Re: Jon Fishman
Thank you guys for starting this well deserved thread!
I'm going to preach the merits of Jon Fishman:
1) The guy is an incredibly well-rounded drummer with a touch seldom heard by new up-and-coming drummers - though he's a lighter touch player, his feel for me is at times reminscent of Bonham, his single greatest drumming influence.
2) Copping Fishman's grooves has done more for my facility and independence than any single book or lesson I've followed throughout my 21 year tenure as a drummer.
3) His goal for the first 10 years of Phish was to never play remotely the same beat for any given song, so he played everything from rock to latin to calypso to reggae to odd times as originally as possible, giving all of Phish's listeners the most diverse rhythms to experience (this point also speaks directly to #2).
4) I've attended Phish shows since 1991 and his drum sound has improved throughout the decades, starting with arguably the best club drum sound ever, on a custom, thick shelled maple kit. His early 90's snare drum is one of my favorite sounding snare drums of all time. Comes through really nicely on Picture of Nectar.
5) I think his incredible talent is overshadowed by the phenomenon that is Phish. Truly a band where the total is greater than the sum of it's parts. All of it's "parts" are supremely gifted musicians, so there aren't alot of drum geeks that comment on the merits of Fishman's playing, because the subject usually turns to "wow, look at what this band has accomplished, taking over for the Grateful Dead, blah, blah, blah". Listen to Fish's drumming on Phish's live performances - he holds up to the greats.
6) To somewhat refute the previous point, he has had two features in Modern Drummer, including a well deserved cover. Proof that some justice exists in the world. Also, I was very happy to read that Mike Portnoy said he would love to sub for Fishman, because he was on to how deep the drumming in this band was. Huge props to Mike for being in the know.
7) He's never endorsed a drum or cymbal company - always a very custom, independent drum consumer (Portland Percussion, Ayotte, and Noble and Cooley, often mixing these custom toms with generic Tama or Yamaha bass drums). I get the impression that he doesn't care about commercialism, he just wants a great sounding kit. I'd be surprised if he hasn't been approached with some lucrative endorsement deals. This makes him even more mysterious and appealing to me.
8) He's really short and stubby, which had me thinking for a while whether this had some inherent advantages to becoming a stellar drummer. I've concluded that I don't think it does, citing Mick Fleetwood as a great drummer who has the polar opposite body type, but I'm leaving this question unresolved.
9) His ability to hear, lock into, and drive the deep improvisation of Phish is magical.
10) For the sake of having 10 points, I conclude that while I feel the best drummers alive today are 1) Vinnie Colauita , 2) Terry Bozzio and 3) Steve Smith (from a technical proficiency AND most musical perspective - I know it's a pointless debate), Fishman has been and always will be my favorite drummer. He's my Bonham.