As one of the under-recognized jazz artists who has appeared with a multitude of musicians in a multitude of contexts since the 1970’s, Adam Nussbaum continues to add drive and textures to the groups in which he performs. Most recently, he played in Steve Swallow’s quintet, not to mention Nussbaum’s own group with Jerry Bergonzi and Dan Wall.
But Nussbaum has performed with a veritable who’s who of jazz musicians, including Gil Evans, Dave Liebman, John Scofield, Bill Evans, Bobby Watson, Art Farmer, Gary Burton, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Lee Konitz, Art Pepper, George Gruntz, Bob Brookmeyer, Kenny Wheeler, Phil Woods, Sheila Jordan, Eliane Elias, John Abercrombie and Stan Getz. In the past few years, he has been working with James Moody group as well, which includes Renee Rosnes and Todd Coolman.
Nussbaum had just heard Wayne Shorter’s new quartet, which won multiple honors in 2002, when this interview was recorded in the summer of 2001. As one of the drummers who has played on innumerable important recordings, Adam Nussbaum, immersed in the music and unconcerned about self-promotion, deserves all of the attention that JazzReview.com provides in the following interview and more. JazzReview.com:
You just returned from a tour overseas? Adam Nussbaum:
I did a gig at a jazz festival in Rehovot, Israel. Actually, it was one of the first gigs under my own name. When I got a chance to do this gig, I thought I would recruit guys I love playing with. Jerry Bergonzi and Dan Wall were the other people in the group. I’ve played with both of those guys over the years. I figured it was a chance for us to just have a good time and play. We didn’t have to worry about developing any kind of camaraderie because it was already there. Before we left on the tour, I sent them a few tunes that might be fun to do. One was a tune I wrote, and the others were re-arrangements on standards to give them a different slant. I think it’s nice for people to hear something they can relate to. On the other hand, we wouldn’t want to reiterate the way those tunes have already been done. I think that any drummer changes how the arrangements are played anyway, even when nothing is formally structured. The drums dictate the sonic palette of the groups. The ickety-boom and the spittle-a-ding should be working in harmony.
That was a lot of traveling for a seventy-five-minute set, but it was nice because I got to hear Wayne Shorter’s new band.
Before going there, I did a few gigs in Canada with pianist/singer Patricia Barber. She plays, writes and sings really well, and she really gets a vibe going. Also, I was in Italy for two weeks with Steve Swallow and a Sicilian pianist named Giovanni Mazzerino. And I’ve been involved in different projects this year. I was in a quartet with Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor and Chris Laurence. Of course, the hits with Moody are fun. Those have included Renee Rosnes and Todd Coolman. At the end of this year, I’ll be touring with Steve Swallow and Chris Potter. The name that Swallow gave the group is Damaged In Transit.
That sounds like a lot of work, but the unfortunate reality is that these jobs last only a few weeks. None of those situations offer extended touring schedules. If you string enough of them together, you can somehow stay busy. I’m fortunate to be able to do that. I think a more ideal situation would be if a band could work on a regular basis. JazzReview.com:
How were you able to string them together? Adam Nussbaum:
People call me for jobs, and I try to juggle my calendar. JazzReview.com:
Do you have a manager or agent? Adam Nussbaum:
Just me, myself and I, as well as my lovely wife when she answers the phone. The best way to get a gig is to have a gig. If someone comes to hear you and you’re taking care of the situation, it can lead to more work. JazzReview.com:
You mentioned that your wife works with you to book gigs. Where did you meet her? Adam Nussbaum:
I met her on the telephone. An old friend of mine used to work at a firm on Wall Street. When I used to call him to shoot the bull, this very nice voice would answer the phone. I found out a little bit about her from him, and she found out a little bit about me from him. After about a year of being phone mates, I had him bring her down to one of my jobs. I said, "I want to see the package that goes with the voice. Bring her down to the gig. If it’s cool, it’s cool. If it ain’t, it’s still cool." I liked what I saw, and we started going out. Now, we’ve been married for seventeen years. JazzReview.com:
Does she still work? Adam Nussbaum:
Yes. She used to work in Manhattan, but now we live in the country. Now, she works in reading math remedial programs for kindergarten and first-grade students. It’s a very satisfying job for her, and we also have kids. She’s the greatest. I’m madly in love with her. JazzReview.com:
Does she travel with you? Adam Nussbaum:
On occasion. I wouldn’t put people through what we have to do. [Laughs] When a musician is playing one-nighters, the whole object of the day is preparing for the gig. There is very little time for sightseeing. Occasionally, I’ll be able to be in one place for a while. For example, one year, I spent three weeks in Copenhagen. Another time, I played a week-and-a-half in Switzerland. Or on occasion, I’ve spent a week in Paris when a tour ends. In those circumstances, sometimes I consider bringing the family along. But the music is the reason the musician is traveling. Throughout that day, the musician has to focus on the level that the music has to be. Nobody cares if he or she had to take eight trains, miss flights, get sick or lose baggage.
