Words of Wisdom

There are little tidbits of information that wise people sometimes lay on you

in passing that wind up having a profound effect on the way you think about things.

Here are a few of those ideas that were passed on to me. Maybe you can use them.


Jerry Chamberlain, trombonist and philosopher, was doing the Broadway show Cats (We were also on Buddy Rich’s and Eddie Palmieri’s band together, as well as doing studio work together). He went through a phase where he was writing these little proverbs. The one that really caught my attention was: “Make sure your mind is in gear before you let out the clutch on your mouth”.

Rudy Rutherford, saxophonist with the Count Basie Orchestra dropped this on me during a jazz cruise we were both on back in the mid 70’s.  He said “Always play pretty”. I took that to mean that one should have a sound that draws people in rather than frightening them away. Sometimes as improvisers we focus too much on the choice of notes and fail to consider the treatment of those notes.

Buddy Rich was known to be a gruff bandleader who was prone to fits of rage. While this was true, Buddy had a good heart and vast knowledge of music and life. He used to yell at musicians he was playing with to “get up on it”. I took this to mean not to lay back on the time too much. After many years of band leading, working with big bands all over the world, and teaching music I know what Buddy was talking about. Every musician in a band must be the drummer. It is their responsibility to keep the time moving forward with energy and consistency. There is a misconception out there that you can lay way back behind the time all the time.  Laying back is fine provided that you have an implied quarter note pulse that is up on the time, and you refer to that quarter note pulse in strategic places. If you lay back in the wrong way, it is simply slowing down.

Here’s just a couple more:

Don’t play like Albert Ayler when doing a wedding gig.

Always show up on the bandstand with a positive attitude, no matter what the circumstances. Bandleaders like having musicians around that are “on the team”. This is far more important than how great you play.

Dave Carpenter had a great saying: “Always be sure to play with the people you are playing with.”   That about sums it up!

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