I lost an old (but not old enough) friend recently. I’ve got a memory of him at a 4th of July party with his daughter in his lap, making her drum along to “Tower of Power Live” with her arms that I keep going back to.
“Little girl’s gotta learn” he said, while carrying on conversations at the same time.
Tommy was a few years older than me. Coming up in our local music serene, everybody knew him from his legendary regional hardcore band.
When I finally got to know him personally, he was playing as the featured drummer at a jazz camp I was attending to play Buddy Rich’s Channel One Suite. Not long after that, we ended up playing together in a wedding / corporate event band for a few years.
In that band, I used to give him crap about not fully using his talents by playing originals, and he used to relay the advice he got from his drummer father, to “put it down simple on 2 and 4, and you can put food on the table.” There was a time and place to do your thing, and a time and place to get paid.
He knew every beat, every fill, and every flub (he claimed there were a few) on that Tower of Power album. Every. Single. Note. He could play along like David Garibaldi’s shadow. That day, his daughter could too.
There’s a million memories, stories, and lessons I took from Tommy, but that mental image of him passing the language of music and rhythm onto his daughter – who couldn’t even walk yet, but she was smiling while they played along – is special.
Here’s to the talents all around us, known and unknown, who make the world a more interesting place.
I keep playing “Soul Vaccination” and remembering that day.