June 24, 2024


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Interview with Dave Tull: Music is and always has been at the very center of my existence: Video

Jazz interview with jazz drummer, singer, songwriter Dave Tull. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Dave Tull: – I grew up in Berkeley, California, which was a terrific place to learn about jazz, music and drumming. My parents were not professional musicians, but they were both musically trained and we had a piano in the house. There was always good music playing on the record player, and I used to go to sleep hearing my dad playing simple tunes on the piano. The Berkeley Schools have long had a great jazz program, (they still do) but in my era, jazz band was available starting in 4th grade! And the whole program was run by one guy, Phil Hardymon, who taught at the elementary schools mid morning, at the junior highs at 7:00am and at the high school mid-day into late afternoon. And starting in about 8th grade there were plenty of trips to Keystone Korner and The Great Amercian Music Hall in San Francisco to hear all the jazz I could take in!

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the drums? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the drums?

DT: – I was drumming on tabletops and car seat cushions from a very early age. My parents suggested I try some actual lessons when I was in 4th grade. My first drum lesson was at age 10 with the great San Francisco Symphony and Opera percussionist, Peggy Lucchesi. She got me going with all the basics and a little bit of drum set. In middle school I began lessons with Paul Yonemura, a talented teacher and jazz drummer who still gigs in the bay area. I rounded out my high school years taking from Kurt Wortman, who was Art Lande’s drummer.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DT: – I went through the various phases that all players pass through – becoming hyper-focused on one drummer or style or a while, then moving on. I had my Buddy Rich phase (don’t all drummers still?), then Steve Gadd with all his great recordings with Chick Corea (check out Friends and Three Quartets). Gradually you absorb the stylistic characteristics that reach out to you from each player, and leave behind what doesn’t appeal to you. After a decade or more of this stylistic absorption, the combination of elements starts to be unique to you alone. I also believe that a person tends to play his/her personality on their instrument. I have always been outgoing and assertive, so it makes total sense that I tend to play music that way.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

DT: – It’s crazy, but I don’t do a ton of practicing now like I did when I was younger. When my second child was born I decided it was time to put my energies into being a good parent and husband. There had been so many years of practicing many hours a day to develop vocabulary, concept, technique and subtleties that make the music breathe. I still practice on gigs all the time – forever reaching for that more settled pocket, or that little way of playing something that makes it come alive. With regard to rhythm in particular, I think person in born with some sense of rhythm, (or not), and it will always be there in whatever they play. Somehow I had a nice “time feel” even when I first sat down to play as a kid, and I am very aware of how the internal “anchor” that holds the time together gets stronger slowly over time, like the trunk of a tree. And I can say that singing at the drums has strengthened my overall time stability as well.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

DT: – A funny question for a drummer – but surprisingly I do have an answer. As a composer, singer and drummer too, I am always fascinated by how one chord leads to the next, especially if there is some detail inside there that is a surprise. It might be a passing tone that leads you through an otherwise obtuse series of changes, or an unexpected root movement that catches you off guard. I’m amazed at how moving one note in a voicing changes the whole meaning of that harmonic moment – and how far one can reach harmonically if you know how to do it. I was just digging deeply into the harmonic details of Clare Fischer’s “Gaviota” (on Poncho Sanchez’s album of the same name from 1979) and marveling at Clare’s ability to use a note that shouldn’t work, but it does because of how he arrived there, and how he resolves it. You might be surprised to hear that all of that harmonic richness affects all of my decisions at the drums – colors, textures, fills, shaping, cymbals, dynamics – all in support of the harmonic progression underneath the melody!

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?

DT: – Cheryl Bentyne’s “Rearrangements of Shadows” is a gem! And I love all of the recordings put out by John Daversa – his “Kaleidescope Eyes” album is not from 2017, but worth mentioning regardless of the year. And the recent release by John Proulx, “Say It!” is fantastic!

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DT: – Great question – and there is no single answer because we are all wired differently. But I can say that the best players  – the most versatile players – seem to be the ones who can freely work from either side of the brain. To hear a melodic shape, and then use intellect to assign the specific notes that fit the chord change; to feel the intangible energy coming from the band, and know what technique will get you the sound you hear in your head. The seamless interaction between the two sides of the fence brings the most intense result in my opinion.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

DT: – There are so many stories! Which to choose? When I was with Maynard Ferguson in 1987 and ’88 we celebrated Maynard’s 60th birthday with a terrific full big-band tour and album. That recording, the first album called Big Bop Nouveau, was released on the Intima label, which soon folded so it’s hard to find that CD. On that tour we played at The Blue Note for a week, and several jazz celebrities came out to wish Maynard happy 60th. One night it was Chuck Mangione who came to hang out and also sit in. Chuck had performed at my high school in 1979 or 1980 and I had just missed that chance to be a student performer on percussion in the orchestra. At The Blue Note, I thought, “Well, I’ve come full circle, and I am finally getting my chance to play with Chuck Mangione nine years later!” Then in 2000 I got the call to become Chuck Mangione’s drummer – (a gig I did for a full ten years until Chuck stopped performing in 2010).  One of the first shows I did with Chuck was at The Beacon Theater in NYC to celebrate Chuck’s 60th birthday, thirteen years after Chuck had sat in with Maynard’s band! Now I had truly come full circle!

