Thursday, February 23, 2012

John Hollenbeck Interview & Big Band Drumming



Myself and fifteen other very talented local musicians premiered the new Calgary Creative Music Ensemble at the Cantos Music Foundation in Calgary last Saturday evening. The show was definitely a success as the crowd was packed to capactity/standing-room only and the big band really rose to the occasion and played great on some pretty challenging music. We are looking forward to many concerts with this band in the future.

Our program consisted of original big band works composed and arranged by myself, trumpeter Dean McNeill and pianist Michelle Gregoire. We also performed "Hello & Goodbye", "Skylark" and "Boom Boom" from the library of composer/arranger/trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.

I've found myself playing in many big bands over the years. My first introduction to Jazz came via playing in big bands in high school and in the Regina Lions Band program. While I studied at McGill I played in the bands there and, while working with teachers such as Gordon Foote, Chuck Dotas, Ron DiLauro and Joe Sullivan, the bands really operated at an extremely high level. Fortunately when I finished school this translated into a lot of work with many of the local Montreal bands such the Montreal Jazz Big Band, Vic Vogel's big band and subbing in with Joe Sullivan's and Christine Jensen's Jazz orchestra's from time to time. All in all I consider big band drumming to be a very central part of my development and career as a Jazz drummer. I haven't done quite as much of this kind of playing in the past few years so naturally I am very excited to be part of this new and forward-thinking big band project right here in Calgary.

In the weeks leading up to our gig I spent quite a bit time studying the music we were to play and listening to a lot of Mel Lewis (one of my all-time favorite big band drummers). I also spent some time listening to the fine musicianship of John Hollenbeck as he was the drummer of choice for many of Brookmeyer's large ensemble projects (including his New Arts Orchestra) and appears on many of his albums. I'm now a huge admirer of John's music and approach to the drums. I expect to continue listening to him for ideas and inspiration in the years to come.

I came across this interesting interview with Hollenbeck and thought I would share it with you all:



I should also like to mention that Ted Warren wrote a great piece on playing with big bands and large ensembles in general that I found tremendously useful over at his blog Trap'd awhile ago. Ted is an incredible big band drummer and I've heard him play great with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass, John McLeod's Rex Hotel Orchestra and, most recently, his work with Dean McNeill on his "Prairie Fire" big band project (we played a few charts from Dean's album the other night so studying that album was part of my homework!)

Here's another couple of inspiring clips of Mel Lewis in action with his own big band:





That's how it's done folks!

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