Adam Nussbaum. "Purely professional conversation"
We met in 1993 at a jazz festival in a small place called Ivrea in northern Italy. Adam Nussbaum played there with the trio of the famous Danish bassist Niels Pedersen. By that time, I was already a little familiar with the work of this wonderful drummer. Like most musicians, I knew Nussbaum's playing from Michael Brecker's ensemble. Including the album "Don? t Try This At Home", which won a Grammy Award. In addition, I came across other records with the participation of Adam (with Jerry Bergonzi, with Tom Harrell). All this was clearly in my sphere of interest. I always liked Nussbaum's manner very much, his idea of sound is almost completely coincided with mine, and, having learned that Adam was playing with Pederson the day before us, I hurried to the concert. What I heard exceeded all my expectations. All this once again confirmed the fact that jazz should only be listened to live. But now in order. The trio played the most ordinary jazz standards without any frills, without arrangements. In other words, the guys came just to jam. The first was, as I now remember, "Alone Together", a fairly often played melody in a medium tempo. Nussbaum began with a lazy, just "tickled" the cymbals, listened more than played. It would seem that nothing foreshadowed a thunderstorm. And suddenly, out of the blue, he so "applied" one single blow to the snare drum that, out of surprise, I almost jumped out at the heart. It was so sudden and at the same time so fitting that I was just stunned. From that moment on, my attention was riveted to the drummer until the end of the concert. And Nussbaum continued to amaze. And to surprise not with some kind of drum "chips" or outrageous technique (although he has enough of this stuff in his arsenal), but with some kind of unreal musicality, a non-standard approach to very standard things. After the concert, I met Adam, and he turned out to be a very pleasant person, completely devoid of stardom. We had a very nice conversation, and, as it usually happens, the style of Nussbaum the drummer absolutely matched the style of Nussbaum the interlocutor. His manner of speaking is very clear and at the same time figurative. I even memorized one of his comparisons. We talked about successful and unsuccessful performances, and Adam said that a good concert is like a successful sexual experience - it stays with you forever. When we met nine years after that memorable festival, I reminded him of this saying, and we laughed heartily. Adam Nussbaum arrived in Moscow as part of the INTERJAZZ ensemble. The team toured the cities of Russia and, as part of this tour, performed with a concert at the House of Artists. I gave Adam my drums (an old Gretsch with an even older Slingerland Radio King snare), which he was very happy about. He said that he played exactly the same set in the late seventies with John Scofield (John Scofield), and now he has exactly the same hi-hat stance (DW) as mine. These facts brought us closer together. The next day, on May Day, I picked up Adam at the Minsk Hotel, and we went for a walk. In the Hermitage garden, Nussbaum listened to a military band for a long time, marveling at the presence of French horns in the marching band. Then we sat down on a bench on Tverskoy Boulevard, where, in fact, the conversation below took place.
MUSIC BOX: Adam, I want to go back to the festival in Ivrea where we met. I'll probably never forget that snare kick you played on Alone Together. How do you manage to achieve such an effect?
ADAM NUSSBAUM: Basically it depends on when you throw that punch. The most important thing is to choose the right moment. And here the ears are in the first place, you need to carefully listen to what is happening around, what your partners are playing. If you just mechanically hit the snare drum loudly, you risk looking like a complete idiot.
MV: Perhaps the sound itself is important?
AN: Yes, of course, but still, I would give preference to the right moment. It is very important every moment to be aware of your position within the form of the work and to understand where the music is moving.
MV: Adam, tell us how you got started.
AN: My cousin played the drums and he became my role model. I quickly mastered the basic techniques of the game and began to play music in various groups in my native Norwalk (Connecticut). I was twelve years old. By that time I was playing the piano, so I had some idea about music. After a while, I was already the best in the city, so my fellow drummers really didn’t like it when I came to visit them and sat down at the drums. In 1975 I moved to New York to attend The Davis Center for Performing Arts at City College. In addition to college, I studied with other teachers. For example, I took lessons from Joe Cusaitis. We dealt with mobility on a drum kit.
MV: What do you mean by "mobility"?
AN: There is a basic technique for playing percussion instruments. This is, in fact, the technique of playing the snare drum, rudiments, etc. But playing the drum kit is somewhat different. Here you need to learn how to play the same triplets, sixteenth notes, paradiddles, etc. on all the instruments of your set at once, moving freely from one instrument to another, which requires special training. This is mobility.