"The music business" is almost an oxymoron, though. A lot of things that happen in the music "business" would never occur between companies. The union takes care of musicians if they play within the area that contains union jobs, such as those for Broadway plays or classical performance. But a jazz musician who travels to various parts of the world doesn’t have that protection. JazzReview.com:
How do musicians keep going under sometimes adverse conditions. Adam Nussbaum:
They have to do it because it’s their calling. When a musician is out there on gigs, what do they call that? It’s called "playing." It’s supposed to be fun. The "work" consists of all of the tactics involved in getting to the job. But once the gig starts, the musicians are playing.
They’re there because they love it. Hopefully, the musicians get a good energy from the audience. But my main responsibility is to the people on the stage. If good feeling and honesty occur on the stage, I think that people can feel that. JazzReview.com:
At what age did you feel that playing drums is a "calling?" Adam Nussbaum:
I studied piano extensively for five or six years when I was a kid. I really got into the drums when I was about the age of twelve. However, I had already been playing drums before that. My piano teacher, Katalin Staplefeldt, used to have a rhythm workshop every Saturday morning. We would play different instruments like the glockenspiel, triangle, marimba or xylophone. I usually gravitated toward the drums.
I got into the drums by watching my older cousin, Peter Gaines, who was like a big brother. He was kind of a tour guide to the music for me. He played the right records for me. Also, he played the drums and the flute professionally.
I never made a conscious decision that "oh, I have to become a musician." I always enjoyed played, and I got calls. I just had to go with what was happening.
I had tried to dissuade myself from playing music by going to a liberal arts college for a year. But I felt the call of the music, and I decided to put more energy into learning about it. So I went to City College, where I had big band experience with Ed Summerlin. He’s seventy-two and he writes some very interesting music. I was able to play in the third-stream ensemble under the direction of John Lewis. And I was able to be in a Latin ensemble directed by Charlie Palmieri, Eddie Palmieri’s older brother. So there was a vast variety of things for me to learn. I stayed there for a while. I never finished school because people were calling me to go out on the road. I wanted to play and learn that way. Looking back, it might have been good to finish my schooling to get the degree. A lot of institutions won’t consider a musician’s viability unless he or she has formalized credentials. In some instances, a musician with a lifetime of experience can apply at a university, but without that piece of paper, it won’t even consider the application. JazzReview.com:
You studied with Charli Persip? Adam Nussbaum:
Yes, while I was in college and also a little bit before that time. It was a great experience. He’s a wonderful musician and a lot of fun. I had heard him play with Billy Eckstine, and I knew about him through his records with Dizzy. I got his number and called him to study with him. He kicked my butt good. JazzReview.com:
And you met Dizzy Gillespie when you were young? Adam Nussbaum:
