foster played on Miles Davis's 1981 comeback album "The Man With The Horn", and was the only musician to play in Davis' band both before, and after, his retirement.
Joining Foster for his birthday concert were trumpeter Nicholas Payton, bassist Vicente Archer, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, and pianist & musical director Kevin Hays. An impressive lineup for any occasion but surely a special treat for Foster's birthday celebration.
The set started off with a Thelonious Monk composition "Rhythm-A-Ning". Foster seemed right at home laying down solid time to beautifully support the very rhythmic soloing by Payton. In contrast, the smoother melodic lines by Potter were in good hands with the master. The moments where Foster's playing really shined was behind the spacious and thoughtful playing of Hays on piano. This is where the many years of experience came through for Foster. His choices in sound and rhythm created a very nice albeit softer side to this opening number. The set continued with a Hays original called "Beat", a lyrical ballad spoken wonderfully by the ensemble and brought to a high point during Foster's mallet solo over Hays' vamp.
Next up was "Six" by Payton. This tune was originally a funk tune on the heavy side but this band's rendition brought a New Orleans swing to it that was a good vehicle to showcase Payton's command of his instrument. This was followed by a Foster composition titled "Monk's Bossa" that acted as a spring board for Potter's wonderful melodies and rich tone. The set's last full number was a happy sounding Sonny Rollins tune entitled "Pent-Up House". The interplay between Payton & Potter was in full bloom here, with each horn speaking in both a harmonious and dissonant language that kept the room bouncing to the beat. All the while Archer and Foster laid down the deepest pocket that produced smiles throughout the room. As if such playing wasn't enough, a very kind patron carried in a custom made birthday cake with a mini replica of Foster's drum kit on it while the band swung "Happy Birthday" for the honoree. It was all in all a very nice set that cleared up any doubt that this now 81 year old drummer still has what it takes!
A very talented artist I work with recently asked me for my honest opinion. He asked, "Is it possible to make a living from my music?" I felt his frustration and concern and quickly responded with the short answer, "Well, someone has to."
Think about it, there are lots of talented and even not so talented people making an honorable living in the music industry. Obviously it helps if people know you or your music and it goes without mentioning that it helps even more if what you offer has merit. Good music, a level of talent and a focus that isn't easily swayed will certainly help you gain the momentum to achieve the goals you seek in any business.
In my case I have always believed that if someone could make a living playing drums then why not me? I believed in my art and in what I could contribute on my instrument especially in regards to a song. I believed it would be both unique and of value to other artists. Many years later my history is proof of that belief being realized.
Honestly being a career musician is not for everyone. But for the few, who like a Buddhist monk, can go with the flow, stay the course and weather the hills and valley's both emotionally and financially, then yes you can! It's not for everyone and that's why it's an honor to do what I do.
A very kind man from the church my family and I attend saw some of my photos online and thought it might be nice to have me do a photo essay representing my take on the emotion of Joy. This is really ironic since currently I am "SAHD" (a stay at home dad) of a 3 year old girl and a 1 year old boy. I often don't have time to brush my teeth let alone create something as special as this these days. The thought of getting my creative juices flowing again and to be able to contribute to my church community was both an honor and a blessing.
As I lived with this assignment I realized how much Joy exists in my daily life. Joy is, in my opinion best visually represented by the young. As we get older we unfortunately turn down the physical expressions of such emotions to some degree (except when it comes to family). It's mostly in the young where our true visual manifestation of such a powerful feeling can fully be expressed to the eye with such abandonment. Please pardon my obvious and sometimes not so obvious photographs of this wonderful emotion and I hope you enjoy them! Oh and by the way, this was a joy to do;-)
Joy is something you Give
Joy is something you See
Joy is something you Feel
"Remember to light the candle of joy daily and all the gloom will disappear from your life." - Djwhal Khu
"Joy is not the absence of suffering. It is the presence of God." - Robert Schuller
"In thy presence is fullness of joy." - Psalms 16:11
"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves." - Guatama Buddha
"Joy is not in things; it is in us." - Richard Wagner
"Joy is the infallible sign of the Presence of God." - Pierre Teilhard de Chardi
"Heaven, the treasury of everlasting Joy." - Shakespeare
"Joy is prayer - Joy is strength - Joy is love - Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls." - Mother Teresa
"I have drunken deep of joy, and I will taste no other wine tonight." - Percy Bysshe Shelley
"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." - Thich Nhat Hanh
"To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with." - Mark Twain
"The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again." - Charles Dickens
"Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are." - Marianne Williamson
"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it." - Thich Nhat Hanh
"I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy." - Kahlil Gibran
"Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It's a feeling inside that can hardly be contained." - Terry Pratchett
"Comparison is the death of joy." - Mark Twain
"A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. She gives most who gives with joy." - Mother Teresa
"Art is man's expression of his joy in labor." - Henry A. Kissinger
"Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." - Henri J.M. Nouwen
"The root of joy is gratefulness… It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful." - David Steindl-Rast
"Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy." - Leo Buscaglia
"Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile." - Sir Wilfred Grenfell
"There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someones life." - Sister Mary Rose McGeady
"Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within." - Eckhart Tolle
"Joy is more divine than sorrow; for joy is bread, and sorrow is medicine." - Henry Ward Beecher
"One joy shatters a hundred griefs." - Chinese Proverb
"The test of Christian character should be that a man is a joy-bearing agent to the world." - Henry Ward Beecher
"Do good, live in the most positive and joyful way possible every day." - Roy T. Bennett
"We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry." - E. B. White
"The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous." - David Icke
"There are joys which long to be ours." - Henry Ward Beecher
Joy Is the Love we share
Joy Is Doing God's Work, even in unexpected ways
Joy Is the Beauty before us - if only we open our eyes
Joy Is What We Bring to life
"Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of Joy and just be Joyful." - Anonymous
Everyday each of us is tripped up by things big and small. I mean every time one turns around there is some thing or situation not going exactly as planned. I can only ask myself one thing, "Does it really matter?" Think about it - in each case look with new eyes and you might find yourself feeling lighter, happier, and even a bit relieved.
Take a moment and think about some of your worries - some of the things weighing you down. Many of them are not only out of your control but most likely ok to let go of in the "Big Picture". I just wanted to offer you a different take on life's little (or big) hiccups. The things that matter, I mean really matter are your family, your health, your perspective and not really about how big your bonus will be or landing (in your mind) the perfect job. It is hard to practice such a "Zen" stance in real life but think a minute about the "love" you lost… Did you survive? Did you really want to spend the rest of your days with the wrong person?
Sometimes the very people around you, the ones that really matter are like fellow rocks in a tumbler helping you smooth out your rough edges, as you do theirs, to each become better. Smile because it is never that bad, certainly not for very long if you can keep your focus on the things that really do matter.