MV: Let's talk about your production. Have you done this with Kusatis?
AN: My production has been shaped to a large extent by the different teachers I've had the opportunity to work with and the different drummers I've watched play. I try to keep my staging very natural. I believe that as freely as you can use your body, so freely can you embody your ideas. The stick must be an extension of the hand. Positioning your hand, like a trumpeter's or saxophonist's embouchure, connects you to the instrument. I try to be very free and relaxed in my production, I try to avoid any tension - the freer my body, the more naturally I am connected by sticks to my instrument, the better I play. I'm also working on making my left hand as good as my right hand (laughs). And this is a never-ending process.
MV: I noticed that your production looks very classical. It seems that you have devoted a lot of time to practicing rudiments, the classic technique of playing the snare drum.
AN: No, not really. I would like to master a serious classical school. In fact, I'm just trying to reproduce the sounds that are born in my head. And if you look at a good classical drummer, you will see that his production is very natural. Take a look at your hands - they hang freely along the body, just put sticks in them. That's all. I didn't specifically study it. It's just part of my approach to playing the instrument. Also, I've observed a lot of different drummers, how, while adhering to the same traditional concept, they hold sticks differently. Some play in a fairly closed position, others have their thumbs pointing up, and others have their palms facing upwards. And I think you need to be flexible enough to have different types of equipment in your arsenal, because the variety of types of music dictates the need for a variety of embouchure. Whether the trumpeter plays quietly or loudly, high or low, he uses different techniques. And a drummer should be able to do the same. Fast paced play is different from slow paced play. Playing loud is not the same as playing quietly. But in any case, you must be relaxed enough to allow the stick to bounce freely. The stick should do what it wants. Give her a chance to realize her natural abilities. But, it requires some control and flexibility.
MV: Adam, your production seems quite open, very similar to the old generation of drummers. Such as, for example, Buddy Rich. You hold the left stick at 1/3 from the end. And in the 1980s, many drummers who used traditional drumming began to hold the left stick almost to the very end. Am I talking about Dave Weckl and?
AN: (Interrupting) If you look at Wackle today, he doesn't play like that anymore. Everyone finds the right point for himself, focusing on the center of gravity. It depends on the style of music and the effect you are trying to achieve. Some drummers look weird behind the drums, but they play great. Although, usually those who look good also play well (laughs). I always try to make my game look like work as little as possible. I don't want to force anything, I'm just trying to let the sounds come out. It is very important to be free, especially if you have to play at a fast pace for a long period of time.
MB: I noticed that your movements during the game are very wide. This is largely contrary to the concept of Peter Erskine, who advises his students to avoid what he calls "air drumming". That is, his concept completely rejects unnecessary movements. You are constantly on the move, even when you are not striking. Or you do big swings before quiet blows.
AN: I'm trying to feel the space between the beats. I don't try to make many movements on purpose. And if I play at a fast pace, I don't have time for big moves. And when I play in slow, I fill the space with movement. This brings a certain "breadth" to the sense of time.
MB: Let's touch on your kicking technique. I watched you carefully during the concert. You probably used all possible techniques: the heel on the pedal, and the heel on the weight, and strikes with the movement of the foot tangent to the pedal.
AN: Same thing I said about hands. You have to approach different music in different ways, use different techniques. One way of sound production cannot suit all styles of music. I believe that there is no wrong way to play. What doesn't fit in one musical situation may fit perfectly in another. There is no concept of "right" and "wrong" here. There are concepts of "suitable" and "not suitable". All of this applies to playing the hi-hat as well. Sometimes I play with the heel on the weight, sometimes the heel on the pedal, sometimes I put emphasis on the pads of the toes, sometimes the foot slides on the pedal to the right and left - as Tony (Tony Williams) used to play (Author's note). This helps relieve tension (shows movement of the left leg). If you just play up and down, tension quickly accumulates in the leg, and this movement from side to side relieves it. There is only one position in drumming that requires minimal effort, and that is the closed hat position. To extract this sound with a stick, you must constantly hold the cymbals closed with your left foot. In all other cases, voltage is not needed!
MB: Yesterday at the concert you played a samba solo. The solo began with a classic samba rhythm with a well-known pattern of kick and hat. How did you do it?
