By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
[As a trap drummer,] you have to train yourself to think four ways at the same time, each part of your body doing different things. And you’ve got to know your instrument in and out, and you‘ve got to know what it can do. That goes for any instrument you play. You have to be like that so you can sit down and literally create music, like Charlie Parker and the great improvisers did. What you’re doing, you‘re composing spontaneously, and even though you may play the same piece over and over again, each time it’s different.
You were quite young when you started playing with Parker.
Yes, and . . . well, he was still quite young when he went to the happy hunting grounds, too. And he left a legacy that the great improvisers are still dealing with, like Sonny Rollins. Of course, they bring their own sensibilities and techniques to the whole thing. It‘s not something that you write down. They’re master instrumentalists, and they‘re also well-versed in the theories of music, in harmony and everything else.
Did Parker have a strong influence on you when you were young?
Well, when I met Charlie Parker I had already been working. I had already been involved with people like Coleman Hawkins . . .
Right, you recorded with him in ’43.
And when I was in high school we made it a point to listen to all the things that were going on, especially here in New York, in the Village. We were allowed to go in some of the clubs during the period of segregation -- we were allowed because we were working in another club around the corner -- and so we would stand in the back and politely listen. We didn‘t go to the clubs to socialize, any of the musicians, we were there seriously just checking out the heavyweights. We could stand there and listen to Bud Powell, we could listen to Teddy Wilson. And Art Tatum, of course, who was a total monster.
It’s the way it is today as well. When these young people today come around, it‘s the same thing. They might ask questions, and they might not, but you know they’re there, and you‘re teaching.
What do you feel the state of jazz -- of improvised music -- is today?
It’s becoming more universal, I think -- the techniques of learning this music. Because there are improvisers in every place I‘ve been, from the Far East to down in South America. These people are great instrumentalists, and they’re also well-versed in the theory of music. I use that language, because that‘s exactly what it involves. You should learn everything technically you can about creating music. But when you get to this music -- improvised music -- what’s important is that you make people feel, and that they know you‘re into something.