I grew up in Detroit. When I first got the idea that I wanted to play drums, around 1966, my main source of musical inspiration was AM radio. Here’s a good representation of what I was listening to in those days. It was pop, rock, and soul.
In a few short years, AM radio became very uncool, and all the music I wanted to hear was to be found on FM. It was referred to as “album oriented rock,” and the stuff that turned me on the most was Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Pink Floyd, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, The Allman Brothers Band, Johnny Winter, Ike and Tina Turner … you get the picture. And in 1969, at sixteen years of age, my eighteen-year-old brother and I went to Woodstock.
Soon, I started hearing some other kind of stuff in amongst the psychedelia. On the hippest Detroit stations, late at night, they started introducing tunes like Pharaoh Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan” with Leon Thomas, “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane, and the stuff that really took me where I wanted to go—the cuts from Miles Davis’s “Live Evil” and “Bitches Brew” albums. I didn’t associate this with what I knew to be “jazz” at the time; I just knew that I really dug it.
Later on, I had a job working in the mail room and shipping-and-receiving department at the University of Detroit. One of my cowokers heard that I was taking drum lessons. I had hooked up with a guy named Gene Stewart, a great drummer and a great teacher. Gene had at one time played with Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd. He had also been a roommate of Joe Morello when they both were at Juilliard. That coworker, a guy named Joe Harris, also was a drummer, although, as far as I could tell, he was inactive at the time. Joe lent me his Philly Joe Jones record “Drums Around the World.” This, I definitely associated with what I knew to be jazz, and it really juiced me up.
In 1976, the center of my musical universe shifted to the Creative Music Studio (CMS) in Woodstock, New York. There I was up close and personal, in performance, workshop, and private-lesson situations, with Jack DeJohnette, Karl Berger, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, Carla Bley, Nana Vasconcelos, Don Cherry, Bob Moses, Collin Walcott, and a whole lot of other folks. CMS went on a hiatus in 1984, and in many ways, I did too. When CMS revived itself in 2013, I was right there and have continued to be, in sessions with Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso, Peter Apfelbaum, Cyro Baptista, Don Byron, Kenny Wessel, Kirk Knufke, Vijay Iyer, Ken Filiano, Steven Bernstein, Billy Martin . . . the list goes on and on.
I wrote two book about CMS. The first, Music Universe, Music Mind: Revisiting the Creative Music Studio, Woodstock, New York, chronicled CMS from its 1971 inception through 1984. The second, All Kinds of Time: The Enduring Spirit of the Creative Music Studio, brought things up to date from 1984 through 2016.
In recent years I have become more and more active on the Ann Arbor-Detroit music scene. I have been fortunate enough to play with some of the finest musicians in the area: Ron Brooks, Tad Weed, Kurt Krahnke, PD Nonet, Tim Haldeman, Doug Horn, Dan Bennett, Janelle Reichman, Andrew Bishop, Rob Crozier, Rob Bickley, Gary Schunk, and many more.