Yeah. I was eight or nine years old at that time. Leonard Bernstein had an afternoon benefit concert for the NAACP at a summer home in Fairfield, Connecticut. A bandstand was set up in his yard, and they had a picnic. A lot of people were playing there that day. I think Wes Montgomery, Morgana King and Billy Taylor were there. I remember that Dizzy was clowning around with me because I was captivated by the drums. Dizzy was such a fun-loving person and a giving person. He carried me piggy-back, and I guess it left a deep impression on me. Years later, I did get a chance to play with him. I was doing a concert with the American Jazz Orchestra at Cooper Union on Manhattan. The band was directed by John Lewis, and a lot of the top New York players were in it. The band paid a tribute to Dizzy by playing a lot of his big band music from the late forties and from his State Department band in the fifties. John Lewis, Al McKibbon and Bags were playing. At a certain point, Percy Heath showed up with Dizzy, but Connie Kay didn’t show up. I got to play "Confirmation" with Dizzy, John Lewis, Bags and Percy. I was glad my father was there that day. It’s nice when your parents are able to enjoy those kinds of situations. JazzReview.com:
And your father is deceased now? Adam Nussbaum:
Yes. My father was very creative, but he made his living as a technical illustrator. His real love was art. He worked in a variety of mediums: water color, oil and acrylics. He also made sculptures out of wood and metal. He was an amazing gardener, and he made wine and brandy. Both he and my mother were very pragmatic about helping to prepare me for dealing with the tribulations involved in pursuing art. They always said, "You should go to school because you never know what will happen. You have to be prepared in today’s world." I tried college for a while, but genes are thicker than words. I had to pursue the music. Growing up in an atmosphere where there was an appreciation for art had a profound effect on me. My mother had been involved in acting and graphics. I was surrounded by the situation. Since I was an only child, a lot of my associations were with older people who were friends of theirs. JazzReview.com:
You were born in the Bronx? Adam Nussbaum:
Actually, I was born in Inwood Park in Manhattan: 87 West 204th Street. That’s on the verge of the Bronx, but it’s not in it. JazzReview.com:
November 29, 1955. Adam Nussbaum:
Yes. Billy Hart, Billy Strayhorn, Chuck Mangione and I was all born on the same day. JazzReview.com:
And you heard Tony Williams when you were young? Adam Nussbaum:
Yeah. It was the original Lifetime with Jack Bruce. That performance was amazing. I felt like the person in the Maxell ad--the one who sits in the chair and is being blown by the sound from the speaker. I couldn’t describe what was going on, but the energy from it was so intense that it enveloped me! JazzReview.com:
How did you happen to go there? Adam Nussbaum:
I used to see rock bands a lot at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York. I saw Eric Clapton, Leslie West, and Delaney & Bonnie. I used to take the train there from Norwalk, Connecticut. I remember buying an issue of Jazz And Pop
magazine that contained the critics’ poll. All of the guys in Tony Williams’ band had won the poll: John McLaughlin and Larry Young. I knew of Jack Bruce, of course, from Cream. I was in the fourth row. Tony was still using a small drum set. They were bright yellow drums with new cymbals. He was holding the microphone with his left hand as he sang, and he was still playing the drums with his feet and his right hand. Larry Young had incense coming off the organ. John McLaughlin was dressed like a knight, and he wore a big vest. He had a psychedelically painted guitar, and he had a crew cut. Jack Bruce was in the corner between the organ and the drums. He was out of the spotlight, and he was wearing a purple velvet suit. He was playing a clear Dan Armstrong bass, and he was reading
charts. I thought, "How can he be reading?" You know, you remember those kinds of things when you’re young.