AN: Usually the foot slides on the pedal. Not that the heel is completely on weight. The foot moves slightly from side to side (shows movement). In general, it all depends on the situation: on the sound, on the acoustics, on how the drums sound. I react to the sound I hear. Each hall has its own acoustics. Each stage has a different sound. You must be able to adapt to the acoustic conditions of the new room. It is very important. You even talk to different people in different ways and play differently with different musicians. If I play in the same way in a small bar and in a huge concert hall, I will look like an idiot!
MB: Adam, please tell us about your approach to drum tuning.
AN: I think the main thing is that the plastic itself is tuned. That is, the tension should be uniform for each screw, then the plastic will resonate well. I usually set the bottom head slightly higher than the top head. I don't like it when the pitch drops after the impact (glissando down). Although, it can be good in other music. I love it when the drum resonates well, has a beautiful tone and "rings" enough. I like a long sound with good sustain. I found out a long time ago that if the drums have a "killed" sound (short, no sustain), I play more notes. If the drums "sing", you don't need many notes. As for the kick, I try to mute it as little as possible. Sometimes I just put a piece of cloth between the pedal and the head to reduce the ringing a little. But sometimes this ringing is very necessary - it is he who "carries" your sound. Many drummers think that their "dead" funk sound is very good, but when there is no tone at all, the sound doesn't fly. And then the sound just falls next to it and doesn’t fly anywhere (imitates the jerky sound of “killed” drums). So the ringing is necessary for the sound to reach the viewer, especially since it is partially absorbed by the sounds of your partners in the ensemble. I try to think legato. Yes, I found the right word. Drums are by nature a very staccato instrument. So I'm trying to find a fluid, round, warm sound. This is what I hear inside. Does it work?
AN: Do I get this sound from drums?
AN: So I'm close to the result! (Laughs). I'm working on it all the time! This is an eternal movement towards the ideal.
MB: By the way, my Gretsch 18" barrel you played is not muted at all.
AN: Yes, I know. But I still put a piece of cloth between the pedal and the plastic. And how did the drums sound in general in this hall?
MB: I liked it. It was probably the first time I listened to my favorite set from the side.
AN: I tightened them up a bit. Very little. For my taste, they sounded a little low. I love this kind of sound, but the thing is, the farther you go from the drum, the lower it sounds to your ear. So I set them up a little higher. All in all, great drums. Yes, I already told you that I had exactly the same set before. And I then used natural leather on snare and bass drums. Was it not easy?
MB: Well, yes, the weather and? What plastics do you use now?
AN: I use Evans Timbale Heads. This is a single-layer plastic with a very interesting texture. There is no sputtering on the plastic. It is made of a material that is rough in itself. It resonates like clear plastic and sounds like coated plastic. It gives quite a lot of ringing, but I like it. I can make the sound more "killed" due to the touch, but not vice versa - I cannot make the instrument sound more open. I think sound is the most important thing. Because it's the first thing people hear. Not WHAT you play, but, first of all, your sound. And you should always be aware of this. How do you know it's Miles Davis playing by his sound, how do you know John Coltrane by his sound, Tony Williams by his sound. Ideas later. This is something to seriously think about. Think about controlling the sound on an instrument, about reproducing the sound that I hope is in your head. Sound is very, very important. And phrasing! And this is in any music. We are talking about the Moscow Symphony or the New York Philharmonic - sound and phrase. Willie Nellson or Marvin Gaye is all about sound and phrase. And it's exactly the same on drums. If you don't like your sound, how can you expect a good game from you? The sound should please you! It's a combination of your touch, your embouchure, your instrument, and your ears. Ears are the most important part. They are the ones who tell you whether what you are doing works. And the better you hear, the better you play. The Lord gave us two ears, but one mouth each. This is really important: how do you hear.
MB: Adam, let's talk about jazz accompaniment and solo playing.
