Thread: Virgil Donati
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Old 08-31-2005, 02:02 PM
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finnhiggins finnhiggins is offline
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Default Re: Virgil Donati is the Buddy Rich of our time ("IMO"...I suppose)

Originally Posted by toteman2
I'm really not sure what you're getting at here...I guess in a way you could argue any drummers parts would be excellent if programmed...
No, you couldn't. Programmed stuff sounds stiff and nasty unless you work on it very hard, but it tends to show up good parts from bad in a musical context very well. A good drummer can make an average part sound a lot better, but a great drummer chooses a great part and then takes it even further with dynamics, subtle timing nuances etc. The obvious example here would be somebody like Steve Gadd.

My issue with Donati is that in his soloing he very frequently plays complex mixed-meter grooves. Those kind of things are potentially very interesting, but unless you're careful they can turn into a structureless mess. Add in the fact that the independent parts each have to make sense and you want to avoid flamming on unisons tends to force that kind of playing into very metronomic time. So for those parts, I ask the question - if it wasn't hard to do, would it be good? I don't think so. I'd rather hear something like Nat Townsley's stuff on Drummerworld, it's got groove as well as chops and it makes musical sense.

I mean would you want to hear this programmed instead of him playing it?

He is adding so much color, flavor, and raw emotion to compliment the keyboardists solo, while keeping perfect time, something a computer could never capture...They just look like they are having so much fun, feeding off one another...True showcase of musicianship IMO...
That's a lot better. It's not my cup of tea for the same reason that I'm not a big Weckl fan, but I can respect that kind of playing in that it's actually got musical structure. But things like the solo performance somebody posted over in the other Virgil Donati thread... Urk. The problem is, much of the stuff he does seems to present that kind of approach to time playing in the solos. It was also all over the Planet X album I had. That really does make me question his musicality quite seriously, because if he was the consumate musician people seem to be claiming him as in this thread then surely he'd notice that... well... that stuff just aint that hot.

I'm not disputing his playing from a drummer's perspective, I'm doing it from the POV of somebody who has done a lot of drum programming and played seriously around with a lot of those concepts in sequencers. Some things work. Some things don't. Donati seems to use both approaches liberally and with no obvious understanding of which is which, as long as the part looks difficult. That's not my idea of musicality. Go check out some of Fredrik Thordendal's drum programming, particularly the new Meshuggah album. He's done a good job of solidifying a recognisable musical style in his approach to polyrhythmic/polymetric material. That stuff is cool regardless of whether he gets Thomas Haake to play it live or if they just run with the programmed parts on the album. I'm not sure Donati would be so well-loved if he just programmed his solos and released them as compositions, while I'm pretty sure that a lot of Max Roach's stuff ("The drum also waltzes", etc) would still pass muster because it has a comprehensible musical structure beyond just chops and amazing co-ordination.

Again - would Donati's solos be good if they weren't hard? Would they be better than, say, "let there be drums" - which is very easy, but has such unusual musical concepts as hooks, catchy phrases and song structure.
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