Words of wisdom from Steve Gadd at his Dublin drum masterclass

The queue snaked around the corner along the corridor outside the JM Synge theatre at Trinity College, Dublin, as far as the eye could see. It was going to be a hot one inside and so it proved, the hall was rammed. Steve Gadd, drummer …

Published: 6 Nov 2019. Updated: 3 years.

The queue snaked around the corner along the corridor outside the JM Synge theatre at Trinity College, Dublin, as far as the eye could see.

It was going to be a hot one inside and so it proved, the hall was rammed. Steve Gadd, drummer extraordinaire, whose work has adorned records by you name it: Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Chick Corea, Patti Austin, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Steely Dan, was delivering a masterclass and everyone wanted to be there it seemed.

The American began by walking the walk and playing drums before then talking the talk. Joined by Michael Blicher, the very soulful saxophonist from Blicher Hemmer Gadd who are playing Dublin venue the Lost Lane tonight, who was on hand for some duos (later a percussionist, Eddi Jarl, Gadd says they like to ''hang out with'' also joined and who added a little tasteful shaker and just as quickly faded into the background).

Gadd and Blicher played 'Treme' and 'Omara'. Gadd then opened up for questions and they came thick and fast. Gadd's views? He delivered them in a very easy going and open demeanour and there is no big shot bullshit about him at all although you could understand it if there was.

He says he thinks about time… ''all the time''… when someone asked about ''groove in time''. In fact the word ''groove'' came up a lot.

Gadd demonstrated the samba in a few ways when asked, and showed how a flam can change the essential rim sound.

Using two brushes in each hand he said when asked by an audience member that this gave ''a firmer'' beat and he showed us his home practice routine which was illuminating and quite martial in a way, starting with lots of press rolls and moving around the kit. It seems obvious but needs stating: Gadd has a perfect technical grasp of the rudiments of drumming. Everything is built on that facility. But there is so much subtlety in what he does and that is achieved through his interpretation, taste, and artistry. Recently I heard Richard Bailey of Osibisa and the Steve Winwood band play in a Highgate pub in London and you can tell in his case how influential Gadd is on his playing. He must be one of many top drummers to have learnt from Gadd over the decades.

Gadd got everyone doing a clave early on and he explained that some Latin players were very strict about this but he did not really get into the doctrinaire side so much.

Interestingly he talked about the bass drum and how it opened up the groove and he showed us his heel toe action and how you can displace beats. He also spoke about playing with a metronome and when learning new material taking notes as he familiarises himself with whatever song it is.

Steeped in jazz history he talked about how nurturing legends like Gene Krupa and Dizzy Gillespie were in his early days. He said Buddy Rich was good to him and he knew all the stories! He recalled how both Chuck and his brother Gap Mangione were friends from his youthful years and his and their families knew each other. On Chick Corea, their fairly recent record Chinese Butterfly is excellent by the way, he said he could really understand what he wanted from a drummer when he heard Chick himself play drums. And tantalisingly and with no little humour an eye roll and a grin rather than a drum roll he confessed with a shake of the head meaning that the stick click on his famous drum solo with Wayne Shorter on 'Aja' was hardly deliberate.

The masterclass was hosted by Trinity College Jazz Society in association with Dublin Jazz.

Report: Stephen Graham. Photo: Dave Keegan. Eddi Jarl is pictured on the left, updated 12/11/19

Tickets are available for the Lost Lane late show tonight.

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Johnny Taylor, Barry Donohue and Dominic Mullen at the International Bar, Dublin

''Opposite Ruggy O’Donohoe’s Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam, pawing the pound and half of Mangan’s, late Fehrenbach’s, porksteaks he had been sent for, went along warm Wicklow street dawdling. It was too blooming dull sitting in the parlour with Mrs …

Published: 6 Nov 2019. Updated: 2 years.

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''Opposite Ruggy O’Donohoe’s Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam, pawing the pound and half of Mangan’s, late Fehrenbach’s, porksteaks he had been sent for, went along warm Wicklow street dawdling. It was too blooming dull sitting in the parlour with Mrs Stoer and Mrs Quigley and Mrs Mac Dowell and the blind down and they all at their sniffles and sipping sups of the superior tawny sherry uncle Barney brought from Tunney’s. And they eating crumbs of the cottage fruit cake jawing the whole blooming time and sighing.'' (James Joyce, Ulysses)

In Ruggy O'Donohoe's, otherwise known as the International, the regular Tuesday night jazz session, one of Dublin's finest, according to one scene insider, was already underway. The line-up is not advertised in advance and gig goers get in free but stuff five euro notes into a little box in a convenient break after listening for a while. Breaking to chat a little to the ever growing audience as the night progressed: ''We play with guitarist Nigel Mooney,'' said drummer Dominic Mullen somewhat unassumingly, who did most of the talking explaining with a twinkle that Nigel likes things in a certain way, adding: ''We're not going to do it like that.''

Mullen is a busy presence at the kit and needed to have his wits about him as pianist Johnny Taylor has considerable skill and flexibility in his expansive way at the keyboards, the standards they chose to play seemed to get more difficult as the night wore on. So from the relatively straightforward Benny Golson number 'Whisper Not' to the iridescent 'Maiden Voyage' where the beanie hatted Barry Donohue on bass, a velveteen curtain behind him, came into his own opening the number sonorously (later a vastly elaborated upon 'Dolphin Dance' deepened the Herbie Hancock theme) this was no dawdle through the Real Book although the players did seem a little puzzled at times about deciding what to opt for next.

Taking place downstairs in the basement of the International, known under that name since 1886 according to the pub's own history, a famous photograph of revolutionary leader Michael Collins, who is said to have drank here, is enlarged and emblazoned on the wall adds a certain drama to the cosy domestic quaintness. You could almost taste the atmosphere and this fine trio cut a fitting dash and matched the mood of the evening just so. SG