The Businessman, The Fisherman and Life
The businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a little boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the little boat were several large Yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied only a short while.
The businessman then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor."
The businessman scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise."
The fisherman asked, "But señor, how long will this all take?" To which the businessman replied, "15-20 years." "But what then, señor?" The businessman laughed and said, "That's the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions." "Millions, señor? Then what?" The businessman said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, "Isn't that what I'm doing right now?"
I think that sums it all up. Keep your cool, discern what really matters and don't let the little things trip you up.
We visited the old part of Siracusa, it's actually an island called Ortiga connected by a small bridge. A pleasant walk back in time to cobblestoned streets and little artisan shops on every corner. This area was filled with some of the best food and gelato Sicily had to offer. We stayed at an old bathhouse in the Jewish quarter that was recommended by Francesco (the owner of the farm we just left).
Here we were able to walk to everything of interest and let our daughter run freely in the square (it was nice to be carless for a few days).
After, in Giarra we had the pleasure of staying on a Citrus farm. There is something special about seeing Mandarin Orange trees row after row or a field of Lemon trees to wake you up in the morning and say, "time for juice!" among other beautiful things. We were able to visit both Catania and Taormina easily from this location while still being in nature.
During our time on the east coast of Sicily we also visited Mt Etna (that was really special!). The (touristy) south side and the (nature) north side were a great contrast to give you both the beauty and awesomeness of this large active volcano.
Since our time in Sicily was winding down we decided to visit the beach town of Cefalu before heading to Palermo and onward to Asia.
The weather wasn't hot but still warm enough to take a little swim or relax with a morning stroll on the beach in your shorts.
Palermo was the perfect end to the Italian portion of our journey. I must say Sicily was a good host and Im happy we all got to know her a bit.
It's good to spend some time on a farm. My family and I were able to stay on an organic Wheat farm in Modica (Sicily) recently and it was so nice. My daughter and I picked fresh eggs each morning and played among the herb and fruit trees (Lime, Almond, Blackberry, Olive, Pomegranate etc.) in the fields.
My daughter especially enjoyed searching for Lady Bugs and greeting the Horses.
Each afternoon we visited the small surrounding towns in the area like Noto, Scicli and Ragusa Ibla. We were even close enough to the sea to visit Sampieri, a small fishing village with an especially beautiful beach.
We started our trip two weeks ago in Scopello a sleepy weekend getaway for the nearby Palermo inhabitants. It was off-season so we had the place to ourselves. We rented a house overlooking the sea and enjoyed the beautiful views and landscape every moment.
Our plan was to spend a week or so in each region to slow down and get a chance to understand a bit about the life and character of the area.
This pace was perfect for my family and served as a catalyst to spark my daughter's curiosity and imagination.
During our travels we also visited the "Valle dei Templi" in Agrigento a very scenic park filled with ancient ruins.
It is a dramatically different life here from the one we live back in NYC and it is really amazing that we are able to take this time for such a family trip (feeling grateful:-).
Today starts a journey. Myself, my wife, my 2 year old daughter, and three month old son are all packed up and ready to go. All the stars have aligned and we are able to take some time to see the world - together. It's funny when you are young you can backpack Europe for a month and take only a single carry on bag. When you have kids you need seven bags just to make it through the week.
Sitting in the American Airlines lounge at JFK waiting to board our flight to Rome I can't help but think of that saying, "Wherever you go, there you are". It's so true. I have been focusing internally as of late and hope that on this trip I can think less and be present more. More present for my kids… for my family.
Be Here Now.
I Love Music. I say this because I've been feeling I have lost my way both in career and life recently. It has sort of crept up on me slowly over time and now the feeling is palpable. It seems the very thing I looked to for solace, satisfaction, and acceptance has in some ways become the opposite.
Albert Einstein said that the way to learn the most is when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don't notice the time passing. I remember all those hours spent in my parent's basement playing music and enjoying the activity so very much. I later chose to be a musician for my career and continued on with my life without ever realizing my joy of music was slowly diminishing. I think it is hard to sustain such passion for anything one does as a career. This is especially true when the pressure of generating an income takes priority.
I find myself asking how much a gig pays even before asking to hear the music or meeting the people involved. This has been going on for a while now and certainly exaggerated with a growing family and responsibilities. I want this to change so I pause…
It is so very difficult to keep a fresh perspective when ones priorities and motives have become so narrow. Now my task is to correct my course and realign with what makes me tick. Trying to find that point of (centered) joy and live from that place.
Life is a never ending stream of choices. I believe by slowing down and trying to make each choice be harmonious with my true nature I will help correct this error. A rethinking of how to operate from the here and now. So my journey begins this day on my way to Rome. Taking the family to Sicily to slow down and regroup. To enjoy the smaller things (and people;-). Wish me luck!
Today was a special day. She fell asleep in my arms on her own for the first time in a very long time. She had a little tummy ache and needed some extra Love, I was there to support her. We sang and hung out for a while and then she climbed up on me and nodded off.
These moments are so precious. I am so happy to be there for her to share both her smiles and her troubles.She is my teacher, I learn from her every day.
Dear Little One,
Recently, your mother and I were searching for an answer on Google. Halfway through entering the question, Google returned a list of the most popular searches in the world. Perched at the top of the list was "How to keep him interested".
It startled me. I scanned several of the countless articles about how to be sexy and sexual, when to bring him a beer versus a sandwich, and the ways to make him feel smart and superior… I got angry.
Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to "keep him interested".
Little One, your only task is to know deeply in your soul - in that unshakeable place that isn't rattled by rejection or loss or ego - that you are worthy of interest. (If you can remember that everyone else is worthy of interest also, the battle of your life will be mostly won, but that is a letter for another day).
If you can trust your worth in this way, you will be attractive in the most important sense of the word: you will attract a boy who is both capable of interest and who wants to spend his one life investing all of his interest in you.
Little One, I want to tell you about the boy who doesn't need to be kept "interested", because he knows you are interesting.
I don't care if he puts his elbows on the dinner table - as long as he puts his eyes on the way your nose scrunches when you smile. And then can't stop looking.
I don't care if he can't play a musical instrument - as long as he can play with the children you give him and revel in all the glorious and frustrating ways they are just like you.
I don't care if he doesn't follow his wallet - as long as he follows his heart and it always leads him back to you.
I don't care if he is very strong - as long as he gives you the space to exercise the strength that is in your heart.
I couldn't care less how he votes - as long as he wakes up every morning and daily elects you to a place of honor in your home and a place of reverence in his heart.
I don't care about the color of his skin - as long as he paints the canvas of your lives with brushstrokes of patience, and sacrifice, and vulnerability, and tenderness.
