Hartt School of Music
Miss those days. Sometimes it was more important to miss a class and listen to Abraham Burton and Eric McPherson jam and tear it up. Many thanks to Steve Davis, Jackie McLean and Nat Reeves for being good role models and outstanding musicians. My stint there only lasted for a short time but it had a profound impact on my life.
I studied drums w/ Stephen McCraven when I was at UMASS Amherst years ago. Check this interview out with him and Chuck D. Also check this clip out… that’s him back there playing for Archie Shepp’s band. I was fortunate enough to have Archie Shepp sing the blues on a couple songs one night at a gig at the Fire & Water in North Hampton with a jazz quintet I was in back in the day lead by John Piazza. This jazz quintet, The Jazz Poets, actually won the University ‘Best Small Jazz Combo’ from Downbeat Magazine’s competition. It was fun being able to hang out with Steve, Archie and Tom McClung before they all moved out to Paris. Also, If it weren’t for Yusef Lateef, a lot of great players may not have migrated to the Amherst area to begin with. Not to mention that I learned more watching Max Roach play my drumkit right in front of me, than years of listening to the greats play on tapes/cd’s (yeah I used to have [still have] lots of jazz cassette tapes). I also was asked to be a guest drummer for Ted Dunbar‘s jazz combo seminar during one of UMASS Amherst’s Jazz Summer Workshop Programs.
When I arrived at UMASS as a Sophomore, all the older, more experienced Graduate Jazz Students took me under their wing. I wasn’t that great of a player though. I was humbled and honored to be jamming and gigging with all of them. Mark Saltman and Will Knowles are doing well with their project in DC. Herman Hampton went on to be a Professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston MA. He was also in Piazza’s group back in the day. Mark Weissman and I were good friends and used to jam together all the time… “Mark is currently a member of the prestigious United States Air Force Band of Liberty where he tours and performs throughout New England. In addition, Mark is a highly respected freelance musician who also performs frequently around Worcester and Boston.” Steve Page was my roomate, we were good friends and used to jam/gig all the time. Chuck Langford, also a good friend, gave me plenty of opportunites to play. George Langford (no relation to Chuck) and I also used to jam all the time.
Within the Amherst – North Hampton area I was getting all the freelance work because I knew how to lay back and swing and make the other players look and sound good. The reason they took to me was because I just wanted to make the band sound good, I wasn’t trying to showboat or be a rock-star. I just wanted to learn and play to the best of my ability. In fact I think I was somewhat timid yet comfortable with it all. Most of all my earlier years was playing with some of the best players my age and I always found myself collaborating with the more experienced older players. I always want to maintain the attitude of being a student of the music, it keeps my mind open and helps facilitate further development.