Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bobby Whitlock - My Time

Bobby Whitlock - My Time
The Domino Label 884501201063 (2009)

Track Listing:
1. You Sold Me Down the River
2. Bell Bottom Blues
3. It's Only Midnite
4. Wing and a Prayer
5. Home
6. Why Does Love Got to be so Sad?
7. I Get High on You
8. It's Only Thunder
9. Ghost Driver
10. There She Goes
11. I Love You
12. I was Born to Sing the Blues
13. Standing in the Rain  

Jim Keltner - Drums (8)
Bobby Whitlock - Vocals, Hammond B3 Organ, Piano, Slide Guitar, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar
Brady Blade - Drums
Darryl Johnson - Bass
Buddy Miller - Guitar
Beau Whitlock, Ashley Whitlock - Background Vocals
Steve Cropper - Guitar
Jim Horn - Saxophones
Barry Swain - Guitar
CoCo Carmel - Vocals
Tim Drummond - Bass

Simon & Garfunkel - Atlanta 2003

Simon & Garfunkel - Atlanta 2003
Unofficial Release (2003)

Track Listing:
1. Old Friends
2. A Hazy Shade of Winter
3. I Am a Rock
4. America
5. At the Zoo
6. Baby Driver
7. Kathy's Song
8. History of S&G
9. Hey Schoolgirl 
10. Wake Up Little Suzie
11. All I Have To Do Is Dream
12. Let It Be Me
13. Bye Bye Love
14. Scarborough Fair
15. Homeward Bound
16. The Sound of Silence
17. Mrs. Robinson
18. Slip Sliding Away
19. El Conda Pasa
20. Keep the Customer Satisfied
21. The Only Living Boy In New York
22. American Tune
23. My Little Town
24. Bridge Over Troubled Water
25. Cecilia
26. The Boxer
27. The Leaves That are Green
28. Feelin Groovy
29. Mrs. Robinson

Jim Keltner - drums
Paul Simon - guitar, vocals
Art Garfunkel - vocals
Warren Bernhardt - keyboards
Jamey Haddad - percussion
Pino Palladino - bass
Larry Saltzman - guitar
Rob Schwimmer - keyboards, theremin, vocals
Mark Stewart - guitars, vocals
Don Everly - guitar, vocals on 10. - 13.
Phil Everly - guitar, vocals on 10. - 13.

Eric Clapton - Old Sock

Eric Clapton - Old Sock
Bushbranch Records 51801 (2013)

Track Listing:
1. Further on Down the Road
2. Angel
3. The Folks Who Live on the Hill
4. Gotta Get  Over
5. Till Your Well Runs Dry
6. All of Me
7. Born to Lose
8. Still Got the Blues
9. Goodnight Irene
10. Your One and Only Man
11. Every Little Thing
12. Our Love is Here to Stay

Jim Keltner - drums (12)
Eric Clapton - guitars, vocals, producer 
Doyle Bramhall II - guitars, backing vocals, producer 
Justin Stanley - producer
Simon Climie - producer
Steve Gadd - drums
Willie Weeks - bass
Chris Stainton - keyboards
JJ Cale - backing vocals, guitar
Chaka Khan - backing vocals
Steve Winwood - Hammond B3 Organ
Paul McCartney - bass, vocals

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Jim Keltner: The Drummer's Studio Survival Guide


Q: Let's talk about your drums for a minute. Do you do anything to your kit to get it ready for the studio as opposed to the stage?

Jim Keltner: I don't play live that often. When I do I generally play the same drums I use in the studio. If it's a different set of drums, they're tuned the same way. I run my drums pretty wide open now - although it didn't always used to be that way. A drum is meant to go boom or bang; it's not meant to go bap. If you're going to do that you might as well use a cardboard box.


Q: What sort of room do you prefer to record in?

JK: I love big rooms, small rooms - all kinds of rooms. Sometimes you can get a bigger drum sound in a smaller room; that's something that was revelation to me a few years ago. When people started putting the drums alone in the big room and having artist and other musicians off in tiny little rooms, it was kind of opposite of the way it used to be. I've noticed that a lot of times the sound of drums is actually better when they're in a smaller, contained room.


Q: Are there certain mic's that you prefer on your drums because of the way they sound?

JK: I use a microphone in my bass drum that I really believe is fantastic - an AKG D-112. A lot of guys are using it now. I have both heads on my bass drum, so what they'll do is take a Neumann U47 or something and put it on  the outside.


Q: What do you discuss with engineer prior to a session in order to ensure a good drum sound?