I don't care if he was raised in this religion or that religion - as long as he was raised to value the sacred and to know every moment of life, and every moment of life with you, is deeply sacred.
In the end, Little One, if you stumble across a man like that and he and I have nothing else in common, we will have the most important thing in common:
Because in the end, Little One, the only thing you should have to do to "keep him interested" is to be you.
Your eternally interested guy,
I stumbled upon the above piece a long time ago and recently found it again. When I read it the second time it really hit home.
I've been hearing a lot about emotional intellegence lately (not to be confused with intelectual intelegence) and learned it has more to do with achieving success than one would imagine.
I believe their are a million ways to raise a child but fewer ways to raise them well. By teaching them perspective and patience along with using sound judgement and having thoughtful responses (as opposed to emotional ones) can really go a long way in my book as well as life. IQ seems to be a more fixed attribute but EQ can be developed and increased at any age.
"You're imperfect and you are wired for struggle but you are worthy of Love and belonging." - Brene Brown
Dear Little One,
At the end of the day, please always know that you are worthy.
It's kind of ironic that I should be writing about quiet (being a drummer) but I am actually more aware of sound because of it. The sound I am writing about today is in your head (your thoughts).
Quieting your mind is important and is a practice I find challenging. I often notice it and fully realize the impact of my "thought buzz" when I leave NYC.
It's like when the air-conditioning is going and you become acclimated to the hum, not until it shuts off do you actually realize the full impact or the degree of sonic real-estate it holds and the subsequent stress level it brings.
The very existence of this buzz and our limited ability to control the chatter in our head is a hindrance to exploring our creative ideas.
Each day I have my to do's and go about my business. The energy of my life and surroundings block my awareness of this distraction but in quiet moments like in the middle of the night or while away exploring the Tuscan country side etc. only then do I become painfully aware of this hyper drone of thought and it's full impact on my life and creativity.
In music it's the rests that make the notes come alive. I think this is the same with thoughts and ideas. Only when we can replace the chatter with silence can we focus to bring forth the best that is within us.
If you have been reading my blog or Facebook page you probably already know I like quotes.
Quotes are powerful reminders of thoughts and ideas that make us better. They come in all shapes and sizes covering every topic but always on point and insightful to help you remember or get through that rough patch. The one you didn't even know you were in. They remind us to look ahead and stay on course or stop, and think it through.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes in no particular order:
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." - Unknown
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." - Corrie Ten Boom
"Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them." - Steve Maraboli
"A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble." - Mahatma Gandhi
"Speak only if it improves upon the silence." - Mohandas Gandhi
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mohandas Gandhi
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." - William Bruce Cameron
"Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it." - Epictetus
"Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity." - Albert Einstein
"Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering." - Theodore Roosevelt
"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards." - Vernon Law
"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough." - Randy Pausch
"Every artist was once an amateur." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at." - Epictetus
"Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can reach. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries and predecessors; try to be better than yourself." - William Faulkner
"Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." - Epictetus
"Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room." - Christine Todd Whitman
"At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can." - Frida Kahlo
"It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters." - Epictetus
"Money is but one venue for generosity. Kindness is an even more valuable currency." - Alan Cohen
"All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven in his own way." - Epictetus
"Let food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food." - Hippocrates
"Do not let what you can't do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden
"Happiness is not having what you want but rather wanting what you have." - Unknown
"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows." - Epictetus
"We are not what we think we are… We are not even what others think we are… We are what we think others think we are." - Unknown
"First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak." - Epictetus
"Chance Favors The Prepared." - Louis Pasteur
My daughter is beautiful. But when she is in her mom's arms, my wife, is so beautiful.
It's a totally different beauty.
I see my wife sometimes in a blouse we bought while on a trip somewhere exotic… At home in New York she puts it on and reminds me of the early days when we 1st met - so beautiful.
My daughter on the other hand is a whole different beautiful. The beautiful that shows itself everyday, like when she allows me to witness a new sound or rhythm to her speech or her experiencing something for the 1st time.
She lets me watch her in the moment becoming who she is, everyday.
It's so much more than just a physical beauty but at the root of what beautiful is sourced from. Pure and innocent. Powerful and unending.
Love is probably the most important concept of our existence. We Love doing things, eating things, causes, teams, animals, and of course people. Our whole day is built around doing the things we Love or doing things we don't necessarily Love in order to be able to do the things we Love. I think you get the point, Love is important.I mention this because it is often the most overlooked thing to express to the ones we Love the most. I find it easy and quite necessary to say it multiple times a day to my 10 month old daughter even though she does not fully comprehend the words I whisper in her ear. My wife on the other hand can all too well comprehend these powerful words but yet I speak them less frequently.
I have read many words on Love but recently I reread a wonderful book by Gary Chapman called "The Five Love Languages" an insightful text on how to communicate Love to your partner (kids/family etc.) in a way that each person will receive and feel it the most according to their Love language. Some people like to hear the words, others like gestures of Love, or gifts etc. It is a very simple concept but extraordinarily powerful - try it!The 5 languages are:
Once you start speaking with these concepts a very real and noticeable change will appear and your relationships will become better.
I generally subscribe to clean living, I don't smoke and I don't drink. If I have a beer once every 6 or 8 months that's a lot and it's because the stars have aligned and that moment required that beverage. It's not because I have a problem with alcohol but because I sincerely don't enjoy it.
This all comes to mind because I was thinking of the places I have traveled to (now more than 50 countries) and some of the things I have experienced during my travels. In the case of liquor here is a photo of something I tried in Laos.
It's a jar of Whiskey infused with various (mostly poisonous) spiders, lizards, snakes, and insects. They say it helps with virility and I was up for "a taste of" the challenge. Although it appears disgusting it isn't the strangest drink I've had…
Once while enjoying the sights of Bangkok's Chinatown I happened upon another "virility" elixir. It seems they enjoy snake very much and in this particular version they (literally) blended up a Cobra with some Thai Whiskey and offered it up in it's grey green shot glass liquid form. At 25¢ I couldn't pass it up. What can I say, traveling is about trying new things.
There is one thing I do enjoy having every few days and that's either an Iced Latte or a hot Green Tea. I find if I need to practice intensely it really helps me focus and get the job done or sometimes I use it to simply function.
In the case of coffee, I was traveling in Java, Indonesia (that is where coffee gets it's alternate name Java) and once had a cup of THE most expensive coffee in the world. I had read about this "special" coffee and knew that in the U.S.A. it cost somewhere in the $50 per cup range. Now you ask yourself, "$50 for a cup of Java?" Well let me explain…
There is a small slender animal called the Civet (a cross between a Cat and a Raccoon) that lives in Indonesia. It eats the coffee "cherries" and excretes (passes) the coffee bean after digestion (coming straight from the Rodents ass!). This process leaves their stomach enzymes to go to work on the beans, which adds to the coffee's prized aroma and flavor. This delicacy is called Kopi Luwak (can anyone say Google?).
