This is a little drum dumb assness for ya but I was thinking that it was Dennis Chambers playing drums on this album. Now before you go any further you can know that it’s Dave Weckl. My bad.
The biggest problems with album like this is if you don’t know what to expect, they can be written off as a dated recording due to the very ‘out there’ sounds they used. Truth. But being released in 1986 a lot of this stuff was ahead of it’s time, and without a lot of time to actually digest how certain sounds sound, being in the tunnel of awesome it’s difficult to see what’s ‘too electronic drums’ or ‘too flaming guitar solo’ or ‘too cheesy keyboard’ sounds. In that same token, it’s what makes the music that much more remarkable. It’s the experimentation with the sounds with some phenomenal players. When it works it’s a very nice result.
My favorite track on this album is ‘Got a Match?‘. When hearing this phrase I immediately think of the Beavis & Butthead movie, and now that you do too we can move on to the album.
Although Rumble is somewhat uptempo and City Gate has it’s moments with some crazy drums in them, Got a Match? (see, how can you forget that scene?) is the first time the album let’s loose. The first time I heard this song I had to stop what I was doing to make sure I saved this track so I could listen to it bunch. It starts with a really awesome, yet really subdued drumming on the high hat and snare with alternating ghost doubles and a melodious keyboard line. After a short intro together the drums build adding some bass drum hits and the bass comes in. The keyboard takes you on a little journey for a minute until they come back to that hook from the intro. The beat this time includes some ride bell hits and a more complete build of the part. They meander for a bit then break for the drums to do their thing, come back for a hair then really letting the drums do their thing. Some keys and bass get thrown in but if there was ever a song where the drum solo doesn’t feel just gratuitous and is a real part of the song this would be that song. The beat on it’s own can be a solo for most drummers so the fact that it gets built up takes the song up that much further, while keeping the drums on track with the keyboard melody. Before you know it the song is over and you need to listen again to make sure you heard that correctly.
Coming in just shy of an hour with 11 songs this album covers a lot of ground. The electronic drum sounds and synth sounds get a workout throughout the album, but again as you’re coming into this stuff why wouldn’t you want to see how far you can explore it and see where it can go?
This album is further proof I have a long way to go to get over my ‘traditional’ jazz tastes and there are some amazing recordings out there that I’m excited to get involved with.
We walked up to the venue at 8pm and the line was halfway down the block on one side and about 30 ft on the other. Not being a fan of lines and assuming we wouldn’t get a table anyways we walked to the closest bar for a couple drinks. After 20 min we walked back to Martyr’s only to find the line still there. We waited for a little, then a random dude told me they’re doing sound check. Fine. We went back in line and waited for 5 minutes. I suggested going to a different bar but wise Kathryn said we should stay “what if they let people in?” “it’ll take 15 minutes to get everyone in anyways, we won’t miss anything”.
Eventually I convinced her to walk to the bar and if something happens we’d come back. We had just crossed the street when Benny Greb and Steve Smith walk outside with 2 snare drums and 2 sets of brushes. Benny apologizes for the delay but said they were going to entertain us with a brushes only rendition to one of my favorite songs of all time “Salt Peanuts“.
We stood on the street leaning up against a car with Benny and Steve’s backs to us. They tore it up and little did I know their quirky duets would be a running theme throughout the night.
Shortly after they let us into the club and we took our spots, just to the right of where we stood on Friday.
Jojo Mayer came out first with the group and played a mid tempo song, playing a fairly steady beat for the majority of the song before getting into ‘his style’ of playing, with a small solo. His solo was crazy, not in the style of Weckl hitting all the drums but his smoothness, and even some of his ‘tricks’. At one point he put his foot on the snare to dampen it while he was doing a 1 handed build roll. He’s not an all or nothing drummer, but he has a nice groove and when he let’s loose he has some great chops. One of the wildest things during his set was yes it’s a drum show and yes everyone wanted to watch him play drums, but Jojo jumped off the drums and let the singer Chrissi play while he sang Otis Redding’s (Sitting On) The dock of the bay.
Sure I would’ve liked to see Jojo play that song or another song but he had a nice voice and it was pretty cool to see that. She also wasn’t too bad herself on the kit. It was totally unexpected. When they finished she got back onto the microphone and said to make sure you get out of your comfort zone because that was where life begins. They played another song which Jojo tore up. During his last song I was distracted from the 2 members standing 5 feet from us, Steve and Benny. I had a hard time watching Jojo because I was thinking this might be my one time to shake their hands and I would’ve kicked myself for not having the guts to do it and regretting it when I got home.
When Jojo got off the stage they took it. Benny described a heart warming story seeing Steve at a clinic years ago where he performed Mr Hi Hat, a song by Max Roach. Eventually Steve taught it to Benny and well, the 2 of them played it. If you watch the video you’ll get an idea what it was like and watching the 2 of them do it was remarkable. Their rendition was a lot longer than the video but it definitely didn’t feel like it. They would alternate through some of the front and back sticking, then putting the sticks on their arm for 1 handed rolls, then off of their legs keeping the rhythm. Steve was able to trip Benny up a few times on some of the stick ‘tricks’ but it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch.
Then Dave Weckl was up. He said a few words thanking everyone for the show/camp and then tore into the songs. This man is nuts. Being late to the party on this guy (as in this year) the song Got a Match? got me really into his drumming. My biggest regret is that I didn’t have his music earlier in my life so I could have something absolutely insane to practice to and inspire me. However the universe presents you with material when you’re ready so now must be the time that I can more fully appreciate it. My best quote from Kathryn to explain how remarkable his playing is was when Dave was doing a solo and he was hitting all drums possible and she asked ‘where is the cowbell coming from?’. Dude is just so nuts that he was able to keep time on every other quarter note with it while doing his solo. Watching him perform was very inspiring. His set was more jazz and rock, but he didn’t keep still and was at the top of his game. His player made him a great closer for the 2 nights.
