What do Neil Peart, Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, and Bruce Becker have in common.....? All of these drummers have sought the unique insights and perspective on balance and motion from drum "guru" Freddie Gruber.
Gruber's reputation rests upon an approach that stresses a more efficient use of the drummer's anatomy. Gruber has often been referred to as the "zen" master of teaching. This rare insight into this approach was spurred on by Freddie's close 40 year friendship with Buddy Rich. It can clearly be seen in Buddy's playing.
Bruce started his studies with Freddie back in 1977. It was at this time when Freddie's activity was at its height. Bruce not only studied for 8 years, but watched Freddie teach. Over the years Bruce was present for hundreds of students and became increasingly aware of the value of Freddie's approach. He was also able to watch the evolution and changes Freddie made in response to musical styles and drum innovations of the time. "I was there at a unique time during the late 70's and mid 80's. The pace at which I saw Mr. Gruber evolve was mind boggling. I would literally spend hours and hang......and this went on for years", Bruce recounts in a June '93 interview in Belgo Beat (Belgian Drum Magazine).
Upon relocating to Europe in 1992, Bruce spent quite a bit of time traveling with Gruber. Together they did a series of Clinics and Masterclasses in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. While Gruber would pontificate, Bruce would demonstrate on the drums. At this time Bruce also became the Head of the Drum Dept. at A.I.M. (American Institute of Music) in Vienna, Austria. There he spent time actively putting his thoughts and concepts together based on all that Gruber had shared with him.
Bruce's conceptual approach and unique ability yields great results. His equation is Balance + Motion = Emotion. He offers the most comprehensive insight into the teachings of Mr. Gruber, and has been teaching since '82. Since returning to Los Angeles, Bruce teaches privately and has a steady stream of working drummers.
Bruce has worked with diverse artists such as Suzanne Somers, Beach Boy Family and Friends, Andy Sheppard, Deborah Henson-Conant, David Becker, Joe DiOrio, Herb Ellis, Barbara Dennerlein, Suns of the Dead, and Frank Gambale.
Drummer--composer--arranger--educator, Bill’s list of credits include Michael Bublé, David Foster, Count Basie Orchestra, Christian McBride, Steve Tyrell, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, John Clayton, The Tonight Show, Ellen Degeneres, Randy Brecker, John Beasley and many more. His spent his youth in Seattle Washington and later finished his education at The University of North Texas in Denton. Soon after, he was accepted into the prestigious Henry Mancini Institute prompting his move to Southern California and it was in Los Angeles where his career blossomed.
With his broad Jazz pedigree, Bill made his name working with both large and small ensembles locally and abroad. But his interests go beyond Jazz music as his expertise in both Broadway pit orchestras or pop bands are every bit an equal to session work and composition/arranging. Besides twenty-five years of professional experience, Bill takes great pride in educating future generations as a faculty member of Los Angeles’s premier arts academy, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. When not making music, he writes science fiction and enjoys the company of his French Bulldogs Captain and Mei Mei. Bill is endorsed by TAMA drums and VATER drumsticks.
Bert is originally from Germany, but tours all over the world with everyone from Vinnie Colaiuta to Mike Garson.
We caught up with Bert at a show at Cafe Metropol with Mike Garson on Piano and Roberto Miranda on Bass.
Bernie has been performing with a wide array of artist in a variety of situations. Well known as the drummer with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, we have worked with Bernie on a show with Carl Verheyen at BB Kings, and recently performing with an all-star band for Johnny Mandel at Catalina's in Hollywood.
Bernie is an incredible drummer. Whether rocking out with Brian Setzer, or playing first-class charts with the likes of Pete Christlieb, Mike Melvoin, John Pisano and the boys.
Andy Roth is a musician who delivers and works on computers during the day.
I've been performing and recording drums in the greater Seattle area and abroad for over 20 years. I have toured and recorded with Wayne Horvitz' Zony Mash and Sweeter than the Day playing many jazz festivals in Europe and clubs in the US. I've also recorded and performed with a wide variety of artists in the Northwest playing many different styles of music including jazz, pop, reggae, country, latin and blues. I had the opportunity to study with John Moawad and briefly with the great Mel Lewis and Jeff Hamilton.
Alfred has a long history of playing with Latin greats such as Poncho Sanchez, Banda Brothers, Scott Martin, Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto, Rob Thomas, Candi Sosa and many others.
Al Williams organized his first band, The Modern Jazz Majors, in college, building a glowing “rep” in local clubs such as The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. As Williams’ popularity grew, he became an in-demand drummer for the likes of Hampton Hawes, Teddy Edwards, Leroy Vinnegar and Roy Ayers. Williams was so proficient, folks started calling him “Baby Boy” because he was so much younger than the heavyweights who hired him. However, by the late `70s, Williams decided two changes were in order: the local club scene and his lifestyle.
“When I was traveling,” he reflects, “the clubs we played weren’t really jazz clubs. They were set up for ‘other purposes.’ So when I came off the road to be with my daughter, I decided to build a club specifically for jazz.” Thus, The Jazz Safari – Long Beach’s first jazz club – was born in 1978. “It was intimate and easy to manage,” he remembers. “I could sit in one corner and watch my entire operation.”
1978 was also the year that Williams launched The Queen Mary Jazz Festival, Southern California’s first two-day jazz festival (the April affair beat Playboy’s Jazz Festival by two months), featuring Cal Tjader, Jimmy Witherspoon, Gloria Lynne and Supersax.
