I Just came back from playing with one of my favorite drummers of all time, Cindy Blackman-Santana, and I can’t stop thinking of all of rhythmic cadences and structures developed on stage. Also how the harmony fits right on top… I’m so blessed to have this opportunity and not only share the bandstand with Cindy but with another great, Ralph Peterson. I learned how to play trio with Ralph and it easily changed my approach to the piano and to the art of the trio. To play trio with someone of his caliber in 2004 is an experience that I couldn’t be thankful enough for.
I’ve always strived to connect musically with the drummer… Thinking in rhythmic combinations and hemiolas all the time. Playing with ideas of tension and release in my comping and soloing. Every time I get on the stage with great drummers I take a bit of knowledge away with me… new ideas for new compositions.
I play differently with each and every drummer i perform with. As a pianist, I am a slave to their language. The more language they have, the more free I feel as a trio mate. I try and pay attention to the type of language they use so that we can make the band breath and speak. It’s important that the drummer and bassists lock together because if they don’t, these intricate counter rhythms won’t connect. They must be precise. I think it’s obvious that I tend to focus on my accompaniment much more then my improv.
Lining up with the drums while behind a great soloist is an amazing thing. But when you can build tension and present counter rhythms before the cadence thats something that isn’t as easy as it sounds. It seems to depend on the a commonality in and with language…
If I could connect with every drummer on the scene today that would be my musical dream… meanwhile the bass plays just as an important role as the piano in creating this but both piano and bass are attached to the drums. I love to keep it interesting within the trio, not necessarily dropping a cadence sometimes and also releasing the tension in places that aren’t usual. There is an art to bringing drawing out the tension and building energy for the soloist to feed on but it all depends on the drummer.
I have always believed that a band can only be as good as it’s drummer. All Black American Music seems to follow that rule.
Shout out to all the amazing drummers and special shout out to Richie Barshay and Luques Curtis… the drummer and bassist I grew up playing with… there’s always a special connection and musical bond with the people that you develop with.