I did not have the sophisticated palette to appreciate such a delicacy but then again the same goes for a $500 bottle of wine I once tried.
As I stated I have been to a lot of places and thought I'd seen it all. While visiting Yogyakarta, Indonesia I had my feet exfoliated by 200 small fish (it tickles!). I've since see it in a few more locations and hear it originates in Turkey. These little fishies basically eat the dead skin cells off of your feet leaving a clean layer of skin when they've finished feasting. I've been told it is better to go in the morning before they have eaten, very strange…
Speaking of traveling I finally had a chance to see how the other half (1%) live. I scored a last minute super saver 1st class ticket back to NYC on Thai Air and boy was it serious! Escorted immediately upon entering the airport by my personal assistant who walked me through all the line-less check in points while handing me a warm towel and my beverage of choice. Then I was picked up by my personal people mover and whisked off to the exclusive Royal Thai Air 1st class lounge where upon entering was asked, "Mr. DeRosa would you like a head, back, shoulder, or leg massage?" and "how long? 30 minutes? 2 hours?" I haven't even mentioned the iPad menu I was then handed (I'm on my 2nd Massaman Curry!) and all the delicacies it was offering. Did I mention this was all complementary? During my delicious Thai feast I was informed that I would be seated next to a member of the royal family;-)
Well I was knee deep in 1st class luxury when my personal assistant leaned over and said, "Mr. DeRosa we are ready for you" (mind you it's 5 minutes before takeoff and we are on the opposite side of the airport!).
I was then led thru several secret short cuts and whisked along on my second (electric) people mover accompanied by a very old Japanese guy (said to be a Mitsubishi CEO) and 3 of the King of Thailand's family. This silent high-speed ride went right to my gate in seconds.
You know how most of the time you try to board the plane as early as possible to claim that tiny bit of overhead compartment real estate that economy passengers attempt to get? When I arrived I had my very own overhead compartment, which made my fairly large carry on bag look quite small. In fact I could have climbed up in there my self and slept next to my bag! The 1st class private "room" held 10 seats but could have easily fit 40 economy class seats. To get an idea of the spacing, there were 5 windows in between each seat and a completely non-obstructed window view of both the left and right sides of the plane. At one point I peeked back into Business class and from where I was standing THEY looked cramped (I was afraid to view economy from this perspective;-).
I guess the King of Thailand's family were visiting Japan because when we exited the plane multiple Japanese & Asian news crews were waiting (at 5am no less!). Needless to say Narita's 1st class lounge in Tokyo wasn't quite as amazing as Bangkok's but on the Tokyo/NYC leg of the flight I did have my own personal ANA stewardess. When I told her no thank you upon receiving my onboard flight menu she wouldn't take no for an answer literally and insisted I let her make me something, anything! - God is good and I'm glad I had the experience;-)
I was reading an interesting post the other day titled "Why My Kids Are Not The Center Of My World". The writer pointed out how life is hard and we cannot let our little one's think that someone will always run to fulfill their every need.
On a similar note it got me thinking that a child should not be rewarded for mediocrity. 100% effort is cause for praise but only a realization of excellence should be honored with a trophy or badge. Where I come from we call that tough Love.
In my career (as a musician) you work hard, sacrifice everything, for less than a guaranteed pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. I do this because I Love it and it is a way for me to uniquely express myself. I would rather possibly fail at attempting a great challenge then to choose and fail at mediocrity.
My teachers at the University of Miami would constantly ask us which are you, "The Chicken or the Pig?" referring to breakfast. You see the Chicken is involved because she lays the Egg but the Pig is committed to the meal 100% by supplying the Bacon.
"If you could wave a magic wand to ensure that you would have the approval and admiration of everyone on the planet, forever. What, in that case, would you choose to do with your life?" - Russ Harris
I continued my weekend "road trips" drumming for H.R. (of the Bad Brains but was getting into a tricky balancing act of juggling my presence as a hands on dad and the busy demands of a full-time musician. This is tough because we as musicians work our whole lives to get things to a level where people are calling you for interesting and lucrative gigs and one would never want to be forced to turn any of them away but… I was finding this my reality.
Just as things were at a crossroads H.R. was forced to take a little time off for health reasons and other personal obligations. (Co-incidentally) just at the same time a good friend of mine got the gig with the guys in FUN and had to leave his "well-paid-in-town" corporate/club date band.
I re-evaluated my goals and priorities and imagined what might fulfill my musical, financial, and familial obligations in the appropriate manner and it became clearer to me where my priorities needed to be.
The timing of these two events really couldn't have been better! My friend recommended me for the gig he was leaving (and with H.R. on hiatus) I smoothly slid right in performing "in-town-high-end" gigs with some very talented players.
I felt with the weekend events, my recording and drum tracking sessions, Sunday church gigs, and teaching I have a full plate with the least conflict. Funny what happens when you put it out there.
What often screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it's supposed to be. The reason so many of us give up is because we tend to look at how far we still have to go, instead of how far we have come. Remember, life is a journey, not a destination. This moment, like every moment, is a priceless gift and an opportunity. Be positive, smile, and make it count. Pretend today is going to be great. Do so, and it will be. Although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. A great attitude always leads to great experiences.
here she was, so beautiful, so…
to think i had everything and nothing to do with this moment.
her smile so big, so bright. bringing joy to everyone who caught her gaze. i believe a love grows in brooklyn. my heart, once filled with limits knows no bounds for a love now grows in brooklyn.
she, unlike all before her or perhaps even yet to come. bold and brave, always smiling. a love truly grows in brooklyn.
my heart is awakened but even more i am awakened. now allowed to feel the full depth of emotion(s) once told to stay clear, no man should go. i am freed by her presence - i am anew.
I pinch myself most moments. i am no more.
a love grows in brooklyn and i am a lucky soul. sounds and touch, caring caress, oh my love grows in brooklyn and i will never be the same.
my love grows in brooklyn and i will forever be changed.
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation etc.
Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.
It faced a blank wall.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.
The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."
There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.
It may be cliché but that doesn't make it any less true, Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.
I have been a "stay home" dad for the past several months. My work is flexible enough to allow my wife to continue her 9 to 5 career allowing me to spend quality time with our new addition. It's been a bit tricky balancing my work demands and our schedules but it's so worth getting to spend time sharing smiles everyday with my little one.
This time spent with my daughter allows me to slow down and experience things anew. I recently had the best 4 and a half minute treat in a (DUMBO) park near my home. I was walking my daughter along the path when I noticed just a few feet from us was an ordinary looking bird on a branch singing it's song. We just stopped in our tracks to listen to this intricate array of tweets, whistles, and calls performed as if it were a private performance just for the two of us. I'm so glad I didn't have my iPod on or else I would have missed this moment. (#beauty in nature) (#simple pleasures).