AN: I always adapt to the situation. The ideas of accompaniment and solo playing are directly related to working with the rest of the ensemble components. I do not exist in a vacuum. I have to interact with the bass player to create the necessary foundation, I have to listen carefully to the pianist or guitarist, as I draw a lot of ideas from what I hear from them and from the solo instrument. There are many levels of interaction, and I am always aware of the harmonic-rhythmic canvas of the work. Some themes are very active harmonically, and this is reflected in my approach to performance. If there are a lot of chords in a piece, this will most likely limit my rhythmic activity and vice versa. In other words, it is necessary to have a certain set of knowledge and skills in order to apply them while playing music. Try to constantly "fit" into the situation. After all, “a square pig cannot fit into a round hole”! And I always keep a melody in my head. Here the principle is the same as when driving a car - you are constantly "scanning" the situation. You can't just look ahead, you have to look in the mirror, to the sides, at the speedometer. When I play, I listen to what is happening around. I have a complete sound picture in my ears, then every microsecond I check something: how is the bass (sound balance, are we together), with the soloist, how do I hear the piano, etc. When I play, I am about nothing don't think. I live in the moment: I listen, feel and react to what is happening. And I must always know the form of the work, understand where I am. Just like driving a car, it’s not enough to know how to drive, you need to know where you are going. A lot of things happen during the game, and all this should become part of you. After all, when we talk, we do not think about words and letters. It should be the same in music.
MB: Have you ever encountered a problem when a musician becomes a slave to his own developments, techniques, "chips". When he can't get rid of them, he plays what?
AN: (Interrupting) What did he learn? I think it's very important for drummers to be able to translate their ideas into melodies. When I study, I always have a melody in my head. I'm trying to improvise on the structure of the theme, on some kind of melodic "contour". When I solo, I always rely on the melody. I don't want my game to sound like a set of "chips". Imagine that you and I are talking, and suddenly I start uttering some kind of arrogance that has nothing to do with our conversation. It sounds stupid and childish. I use my "vocabulary" to serve as a composition. The play is the subject of music, and its melody shows you the way.
MB: Have you tried using harmony as a guiding star?
AN: Yes, of course. It's not always the same. Sometimes it's a melody, sometimes it's a harmony, sometimes it's the idea of one of the partners. But in practice, most often one idea leads to another, and I try to create phrases. And the longer phrases you are able to create, the freer you are in self-expression. It's good if you feel eight beats or sixteen beats. You cannot create a good melodic phrase if you think in four-bar or two-bar periods. Drummers need to think more about the melody. Just like wind players who know how to beat harmonies, who know all the modes, should pay more attention to rhythm. This approach opens up a lot of possibilities and will surely take you away from the usual "chips".
MV: Adam, what are you doing now?
AN: I would like to have more opportunities to practice. But I try to pick up sticks every day to "disperse the blood."
MB: And what do you play for this?
AN: I play paradiddles, triplets, etc. Just to warm up. This becomes more important with age. I call it "service". I try to keep the materiel well lubricated (laughs).
MB: And if there is an opportunity to really work out, what do you do?
AN: I want to go deeper into things I don't know much about. These are Cuban and Brazilian rhythms that interest me a lot. I listen to a lot of this kind of music. Then I sit down and play what I heard. I have books on the subject, but I prefer to learn by listening to music. I don't try to reproduce what I hear exactly. I'm just trying to recreate the spirit of this music.
I care more about it being good than right or wrong. If I managed to create the right state in the music, this is what I need. Even if I don’t play all these Brazilian rhythms quite correctly, I’m not a Cuban or a Brazilian. This is how I always learned: I listened and watched. Nothing replaces the feeling of being in a room where a great drummer is playing. This feeling stays with you forever. And you won't get that feeling by listening to recordings. After all, you will never forget the feeling that you experienced while listening to Elvin (Elvin Jones) for the first time at a concert. You cannot replace this with notes that cannot convey the states of music. This is especially important for a drummer. Transcriptions of the drum parts don't give any idea of how it actually sounds. Steve Gadd's performance has nothing to do with Philly Joe's performance, and on paper it may look very similar.
When I play something, I play THIS, not something THIS SPIRIT. It's not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. It's not easy: "I studied from books, I learned everything and I can play." And does it sound right, in the right manner, can you organically apply all this in music? That's what matters! If you only practice all day, you have no chance to improve your game. You have to constantly play with different musicians. The drummer needs to learn how to listen and play TOGETHER with his partners. I know a lot of young drummers who have excellent technical abilities, but when do they start playing in an ensemble?
MB: Adam, you talked about trying to do warm-up exercises for your arms every day, but what about your legs?