JK: Believe or not, I usually don't do any talking to the engineer, since it's producer's medium. The producer, along with the artist - depending who the artist is and how much involvement he or she has - generally have an idea of what they want when they call me. So i'll let engineer do his thing. But i may bring another piece of gear - something to make drums sound a little funny or a different instrument to hang on the kit. When I do that I just generally tell the engineer what it's going to be and let him choose and place microphone.  I'm not knowledgeable enough of microphones to tell engineer to use this or that.
I've been fortunate over the years to work with great engineers - though I do wish that more engineers would be more adventurous. I do such mainstream stuff that there isn't as much adventurous as I would like. People are trying to be competitive and don't necessarily want to try new things.
Actually, as I hear myself saying that, I think about all the times I go to session where people will say, ”Listen, what can we do different this time?” So there's at least a lot of talk of it. (laughs) Whether it actually happens or not is another story.
The thing I run into all the time is that although I purpose - fully screw around with my drums just to get a different kind of sound, when I hear the record after the mixing and mastering is done, they've made me sound just like everybody else anyway. (laughs) I don't know what it is - it's a conspiracy in the musical world. There are more followers than there are leaders. But it's out of your hands unless it's your project.

Friday, February 8, 2013

V/A - Sound City-Real To Reel

V/A - Sound City-Real To Reel
Roswell Records 544992 (2013)

Track Listing: 
1. Heaven and All
2. Time Slowing Down
3. You Can't Fix This
4. The Man That Never Was
5. Your Wife Is Calling
6. From Can to Can't
7. Centipede
8. A Trick With No Sleeve
9. Cut Me Some Slack
10. If I Were Me
11. Mantra

Jim Keltner - Drums, Percussion (10)
Dave Grohl - Drums, Guitar, Producer, Vocals
Joshua Homme - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
Trent Raznor - Keyboards
Jessy Greene - Violin, Vocals
Rami Jaffee - Keyboards
Paul McCartney - Vocals, Guitar
Krist Novoselic - Bass
Pat Smear - Guitar
Alain Johannes - Guitar, Vocals
Chris Goss - Bass
Corey Taylor - Vocals
Rick Nielsen - Gitar, Vocals
Scott Reeder - Bass
Lee Wing - Vocals
Rick Springfield - Vocals, Guitar
Taylor Hawkins - Drums
Nate Mendel - Bass
Steve Nicks - Vocals
Tim Commerford - Bass
Brad Wilk - Drums
Robert Levon Been - Vocals
Peter Hayes - Vocals, Guitar

Charlie Watts & Jim Keltner Talk Drums

During the past 15 years, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts has been able to pursue his passion for jazz, playing in a variety of settings whenever he wasn’t otherwise engaged with the World’s Greatest Rock ’n Roll Band. In 1985, he formed a big band and toured the States, ultimately releasing Live at Fulham Town Hall on the Sony label. In 1991, he formed a small group to pay homage to the music that first grabbed him while growing up in London. In a span of five years, The Charlie Watts Quintet released a series of stellar recordings – From One Charlie, Tribute to Charlie Parker, Warm and Tender and Long Ago and Far Away – that reaffirmed Watts’ ongoing love affair with jazz.

Now, for his most personal and compelling statement to date, Watts has joined forces with fellow drummer Jim Keltner, a studio session ace whose lengthy list of credits includes work with Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, John Lennon, The Traveling Willburys and the aforementioned Stones. Together, the two drummers have created a genre-defying yet nonetheless heartfelt tribute to jazz drumming royalty. The song titles, each named for a different jazz drumming legend, tell the whole story. And though Watts and Keltner make no attempt to imitate their heroes by aping signature licks or trademark fills, they convey the very essence of their individuality and attitude on nine provocative tracks.

The bold Burundi beats on “Art Blakey,” for instance, convey the sheer power that piloted The Jazz Messengers for so many years. The jaunty energy of “Roy Haynes” captures the ebullient spirit of that ageless hipster while the majestic “Elvin Suite” is a fitting tribute to Elvin Jones, one of jazz’s most regal drummers and the “rolling thunder” behind John Coltrane’s quartet from the ’60s. The giddy samba groove of “Airto” speaks of the playfulness of that Brazilian master while the dirge-like “Tony Williams” is a stirring requiem for that formidable drumming master who died just a week before the recording session. Other tracks are named for bebop pioneers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, West Coast jazz icon Shelly Manne and smilin’ Billy Higgins, a charter member of the revolutionary Ornette Coleman Quartet that helped change the course of jazz.

An ambitious undertaking that had its beginnings at a Los Angeles recording studio in 1997, The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project evolved over nearly two years’ time, culminating in digital editing and overdub sessions at a Parisian recording studio near the end of 1999 with co-producer Phillipe Chauveau. DRUM! spoke to the two key participants in this startlingly unique session.

DRUM!: How did you initially propose this collaboration to Charlie?

Keltner: When we had this downtime [on the Stones’ Bridges to Babylon sessions] we would go into the other room, which was Studio 2. I brought my sampling machine down at one point because I was basically curious to hear what it would be like to have the Charlie Watts beat on a couple of my little sequences, you know, my songs, really. So he played on them one night. He didn’t know the form, of course, because he had never heard this stuff before. So he would ask, “What should I do?” And I would tell him, “Just go ahead and play and I’ll play along with you.” I wanted the core sound to be his. See, I don’t play like Charlie. Sometimes I try to in the studio but I’m a lot more busy, I guess.