Dave left the stage and Benny and Steve went back up with an ironing board. Steve mentioned how one time in a hotel he went to another drummers room and they riffed on an ironing board together. Steve and Benny took the liberty of playing the ironing board with brushes, making the ironing board sound the best I’ve ever heard out of an ironing board. As they finished 2 folks put 2 glasses of red wine on the ironing board and they did a small cheers, hugged and left.
Jojo and Dave went back on the stage for an amazing rendition of Superstition. Near the end of the song Jojo and Dave were soloing at the same riff that Mike Mangini was tearing up on Friday, and these guys did the same. The sheer intensity coming from Dave’s set and Jojo’s grooves were amazing to watch together.
I was able to shake Jojo’s and Benny’s hand. I saw that Steve finished his wine and thus offered to buy him another one. Steve walked with me to the bar and he ordered the red wine. I stood next to him for a few minutes and he played a drum roll with brushes on the bar counter. Only now in my clear head were there questions I’d like to ask him as we waited for the wine to be given to us, but instead I just took a really low light selfie.
The entire event really was like a camp, with people getting together from different corners of the globe to teach 5 days of drumming. The performances were all fun with the drummers and band members hugging and shaking hands on stage as they would finish their sets. It was a group of people who became new friends through their love of music. Both nights of the show were great and for fear of choosing a favorite child I’m going to say I enjoyed them both, although secretly I have a favorite.
Out of all the Chicago venue’s that I’ve either played or watched a show this was the first time I was at Martyrs. It’s a fairly small, or for higher selling point ‘intimate venue’, with tables and chairs setup in front of the stage for this show, with standing room surrounding the seating area. There were actually 2 bars on each side of the place which made it very convenient. There were 3 drum sets setup on stage and once Benny took the stage we moved to the other side of the venue to make sure he wasn’t blocked by the conveniently placed posts throughout the venue. There were maybe 20 women at the show, including the woman who sang. Sadly I think they were just there with their boyfriends or husbands, like mine was. There could be an opportunity to get more girls into drumming.
Benny Greb is mostly an educator in Germany, although he recently released the awesome album Moving Parts as a trio. After hearing that album I was pissed to find out he’s not a big touring dude so the chance to see/hear him at Martyrs as part of the drum night was awesome and dumb luck it happened so shortly after hearing about him. The drummers chose the songs that they played with the bands for the evening. Benny started with Remember the Time, then a song that I’ve never heard, something about putting your money into the gas tank, an amazing drum solo, I shot the Sherriff then Day Tripper. The drums are just a weird extension of this man and he just messes with odd timing on the slow and fast side and triplets walking around the fine line that is the steady beat. His solo wasn’t just crazy rolls but a mix of awesome groove and then some crazy fills. As I’m now listening to this song it’s not exactly what his solo was, but this gives you an idea how he solos. My biggest complaint is that he didn’t play longer.
As we were clapping for Benny Steve Smith walked up on stage and sat right next to the pole. This was my view throughout the whole time he played as the venue was looking full at the other side. Steve’s position was funny when he’d play his right hand on the high hat and his left hand on the black snare just to the right of the pole. I wish I would’ve gotten a picture of that. Steve’s main credit for drumming is his early work with the band Journey from 1978 – 1985. Although that’s his most well known credit he’s really created a whole new life for himself with drumming since then as a session player, jazz player, educator, etc. Modern Drummer magazine voted him all around best drummer 5 years in a row. Steve’s set consisted of jazz pieces, first a song with sticks, then with brushes,then back to sticks. Eventually he picked up an African style drum and played with his hands on the drum and the set. For his last song he started scatting into his microphone, mimicking drum fills and beats. Then he started playing set along to this. This was insane. His scatting was better than some playing that I’ve heard and I didn’t hear any word trip ups in what he was doing, and he was flying through it. It was awesome.
As we were clapping for Steve Mike Mangini took the stage. He’s the current drummer for prog band Dream Theater and during 2002 – 2005 set 5 worlds fastest drummer records. He started smoothly leading into Stevie Wonders ‘Superstition’, followed by a brief guitar lick to lead into You don’t have to be rich. He played Higher Learning with an extending ending including riffing back and forth between bass, keys and drums. Through out his playing he mostly focused on his groove, which was more straight than swing and showcasing his double bass/fast hand fills. At one point he was doing a single handed roll which was insanely fast while he accented over the toms with his right hand. It was an awesome display. As he was finishing up Steve and Benny were next to the stage and I had a feeling what would happen next.
When the band finished their tune they walked to the side of the stage and Steve and Benny took place at their drum kits. Steve started scatting again and all 3 drummers played along. They each played a brief solo throughout the short performance and it was really cool to see the 3 distinct styles playing along to Steve’s voice.
When they finished their tune they started a simple rhythm on the snare drum, and Dave Weckl and Jojo Meyer walked onto the stage. They setup in a line from right to left of Mike Mangini, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Benny Greb and Jojo Meyer each with a snare drum in front of them, and a sideways bass drum in between Jojo and Benny. The band joined them briefly for a rendition of When the Saints go Marching in. Then the band stopped to let the drummer play off of each other starting with an 8 bar snare beat from Mike on down the line. A few times Benny was caught up in the fun and missed his starting point but he quickly caught it and it was a humorous instance between everyone.
It was awesome to watch the masters play off of each others style and see the fun the drum community can have with each other. Each style is slightly different and each drummer brought their unique style to the snare drum. I’m excited for the 2nd show on Tuesday!
I am sad that Benny didn’t come out of the back as I would’ve loved to shake his hand and get a selfie. Such is life, it was still awesome.