Thread: Simon Phillips
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Old 10-24-2009, 08:50 PM
gongbass gongbass is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 24
Default Re: Can Simon play jazz?

This is one of those questions that I get students asking me all the time. Can this drummer or that drummer play Jazz. It reminds me of one of my first drum teachers in the early 90's, who was an accomplished Jazz veteran. I was headed to music school and really started to get into players like Elvin and Tony, not to mention the music of Miles, Coltrane Shorter, Herbie, etc.. When we started getting into swinging and "feathering" the bass drum, I'd switch to my then quasi traditional grip. He asked me why I was doing that and I said "because I'm playing jazz". He then explained that I shouldn't think of it that way and that I was playing music. Obviously there were different concepts, dynamics, feels, etc.. but its still the same instrument. It was a good point. A few years later when I started getting more trio work I decided that I did want to pursue traditional grip (for Jazz) because of the Moeller technique but I still kind of approach the genres that way. You are bringing all that makes you a a unique player to any musical situation you face. Tony Williams played like Tony Williams whether it was bop or rock or fusion. He reacted to the music and played what he felt. I like that approach.

I loved Simon's playing on the Vantage point disc. No he isn't a Bop purist (not that he was playing Bop) but he did some cool stuff that only Simon can do. I like hearing more mainstream rock players approach jazz or jazz influenced music, its refreshing. Just like I love hearing jazz drummers playing rock, there's usually that unintended swing that's just, there!

I do a fair amount of "Jazz" playing and I approach it with as much respect and reverence
for the art as I can. I've spent years immersing myself in it, studying brushes, studying form, learning how different drummers approached standards. I play a 18" bass drum, traditional toms with coated heads tuned up high. Big K's, etc... I also show up dressed much differently then when I do gigs with rock bands. However I grew up listening to Rush, Zeppelin, Yes, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, REM, etc... I can't deny that my roots are deeply planted in rock music. My instincts have been developed to lean in a certain direction and no matter how many Max Roach solos I transcribe and try to mimick, there are certain things that just stay with you. I'm sure the same goes for guys and girls who grew up playing jazz and work in rock situations.

One of the best examples of a successful hybrid has to be Matt Chamberlain. He's an amalgamate of so many different styles yet plays like HIM no matter what musical situation he's in. When I hear Matt play with Bill Frissell or Brad Mehldau I get just as much as if Brian Blade (who I love) is playing. Simply because its a great musician reacting to the music, not faking it or trying to be authentic.
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