What's the last thing a drummer says in a band? “Hey, how about we try one of my songs?” Har. Har. Har. Talk about an old joke, the last time I heard that I fell off my dinosaur! But seriously folks ;) drummers ALWAYS get a bad rap when it comes to songwriting. Most drummers make great arrangers (I feel like that’s common knowledge), but I could point to so many great drummers who write great songs - Phil Collins, Dave Grohl, Neil Peart, and Don Henley, are just a few. When it comes to jazz you have Victor Lewis, Billy Higgins, Jeff Watts, Bill Stewart, ALL writing fantastic stuff, and the list doesn’t stop there! Nevertheless, being a drummer, I was always a little gun-shy when it came to music of my own.
In fact, this is my seventh record and it’s the first time I’ve recorded anything I’ve written. For years I’ve said, “Why would I record something of mine when there’s already so much amazing music out there already?!” The truth is, even after I decided to make this record I wasn’t sure it was the right move.
For the better part of a year I’ve wanted to make a record of Thelonious Monk’s music, but they say life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. As fate would have it, after a great experience at a recording session with some friends (where we were all asked to bring original music), the Monk idea started to seem less important than recording my own stuff. So I started bringing these songs to gigs and rehearsals - patiently waiting to be made fun of, or fired. ;) “Hey, how about we try one of my songs?” Har. Har. Har. I kept waiting… and waiting. No one joked. To the contrary, everyone was supportive. People even said they liked it! All the same, I was still unsure….
Two things changed that.
First was a conversation that I had with a friend and fellow musician. We were talking about me making this record. I was hemming and hawing about how my songs are “just drummer tunes” and how they’ll never stack up against this person’s songs or that person’s songs. He stopped me and said, “These are the melodies you heard - and that's enough.” That meant so much to me. Somehow that simple sentence felt like “permission” to exist as a composer. They didn’t have to be the greatest songs ever written in order to be enjoyed, or, because I’m a drummer, have to be BETTER in some way to make up for some imaginary deficiency. They just had to be true, which they were.
However, just because something is true doesn’t mean it’s good - yet… Which brings me to the second thing: the musicians who join me here. I had a good feeling based on the deep and rich history I have playing with Stacy, Jeremy, Ugonna, and Hilary, that things would be ok (hell, they could make “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” sound great). But, when I wrote these songs, there were more than just melodies and chords, there were vibes, a personality to each song; that had to translate to the final product. When I listened to what each of these brilliant musicians brought to “the melodies I heard,” it was clear that the spirit of each song did translate - beautifully. It was then that I felt I had accomplished what I set out to do - make a record of my own music that I could be proud of. I am forever indebted to each of them for what they did - and did so well.
Charles ROO • GEE • AIR • OH - April 2022
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