DRUM!: What would you say is unique about Charlie’s playing?

Keltner: Listening back to some of these tracks I was floored because it was so amazing how Charlie can rush like mad and still make it feel great. But that’s what he’s always done with the Stones. That’s his style. With anybody else it would be like, “Oh, oh, he’s rushing.” But with him there’s such commitment or something – I don’t know exactly what it is. He can’t explain it and I don’t necessarily like going into too much detail with him about it. I just marvel at it. The essence of his playing is as a jazz player even when he’s playing rock, in that he starts a thing and he commits like jazz players do, with emotion.

DRUM!: It seems like quite an intuitive project, from the initial stages to its completion.

Keltner: Yeah, Charlie’s instincts were really fantastic on this. I have ultimate faith in his taste, so I told him, “Hey man, whatever you want to do.” I mean, nothing happened without Charlie’s approval. He really produced this thing. Charlie’s genius is that he oversaw everything and kept the thing simple, reigning it in from getting too ambitious with orchestrating around the melodies. Yeah, this is truly Charlie’s baby. I just feel really happy to be involved. To have done this with Charlie is truly special in so many ways. I treasure Charlie and always have. Not only me but every other studio player that I know has tried to emulate Charlie’s playing. And none of us has ever got it right because there’s only one cat that can do it. And I’m not sure why or how that is, but he’s certainly the one.

DRUM!: Charlie, I have to confess that when I received this CD, I just assumed it was going to be a continuation of your own interest in swing and bebop. I was quite surprised when I put it on.

Watts: Well, yeah, it is a departure, you might say.

DRUM!: Just checking out the names of the tunes: “Art Blakey,” “Max Roach,” “Tony Williams”...

Watts: Well, those names weren’t there in the beginning, but they kind of came up when we were making the original tracks. I mean, they could’ve been called “Track 1,” “Track 2.” They could’ve been called anything. But at the particular time we did this project, there happened to be an awful lot of people playing around Los Angeles and I’d go and see them with Jim – Billy Higgins, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones. And Tony Williams had died like the week before we began recording. Actually, that’s why Roy Haynes was in town, subbing for Tony on a gig. So those people were very much on my mind at the time we were recording. But these tracks have nothing to do with what they play, really. It’s more about a feeling that I get off of them, really. And it’s a tribute to all the people there.

Keltner: What would happen was Charlie would name these things afterward. He’d listen back to them and then say, “That’s Roy Haynes.” And I’d say, “Right!” I don’t know how he arrived at the “Billy Higgins,” but I trust him. All I know is I don’t second-guess him for anything. The man has impeccable taste about everything: his clothes, his music, the names of tunes. The Stones have relied on him forever but you never hear about that, you never read about it. Charlie never toots his own horn. He has never done that.

DRUM!: Some of the pieces fit particularly well, like the strong Burundi beat on “Art Blakey.”

Watts: Yeah, well that is very Art Blakey, isn’t it. What I didn’t want to do on this was, I didn’t want to have a saxophone player, which I was sorely tempted to have. And I didn’t want to have a guitar or any familiar sounding instrument like that because the percussion and various electronic things make the music here. The overtones of the rhythm make a melody in themselves. So I didn’t approach it like I would normally do in a band, you know, where I’d hire five guys to play with me or something. I wanted to keep this as sparse and as simply “drums” as possible. But we also did it very electronically. And that was kind of the point of interest for me because I’m not normally into that. So myself, I don’t know how to judge this record. I just find I like it but I don’t know why because it’s not what I like, if you follow what I mean.

DRUM!: What kind of sampling did you do on this project?

Keltner: Well, my sequences are all organic. They’re not anything that anybody would recognize. There’s no real keyboards on any of my stuff. All my sampled stuff is like fish steamers and boiled egg cutters – just odd things – pipes and a lot of steel shelves, just things that I’ve acquired over the years being struck and sampled. On the “Max Roach,” for instance, I just used a sample of one of those old high-pitched PTS drums. The berimbau and opera gong samples have been pitched and filtered so that you can barely tell what they are anymore.

DRUM!: Although there is a lot of electronic sampling, it still comes across like a kind of organic percussion choir.

Watts: Exactly. That’s what it should be. And I didn’t want to pin it down with an instrument, you know. The only thing I did add was the piano, which I think is such a beautiful instrument anyway. The rest of the sounds, besides drums and percussion, are either electronically made or they are sampled or something. So it’s not a state-of-the-art way of making a record, but it is fascinating somehow.

DRUM!: I thought “Elvin Suite” was particularly evocative.

