Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Interview with Ted Warren

Toronto drummer/blogger Ted Warren was nice enough to interview me for his blog Trap'd over here awhile ago. I thought I would return the favor by hijacking Ted's questions and turn the tables on him this time!

I've known Ted since I was a high school "stage" band drummer, growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan and, like Ted, had gone though the ranks of the Regina Lions Band. It was always inspiring to hear Ted when he would swing through Regina, usually touring with a Canada Council sponsored Jazz group. In fact, my first recollection of hearing him play was at a performance promoted by the Regina Jazz Society (at the University of Regina Faculty club) by the John Stetch Quartet featuring John Stetch on piano, Mike Murley on tenor, Jim Vivian on bass and Ted on drums. John was playing music from his debut album "Rectangle Man" (which to this day remains an important album in my development) and it was overall a very memorable experience. It was the first time I heard a group from Toronto/Montreal, the first time I heard Jazz music that was based on a loose, broken straight eighth feel rather than swing and the first time I heard a Jazz drummer play a drum solo with mallets ("You are allowed do that???" I asked my myself!)

Ted is a true student of the music and his musicality and tireless work ethic are quite inspiring. When I lived in Toronto I always made a point of going to hear Ted play, often as a sideman with many of Toronto's finest but also with his own fine group Ted's Warren Commission. Ted is also a great composer and his overall creativity is a generous force to behold. Check out his band's albums "First Time Caller" and "Songs For Doug". I've also really been digging his playing on Michelle Gregoire's album "Reaching" lately.

Here's a biography (copied from somewhere on the web) in case you aren't familiar with Ted's impressive resume:

Ted has a solid reputation as a musical, versatile drummer. He is an active member of Canada’s jazz scene and has been recognized with Jazz Report’s Drummer of the Year award. He teaches at Humber and Mohawk College in their Jazz Studies programs and is a well-regarded clinician and adjudicator. Ted fronts his own quartet, Ted’s Warren Commission, which has just released their debut CD, First Time Caller. He is a member of the Mike Murley, Mike Downes, Kieran Overs, and Ted Quinlan groups. He was the drummer for the Boss Brass and can be heard on six of their recent CDs, including Velvet and Brass (with Mel Torme), From Lush to Lively (with Oliver Jones), Even Canadians get the Blues, and The Boss Brass Plays the Jazz Classics.

Ted studied music at McGill and received a certificate in Jazz Studies from St. Francis Xavier University. He has worked with many acclaimed performers, including Slide Hampton, Bob Newhart, Maynard Ferguson, Lew Soloff, Chuck Mangione, Jeff Healey, Norma Winstone, Howard Johnson, Nick Brignola, Kenny Wheeler, and Gerry Bergonzi. Ted’s extensive touring has taken him to Poland, South Korea, Spain, Brazil, Iceland, and Japan. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall with harpist Joanna Jordon. In addition to his other recorded work, you can hear Ted on Mike Murley’s CDs Extra Time, and the Jazz Report’s Album of the Year recipient, Conversation Piece. You can also hear Ted on the Juno Award winning Tales from the Blue Lounge by Richard Underhill. Ted endorses Vic Firth drumsticks and Zildjian cymbals.

And here's an impressive clip of Ted's drumming (stolen from his blog), demonstrating how to 'comp' using quarter notes at really fast tempos:


Now....finally here's the interview with Ted (featuring Ted's questions!):

1) As well as working frequently as a sideman, you also lead bands and compose for them. What do you think other instrumentalists can learn about these disciplines from drummers?

I feel drummers are very concerned with the mood and shape of music, and how the tempo and feel of a piece affects it's mood and shape. I think often other instrumentalists can be overly concerned with other aspects of music (harmony is one frequently occurring example) and might miss the fact, for instance, that most of the tunes they play are the same tempo.

2) Can you name a recording that was particularly influential to you?

I still can remember the first time I heard Miles Davis' "Seven Steps To Heaven" with Tony Williams on drums. I was in 9th grade and a friend played it for me when we were hanging around in his basement one day after school. Even though I didn't have a clue what they were doing I thought to myself, "What a cool tune!" and " What a REALLY COOL drum solo!"

3) Can you name a profound live performance?

There have been many. I have been fortunate to see some great musicians who are no longer with us (Mel Lewis, Dannie Richmond, Dewey Redman, Max Roach,Tony Williams, Vernel Fournier, Elvin, Junior Cook, Ray Brown). I have also gotten to see Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and David Liebman quite a few times, which had been very inspiring. I think for me, every time I've seen Bill Hart play is important to mention, because he always gives me the feeling that something special, profound, and unique is happening. I'm striving to give people that same sense when I play.

4) What are your current goals in drumming, teaching, and music?

I plan to keep working and practicing at many aspects of music. As well as drums, I have been working at playing piano and harmonica, which has completely widened my perspective on music. ( We've got to get that band together of all-drummers-playing-different-instruments Jon!) My trio with Rich Brown and Mike Murley is releasing it's debut recording soon, and we're doing a tour in March. I'm almost finished my Bachelors in music. I plan to keep teaching, both privately and in institutions, as much as I can and keep doing lots of clinics. All that should keep me out of trouble for awhile!

5) Has your blog changed your approach to playing or teaching?

I initially started the blog at my wife's suggestion and didn't really know what to do with it until I started reading "Four on the Floor" and some other peer's blogs. I then figured out the tone, format and content that would be appropriate for me. It's changed my teaching in that on the blog I can put out anything I feel is important without having to answer to anyone else and I can often get into greater depth than is possible in a lesson or a clinic. The blog has changed my approach to playing in that now a lot of my exchange of ideas and thoughts with other drummers happens online. I rarely am on a gig with other drummers, we all have busy lives and careers etc, and often there are great geographical distances between us. It's interesting, because several years ago Dennis Mackrel mentioned he thought the net was the new "hang" for musicians. That's certainly been the case for me.

6) Why is everyone from Regina, Saskatchewan obsessed with football and pizza?

It's a puzzling question. I always find it a little sad how uninterested Central Canadians are in the CFL. As far as pizza goes, I've never found anything that compares to Regina anywhere else in the world. Houston Pizza (circa 80s anyway) rules, by the way!