In 1963, Miles Davis brought his burgeoning quintet, darlings of the press, to a large Los Angeles dinner/concert club. This was the band that was the buzz of the east coast. Part of the reason was young drummer Tony Williams. At the last minute, LA authorities ruled that Tony, mustache or not, was too young to work where alcohol was within easy reach.
So Miles grabbed Colin Bailey, whom he’d heard with Victor Feldman, the pianist on the LA date—until he became a no-show, too! Turns out, Colin ends up gigging along side Herbie Hancock. No problem, Mr Bailey breezed through the Miles gig.
Mind you, by this juncture Colin Bailey was already seasoned. English-born, he’d emigrated to Australia and in his teens began scooping up jazz and studio dates. It was the same when Colin moved to LA. Steady club gigs opened up. Jazz tours flowed. Colin began recording jazz albums, too many to list. As if that weren’t enough, Colin found work in television pit bands.
When LA slowed down, Colin moved to Dallas, where he cut jingles, played weekly in jazz clubs, and continued his educational initiatives. The latter have taken him to the ends of the earth. Case in point, when Drum Fest founder Ralph Angelillo messaged Colin about appearing in Montréal, Colin was on a clinic tour of Brazil. And had to double-check his calendar for October!
The man is a veteran; an inspiration in jazz and a few other areas. Let’s put it this way, he’s now spitting distance from age-80. He’s still playing the drums as he did decades ago.
And he just got married.
Memo Acevedo could have come alone to the Montréal Drum Fest, sat down on his rightful throne, laid sticks or fingers to skins, and it would have been enough. People would have cheered same as last time. On drumset or hand drums, the man illustrates the community underscoring the diversity of Latin styles. Even if you don’t know the difference between samba and songo, Memo’s going to have you feeling it in no time flat.
Born in Colombia, a sort of middle ground in Latin, Memo Acevedo absorbed various rhythms from across the waters and over the hills. His guaguanco on congas, for example, goes deep into rumba, just as, worlds away, his partido alto pulses with the funk all the way down to its samba roots.
An award winning educator, Memo has toured any place you can name. In clinic, he talks the talk then walks a serious walk. Memo can swing a jazz quintet with the same effortless mastery as he rings the bell in the mambo shout-chorus—either way gets things dancing. Accordingly, he’s appeared on a long list of albums with major artists, including Bruce Cockburn, Tito Puente, Joss Stone, Propellerheads, and Irakere.
We are family! Memo Acevedo & Jacquelene Acevedo were the buzz of NAMM, the pride of PASIC. We’re excited to hear them at Drum Fest and extend a warm first-time welcome to Jacquelene, the perfect foil for Memo. What a treat to hear blood on blood, which harkens to the call-and-response that is the heart of rumba.
As if we really needed to, let’s draw attention to Aaron’s distinguished tenure with The Spin Doctors, a pop/groove band that scored-big in the early 1990s and remains active today. Out of nowhere came an infectious melody enlivened by an equally vivid drum sound, especially evident on “Two Princes” (you know it in your sleep). It was the perfect snare drum sound, ambiguous in its blending of a high clang with thick lower-mids. It attracted drummers like moths to the light.
It’s all in the touch and tuning. And it owes to a lifetime spent learning heritage grooves. To give one example, lesser known but equally groove-worthy, on New York Piano Aaron goes for a snare drum drum sound that bears scant resemblance to the Spin Doctors—in fact, the drum is tensioned loose and relaxed. But the effect is the same owing to adherence to the doctrine of groove, which pervades every grace and main note that Aaron sends to tape.
Turns out Aaron Comess has played drums on, written compositions for, and produced his share of albums for prominent singer-songwriters (Joan Osborne, Edie Brikell, David Foster, Aaron Neville). And he’s resurrected the voices of elder statesmen of soul like Isaac Hayes.
How to describe Aaron’s approach? Well, it’s a matter of defining and nailing a pulse that runs constant through a song—keeping it one part tight, one part loose. Often we hear a cushion of washy, large-diameter cymbals. And while the snare drum sound will sometimes diverge sharply from the one you heard on Spin Doctors’ hits, it’s going to make the point as dramatically.
Thanks to Natascha Rogers and her band, the heat coming off the stage will melt the Montreal chill. It gets intense, impassioned and sweaty but you feel no fatigue. Just exhilaration. How could this be? Seems a long shot that a white woman from Paris, educated at a conservatory in Bordeaux, could deliver the music of the dark continent so faithfully, emphatically, and soulfully.
The experience will give you perspective on the “dark horse phenomenon”—our term for creative director Ralph Angelillo’s habit of booking relatively unknown artists at the festival. For example, with Natascha Rogers, he listened and followed the band for a year. When he was confident his initial excitement was justified he inked a deal for the coveted festival slot. All this is to say that Natascha Rogers is going to be among those you can legitimately claim, I knew her when.
Natascha on congas, shakers, or cajon catches the vibe and locks it. She tunes as she touches, according to the dictates of sacred rhythms. Similarly, her voice is singular in its intensity. Is it possible, an old soul residing in a young body? We leave it to you.
Her band is culled from the most proficient in Paris, delivering Cuban or West African music. They go deep because they can. Let’s welcome Natascha and her musicians to Montréal.