Watts: That was really the one. The melody was a thing that Blondie Chaplin used to sing and hum along, and it was so beautiful. Blondie’s from South Africa and so I made it into a very African thing, which seemed to work rather well.

DRUM!: I remember first seeing Elvin play. He looked so regal sitting behind the kit, like one of the kings of Mali.

Watts: Yeah. I first saw him in 1961 or ’62, and he looks exactly the same now. It’s amazing, man. And he plays as well. It’s unbelievable. Him and Roy Haynes, who is one of the most incredible musicians I know. Those two guys are ageless.

DRUM!: I thought that the jaunty attitude behind the “Roy Haynes” piece perfectly conveyed his spirit.

Keltner: That’s good. I just met Roy not long ago. Well, I met him with Charlie that night at Catalina’s when he subbed for Tony, and then I got to hang out with him at the PAS convention in Ohio late last year. I just didn’t have the nerve to tell him about this project at the time, but he was fantastic to hang out with.

DRUM!: The ageless Roy Haynes. He’s unbelievable.

Keltner: Oh he is. He truly is.

DRUM!: I once asked him what was the secret of his unorthodox snare/hi-hat combinations, and he said, “Watch [boxer] Sugar Ray Robinson.”

Keltner: Wow, yeah! That’s right. And it’s so beautiful to watch him now because he finally got to the point where he doesn’t even use the hi-hat anymore. He uses the hi-hat as just another voice, but it’s not a timekeeping device whatsoever. Often he just has his foot resting on top of the hi-hat stand. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. He’s so free and yet he’s so grounded. He just always has been a completely unique player. Totally unique. It’s funny because I know Jack DeJohnette really well. I met him way back in the ’60s with Charles Lloyd and Albert Stinson. I mean, we even exchanged sandals one time outside of a club. Jack is a real beauty and a really good friend, and I’ve watched him play for years. He blew my mind back in those days with his unorthodox approach. He had a real un-drummer-like approach, which was beautiful and fresh and fantastic. And I’ve watched him develop now to where I saw him at Catalina’s not long ago and he just blew my mind how he developed, where his time flow is so incredible and so “not there.” It’s just a mystery. It’s that wonderful place where I always wanted to go had I stayed with jazz. I mean, you just go to the point where there is no concern for structure and form and especially timekeeping. But it’s all there. But the point was, Roy’s so mysterious that I never saw a place where he came from, went to or arrived at. He just seems to me like he’s just been doing it all along. Ever since I first heard him play, he’s still doing the same thing except it’s even more amazing. It’s never really changed, but it’s gotten better somehow.

DRUM!: Where did this whole world music element come in on the CD?

Keltner: Well, the line is pretty fuzzy. The sampled berimbau on “Shelly Manne,” for instance, is on my original sequences. Phillippe overdubbed some oud and Hungarian fiddle on “Kenny Clarke.” He also added the bebop piano trio at the end of “Max Roach,” which I thought was a brilliant touch. And to hear Charlie playing that little bebop ride beat on that flat top cymbal of his, that was nice.

DRUM!: I was curious about the “Kenny Clarke” piece. It has a real strong Middle Eastern vibe to it with the oud and the violinist – not something you’d associate with one of the fathers of bebop.

Watts: Yeah, that came about through … my wife plays a lot of Arabic music and maybe that was part of the influence for it. Originally it was just straight drums and percussion with some samples on it. When I got to Paris, we chopped a bit up and I just said to Phillipe, “Do you know any oud players?” Because in Paris there are a lot of Moroccan and Algerian players. He’s also produced a lot of Arabic music in Paris, so he kind of knew that scene. So he found an oud player and a violin player. I was fortunate to have Phillipe to do things like that for me on this project.

DRUM!: Tell me about the “Tony Williams” track.

Keltner: Well, he had just died, basically. And he was supposed to appear at Catalina’s that week, but Roy Haynes filled in. There was no real advertising about this. You know how the jazz world is; you’ve got to kind of keep your ear to the ground to really know what’s happening. So somehow or another I heard that Roy was playing there with Tony’s group [Ira Coleman on bass, Mulgrew Miller on piano]. So Charlie and I went, and it was absolutely a thrill for me. I’ve seen Roy play for years, since the ’60s when I was a kid and used to sneak in the back door at The Renaissance in Hollywood. I’ve seen him for many years and I’ve heard him on all kinds of records, but I never heard him play as good as he did that night … in his seventy-third year! I was floored, Charlie was floored. It was an amazing, amazing night. Anyway, that kind of inspired that piece of music that we did, where Charlie is playing real slow with those slushy hi-hats and all. I was loving how slow the groove was and how it just was so slinky. And Charlie has this real jazzy quality on that track.

DRUM!: It’s a very moving piece, particularly with your vocal testimony on it.