I like to read. I generally do not have enough time to read all that I want to but it is really wonderful when I have the time (or situation) to read more (like when traveling etc.). Having said that, I have recently (by accident) discovered Epictetus. He was a philosopher, slave, and incredibly intelligent guy. His philosophy is part of the stoic school of thought and has many qualities and attitudes similar to those of the Buddhist teachings that started on the other side of the world around the same time (must have been in the water;–)
Here are two excerpts of Epictetus' writings:
"When you get older, life seems to just sort of happen to you. Your youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. But as you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don't lose sight of what's important. So if you still have a reasonable amount of control over your circumstances, you should do what really matters. Because life won't always be just about you."
"An abundance mentality says there is enough for everyone, we only have to realize and live by it. A scarcity mentality is where you have the belief that you always have to fight for your part in a limited world." Which mentality do you have?
So many things to write about since my last entry here. I've been touring with H.R. since the beginning of the year and the shows have been great. The band is sounding really tight and our interplay is most enjoyable. It's one of those gigs I get to go into that special zone that isn't always possible on commercial gigs. The "zone" I mention is a rare state of consciousness while I'm playing that I'm both the performer and the listener. It's more complicated than that. I'm aware of everything around me, I'm feeling totally in control and centered but also being carried (floating) gracefully forward. Zen. This state is the thing that makes all the work and sacrifice worth it!
Another nice thing about this gig are the fans. H.R. is a very sweet guy and always willing to meet and say hi to fans. The people that have come out have been so nice and have a great respect for H.R. and what he has done over his four decade career. We are really excited to play the New Orleans Jazz Festival in a few weeks and I look forward to meeting all the nice folks during that event.
So far I've been really blessed to have been in the company of 3 of the real legends in music (Debra Harry, Joey Ramone, & H.R.). The consistent quality they all shared besides being extremely talented was that they were really nice people.
For example, Joey Ramone was a big fan of one band I worked with and would always have us open for him at CBGB's. After one such show I walked off stage dripping in sweat from a particularly empassioned performance and Joey came up to me and asked me if he could get me something to drink. I was floored because here is one of the legends of Rock and Roll minutes before he's about to take the stage caring enough to ask me if he could get me something to drink. I was really touched and couldn't help but think that this may have been one of the qualities that allowed him to have the impact he had.
"What appear to be faults in others may actually be reflections of our own emotional afflictions." - Buddha
One day Buddha was walking through a village teaching the Dhamma. A very angry and rude young man belonging to another group of believers came up and began insulting him. "You have no right teaching others," he shouted. "You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake."
Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, "Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?"
The man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, "It would belong to me, because I bought the gift."
The Buddha smiled and said, "That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself."
When "trying" situations occur, I usually have 3 specific reactions:
The 1st is an emotional reaction, one that is immediate and the most powerful of the 3 but usually the worst response.
Later after some time has passed and I've had a chance to cool down I usually have a more intellectual response, one based on fairness and the "correct" way to deal with things as I see it. Here's where it gets tricky.
After even more time and some soul searching the 3rd response, one based on my belief system and the person I am trying to become comes to mind. This one is usually the exact opposite of my 1st reaction, more (for)giving than the 2nd and definitely the hardest for me to do. This one takes the most strength (and faith) but allows me to go forward without any baggage.
"Any physical action if repeated for some time becomes a habit. In the same way, any thought which is allowed to rise up again and again gives rise to a definite tendency to reproduce that type of thought, and therefore becomes a habit.
To think habitually of a certain virtue is to become that virtue, and to allow the mind to dwell on thoughts of vice for any length of time is to become guilty of that vice."
A Hindu saint, who was visiting the river Ganges to take a bath, found a group of family members on the banks shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked, "Why do people shout in anger at each other?" The disciples thought for a while and one of them said, "Because we lose our calm we shout." But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner," asked the saint. The disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the Hindu saint.
Finally the saint explained…
"When two people are angry at each other, their hearts are a great distance apart. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance."
What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small. The saint continued, "When they Love each other even more, what happens?" They do not speak but only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they need not even whisper, but only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they Love each other.
He looked at his disciples and said, "So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that will distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return."
It's 5:41am on the 1st day of 2014 here in Bangkok, Thailand where I write this entry. I'm a bit jet-lagged and got to thinking about the past 12 months.
This was the most amazing year of my life hands down. I became a 1st time father which on it's own was enough to make the year amazing but I also traveled the world with my work and family, I got to custom build my own personal rehearsal & drum tracking studio (CDR Studios), was able to meet and work with many new musicians whom I now can call friends, and I grew so much as a person and artist.
I feel I've become a more complete person since my daughter came into my life. She helped me feel and experience things much more deeply. My perspective and priorities became clearer and my appreciation of the small moments with her became priceless.
The new year is off to a great start – I'm visiting friends and family here in Thailand for the next few weeks and then I head back to New York to start rehearsals for a string of dates backing H.R. (of Bad Brains).
2014 plans: build stronger community, don't sweat the small stuff, remember it's all small stuff, laugh more, and give a lot more.
Wishing all a safe and blessed 2014 from Bangkok;-)
Happy New Year!
Here are some tidbits I think you may find interesting.
Hopefully you will pick what you like and pass it along…
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."
– Albert Einstein
Two cool movies I recently saw:
Dave Grohl's "Sound City" documentary. A unique insight into both Sound City Studios in L.A. and the musicians who recorded there. I am so surprised at how many of my favorite albums were captured there!
Another powerful and brilliant movie was "Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close".
"We are not what we think we are… We are not even what others think we are… We are what we think others think we are."
Here are several online videos I suggest you make time for:
This news anchor looses it on air but is right on point and makes a lot of sense. Kudos to MSM"s Dylan Ratigan!
The next video is from the band World Order. Although their music is nothing special the videos they create are. They perform synchronized group (robotic) dance moves amidst busy cityscapes from around the world (including NYC).
This video is of the sweetest little boy Luiz Antonio from Brazil. If we all had his wisdom the world would be a better place.
The last video is from a commencement speech titled "This Is Water". Hope you enjoy it.
A Cherokee elder sitting with his grandchildren told them, "In every life there is a terrible fight – a fight between two wolves.
One is evil: he is fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is good: joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion."
A child asked, "Grandfather, which wolf will win?" The elder looked him in the eye, "The one you feed."
Lesson: Development of good character depends on the everyday choices one makes.
