Monday, February 20, 2012
More Bugalu - Chad Anderson Speaks
Further to my post from last Friday on drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith, my good friend over at cymbalholic.com Chad Anderson was very generious enough to offer a few of his thoughts and words about his experience studying and learning from Bugalu a few years ago:
"Bugalu is a master–a character, for sure–but, a master.
I mean "character" in a positive, respectable sense. Full of life. It is this life quality, the character, that comes through in his playing. I think that some individuals might not consider just how much this translates to his sound. It is easy to say, but I believe it is often overlooked, that when you play the instrument, you communicate. No hiding. This communication can be positive or negative, but one should remember, particularly when playing a drum of any kind, that this instrument has been a tool of communication for years.
I believe Bird once stated that: "if you don't live it, it won't come out your horn."
Bugalu's life voice projects directly through the instrument. Strongly. I knew this from the first note I ever heard him play. It was not just the direct connections to Max, Philly Joe and Elvin I heard that contributed to the infectious sound in Marvin's drumming. It was the depth of the groove, the perpetual energy and the spiritual, church-like "lift" mixed with the cut of the street that moved me to connect with Marvin and, at the least, try to somehow say thanks for the inspiration.
I began communicating with Marvin back in about 2006 via the internet. One thing about Marvin is that, unlike many of his peers, he is not afraid of utilizing technology to promote his music, efforts, and teaching (as others birthed into the same generation might normally be inclined to reject technology). At that time, he and his students had already started populating MySpace (it was still a popular, viable resource online at that time) with Marvin's videos and teacher-student dialogs. It was there where I first watched one of his performance videos posted/stored on his profile page. Immediately, I was completely knocked out by his cymbal beat, his vocabulary, and his energy. Obviously, a master who has dealt with time, in all respects.
Marvin and I began an exchange of messages electronically and discovered that we had a few mutual, musical acquaintances (in particular reedman, Henry P. Warner and bassist, Andy McCloud with whom we had both played at different times). He also watched a few videos of my playing, pointed out a number of issues, and generously offered to help me clear those up. What happened over the year that followed was an intense, online study through which Marvin delivered his unique methodology of teaching. A year and a half later, I had a string of gigs up in New York City and surrounding areas again, during which I had the chance to catch a train up and visit Marvin at his home studio in Poughkeepsie, NY. I spent only a short time there, but, of course, as with any encounter with a master, I experienced one of those massive turns in life, the kind that awakens you.
To properly and respectfully outline this would require a book-length document to be written.
I just need to say this: There is school and then there is SCHOOL. When you study personally with a master of any discipline, you come to understand how much there is beyond the surface, especially when, as a student, the ego is pushed aside. Beyond drums, when I studied with Marvin, I gained insight about life–further confirmation that life IS the music. While one can easily learn the rudiments, that does not build the complete voice. I did not study with Marvin to learn how to play jazz or to further add patterns, chops, rudiments to my arsenal as a drummer. While that was a small percentage of the outcome, I learned about the music from Marvin by riding in the car with him and listening to him talk about life, from watching him play the music (actually, on one of my gigs up that way) in person, a mode that one might consider an old school notion. I learned about the music from Marvin's sense of humor, sense of life. The stories–every note. The MUSIC. Life.
To receive this knowledge base is the greatest gift. This is timeless."
-Chad Anderson, via e.mail
Thank you Chad.