I had never heard anybody play drums like that up until that point. I had been listening to jazz, but it was Bill Evans and Gerry Mulligan. Also, I was listening to rock. Jimi Hendrix was an important aspect of my development, as were Cream, Led Zeppelin and the Motown bands. But I had never seen anybody but Tony play with that ferocity. It was like jazz, but with the power and volume of rock-and-roll. He was one of the catalysts for me to play jazz. JazzReview.com:
You worked with Albert Dailey in New York after you left college? Adam Nussbaum:
I sat in with Albert Dailey every Sunday at Folk City. It was across the street from where the Blue Note is now in Manhattan. Finally, Albert said, "I want you to make the gig." He was a great pianist with an amazing amount of experience, and playing with him was a fantastic learning experience. I always felt that you have to play with people who are better than you if you want to improve. I met a lot of other people at Folk City: Dennis Irwin, Carter Jefferson, Woody Shaw, Hank Mobley and Wilbur Ware. You never knew who would show up. I started to develop a network of friends, and they would lead to other jobs. For example, Nina Sheldon was the intermission pianist at the Village Gate, and we played after Mingus, Dizzy, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins--a lot of great groups. Nina always had a lot of good sax players come and sit in. Every situation required an ability to adapt. JazzReview.com:
Wasn’t your first regular work with Dave Liebman? Adam Nussbaum:
Yes, that was a very good time for me because I was like the baby in the band. I was playing with people who were a lot
more experienced. And Dave is a great teacher. He had such a broad range of experience in "the deep water"--having playing with Miles, Elvin, Chick and Pete LaRoca. Dave always wanted more
from me. Often, the bandleader tells a drummer, "Calm down! Keep it down! Don’t do this! Don’t do that!" Dave would say, "Is that all you got for me? Come on, man, let’s go!" Everybody was playing fantastically. The trumpet player was Terumasa Hino, and he played with incredible fire and energy. John Scofield played guitar, and Ron McClure was in the band. I mean, Sco and I were the young guys in the band. After Hino couldn’t do a tour, Kenny Kirkland came into the band. Kenny and I were about the same age, and he was a truly gifted musician. After that, Kenny started to work a lot more around New York. He was one of those guys who "had it"--something that can’t be taught. He had a great feel, great time and a great sound. Also, Kenny was very global. He could always play in any kind of zone, and still sound "right." I got to really hit in Dave’s band, and being there was a great experience. JazzReview.com:
Didn’t you meet John Scofield before that? Adam Nussbaum:
Scofield grew up around the same town that I did. When I was a kid, I was in a band with one of the Thompson brothers, and John--being about four years older--was in another band with one of the older Thompson brothers. The guitarist I used to play with in that band used to study with John. I was thirteen years old at that time. I finally met John when I came to New York. Steve Slagle introduced us. I had a loft on 26th Street. Down the street, Steve lived in a loft with Dennis Irwin and Billy Drewes. A lot of them had attended Berklee in Boston together, and Steve knew Scofield from there. When John was in town, they were jamming at someone’s house, and we finally got to meet. JazzReview.com:
Weren’t you in John Scofield’s group at the same time you were in Dave Liebman’s? Adam Nussbaum:
Yeah. There were quartet tours in ’78 and ’79 with Hal Galper. I toured once with Stafford James and another time with Wayne Dockery. Sco had played with Steve Swallow in Gary Burton’s band. So he said, "Let’s do a trio with Swallow." We did one record for Arista/Novus called Bar Talk,
and we did two live records for Enja in ’81. All of those records have held up very well. That was another good period for me because I got to play with Swallow. JazzReview.com:
Didn’t you free-lance after you left Scofield’s group? Adam Nussbaum:
During that time, I also was lucky to be able to play with Gil Evans’ orchestra. I was lucky to do a twenty-fifth reunion tour of Gap and Chuck Mangione, with Sal Nistico, for a summer. JazzReview.com:
And you played with Jaco Pastorius. Adam Nussbaum:
When I was playing with Gil’s band, Jaco used to sit in. Then I played with him, Mike Stern and Steve Slagle. A lot of people just hear Jaco’s flash, but underneath it all, this guy had a great groove and a great sound. He changed the way the electric bass was played. He was like a comet: He came and went pretty fast.
The way I view bass players is that they should be someone who is supportive and functional within a rhythm section. Under all of Jaco’s technical brilliance was an incredibly supportive bass player. He had a great foundation. JazzReview.com:
Steve Swallow made some important contributions to the electric bass too. Adam Nussbaum:
Swallow and Jaco both had a profound effect on the electric bass. You know, Jaco didn’t come from a jazz background. Swallow did. Swallow played with Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, Paul Bley and the Jazz Composers Orchestra. He came from another place than Jaco. Swallow’s brilliance comes from his depth as a musician. You would be hard-pressed to find many people who can play like Swallow. As an improviser, he’s concerned with the content and the quality of what he plays. His ability just to create music is equivalent somewhat to listening to Lester Young in the respect that they aren’t interested in licks. There aren’t
any licks when they play. It’s just music. JazzReview.com:
How was it working with Gil Evans? Adam Nussbaum:
I had always been a great fan of Gil’s records. Some of those, and the ones he did with Miles, are works of art. I remember seeing Gil’s wife one time when I heard that he was going to put a band together. I said, "Anita, I want to let you know that I’d really love to play with Gil." So I got a call. It was great to play with him. At that time, Gil wasn’t writing as much as he used to. His style had changed. Gil hired musicians in a way similar to Duke’s: He hired them for their personalities and their sounds. He wanted to bring all of those different sounds together and see what would happen. Certain nights with that band were absolutely transcendent, and certain nights were absolutely awful. He gave a lot of freedom to everybody. Just to be around somebody with that wisdom and openness was incredible. There were little things that he would say to you that would activate your thinking. As Gil became older, he became more open. Many people become more set in their ways as they get older, but Gil always kept an open mind. Like, he would write an amazing twelve-bar passage that was amazing in the middle of one of his arrangements. He changed the way that we hear things. I remember that I did a project in Cologne with the Radio Band, and they had the real charts for Porgy And Bess.
