"... I like the freedom in extended free-jazz soloing because I am not confined by any particular rhythmic structure (i.e., beats) ... what I'm really getting a kick out of lately is rediscovering all of the voicings, the tonalitites and nuances of drumming, and allowing the instrument to speak more for itself."
- tommy thomas,
Christian composer, guitarist, and percussionist.
In a former life, I was a rudimental drummer in a touring top 12 DCI drum corp. That was a lot of fun and a real challenge. Definitely worth the hard work. Getting your chops busted for hours on end does not seem like a good idea while it is happening, but the payoff is a unique skill set. Those skills stay with you for a very long time.
Years later as a percussionist, I remember a Sunday in February 2004 when I teamed up with guitarist Dominic Gaudious, whom I had just met the previous evening at one of the stops on his tour, and we wound up playing a couple of small venues in Tampa, Florida that next day. I put together a hand-drumming setup and he broke out his custom double-neck guitar and a dijeridou. That was a real treat for me to play with such a rising star in the genre of world music and instrumental guitar.
More recently in 2006 and 2007 I found myself as the percussionist in a Christian band near Austin, Texas. The group is a music ministry that is used to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people that find themselves stranded on the road of life. That was a real rewarding gig for me on so many different levels.
Otherwise, I still play out very selectively and instead split my music-related time available to write for guitar, compose for orchestra, and of course I still practice drumming every now and then just to stay sharp.
Everything from classical to jazz to contemportary Christian has shaped me as a musician. I am influenced by so many musicians and styles of music, many that have little to do with drums and percussion. (I have to admit that I am also deeply affected by great guitarists that play with a strong sense of rhythm such as Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin and the like). But my specific influences relating to drumming range from the jazz drummers such as Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Joe Morello, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich (whom I was fortunate to see play live three times before he passed away), to the rockers Neil Peart and Jon Bonham, studio great Steve Gadd, and the established and funky drummers of yesterday and today including Zig Modeliste, David Garibaldi, Dennis Chambers, Carter Beauford, Dave Weckl and of course nearly everyone in between.
For a solo drumming CD I recorded back in 2006, "Percussion Poetry," I used a 5-piece Pearl kit tuned to yield a distinctive range of tonalities. I played on the rims of the drums, the stands, and even put my large ride cymbal upside down on my floor tom in order to coax a particular set of sounds from it. I made special sticks that I played with to get a warmer sound from the toms, in addition to playing with brushes, and hands, and of course traditional sticks. I employed a simple battery of cymbals including a 10" splash, 14" hi hat, 15" dark crash (doubling as a small ride), a 20" metal crash ride, all name brand, and an authentic Chinese cymbal. I also incorporated a set of Roto-Toms, using them as "talking drums" on track #1 and the Tom-Tom Solo on the CD. On track #4 I set aside the sticks and played on a pair of congas.
I can tell you from experience that the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ knows no bounds. If you are at the end of your road, try the beginning of His.