Keltner: Yeah, that was actually Charlie’s idea. And it just so happened that I had this silly thing with me, this little megaphone type of voice disguiser thing. So I went out and tried to surprise him with it. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but it just came out to be about Tony. I didn’t even think about it until the last second. But I had just read an article on Tony where he was talking about the ride cymbal beat being the center of the universe. He said all kinds of great stuff. And Tony over the years has said many profound things about breathing and all kinds of things that stick with you as a drummer, you know? All that information was in my head at the time, so that’s what I talked about. You can’t really hear it too clearly. You can’t decipher it. But I started off with stuff from that article and then I was basically talking about my impressions of what he was like when I first met him, which was at the It Club on Washington Boulevard down in South Central. It was the first trip he ever made to Los Angeles with Miles [Davis]. He was just a kid and I was in the bathroom when he came in. And of course I was just ... you know how you are when you suddenly find yourself standing next to someone of that stature. I didn’t know what to say. I think I probably said something stupid like, “God, it’s great to meet you. It’s great to hear you play.” Something like that. And he didn’t look up. He just zipped up, turned and walked away on me. And I thought, “Why you cocky little f–!” But that’s good, you know? That’s the reason he plays like he does. I told that story to many people, and I told it to Tony many years later. We became good friends, God bless him, before he died. We were really good friends. And he loved that story. He thought it was funny.

DRUM!: The “Tony Williams” piece really sounds like a requiem.

Watts: It was meant to be that. We did it in one take. It was three times longer than that originally. It meanders on a bit, just me muckin’ about on the kit. Basically, it’s me and Jim doing something and then Mick [Jagger] joins in on piano. We often play around like that, Mick and I. Mick calls it “movie music.” It was a very moving time, really. That and the “Elvin Suite” were the ones that I knew would not change from when we did them, except for editing.

DRUM!: There’s a lot of layers going on with all these tracks, but at the core of it is Charlie’s signature beat, like the shuffle beat on “Roy Haynes” or that kind of “Start Me Up” backbeat on “Billy Higgins.” That’s quintessential Charlie Watts.

Watts: That was particularly at Keltner’s insistence. I kind of wanted to get into it more but Keltner kept saying, “Play that way you play,” whatever that is. But that’s it. He kept that there.

DRUM!: I thought it was nice touch that you played brushes on the “Elvin Suite.”

Watts: Well, that was to make a contrast to the other tracks, really. And that was just one take of straight playing.

Watts: Well, that was to make a contrast to the other tracks, really. And that was just one take of straight playing.

DRUM!: That’s one thing about Elvin’s playing that is often overlooked because he was so powerful with the Coltrane quartet.

Watts: Yeah, rolling thunder, wasn’t it.

DRUM!: But he’s also very alluring with brushes.

Watts: Oh, beautiful. But God, he’s such an icon. He goes back so far, to the late ’50s with some of those things like the Bobby Jaspar Quintet. They came here in 1960, actually. Ronnie Scott’s, I believe. I saw Elvin in Los Angeles when we were doing this project. It was soon after seeing him that we did this track. I think in a way, that’s the one that comes off most of somebody. For me, it works beautifully, that one. The others work too, but this one really captures some essence of Elvin, I think.

DRUM!: It’s a beautiful tribute.

Watts: Well, thanks. You get doubts. [laughs] I do with this particularly because I don’t have anything to compare it to. On my previous albums I had something to hide behind, so to speak. Each time I could say, “Well, I don’t care if you don’t like it. Gershwin wrote that beautiful song and I think we do it beautifully.” Whereas, with this, I don’t know what to think. I don’t have any of those safety nets, you know? On this it’s like ...

DRUM!: It’s kind of uncharted territory.

Watts: Very much, for me. So it’s nice to hear that someone likes it a bit.

DRUM!: Well, I certainly hear the personal connection on each track. And as I said, several of these tracks are very evocative of the person.

Watts: It’s good, isn’t it? But it’s not meant to be ... it’s meant to be music of tomorrow, not from yesterday. And it would be great if people think it’s that. I mean, I’d love people to like it as a dance record. And if it so happens that they’re dancing to “Kenny Clarke” or “Max Roach,” that would be fantastic.

By Bill Milkowski
Originally published in the June/July 2000 issue of DRUM! Magazine

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The 13 Greatest Groove Drummers

Perhaps the best way to define “groove” is what it’s not. Groove is not controlled metric modulation blowing over the bar line (though that could groove). Nor is it the world’s most perfect drum machine beat carefully placed on the grid, no matter how acoustically resonant or rhythmically correct. Groove players often have tons of technique, but that’s not the main thing on their mind or what’s emanating from their gut. A groove is something you feel deep inside your being, which produces an irresistible demand to move!
The greatest grooves — think James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” The Meters’ “Cissy Strut” — address every possible permutation of tempo, meter, inflection, dynamics, and note content, but at their core they make the Earth move under your feet.
The greatest groove masters have come from all walks of the musical world, be it the swinging Philly Joe Jones, the wailing Gene Krupa, the delicate Manu Katché or the volcanic Alex Van Halen. But in choosing the drummers throughout recorded history who most consistently laid down fat foundations that made their bandmates sound even better, the final list was actually rather small. Who are these men of the sticking/drumming cloth who year after year made millions dance and move? What are the ingredients that made their sound so special? What’s their lasting impact and considerable worth?
Our advice to you is, read on.