It was fascinating to hear how he orchestrated the music in terms of instrumentation. He would put together a French horn, a tuba, a flute and a clarinet. JazzReview.com:
What about Stan Getz? Adam Nussbaum:
That was a great experience too. Stan was one of the most naturally gifted musicians I ever played with. He was just a natural improviser with an amazing sound, great time and a natural flow of ideas. It was a real experience to be on the bandstand where the tenor player had a better sense of time than anyone else up there. When musicians listened to Stan, they knew what they were supposed to play. It was like being with a great singer. Stan was a natural musician, but he couldn’t tell you why. God shines his light on certain people along the way, and Stan was one of them. I wish Stan were still around today because now I’m better prepared to play with someone of his caliber.
I came into Stan’s gig immediately after playing with Scofield and Swallow, who had an electric band. Then I was going right into an acoustic situation in which a drummer can’t just bash. When the leader still wants that heat, that requires sensitivity of touch. So, I had to bring down the volume and yet maintain the fire and energy. That’s the reason that playing with Stan was a very good learning experience for me. If you got together all of the guys who worked with Stan, you could have millions of stories--good, bad or indifferent.
There’s no substitute for being in groups where the leader plays that well. For example, Wayne Shorter now has a band of guys who have been leaders: Danilo Peréz, John Patitucci and Brian Blade. But how many of these guys are left?
You know, Mel Lewis was another true natural musician, who also kept growing. I was fortunate to know him too. He was very positive and encouraging when I came to New York. I met a lot of my mentors then, like Elvin, Billy Hart, Al Foster, Mel, Eddie Moore and Charli Persip. These guys were very
generous. Being a drummer is different from the guitar-player or trumpet-player kind of thing. We’re all there to work with the band. Hanging out with those kinds of people gives you an idea of who they are and why they play the things they play. Anyone with a brain can see what they’re doing. Anyone with a little bit more of a brain can figure out how they’re doing it. But then, you have to ask, "Why
are they doing it?" That comes from their personalities and how they hear music. JazzReview.com:
Did you know Don Grolnick? Adam Nussbaum:
I didn’t know him real
well. I first met him when I was playing with Mike Brecker. I did two records with Mike that Don produced and also played on. He produced the first one. Don then put together a band at Mikell’s. Don was getting back into playing more jazz. We did some work with Bob Mintzer, George Mraz and me for about a month or two. Don was a wonderful composer, and it’s too bad that he’s gone. He was a very distinctive writer, and he knew how to play the right notes at the right time. He had a sensitive ear, and he was always fun to be around. Also, he had a very calming influence. I think that’s one reason why he was effective as a producer. He made very positive and valid suggestions. JazzReview.com:
Some middle-aged jazz musicians complain about lack of attention and opportunities. Adam Nussbaum:
A lot of middle-aged musicians can be frustrated because the marketing people give a lot of attention to the younger players or the older ones. The frustration comes from the fact that the seasoned performer isn’t getting any attention when he’s getting it together. I was talking to a buddy of mine about the fact that I was portrayed in the press as a newcomer, and then not longer after that I was considered a veteran. Wasn’t I just a regular guy? The press always likes to put labels on people. I think that there are a lot of talented young musicians, but a lot of them receive media hype before they’re ready for it. They need some time to apprentice. There’s no way that a musician can come out to the scene and have it all together right away. JazzReview.com:
But sometimes the musician who has it together after apprenticing is ignored by the press. Adam Nussbaum:
Let’s put it this way. The press doesn’t pay my bills. Leonard Bernstein made a great statement. He said, "I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic." It’s one thing to review a situation, and it’s another to criticize. JazzReview.com:
At least Ken Burns brought some attention to jazz. Adam Nussbaum:
Good bad or indifferent, he got people talking about it. A friend of mine made a very good point. He said, "I loved hating [Ken Burns Jazz],
and I hated loving it." There were some great elements, and I thought some things were ignored. Overall, if you asked John Q. Public before Ken Burns Jazz
ran who Thelonious Monk was, he wouldn’t know. If you asked him afterward, he might know. Overall, I think the series was a good thing, but once you get beyond that, I think there were a lot of things that were very annoying. JazzReview.com:
It was interesting that they found the Clifford Brown interview on the old Soupy Sales Detroit television show. Adam Nussbaum:
Every time I play in New York with Moody, Soupy shows up at the gig. Soupy is a real jazz fan.
