Friday, December 10, 2010
Review - Billy Martin's Life on Drums
I received a copy of Billy Martin's latest DVD Billy Martin's Life on Drums in the mail a few weeks ago, throughly enjoyed watching it several times now and have decided to attempt a humble review.
Billy Martin is a very unique and creative drummer that I've enjoyed for some time and who is probably best known for his work with the acclaimed trio Medeski, Martin and Wood.
The DVD is sort of an instructional drum DVD, but not really (!) as it doesn't resemble any other drum DVD in any classic sense. Instead the whole production is beautifully shot and produced more like a contemporary documentary that features a dialogue between Martin and his first drum teacher Allen Herman with several solo performances featuring Martin and Herman interspersed throughout. There are also several percussion ensemble pieces featured as well. But don't get wrong, there is a ton of great and useful information here presented in a unique manner.
The DVD is divided into specific chapters that deal with: Soloing, Time, Tone, Phrasing, Chemistry, Visualizing, Free Playing, Rhythmic Harmony and Classical. The discussions between Martin and Herman are insightful and both are very articulate and speak from a wealth of experience and musical integrity. Between their candid discussions and performances this a great resource and there is a lot to be learned and gained from this DVD. Hopefully this DVD will inspire many to approach the drums in a creative way.
To me, part of what makes this DVD stand out from other drum DVDs is the exceptional production quality. It has the feel and vibe of something you would probably see at the Sundance Film Festival rather than the Modern Drummer Festival !
Some of the highlights for me include Billy Martin's brilliant solo playing, Allan Herman's performance of an Anthony Cirone snare drum solo from the book Portraits in Rhythm (time for me to dig that book out again!) and some very honest discussions about both Billy Martin and Allen Herman's teachers and mentors over the years. This DVD is bound to become a classic.
Here's a brief featurette that previews this DVD:
In Billy's own words:
"Life on Drums is about the art of drumming and percussion, and my concepts, methods, and philosophy of what is important. I’m trying to be as honest and sincere as I am about who I am and what I’m trying to say, and then demonstrate how these philosophies can be used. I want people to see this film and realize that, no matter what degree of technical skill they possess, they can be an artist.”
— Billy Martin