Hal Blaine

Perhaps the original session drummer (after Earl Palmer), Hal Blaine invented the modern pop-drumming language. As a member of the L.A. session unit The Wrecking Crew, Blaine laid the foundation for some of the seminal songs of ’60s and ’70s AM radio, including tracks by Elvis Presley, The Carpenters, The Beach Boys, The 5th Dimension, The Supremes, The Byrds, and many more. Blaine’s truly massive, resonant, and original beats seemed to draw their power from the Earth itself. His rhythms drove the radio rock of Phil Spector in the ’50s and ’60s, created atmospheric, textural drumming poetry with Simon & Garfunkel, performed big band craft with Frank Sinatra, and simple folk-pop beats with Neil Diamond, The Byrds, and The Mamas & The Papas. Blaine exemplifies the ability to create the perfect drum part, regardless of style, difficulty, or era. Quintessential Blaine moment: The deep tom fills of The Carpenters’ “Close To You.”

Matt Chamberlain
In an era when you’re just as likely to hear a drum machine program as a flesh and blood drummer, Matt Chamberlain has successfully navigated both worlds. By creating a singular groove that has no real sonic signature, Chamberlain became the first-call L.A. session drummer (sorry, Josh Freese). The diverse artists he has recorded with mirror his enormous ability to fit into any situation. Majorly pliable, Chamberlain’s skills (both physically delivered and occasionally programmed) have appeared on more than 200 albums, including those by Fiona Apple, The Wallflowers, Stevie Nicks, Dave Navarro, Master Musicians Of Jajouka, Garbage, David Bowie, Keith Urban, William Shatner, Shakira, Sean Lennon, Sarah McLaughlin, and Dido. And while pulling in the big superstar bucks, Chamberlain has also found time to play small-time projects, including his own solo album (which he described as “an imaginary soundtrack to an Asian-Western-sci-fi-horror movie”), as well as the bands Thruster, Critters Buggin’, and Weapon Of Choice. Tori Amos has called Chamberlain “the human loop.”

Steve Gadd
For drummers, there is B.G. and A.G.: Before Gadd and After Gadd. To hear this Rochester, New York–born drummer play in the mid-’70s was to have your drumming consciousness altered forever. Gadd played with such a deep level of orchestral detail while adhering exactly to the song form, and with such stunning creativity, that it shocked the senses. Of course, Gadd is a technical master, but on such epic groove tracks as “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon), “High Heeled Sneakers” (Chuck Mangione), “Lenore” (Chick Corea), and “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” (Leo Sayer), he combined finesse, power, and remarkable originality into an undeniable groove. Gadd disguised one of his big-time weapons, the nine-stroke roll, by flipping it between hi-hat and snare drum while his bass drum nailed the 1. Trademark! A rudimental whiz influenced by Tony Williams and Elvin Jones, Gadd is grooving harder than ever these days, slapping his skins for Eric Clapton, Joss Stone, James Taylor, and others.

Jim Gordon
Before the unfortunate circumstances that led to his imprisonment in 1983, Jim Gordon was the busiest session drummer alive. His legacy in rock, folk, and even hip-hop remains unmatched. Apprenticing with his hero Hal Blaine on the L.A. session circuit, Gordon brought elements of big band, jazz, and pop drumming to bear on a wide range of artists, including Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Traffic, John Lennon, George Harrison, and the Incredible Bongo Band. The intro from the latter group’s “Apache” became one of the foundational samples of hip-hop. Gordon’s extremely musical approach had him often playing complementary melodies on his toms and cymbals while kicking a deep pocket. Streamlined groove was a trademark well expressed on Derek & The Dominoes’ Layla And Other Love Songs, and his lone solo LP, Hogfat (one side L.A. jazz, one side rock/pop stylings). Gordon could drive a band with intense sixteenth-notes on his ride cymbal, or punch flowing tom fills from his Camco kit, as on Layla’s “Keep On Growing.”

Roger Hawkins
As part of the storied Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section of Alabama, Roger Hawkins drummed on dozens of hits, including Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll,” and Eric Clapton’s “I’ve Got A Rock N’ Roll Heart.” Loose and funky, syncopated and behind the beat, Hawkins’ iconic groove sounds like the Old South. He’s never in a hurry, and his time feel is similarly relaxed, as are his clanging bell-centric ride patterns and slipping sliding bass-and-snare-drum communiqués. Hawkins can also impersonate other drummers with flair. Are those Pretty Purdie’s shuffling rim-clicks on The Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There?” Hawkins on the case. Hal Blaine tub thumping on Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1,000 Dances?” Hawkins again. A foursquare drummer who covers all the bases, Hawkins just feels good.