When the Jazz Safari’s lease wasn’t renewed, Williams bowed out of the clubs and festivals temporarily. When he returned, it was in downtown Long Beach in a bigger, upstairs-with-a-view room that he boldly christened, Birdland West. The club’s sound was so impeccable that Carmen McRae and Freddie Cole recorded live albums there.
Next, Williams returned to the festival scene with the beautiful lagoon as the location, his own Rainbow Promotions company to book it, and a plan that gave him complete control. “This time the land belonged to the city,” he shares, “and I had the festival name patented.” Stanley Clarke and the top-drawing team-up of Eddie Harris & Les McCann were among the acts to inaugurate the 1st Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival in 1987.
Outside of the Long Beach Grand Prix, the Long Beach Jazz Festival is the city’s second largest event, according to Benoit. “They’ve ‘grandfathered’ us in, so the second weekend in August is ours for as long as we want it.” Weekend attendance has grown steadily and averages between 25-30,000 over the 3 days. The festival gives back to the city, too, not only in tourism revenues but also in special programs. This year, the Urban League and Downtown Long Beach Associates are doing a “Jazz Talent Search,” the winner of which will open the festival on Sunday. And on Saturday, the Long Beach Poly High School Jazz Band opens the program.
After 15 years, Williams and Benoit have the programming down to a science, with a shrewd blend of contemporary and traditional jazz strains. “I opened the festival up to more smooth jazz acts to appeal to more people,” Al explains, “but I try to make a few be bop converts every year.”
Williams is hard-pressed to choose all-time favorites - the artists being friends and all – but one performance was too priceless to forget. “It was Cab Calloway - his last performance,” Williams offers. “It was strange at first. When he got out of the limousine, he was shufflin’, which kinda made me nervous. But as soon as the band struck up, that overcoat flew off, he came runnin’ out hollerin’ ‘Hi De Ho’ and tore the place up!”
Beyond the ecstatic audience response, jazz performers have become quite attached to this festival, too. Saxophonist Gerald Albright, who recorded his Live at Birdland West Lp in Williams’ now-closed nightclub, shares, “The Long Beach Jazz Festival is really special for me because I got to see it from its embryonic stage to what it is today. I met Al when I was playing bass guitar for Willie Bobo at the Jazz Safari, so we go back! I’ve played his festival at least eight times. He’s always kept a slot there for me. For me to still be playing his festival is a compliment in itself.”
Wayne Henderson, founding trombonist of the Jazz Crusaders, still cites Al’s ears as an element musicians respect and appreciate. “Sound is a nightmare for musicians at festivals. Al sets a real comfort zone for musicians by relieving them of the stress of worrying about it. Beyond that, Al is just a beautiful human being – always so personable and positive, and always smiling. Even if the roof caved in, somehow he’d find a way to keep smiling.”
Musician Kirk Whalum fondly recalls, “I distinctly remember my first festival with Al Williams. I thought it was interesting to have a musician (Al) promoting the concert and championing the cause of live and quality music. The Long Beach Jazz Festival is one of my favorite festivals to play because they generally have a great line up that always include REAL music. I'm one of the many people who appreciate it.”
Asked if it’s gotten any easier to put this show on after 15 years, Benoit muses, “A few years ago it wasn’t very difficult. Now it’s more challenging. There are jazz festivals in every city throughout the summer. To get the quality acts, we really have to start months out now.” All of the hard work and love makes the Long Beach Jazz Festival an outdoor love-in that keeps the people coming back year after year. “And without the people,” Williams attests, “we wouldn’t have been here enjoying all of this great jazz for the last fifteen years.”
When asked about the newest band member, drummer Adam Deitch, Sco says: “I’ve worked with all kinds of great drummers but I knew I found the right guy the first time I played with Adam. He’d been anchoring down the current version of the Average White Band, which tells you something about his groove. He throws ideas at you all night long.”
Deitch is quickly becoming one of my favorite drummers to go check out as this kid has got some real mad skillz. The list goes on and on with strong tunes such as ‘Back in Effect’, ‘Reunion’ and ‘Nyack.’
The band plays very well as a unit and the drumming of Adam Deitch is both funky and complex.
Aaron Serfaty has been playing professionally for 17 years. From 1980 - 1990 he was a first call session drummer in his native country of Venezuela. He moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to attend the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Soon after he began touring and recording with Arturo Sandoval and Jon Anderson, and performing with Sergio Mendes, Dori Caymmi, Oscar Castro Neves, Frank Gambale, Shelly Berg, Juan Carlos Quintero, Rique Pantoja and Don Grusin. Aaron is currently the director of the Latin Jazz Ensemble at the University of Southern California (USC). Aaron currently teaches Ensemble Workshops, and Afro-Cuban/Brazilian Drums.
Abe Lagrimas Jr.
At age 23, Abraham "Abe" Lagrimas, Jr. is one of the most gifted musical artists to emerge from the state of Hawaii. A drumming sensation from an early age, he's appeared on stage, radio and television with a who's who in the Hawaii entertainment scene. Proficient in all styles of contemporary drumming, he's dazzled audiences with his great feel, musical interpretation, and tasteful solos. Prior to graduating from high school, he's won several national music achievement and scholarship awards, received artist endorsement deal from drum manufacturers and toured the US and Japan.
In addition to his drumming, Abraham is also forging new ground as a multi-instrumentalist (vibraphone, piano, guitar, bass, percussion and ukulele), jazz composer and arranger. Late 2005 marks the debut of Abe's instrumental release Dimensions. Dimensions is an introduction to the rising ukulele prodigy and his jazz improvisational prowess on the instrument.