There is a lot of talk these days about our tax system and what percentage the wealthy should pay. I personally think we should encourage and even celebrate those people who work hard and become wealthy. The thing is that no-one likes to pay taxes. There is a school of thought that believes the best and most fair way to raise tax revenue is through our spending and not on what we earn. This seems like a win win for everyone after you do the research. If you make a lot of money and want to live in such a wealthy lifestyle then naturally you'll end up paying more in taxes. If you are poor or less able to earn a large income then you will by default pay less in taxes. This system can raise the amounts needed to run the country without penalizing those that are wealthier just for being rich. Simply put - spend more pay more, spend less pay less. It's laid out here and an interesting read – "The Purple Tax Plan"."If I had my life to live over again, I would have waxed less and listened more…
Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. "Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that woman up on your shoulders and carried her!" "Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her."
Lesson: The practice of one's belief is more important than rigid adherence to a belief in one's practice.
Welcome! A lot of things have happened in the past few weeks and months including the birth of my first child. I feel very blessed by her arrival and my life has changed so quickly and in ways I had not imagined. I've spent many all nighters holding her and feeling emotions I have never felt so deeply before.
This new phase in my life has kept me closer to home for long stretches of time which has allowed me to rethink and update my website. This new blog page is one such update. I hope that I can use this platform to communicate my thoughts, ideas, and career happenings in a clear and entertaining way. I also hope to offer a different perspective (mine) on all things "life" - something that we all share.
Please come back often and I hope you enjoy it;-)
We each want many things and for us drummers it could simply be learning that new hot lick or perhaps for the majority of us it's landing that big gig. Regardless of whatever it is we only have so much control over what happens and what comes our way.
We can try to achieve our goals by several ways:
1) Staying focused and having faith in ourselves.
2) Through God or a spiritual belief system.
3) By our actions (believing that by doing the right thing consistently it will bring us the results we desire).
These tactics may or may not bring us to the place we seek but by being open to having a new or different perspective your life experience can certainly be better. Here's what I mean:
We often don't appreciate what is around us and often desire most what we don't have. We naively seek what is in our minds eye more which can lead to frustration and disappointment. By not obtaining what we want, we are susceptible to connect it to our self worth i.e. self-esteem.
Another concept to think about is if you did achieve all you desired, would you be happy? Would it make you a better person? Would you even be satisfied? I bet not! If you did get that big gig that all of your friends and community looked at as success and a great achievement would you be able to handle it? Not the drumming part but the personal part. Would it bring out qualities in you now kept in check… ego, arrogance, selfishness, greed, or wastefulness. These are a few of the many qualities you may not realize will become a challenge when you are put in an envious position. You could in fact alienate the people currently around you when your personal stock goes up. In the end getting what you want may cost you more than you are aware of.
Something thing I always try to point out to my students is that before you can play the pattern or groove that is now so difficult and beyond your ability, "remember this moment". Things seem so valuable and perhaps even unachievable before you are able to do or get them but immediately after you master that groove or lick it becomes less valuable. This goes with anything - we want what we cannot have.
Here is another approach; Try a deliberate practice to "Be Here Now". Simple words but very hard to do and maintain. By living in the moment along with the 3 original ways listed above we may at least enjoy the "ride" so to speak… the process. The moment and what we do with it is all we really have. Living in the present "Mindfulness" as the Buddhists call it will not only enable us to strive towards our goals but also enjoy the path we take getting there.
The journey each day is the only place we have to make solid and wise choices in every moment. Acting in a mindful way will teach you to be sensitive to and also value more the people and things currently around you. This important practice will set you up far more to win in life than any goal or desire achieved.
Let me leave you with "The Story Of The Chinese Farmer"
Long ago, there was an old farmer who lived in a small village. He was a poor farmer who had one horse. He used his horse to plow the fields so that he could make a living.
One day, the horse broke out of the corral and ran away. Upon hearing the news, the villagers came by saying, "Such bad luck, how will you manage?" The old farmer shrugged and said, "Good luck, bad luck - who's to say, who's to know."
Perplexed at the old farmer's nonchalance towards the apparent tragedy, the villagers went about their business. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. Again the villagers came by very excited telling the old farmer "Oh! What great luck you have, it was fortunate for the horse to have run off in the first place." The old farmer shrugged and said, "Good luck, bad luck - who's to say, who's to know." Again they were perplexed at his nonchalance towards the apparent good fortune and went on their way.
The following day, the old farmer's son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. "What bad luck!" The villagers exclaimed. "Your son has broken his leg, that's terrible." The old farmer shrugged and said: "Good luck, bad luck - who's to say, who's to know." I'm sure by now you can guess the villagers reaction.
A few days later, military officials came to the village to draft young men for the war that was raging in the south. Seeing that the old farmers' son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The villagers congratulated the old farmer on his good fortune but the old farmer shrugged and said, "Good luck, bad luck…
*Proverbs 3:5 states, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Like the old Chinese farmer told his neighbors, we can't always see how things that appear to be bad can be used for good purposes. But the Lord's promise is that he will bring good out of the bad experiences of life if we will trust him to do so.
Making sense of a good or bad situation is sometimes misleading. Regardless, you could not have the good without knowing the bad and things certainly are not always what they seem.
This is an excerp from a Modern Drummer Magazine Blog Post. Greetings Modern Drummer!, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday time with family and friends! I wanted to mention a few words about the wonderful experience I had recently. I was asked by ShareTheMic & the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to go to Egypt with my band Monkfish as a Jazz Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department.
The group went over to perform Jazz and other American styles of music for a series of concerts. Monkfish performed at several amazing venues in different cities around the country including Median Abu Al Haggag (Luxor Temple), U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Markaz El Ebda (Alexandria Center Of Arts), and Qubet Al Ghuri in Cairo.
As the musical director I was in charge of the collaboration between several respected groups including "El Toboul Al Nubia" and others from the various cities that we were visiting. Our goal was to fuse "American" & "Egyptian" styles creating a true blend of the best each culture has to offer.
While touring Monkfish was also blessed to participate in several clinics and workshops including one at Amideast an English language school and one at a children's hospital called Health And Hope Oasis in Wadi El Natrun. HHO is a very special place that cares for children with cancer and provides homes for their families. Volunteers plant and nurture organic crops to help fight the children's illness through nutrition. Tim Reyes, Dan Paccione, myself, and diplomat Mike Hankey helped dig and build a pathway during our visit.
The 90 minute interactive workshops on Jazz, included a description of the individual performer's backgrounds, instruments, and also integrated participants into the music via song and demonstration. We tried to expose the youth to American culture, music, and of course our friendship. This experience far exceeded my expectations and it's effects will last well into the future. Smiles were plentiful!
Another wonderful experience we were able to have was to make a live appearance on the "Naharaka Siad" (Lovely Morning) T.V. Program. We were interviewed and got to perform several songs. As if that wasn't exciting enough we also appeared on "Sharq Al-Owsat" (The Western Street) Radio Show giving a live interview and performed many songs on the hour live (Middle East Radio) broadcast.
