Bahamas January 1, 2017
"Get Near the Drum”
I awoke to sunshine, and to a slight headache because the night before, myself along with the band (Walter Blanding, Shenel Johns, Yasushi Nakamura, and Emmet Cohen) had been out partying the New Year in; and I think I had one too many Dark 'N' Stormys. The cool thing about the lodging arrangement for this gig was that the promoter had Shenel (Vocalist) staying at a hotel on her own, while the guys were all in a house together. So literally for two days, I felt like I was in a dormitory - it was actually a lot of fun. Despite the fact that we are all world-class traveling jazz musicians that are used to separate and plush 5 star hotel rooms, we all happily obliged to this arrangement because it was different and we all dug the communal vibe.
So, I crawled out of bed, went into the kitchen, and addicted to social media like most of us are in 2017, I went on Instagram. One of my dear friends DMed me saying that I must "go to the Rock Island Bar for a drink - it’s the coolest place on the island." After a few hours, I say to the guys, “Hey, I’m going to this cool bar before dinner, who is joining me?” Yasushi says, he's down, Walter says, “Yeah Man, I am in”. We called Shenel, who answers the phone half asleep, and says, "I am in, give me 15 min", and Emmet begrudgingly joins.
One important fact about Harbour Island, is that no cars are allowed on the island. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, drives around in a golf cart. So the beautiful thing is that it’s virtually impossible to get a DUI - which during this time of the year is a true blessing.
We all got dressed, suited and booted and we hopped on the golf cart to pick up Shenel. We grabbed Shenel and decided to have dinner before going to the bar. After finishing our first dinner of the New Year, we then headed off to Rock Island Bar. As we pull up to the bar, I immediately started ordering shots of this wonderful aged local Rum for the entire band, and we toasted to a New Year of anticipated greatness for us all.
Then all of a sudden we heard this sound that shook our entire table. It was as if the rhythm of our hearts jumped out our bodies and created this hypnotic rhythm. We looked at each other and said, let’s go. (DOOM, DOOM, DOOM, DOOM) We ran out of the bar and outside where we were met with this beautiful carnival of local musicians playing so passionately. The sound permeated through all of the rum within us and the drum called out to us, COME! Walter simultaneously screamed, “GET NEAR THE DRUMS"! It was like we jumped into the pool of rhythm, and began this journey of sonic intercourse with each aspect of the drums. We removed our “snobbish Jazz personas” and got inside of this powerful music. We each positioned ourselves near different parts of the band: Yasushi and Emmet got near the lower brass, Walter and Shenel near the bass drum, and I was near the shakers.
Dressed in full carnival gear, the man with the shakers began to march with the intention to hypnotize everyone with his rhythm and power. He succeeded; we were all under his spell. As I got closer, the rhythm of the shakers captivated me, and began to move into my chest, then it moved from my chest to my shoulders, and they began to move. It moved from my shoulders to my hips, and then they too began to move. It extended from my hips to my thighs and finally the rhythm made its way down to my feet which began to march with purpose - I was along for the journey. Wherever the drum wanted us to go, we were going all the way that night.
Near the drum was I, and at that moment, every care in the world completely vanished and the only conversation that was being had, was between my heart and the drum. We went on for over an hour, being led only by the rhythm of the drum. The joy, the sensation and the purpose was so overwhelming to me, for a moment it took me back to my childhood when I first fell in love with drums.
I began to think, what if we as a society got near the drum? What if we let the drum dictate our speech, character and purpose? Letting the pulse of the drum be what we gathered around the news for? What if the drum was the President of the Free World, setting the political agenda for our lives? How much better would we be?The drum is honest, it is decisive, it doesn’t lie, and it has no ulterior motive.
During this musical march I was energized by the drum. And I will forever seek to be, and remain near the drum, because near to the drum is life everlasting!