AN: No, not now. When I was younger, I played exercises, various combinations of the left hand with the right foot - twos, threes, etc. I worked on the independence of the bass and snare drums. I played the first, probably 8 pages of Stick Control in the following way: swing in the right cymbal, hi-hat on the second and fourth beats, and the written lyrics in jazz eighth notes with the right hand replaced by the right foot (example sings). And he played it not fast, but slowly (sings again) in order to achieve an even flow of triplets. Slow tempo requires more accurate "placement" of beats, gives the right sense of space. There are many different training systems. Alan Dawson has an excellent system, however, you probably know it from Ramsey (John Ramsay is the author's teacher at Berklee College, Dawson's student - Author's note). A couple of textbooks are enough to apply all these systems to classes. Today my game is more spontaneous, adventurous, but I also recognize the need for simplicity. You have to be able to play just one cymbal and get a good feel, a good sound, a good swing to lead the ensemble. The cymbal itself is a whole orchestra. You need to learn how to use it. Does the plate have top, bottom, brightness, haze? We must learn to use all these nuances. It is the nuance that gives the music a certain character. As a drummer, you have to tell Philly from Max Roach, from Art Blakey, from Roy Haynes within four bars. Just like you hear the difference between Bernard Purdie, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, etc. Today, when everyone is studying the same books, watching the same videos, the individuality of the performer is lost. But I believe that everyone has their own unique abilities. Everyone is, first of all, himself. We learn from many musicians, but no one can be better than you! As a drummer, I like different sides of many musicians: some have swing, but I'm not happy with their sound, others like ideas, articulation, but their cymbal playing leaves much to be desired. So, I got different things from different people. And it is important to experience many influences. Someone said that stealing an idea from one person is plagiarism, from many it is research (laughs). It is necessary to be open to the new.
MB: And who would you name among the idols of your youth?
AN: My cousin was my first idol. Then there was Motown music. Drummers who played with James Brown. Early rock and roll had a significant impact on me. Then Bernard Purdy, Aretha Franklin albums. Al Jackson (Al Jackson) and all these guys who played the rhythm so well. Then I saw the Beatles on TV, and at the age of 12 I heard Jimi (Jimi Hendrix), and my mind was blown away. I fell in love with Mitch Mitchell. And he opened the door to Alvin's world for me. When I first heard Alvin, I said that this guy plays just like Jimi Hendrix's drummer. And in fact, Mitch was under the influence of Alvin for a long time. After that, my journey into the world of jazz began. I studied everyone. I fell in love with every drummer you know. And later he had the good fortune to personally meet almost all of his idols. And they were all very kind to me. I met Art, Alvin, Jack (Jack DeJohnette)?
MB: By the way, DeJohnette was very popular in our country. Many tried to imitate his manner, but I consider him a completely unique musician, who is absolutely useless to imitate, and is it really necessary?
AN: Yes, Jack is a unique drummer. He has a rare talent to play incredibly richly and at the same time not interfere with the general flow of music. Few succeed. Jack knows exactly what he's doing. Although, at first glance, he plays quite spontaneously. Behind this is a huge talent and no less huge work. Jack knows everything. Once, at a sound check before a concert, just to warm up, he showed me how different drummers play. And he played just like Philly Joe, then just like Art Blackie, just like Max. And all this with the appropriate sound! He knows all this! In addition, Jack is also a pianist, he has his own way of thinking.
MB: Let's talk about your sound. At one time, I watched a couple of concerts of Michael Brecker with you on drums on the video. And I really liked the idea of playing pretty hard funk music on a typical jazz set.
AN: Yes, I didn't really change anything for this job, only I took a 20" barrel instead of 18". But I think that Michael invited me to work precisely because of my sound and my feeling for music. After all, when I was busy, he invited Omar (Omar Hakim) or Dennis Chambers (Dennis Chambers), but then he returned to me again. Still, in that line-up we played quite a lot of jazz, and not just funk.
MB: Adam, now the traditional question about your plans for the future.
AN: There are many plans. I continue to collaborate with Steve Swallow, John Abercrombie, Kenny Whiller and many others. I don't set super goals for myself and don't strive to create some kind of unique style of playing, I just try to match every moment of playing music. I'm still very enthusiastic, I really like to play and I don't consider it work. Probably, when I feel that music is becoming a hard work for me, I will stop doing it. In the meantime, as soon as the melody begins, I forget about everything in the world and completely surrender to the music.
Material prepared by: Evgeniy PICKED