The motivation behind this tour was to show the U.S.'s support and unity for the new rebirth of Egypt. This effort is key for the State Department to promote positive images of the region and will be used by the various tourism boards and non profits to promote harmony, the people, culture, and sights of the region. The hope is to dispel any incorrect views the world may have of the region.
Thanks goes out to Evans Drumheads! The swag that Evans/D'Addario provided me for the Egypt workshops was a great asset in motivating the normally reserved students to ask questions and interact with my band during the workshops performed there. 1000 Thank you's to Rick Drumm, Marco Soccoli, and Steve Lobmeier for that!To learn more about or to make a donation go to:
In this entry I wanted to talk about drumming health. There are 3 aspects to this important balance.• Physical – eating right and exercising
I've been drumming since I was eleven years old and never really thought too much about my physical body and it's up keep. I have always been very active and blessed with good genes in regards to healing and health. I've also considered myself an athlete in a way because of the physical demands drumming requires but it didn't go much further than that thought. Over years of practice and performing the repetitive movements we do create some strain and stress on individual body parts and muscles. At times, I will drum as much as 8 hours in a single day. This demand from our bodies over time can develop into a chronic condition. I had this unlucky situation come to my attention recently.
Earlier this year, over the course of several weeks my lower back was becoming stiff and eventually grew very painful. This continued to the point that after about 6 weeks of this progression I was at times barely able to get out of bed. All my life I have been blessed with a body that heals quickly and if I just work through it, it would fix itself in time. Much to my dismay, this time would be different. I am fortunate enough to have a very good M.D. nearby my home, so I limped my way over to see him. After a few very specific tests my doctor found what appeared to be a condition that developed (and went unnoticed) over a long period of time. Specifically my L5/S1 (a vertebrae in the lower middle back) was slightly compressed causing my muscles to both compensate and cause my spine to twist in a not so drum friendly way.
What I soon realized was, that with a recent apartment move I had started sleeping in a new bed frame. Each morning when I would sit up (in bed) and answer my emails etc. I was sitting in a new less friendly position to my back (L5/S1). Unknowingly I aggravated this condition to the point of my then present state of limited mobility and absolutely no drumming fun. The positive thing was that after learning the source of my pain (and about my then unknown condition) I was able to not only fix the immediate problem but also address the bigger long-term situation. This also got me thinking about my setup and more importantly, my seat. I realized I have had the same drum throne for more then 10 years. I quickly went out and researched the various thrones available and replaced my old Honda seat with a new hi-tech Cadillac!
I am happy to report that after several Chiropractic / Acupuncture sessions I was not only back up and running (Blissfully Drumming!) but ultimately dealing with an ongoing condition until now not realized. The point of all this is to strongly communicate to each of you to listen to your body. It's imperative to not only try and prevent any potential injuries that our drumming can cause, but that we also each take the time to stretch before and after practice, rehearsals, and shows. It's impossible to do what we do as drummers (including lifting heavy gear) and not go unscathed over the course of time. Trying to make exercise a regular part of our routine will go a long way towards this prevention.Since my recovery I have made 3 new decisions regarding my physical health.
In this installment I wanted to continue to talk about drumming health. As previously stated in Part 1 there are 3 components to this important balance.• Physical – eating right and exercising
I keep a busy practice and performing schedule day in and day out. Working at this pace especially in a busy place like New York City can force one's mind to become constipated. I find trying to function with an unclear mind slows down my creative juices. Having a clear and unfettered mind can help us drummers to think outside of the box and unleash our creative potential to it's fullest.
I play with many original artists and bands so coming up with new and interesting drum parts as well as form & feel suggestions is par for the course. I need my creativity to flow because as you work and grow with an artist your musical investment also grows and I'm often asked to contribute to the writing and song ideas as well. I have several techniques or regimens I keep as part of my life style that helps me to keep my mental clarity.
I find that getting away from music and even my regular lifestyle pattern for a period of time really helps me recharge. For example, right now, I'm writing this on Tanjung Bira beach in Sulawesi, Indonesia. I don't think I can get any farther from my life literally or figuratively then this. I didn't bring any sticks and have not touched my ipod in two weeks! I try to take at least one trip/adventure per year for several weeks at a time to break out of my daily pattern. A psychiatrist friend of mine said it takes at least two weeks of life pattern change for your mind to truly benefit from a vacation.
When I travel I try to learn some words in a new language and explore the local/native music from the region I visit. Often times I am able to pick-up unique drums and percussion instruments from these places as well! I cannot express how helpful these new experiences and influences are on my drumming style and contributions back home.
At times my schedule is way to busy or I am unwilling to go away again because I just returned from a tour. I don't like to be away from the city too much especially since I have obligations to the artists I work with. When this happens I find that going to art openings, local galleries, and museums, allows me to see composition and color from a new perspective.
The third thing I do and have done for as long as I've played drums is photography When I was studying music performance at the University of Miami I minored in photography and even worked at Miami Hurricane campus newspaper. It helped me to balance and broaden my creative outlet as well as to meet new people and see new things. To this day I get called to take pictures of bands and musician friends as well as events and print assignments.The third and last aspect of drumming health is spiritual.
I think this is as important as any rudiment you will ever practice. Knowing how to speak is useless if you have nothing to say. I feel that the spiritual part of this trinity is the content. I repeat a simple mantra each day, "It's not all about me." Sounds simple to grasp but to put it into practice really is a very hard thing to do. Simple things like not getting all bent out of shape when you just miss getting the subway as the door closes. Or how about not getting the gig you so wanted to a guy you know you can out drum… sound familiar? Did you ever think about that guy? I mean his situation. You may have steady work already and your rent IS paid etc. Compassion is a very powerful thing. It isn't all about me.
I am a Christian, that may mean different things to different people. What it simply means to me is that ultimately I'm not entirely in control. I live by faith and don't ask for more then I need. If I am blessed with more then that, I try to help others who are not as fortunate.
When I play I surrender, I try to let the energy flow through my body and hands to speak in a way that I might not normally play. Some people meditate, some pray, some chant or rub beads. It doesn't matter what you choose the only thing that matters is you realize that humility and the bigger picture is what's really important. I try to let my drumming be a personal prayer that all who hears can enjoy.
Having a spiritual walk and aspect to your life completes the balance of our place in life. It's like 4 or 5 musicians playing in perfect synchronicity. Imagine 4 or 5 billion people in complete harmony… When you think you got it bad and things are not going the way you hoped they would, stop and take a step back because you still have it real good.
Having these "other" creative and lifestyle options help keep your perspective and mental clarity. Having a sense of the bigger picture will make you smile more often and subconsciously that affects your playing.