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

DT: – I have been lucky to work for, and with, a long string of leaders and players who understand that the highest artistry results when the musicians can be themselves – allowing the player’s personality to truly flow from the instrument. I remember realizing after my first few gigs with Maynard Ferguson back in the 1980’s that he didn’t want me to sound like the last drummer. He wanted me to sound like myself. It had to be cooking and burning – but he seemed to take great joy in the interaction of the particular group of personalities on the band at any given time. Chuck Mangione was another one like that, who embraced things that I brought to the bandstand that came from me. He once told an audience that one of the biggest thrills for him was to hear the players take a composition of his to a new place he never would have imagined when he was writing it. The interactions with players and leaders like that are by far my favorite. Certainly, I felt that depth with the trio on Texting and Driving with Kevin Axt, Randy Porter and Larry Koonse.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

DT: – Recently I have had to tackle this subject with drum students who come to Pasadena City College, interested in jazz, but far more familiar with more pop oriented styles. They want to know why we are exposing them to this music that dates back almost 70 years. I try to make them understand that jazz is unique in that it depends on the ability of the band members to react and interact instantaneously and with a great deal of facility and maturity – to bring their musical personality to the table – to constantly be deciding what will happen in the next four bars. This stands in great contrast to many of the more regimented pop oriented styles that these students tend to be more familiar with. A lot of people shun jazz because it demands hard work – and one’s constant attention. But once a player tastes the thrill of the music whisking him/her away into a swirl of creation, groove, harmony, melody, and interaction, there is no going back. And once a player gets used to listening and reacting in this intense way, he/she will never hear music the same way again – or play it the same – even when they return to the styles they knew before they studied jazz.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

DT: – All I can say is that music is and always has been at the very center of my existence. I can’t imagine what the world sounds like to someone who doesn’t get music.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

DT: – I just want to keep being able to play good music with terrific musicians – as a leader – as a drumming sideman – as a singer. Everything I do is geared towards keeping that ball rolling, so when the day comes that I just have to stop, I will be able to say, “That was a good run!” If there is fear in any of this, it’s just the worry that just as I am finally gaining the maturity to play with the depth and intensity that I practiced so long to achieve, something will keep me from being able to play…

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

DT: – I would like to find a larger portion of the public willing to embrace excellent music – and the arts in general. Happily, I hear a great deal of terrific new music being made, by veteran players and newcomers alike. I think it’s a shame though, that such a tiny percentage of the public seems to want to experience music that you have to give your attention to. I often tell students, you can’t appreciate music “in the background” any more than you can appreciate a good book by laying it open on your coffee table and doing something else. Great music offers such an intense and enjoyable experience to those who can take their minds off the TV, or their phones, long enough to give their attention to it!

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

DT: – I’ve been thoroughly enjoying touring twice a year drumming and singing with vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, Tom Wakeling (bass) and Randy Porter (piano who also appears on the Texting and Driving CD), all from Portland. I adore Rebecca’s singing, and she chooses the hippest tunes ever! When we perform, she sings a few songs, then I sing a few of my songs, then we do duets that we have put together. The song “The Date” that appears on Texting and Driving was originally written for Rebecca and I to sing. (My long time friend and singing buddy Cheryl Bentyne sings the female part on the new CD). The “Portaldnders” and I have done several “exchange tours” where either I go north for gigs and clinics in the Pacific Northwest, or they come to southern California for dates in Los Angeles and Phoenix. Now that Texting and Driving is released, I plan to turn my attention to writing more duet material for Rebecca and I to perform, and I hope we can get the “Kilgore-Tull Quartet” into the studio to record an album.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

DT: – I continue to enjoy the releases by Keith Jarrett Trio. I loved John Pattitucci’s Guitar Quartet CD – anything with Brian Blade is always a thrill to hear! I have recently been listening to Hiatus Kaiyote, Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles. And I never get tired of Chick Corea’s Now He Sings Now He Sobs!

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

DT: – I would like to travel back to the era when the subtleties of well-composed songs were better embraced by the general public. My generation has had to just accept that most of the listening audience rejects songs that employ the nuances of the full range of chromatic harmony, melodies that make artistic use of all of the possibilities available within the scale, and lyrics that take the time to tell a story with wit or poignancy. It’s not that there aren’t good songs being written today – there are. But all too often I hear, for example, newer songs that go back and forth interminably between two obvious chords that whole time, and I think, “Why not develop the harmony? Is having a “bridge” or contrasting harmonic section a bad thing?” We celebrate the writing of the greats from the past – Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Carmichael – but we forget that they were writing the popular music of that era. Amazing! Actually – my favorite time machine ride would be to go forward a few years to find that the public has come around once more to appreciating songs with more depth!

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

DT: – Why is today’s jazz-vocal listening audience somewhat unreceptive to original songs in the American Songbook style? It seems that one has to really struggle in jazz to present “original songs”. There is a “They don’t write them like that anymore” attitude. But there are so many terrific songwriters creating wonderfully crafted songs today. To list a few – Bill Cantos, Lorraine Feather, Jay Leonhart, John Proulx, (hopefully I can include myself as well in this list as well!) are all presenting great new songs all the time. But we find the listening audience to be surprisingly closed minded about new songs – even if they are really good ones! I often thank my audience for embracing my originals, and I wonder aloud if there was ever a time when a club owner told a young Cole Porter, “Kid I love what you’re doing, but could you stop playing so many originals? Play us something we know like some Irving Berlin!”

JBN.S: – Thank you for your answers. I do not know, because I’m not a vocalist, I’m a jazz critic.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Dave Tull

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