I had a really nice time yesterday doing a master class for the drummers in the Juilliard School’s jazz program. First of all I was thrilled to get the call as I spent 5 long productive years in the building. Anyway what a beautiful set up they have now. When I went to Juilliard there was no jazz program and Wynton Marsalis, Dan Block, and Rob Waring, were the only jazz players in the school, but we studied classical music at school. Now there is a separate wing for the jazz department, and the director Carl Allen has assembled an incredible faculty and curriculum for the program. Carl a well-known and seasoned veteran drummer apparently is doing an incredible job running this program. In the 3-4 hours I spent there yesterday, I was greeted by many of my favorite musicians from the faculty. Had a little hang with Frank Kimbarro, Ron Carter, Eddie Henderson, Rodney Jones, Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington. These guys are all top of there field. At the master class I had 5 or 6 drummers and Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington attending the class. Tough company to impress. It all went well and was a really nice loose environment to teach in. Basically I was there to help the drummers open up more to the vibes and the harmonic language skills needed to play jazz. They are great young drummers already or they would not be at Juilliard, but widening the scope is a great thing for them. That is the goal of course.

I was so honored that Carl Allen, Billy Drummond, and Kenny Washington were there. ALl three are at the top of the drum world, and Kenny Washington and I have known each other 40 years. We met in high school at Music and Art High School in NYC when we were 13 or 14 years old. He was then and continues to be a true be bop master on the drums. A jazz master as are all the names listed above, but Kenny was playing with Betty Carter and Johnny Griffin when he was 17 or 18 years old, and he never attended college. The music was his college, and he is a true master. Just goes to show you if you want to learn something you can do it yourself. All the recordings are out there for you to draw from, transcribe, and simply memorize. Kenny desperately as a youngster wanted to sound like Philly Joe Jones. He memorized and mastered that style, and turned it into a huge career, and he developed his own sound. Just amazing!! Great to see Kenny. He had been teaching all day and waited a few hours just to see my master class. I was so happy. Then Kenny and I took a walk down to the 3rd floor to try and find our great friend and colleague from high school Danny Druckman, who is currently director of the percussion dept at Juilliard, as well as a percussionist with the New York Philharmonic. We did not find Danny, but I showed Kenny the infamous orchestra rehearsal room 309. I explained to him how this is where Danny Druckman and I spent countless hours rehearsing with the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Sir George Solti, Sixten Ehrling, Zubin Mehta, Herbert Von Karajan, and so many more genius conductors who came through Juilliard week to week for concerts. The room has an incredible feeling. You walk in this room and you can feel the history. I sure did!!

Afterwards a little hang at a local restaurant with Rodney Jones who has been one of my best friends for around 40 years as well. He is absolutely the most incredible  person. Highly accomplished spiritually, as well as being one of the globes finest guitarists and teachers. All in all a great day, a thrill for me, and a great honor to be called upon to do the master class at Juilliard.

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Core’ngrato 2 Click here and listen to her sing!!

My good freind Gino Forchetti heard my mother’s record and said you must write about her on your blog. I took it to heart. So here it is as I write about my mother who passed away 23 years ago, as she looks down on me now as my career flourishes just a bit. Her name was Edith Gordon, and she was from Canton Ohio, where she was validictorian of her high school class at McKinley High School. She went from that small town in Ohio directly into a full scholarship at The Juilliard School Of Music, which at that time was uptown at 122nd street and Broadway in New York City. Her major was as a mezzo soprano, and a piano minor. She was a fluent pianist and could sight read just about anything. It was not a surprise to me as she had all the support in the world, as my granfather Harry Gordon bought her a Chickering baby grand piano after the depression. I can’t even imagine where he got the money. Either way when my mom passed away 23 years ago I inherited that piano, and I had it rebuilt by Kalman Dietrich of Dietrich Pianos on West 58th Street. I have the piano in my living room today, and it has become an emotional piece of my household. I have written around 100 tunes on this piano, and continue to  this day. After Juilliard Edith Gordon went on to perform with Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and appeared as a soloist with the Cleveland symphony. She sang Mahler 2 with Bernstein at Tanglewood, and eventually became Gian Carlo Menotti’s choice for the role of Lucy in the premiere of  “The Medium and The Telephone” on Broadway. She had several recordings and one of them sticks in my mind as I was a young boy when she made it. It was on Tikva Records, and on this recording every cut was in a different language. She sang in 9 different languages with perfect diction. A golden voice that will remain in my heart forever. Whenever I hear a beautiful soprano sing I think of my mom, as I grew up listening to her vocalize Ma,Me,Mi,Ma Moo at home daily, and watched her perform around the world as a young boy growing up. The year I auditioned for Juilliard they accepted 2 undergrads and one grad student. The 2 undergrads were Danny Druckman (currently the 2nd percussionist in the NY Philharmonic, as well as professor at Juilliard, son of Pulitzer prize winning composer Jacob Druckman, and myself. The grad student accepted that year was Jonathen Haas who today is a fine tympanist and percussionist. When I told my mother I was accepted, I also said I did not really want to go to college. I just wanted to play jazz, as I was a young drum student of Elvin Jones, and playing drums with the late great Kenny Kirkland, and one of todays finest guitarists and composers Rodney Jones. We had a nice band with Kenny on piano,  Rodney playing bass and guitar, and Cecil McBee Jr. playing bass. Well upon hearing the news that I wanted to turn down the opportunity of going to Juilliard after I was one of two accepted out of maybe 50-100 applicants, my mother screamed, “if you do that you are disowned. You will get nothing from me to help you”.  Well as it turned out I went on to Juilliard , and it was a life changing experience for me, as it made me a much more rounded musician, and composer. I got to play with all the greatest musicians and conductors in the world like Leonard Bernstein, Herbert Von Karajan, Sir George Solti, Zubin Mehta, James Conlon, Sixten Ehrling, and many more. As well as I studied with the man who basically invented the tympani in Saul Goodman,  and Elden Buster Bailey who was probably the greatest snare drummer to ever live. It was invaluable to be around this, and I have my mother to thank, as she basically forced me into my freshman year. Thanks Mom! If you could see me now I think you’d be pretty proud of me. Please be sure to  check the sites of all the fantastic musicians I have linked in this blog. And also play the mp3 of Edith Gordon attached.