Drummer/composer Matt Slocum isn't from Los Angeles, but he has certainly made a mark here. Arriving from Minnesota in the early aughts, Slocum attended USC, studying jazz and playing with musicians like Walter Smith III and Gerald Clayton along the way. He is now one of America's pre-eminent young jazz drummers.
Slocum's impeccable sense of time and knowledge of jazz history is impressive. He has returned to Southern California for a few dates, most notably performing with his trio and hosting a jam session as part of this weekend's Soka International Jazz Festival in Aliso Viejo. Here, he tells about his favorite jazz drummers of all time.
Max Roach A Study In Brown (1955)
Slocum: When I first started playing jazz, I had three recordings: Clifford Brown's A Study in Brown, Miles Davis' Cookin' and Buddy Rich and Max Roach's Rich vs Roach. Max Roach was on two of those three recordings. He was my first big influence on the drums. I listened a lot to A Study in Brown especially for the way Roach would tune his drums and solo. The ideas that he was playing, I don't hear anyone before him playing similar stuff. There are other recordings where with Clifford's group is stretching more than this one but for whatever reason, hearing A Study in Brown first stuck with me.
Elvin Jones Crescent (1964)
Slocum: If I had to pick one Elvin Jones recording, it would have to be Coltrane's Crescent. I feel that it's somewhat overlooked. There is so much focus on A Love Supreme. Hearing Elvin and bassist Jimmy Garrison swing on those mid tempos is my favorite. Hearing Elvin solo, at first I didn't understand it at all. It sounded like it was totally free. When I was taking lessons with Peter Erskine, we'd listen to Elvin's solos. Only at that point did I start to get a sense for his elastic feel. The way that he would play unaccompanied drum pieces had almost no precedent. You have to adjust to the Elvin factor.
Roy Haynes Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1968)
Slocum: Roy Haynes is my all time favorite drummer although Roach was the drummer that I got into first. I don't know...shit, I take that back. I can't take Roy over Elvin Jones or Max Roach. I love Roy Haynes. It's really hard to pick one record with him too. I like the trio with bassist Miroslav Vitous and pianist Chick Corea. Just the sound of the cymbal seemed very different than the other things that I was hearing from that time period. He was using the hi-hat as its own comping voice and taking extended periods where he is not even playing it, just chilling with his cowboy boots on. The hookup between Roy and Chick is one of the greatest hookups between pianist and drummer ever.
Bill Stewart Think Before You Think (1998)
Slocum: I have to put Bill Stewart in here. Bill Stewart has been a major influence. Think Before You Think is just genius as far as I'm concerned. The first tune is a trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano and bassist Dave Holland. Stewart is young on that recording, not that he doesn't take chances now, but I really hear him developing there. It's very exciting for me to listen to because later I started to hear his ideas more clearly. On these two recordings it was just very fresh. I think he was very excited for his session. It might have been his first session as a leader.
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Jack DeJohnette Saudades (2006)
Slocum: I really like that Trio Beyond recording Jack did about eight years ago with Larry Goldings and John Scofield. I got to hear him play in two situations recently. A year ago we were both doing this festival in Saratoga and then six months ago I heard him with Keith Jarrett's trio. It was night and day difference. It was some of the most incredible fusion stuff and then when he played with Keith it was so subtle. You would've never known that this guy would fit in both of those musical worlds. I read an interview where Jack said "it's like a dryer in a laundromat - it's cycling at the same speed but the clothes are going to fall in different spots at all times." That really stuck with me.