I was 10 years old when I first started learning
music. My first drumset was a cheap, used blue
sparkle set from the local music store. My drum
teacher helped me to paint a red, white, and blue
paint scheme on the front bass drum head. I started
playing the drums because I saw a demonstration
of all the instruments in my elementary school.
When I saw the drums I knew THAT'S what I play.
There was no thought process about deciding which
instrument to play....I just KNEW that I was a
drummer. The band director tried to convince me
to play trumpet instead. Apparently the school
band had too many drummers and a deficit of trumpet
players......I wasn't having any of it.
I started snare drum lessons in elementary school,
but soon began private lessons with my teacher,
Max Hunsicker. Max was a wonderful mentor and
excellent teacher to whom I owe most of my drumming
abilities and musical sensibilities. He is a second
father to me, and continues to be a source of
Also my parents were a constant pillar of support
and patience.....especially when I took to practicing
drums at 2AM. They remain my biggest fans. They
made it possible for me to attend North Texas
State University, the foremost jazz school in
the US, where my teacher Henry Okstel helped to
shape and form my musicianship and technique.
He also remains a good friend, mentor, and source
Were Your Friends Into
Very few of my friends were into learning music.
Once I began courses at Lebanon Valley College
I was befriended by the guys in the college Jazz
Band, but not until North Texas State was I surrounded
by people on a serious quest to become great musicians.
From Student to Performer
At the age of 14, I began playing "lounge"
gigs...... Satin Doll, Bad Bad Leroy Brown......
in school I played in the jazz band....as a high
school senior I enrolled part-time at Lebanon
Valley College to take music theory courses, which
also made me eligible to play with the college
The pianist, Lee Moyer, and the bassist, Ray
Matula of the trio, were both middle-aged professional
musicians who took me under their wing and gave
me the tools to be a professional, working musician.
My parents would drive me to the gig with my drumset,
and then return at 1 or 2AM to pick me up after
the gig! Playing in hotel lounges at 14 was a
real education, as was playing with older, experienced
musicians.... and 50-year-old women hitting on
me was also a unique experience....
Playing with Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson was my first break-through gig
into the real working world. In a sense, I had
been studying for it all my musical life, as a
big fan of the band. Gregg Bissonnette was playing
with Maynard and I was about to graduate from
North Texas State. Gregg recommended me for the
gig and I flew to Washington DC for an audition
during my last weeks of school. The band was playing
at Blues Alley in Georgetown. Early in the day
I met Gregg and his father Bud at the hotel. They
were heading out for a walk around Georgetown,
handed me a beer, and said "let's go"!
As we were walking down the street Maynard was
walking the opposite direction, directly toward
us. Here I was, nervous and scared, and the first
time Maynard will see me is walking down the street
with Gregg and Bud with a beer in my hand!!! I
ditched the beer and Maynard walked up to us.
Gregg introduced us and Maynard said "So,
this is my new drummer!! Welcome to the band!
Great to have you!", and then he continued
walking. That was it....no audition....just a
handshake and what he read in my eyes.....that
I would give my heart and soul to his music, which
I did for nearly five years of world tours. I
flew back to Texas for my graduation ceremony
and immediately left for "the road"
Playing with Maynard was like "finishing"
school. I was fresh out of college, and Maynard
allowed me complete freedom to experiment and
express myself. He was always supportive and unbelievably
inspirational every night. He will always be my
Playing with David Lee
David Lee Roth was just surreal. We rehearsed
for 2 months in the dank, dark basement of his
house for hours every day. He never sang a note
the entire time! He just sat on a bar stool, wearing
sunglasses, looking at the band. He wanted us
to dress up in gig clothes everyday of rehearsal,
and perform as though we were playing live. I
played on one tune on his "Your Filthy Little
Mouth" CD, then it was time for me to move
on....dazed and confused.
Playing with Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar was just a blast. I toured with her
for about 8 years. I was a big fan of hers since
high school, and just being on stage with her
and her amazing energy was a treat every night.
In college I was a Jazz Studies major. There was
one night during school when Miles Davis was playing
in Dallas, and Benatar was playing the same night
at Reunion Arena. Of course, it was understood
at North Texas State that all "Jazz"
majors would be at the Miles gig, but I went to
Reunion Arena to see Pat! The band kicked ass,
and it was one of my dreams come true to eventually
tour with her and record the Innamorata CD and
the live DVD concert.
Playing with Cinderella
Cinderella was fun, in a real "Spinal Tap"
sort of way. The band sounded great. It was probably
the second loudest band in the world, and we just
wailed every night. It was the hardest I've ever
played. The audiences were mostly hardcore rockers
and strippers, and by the middle of the tour my
drumset was covered with bras and panties that
had been thrown onto the stage during the shows!
There was definitely a "live hard, die young"
Playing with Michel LeGrand
Michel LeGrand is really just an 18-year-old at
heart. He's the best ping-pong player I've ever
seen! Once, during a string of gigs at the Blue
Note jazz clubs in Japan, he kicked our butts
repeatedly at the high-tech video games you only
find in Japan. Of course, he's unbelievably talented
as a writer and musician, and he hears EVERYTHING,
even when conducting an 80-piece orchestra. We
did one amazing "one-nighter" gig in
Zagreb, Croatia with the Zagreb Orchestra DURING
THE BOSNIA-SERB WAR! We were 10 miles from the
front! Most of the members of the orchestra had
brothers and fathers fighting on the front lines.