I've been thinking about this for some time and wanted to write about it for clarity (mine and yours).
Gospel or church drumming is the new "hot" gig these days. Companies like Vic Firth have really noticed and supported this vein of drummers even to the point of having a video series dedicated to these gifted players.
I play for my church (and others at times) and have been on and off since I was 15. Does this make me a "Gospel" drummer? It says in the good book that without love we are like a noisy gong or "clanging cymbal" and so every time I get behind the kit and play with the God gifted talent that I have I try to make people smile and spread a positive energy saturated in Love. This isn't always easy because I m human and at times distracted from my ultimate purpose. Drumming has not come easy to me and I've had to work very hard to get where I am. I still believe my path and work is spirit directed and to honor the talent I do have I try to spend time each day perfecting it and growing in my craft.
This concept of playing with Love hit home many years ago when I was studying at The Berklee College of Music. Being a drummer I was not as melodically aware as I could have been and had a very difficult time with ear training. I worked really hard at it (as with drumming) because it was not natural to me. I had an amazing teacher named Herman Johnson who not only understood this but also tried to help us find motivation and purpose. He told a story one day in class about a dream he had and wanted to share it with us. Here I'll share it with you.
One evening while Herman was sleeping an angel came and asked if there was something he wanted to know. Herman thought for a minute and finally said, "Could you show me the difference between Heaven and Hell?" The angel said come with me.
At once they both were in a fancy room with a large banquet table full of the most delicious food one could ever imagine! He watched the many guests but noticed there was no silverware. The servants came a few moments later with the largest utensils he'd ever seen and each guest was given a 6-foot fork to use when eating their food. Many attempts were made but the fork was so big and awkward it was impossible to bring it to their mouths! This went on for some time noticing that not one person was able to maneuver a single bite!
The angel then took him to another room similar in every way as the last one. This time when the large silverware was brought out and the guests scooped up a delicious portion of food instead of trying to feed themselves they offered the food to the person next to them thus allowing each person to eat and be content.
The angel turned to Herman and said, "This is the difference between Heaven and Hell." Helping others and working together for our common good is the only way.
This image never left Herman and from that day forward he felt his calling was to use his musical gift in the same way. His goal was to spread Love and joy to all who could hear his music and try to make the world a better place.
I do not know what motivates people to do the things they do but in my case I feel good playing in a formally spiritual setting. I always try to use my drumming in a sort of prayerful dialog regardless of where or whom I am playing with.Does this make me a Gospel drummer?
I'm not sure because I play many different styles and not all of them are formally "Gospel." I am happy in my faith and have been blessed on many levels but this has nothing to do with my drumming "label" or even religion as far as I am concerned. It has to do with my faith and spiritual beliefs.
Greetings! At the invitation of Modern Drummer, I wanted to say hello.
I've been playing drums for a living since I was fifteen. I love drumming and have since I was about eleven years old. I remember being mesmerized by the ECM sounds coming out of my radio tuned into WPKN from Bridgeport, Connecticut. I knew at that young age that I would be a career musician.
The path music has taken me on has been a wonderful one. I could always depend upon music to carry me through the best and the worst of times. The places I've been and the people I've met have been made possible by this choice I made at such a young age. I started out playing in rock bands, but after studying more and more I developed a love for jazz and other improvisational music. Today I'm very blessed to play in a very wide range of musical situations.
For the past ten years I have been working a lot in the very fun and creative world of modern dance. I think over those ten years I've worked with or accompanied most of the big names in that world. I remember getting a frantic call from Ron Peri (owner of Peridance), begging me to drop everything to come and play for Donald Byrd because he had already thrown out (dismissed) two drummers that week! (Drummers like Max Roach and Mino Cinelu have worked with Donald Byrd).
Playing for dance and doing it well isn't easy. It takes part mind-reading, part body-movement interpretation, part improvisation skills, and a very large rhythmic/ethnic vocabulary to kick a class or company of dancers! I think you get the idea of how unique and special working with dancers can be.
I've had the good fortune to write/compose and perform live for dance, as well as with many very talented singer-songwriters and producers. Working in dance has helped me to develop a unique sound (as mentioned in MD's April 2007 Kit Of The Month column) and style. Drumming for dancers is the only gig (besides busking) that I know of that we drummers can do alone. This independence is rare and important.
Few people would dispute the fact that one of the queens of rock & roll would have to be Debbie Harry, so when the phone rang as it does most times when someone wants to hire me to play drums for them the voice on the other end says, "Are you available for these dates? xx/xx/xx" sure… and xx/xx/xx? This one I'm not sure about… VALENTINES DAY! (sH!t… My girlfriends going to kill me!) This one I'll definitely have to get back to you about. By the way who is it with anyway? Oh! Deborah Harry and Chris Stein… Yeah, I think I can make ALL those dates: ) ya' got anymore?
Well, I was pleased to say the least remembering my pre-pubescent days sitting in front of the TV watching "Solid Gold" (the dancers) and being totally captivated seeing the "Heart of Glass" video for the first time. This was long before I picked up a pair of drumsticks or MTV was even a concept!
When I received the tape I was pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of styles that we were to perform ranging from Reggae to Afro/Cuban all the way to the expected Blondie material. Little did I know but Deborah (as she was calling herself to differentiate this project from Blondie) was a real talent and could hang with the best of them. It seems Blondie had just finished recording there new record "No Exit" and were searching for a major label to pick it up. In the meantime Ms. Harry and Chris Stein were keeping their chops up by doing side projects like the "Jazz Passengers" and this one called "House Afire."
I show up at the first rehearsal and most of the musicians already new each other from previous musical situations, but I hadn't played with any of them. Being the new guy people were friendly to a point but with some reservation. Deborah was coming a little later and we were to work up some tunes beforehand. So, I kicked off the first number an afro-Cuban 6/8 thing and it smoked! After we finished all were silent… then suddenly the keyboardist/band leader stands up and says, "Wow! Now that we know you can play… What was your name?" Needless to say things went smoothly from then on.
Deb and Chris showed up and came over to introduce themselves (nice down to earth people without a hint of there prior accomplishments: ) and we rehearsed just like I had been doing my whole musical life. We were all creative working musicians none better or less important. We all new who just finished the new Matthew Sweet album and was to do the tour to follow or who had just finished the score to and opening on Broadway next month etc. but all especially Deb were ordinary people who just happen to make there living in a unique and sometimes highly public way.
I did learn some interesting things about Ms. Harry one of which was that she formed Blondie in her early thirties and didn't have a hit single until she was thirty-three! Well needless to say shortly after meeting and performing with Chris and Deb the album got picked up by BMG and the single "Maria" took off on the charts. All I can say is Ms. Harry if Clem ever gets food poisoning and you need a sub my number is…