Al Jackson Jr.
Like Hal Blaine and Roger Hawkins, Al Jackson Jr. was part of a regional powerhouse recording scene — Stax Records in Memphis. Often called the “human timekeeper,” Jackson had a very measured, powerful backbeat that produced an extraordinary amount of rhythmic energy. Jackson’s drumming found perfect expression in the tight R&B of his main gig, Booker T. & The MGs on hits like “Green Onions.” With MGs’ Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper, Jackson recorded super soul Stax tracks for Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Wilson Pickett, and many more. But Jackson’s greatest recordings are the Willie Mitchell–produced hits of soul vocalist Al Green. On “Let’s Stay Together,” “Tired Of Being Alone,” and “I’m Still in Love With You” Jackson’s drumming is simply transcendent: rich, round, energetic, kinetic, grooving beyond belief. Almost anyone can play the notes of these historic singles, but only Jackson could fill them with such life and power.

Jim Keltner
Is Jim Keltner a jazz drummer? A rock drummer? A country rock-cum-big-band drummer? It’s hard to know as Keltner is impossible to categorize — he’s seemingly played it all. Perhaps the most resourceful drummer alive, Keltner typically finds the most unusual, and the most musical solution to any drumming question. His rustic grooves rattle, buzz, vibrate, and hum, often produced from a variety of sticks and stick-like instruments. Keltner’s mid-’70s work with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson, Joe Cocker, and Steely Dan produced milestones like the Dan’s “Josie” and Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (during the recording of which Keltner cried). But his recent work is even more striking. The Traveling Wilburys, Los Lobos, and even Money Mark provided the perfect release for Keltner’s cool creativity, which includes never hitting the obvious beat when his innate, oversized talent could produce something infinitely better.

Zigaboo Modeliste
At first listen, Zigaboo Modeliste’s drumming with The Meters sounds wrong. Deranged. Damaged. Like some fool dropped a screwdriver in the tape machine. Modeliste’s second-line New Orleans rhythms herk and jerk, breathe and kick, addressing parts of the groove that no one knew existed until he found them. Whether leaning forward or back in his extremely deep and wily pocket, Modeliste, in conjunction with The Meters’ outrageous soul/funk, places the beat like no one before or since. “Cissy Strut” finds him slicing the hi-hat like it owes him money one second, splashing it silly the next, kicking the bass drum in jumbled-up bombs and popping his snare like a night sprite. Zigaboo’s beats simply dance and jump like crazy, and have been sampled by Run DMC, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, and many others. Quintessential Zigaboo: The broken-up, totally syncopated, practically hilarious groove machinations of The Meters’ “Look-Ka Py Py.”

Andy Newmark
Andy Newmark’s hard-hitting grooves fueled such ’70s hits as John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over,” Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” and David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” as well as lesser known records from organist Neil Larsen (Jungle Fever), ABC (Beauty Stab), and Roxy Music (Avalon). Oh, and don’t forget the recording that branded Newmark as a new groove genius — “In Time,” from Sly & the Family Stone’s Fresh. The ingredients of Newmark’s innovative style: airy, delicate hi-hat accents; snare hits that drove the music with sweaty intent; subtle bass drum patterns; and a flowing groove conception that turned straight tracks into funk-fired rhythm magic. This was never more evident than on Neil Larsen’s Jungle Fever. Playing pungent Latin rhythms in a band that included bassist Willie Weeks and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, Newmark smacked his kit with a beautiful, behind-the-beat gravitas that’s both deep as a volcano and light as a butterfly.

Jeff Porcaro
Jeff Porcaro was a team player first, a session drummer second. Making his name with L.A. rockers Toto, he was soon in demand for his ability to not only groove, but also to turn practically any session into a hit. Porcaro’s stellar creativity and amazing drumming personality can be heard all over Steely Dan’s Katy Lied and Gaucho, where (after Dan’s Becker and Fagen left the premises) he and engineer Roger Nichols spent an entire night recording and then perfecting the odd-metered title track. Like many of the greatest groove players, you could spot Porcaro’s big beat a mile away. There’s a certain indefinable lift in his best tracks, as though he gave every bit of strength and purpose to every take, song after song. The term “monster” suits him well. In an era when not many studio drummers were particularly hard hitting, Porcaro smacked his drums with a vengeance, particularly on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” Toto’s “Hold The Line,” Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown,” and Donald Fagen’s “The Goodbye Look.” He could as easily play popping timbale fills on Scaggs’ “Love Me Tomorrow” or skanky reggae riddims in Toto’s “Somewhere Tonight.” A perfect example of Porcaro’s creativity, deep groove, and serious skills? Toto’s 1982 hit “Rosanna.” The world lost one of its great musicians on August 5, 1992 when Porcaro prematurely passed away.