The airport was full of UN airplanes and guards
with machine guns. I was most certainly the only
American civilian in the country, but most people
assumed I was French since I was traveling with
Michel. There was an anti-American sentiment because
the US was avoiding involvement in the war. It
was an amazingly emotional concert, and the orchestra
members played their hearts out.
Another memorable concert with Michel took place
at a jazz club in Paris with the late, great guitarist
Joe Pass. It was right before Joe passed away,
and I felt incredibly fortunate to have been able
to play with Joe. He had a huge heart.
Playing with Jack Sheldon
Jack Sheldon is an American treasure! He's the
funniest, filthiest guy I know and one of the
most talented, swingingest trumpet players in
the world. He's pure comedian between tunes and
dead serious while playing. Every night with Jack
is a treat. We played Catalina's Jazz Club in
Hollywood every month for years with the Jack
Sheldon Big Band. Trey and Christian and I were
the rhythm section with the band when we met Tierney
Sutton. Eventually we became the Tierney Sutton
I met both Trey and Christian on Maynard's band.
We worked together subsequently in various projects
around LA, most notably with Jack Sheldon. The
trio really coagulated behind Tierney Sutton,
and we began playing more often together as a
It's every musician's dream to play with musicians
who you respect musically and with whom you share
common musical ideals. Playing with Christian
and Trey allows me to play more like myself than
any other situation I've experienced. There is
a combination of trust, respect, support and spiritual
searching that we achieve together that is special
and unique and extremely rewarding each time we
play together. Playing with these guys puts me
in the head-space of always wanting to play my
absolute best, out of respect for the musicianship
that these guys exude. I think we have a symbiotic
musical relationship that pushes us to constantly
raise the bar musically and continue to explore
new avenues of music.
"Styne and Mine"
Recording "Styne and Mine" was, in a
way, completely free of any trauma or "work".
Once the trio started playing in the studio, I
seldom gave the process another thought. I was
just enjoying playing these tunes with these guys,
my favorite players. We often played only one
take, and the whole process developed very smoothly.
It's a treat to be in a studio situation where
you're completely comfortable with the headphone
mix, with the gear, with the engineer, with the
music and, most importantly, with the players.
That's the ultimate situation in which there are
no distractions and you'e free to concentrate
solely on the music. It's was very gratifying
experience, made even more so by being able to
experience it with my best friends. It doesn't
get any better than that!
I'm currently working with the Tierney Sutton
Band, as well as with French pop star Veronique
Sanson, with whom I've recorded an upcoming CD.
I continue to do some Jack Sheldon dates. Also,
Trey and I are writing and producing source music
with our friend, Rich Edmond.
There were many musical influences in my life.
As a child I loved Ray Charles, the Temptations,
Tina Turner..... in high school I became a huge
Maynard Ferguson fan, and began studying my biggest
early influences.....Buddy Rich, Tony Williams,
Billy Cobham, Mahavishnu Orchestra.....later,
Miles, Coltrane, Elvin Jones, Chick, Herbie, Bill
Evans, Steve Gadd.
Some of what influences and pushes me to improve
is, the music we create as a group with Tierney
Sutton. Also John Scofield's live CD, “EnRoute”,
and absolutely all Pat Metheny music. Oh, and
also, Coltrane's "A love Supreme". Any
music that is clearly coming from a selfless,
spiritual place.....music created to serve the
art, to serve people.
What musically blows my mind, is anyone playing
selflessly, from the heart, without ego.
Making the 1 O'Clock Lab band at North Texas,
getting the gig with Maynard Ferguson, and winning
the Hennessy Jazz Search competition.
The Strangest Gig
Playing for the birthday celebration of avatar
Sri Sathya Sai Baba at his ashram in India. I
was playing with Maynard, and we were playing
in the world's largest free-standing hall with
no walls......just open air and people (500,000?)
as for as you could see, men on one side, women
on the other, and Baba sitting in the middle on
a throne. We had been staying at the ashram, sleeping
on thin straw mats, showering with a small garden
hose and cold water, for several days. We played
barefoot, in traditional Indian silk garb. The
day after the concert Babba invited us to his
private chambers, where he materialized an emerald
ring and placed it upon my finger. I carry that
ring with me whenever I travel.
I'm also in the middle of a project to replace
the stock airbox of my Moto Guzzi Centauro motorcycle
with machined aluminum velocity stacks and Uni-pod
filters added to the Weber/Marelli fuel injection,
thus requiring a hot-rodded eprom chip replacement
in the bike's computer, a rebalancing of the two
fuel injectors with a TwinMax electronic balancer,
and a resetting, electronically, of the base values
of the Throttle Position Sensor to 150mV, followed
by a dynomometer run to calculate the programming
of the PowerCommander III unit.