Bernard Purdie
Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen once said that when recording Aja, Royal Scam, and Gaucho, while the other musicians were still figuring out the charts, Bernard Purdie already had the drum part nailed and was telling them how to play their parts. Typically performing with an erect posture like a king surveying his domain, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie lent his dancing feel (the “Purdie Shuffle”) to dozens of hit recordings in the ’70s, including Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back To Me,” Steely Dan’s “Home At Last,” James Brown’s “Say It Loud — I’m Black & I’m Proud,” and B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.” Though Purdie’s effortless groove is as dominant as his personality, it’s also light, popping, and practically Caribbean. Purdie’s work on Aretha’s “Rock Steady” was nothing less than a revolution, his eighth-note snare slaps augmented with Latin bell figures and a loping feel that set the standard for drum breaks for years to come.

Ringo Starr
If ever a drummer epitomized taste over technique, it’s Ringo Starr. During The Beatles’ six albums, Ringo kept pace with the ingenious songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, creating perfectly complementary grooves in songs that ran the gamut from blues, Broadway, jazz, metal, and pop to Latin and country. If anything, Ringo created the template for every session drummer that followed. A left-handed drummer playing a right-handed kit, Ringo’s style changed as The Beatles’ music progressed. He played swing triplets, twists, and bossa novas on early material, grounded avant-garde escapades on Magical Mystery Tour, punched hard rock, blues, and country on Meet The Beatles, and reached his creative zenith on Abbey Road’s “Come Together” and his lone drum solo track, “The End.” Post-Beatles, Ringo made his name as a session drummer extraordinaire before settling into his role as an avuncular superstar leading Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band.

Clyde Stubblefield/Jabo Starks

Without the dynamic duo of Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks there would be no David Garibaldi, no Dennis Chambers, no Gerald Heyward. As the inventive soul rhythmatists for James Brown’s legendary mid-’60s recordings, Stubblefield and Starks put the singer’s vocal gyrations in drumming motion, following his every tic and movement, then replicating it on the kit. Practically inventing linear grooves on the classics “Cold Sweat, “Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose,” “Licking Stick–Licking Stick,” and “Funky Drummer,” the pair’s intricate grooves meshed with the other musicians’ output to create a locomotion of unparalleled proportions. Playing both as a team and solo behind Brown, the drummers — most likely under the singer’s direction — created lockstep sixteenth-note patterns with the rhythm-section members, creating a tight, extremely fluid forward-motion groove. Stubblefield’s driving work on “Funky Drummer” resulted in one of the most sampled tracks of all time.

  • By Sam Pryor
  • Originally published in the April 2010 issue of DRUM! Magazine

Brett Smiley - Breathlessly Brett

Brett Smiley - Breathlessly Brett
RPM Records RPM 267 (1974)

Track Listing:
1. Brett's Lullaby
2. Highty Tighty
3. Space Ace
4. April In Paris
5. Solitaire
6. Va Va Va Voom
7. Run For The Sun
8. I Want To Hold Your Hand
9. Pre-Columbian Love
10. Queen Of Hearts
11. I Can't Help Myself/Over The Rainbow
12. Young At Heart

Jim Keltner - drums
Brett Smiley - vocals
Ken Ascher - piano
David Spinozza - guitar
Steve Marriott - guitar
Andrew Loog Oldham - producer

James Horning - The Way It Goes

James Horning - The Way It Goes
Holland Horn Music CDBY 5637325475 (2004)

Track Listing:
1. South of 7th
2. Carla's Song
3. Remember You
4. Walk Away
5. Should've Known
6. The Way It Goes
7. Try
8. U Lied
9. Funny Bumping Into You
10. Don't Wanna
11. I Believe
12. Song of the Stone

Jim Keltner - Drums
James Horning - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Joel Rosenblatt - Drums
Gumbi Ortiz - Percussion

WindanSea - What's Left

WindanSea - What's Left
WindanSea OG 884502928235 (2002)

Track Listing:
1. Lonely Man
2. A Player
3. Flat Busted
4. I Give You My Love
5. Outside
6. Sandy Castles
7. A Million Years
8. Steel Marimba
9. Patience
10. Joint Low Rider

Jim Keltner - Drums (1,7,10)
Josh West - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Keyboards, Drums, Fairlight CMI, Electronic Drums, Drum Machine, Electric Guitar, Synthesizer, Producer
Paul Stallworth - Bass, Drums, Producer
Phil Houghton - Guitar
Jessie "Ed" Davis - Guitar
Gordon DeWitty - Electric Piano
Mike Cruz - Congas
Scotty Page - Baritone Sax
Steve Madaio & the Stevie Wonder Horn Section - Horns
Carmen and the Girls - Background Vocals
Bobby Cochran - Lead Guitar
John Bear - Keyboards
Jeff "Skunk" Baxter - Guitar
Brian Walsh - Bass
“Monterrey Phantom” - Grand Piano
David Foster - Piano