My work with Moody has been wonderful. He’s a joy to be around. He’s one of the most positive people you could ever imagine, and he’s continually developing. He’s seventy-six, and every time we do a gig, he has some new things that he’s working on. A lot of people like to go hear these elder statesmen to get a vibe of who they were. You don’t see any of that with Moody. He’s playing better than ever.
When I was a kid, my heroes were in their mid-forties. Now that I’m in my mid-forties, these cats are the old tigers in their mid-seventies. And they’re even more amazing now! If you hear Jackie Mac, Phil Woods, Elvin or Roy Haynes--there’s a bunch of them!--these guys are at the top of their game. I’ve been working a lot with Kenny Wheeler, who’s seventy-one, and he’s phenomenal. If musicians can keep their health and sanity together, they’re just going to get better. I can’t think of any other fields offering that opportunity. These guys are part of the jazz tradition. When you get to play with guys offering this depth of experience, nothing else can compare. After we’re inspired by them, we have to carry on the music too as part of an oral tradition. I feel so fortunate to have been able to play with all of these great people. The experience of playing with these people is greater than any amount of money. JazzReview.com:
What is the drummer’s role then? Adam Nussbaum:
I call myself the third part of the chain. First, you have the music, which tells everybody the melody, harmony and form. The people who play that music, the second part, determine how it will be interpreted. And then I have to optimize whatever the conception is. I have to have the right kind of attitude, approach and willingness to fulfill that requirement. You have to serve the music. You have to be humble enough to know what the music requires. At the same time, you have to have enough ego to take care of the music appropriately and with authority. The greatest artists maintain a balance that vacillates in nanoseconds between ego and humility. You have to have ego to get up on stage and play your instrument. But you also have to have enough humility to handle what’s needed at the moment. The creative force isn’t about me.
It’s about the music!
Everyone has moments when something is interjected, and hopefully that something serves the subject. During a conversation, a person doesn’t randomly throw in a big word that was just heard. That shows everybody what that person doesn’t know. Music is about communication, and all of the musicians are trying to work together. A friend of mine always says, "You just want to have "Kum Ba Yah" on the bandstand" where everybody is working together. You’ve heard that when great bands play. In those cases, the sum is greater than its parts.
Today, it seems that the results of working night after night on the bandstand isn’t happening very much. Very rarely do bands work for a long period of time any more. Bands used to be able to work forty weeks a year--Miles’, Duke’s, Basie’s, Horace Silver’s, Art Blakey’s or Coltrane’s bands. Those cats were working all the time. There’s no substitute for that kind of experience. JazzReview.com:
How can musicians get that level of awareness without being in a regular band? Adam Nussbaum:
Hopefully, when people are of a similar mindset and of a similar history, that kind of awareness can be attained because they’re trying to deal with the same language. For example, I’ve been playing with John Abercrombie for the past nine years. I’ve been playing with Steve Swallow for the past twenty years. When we get together, we’ve already established our friendship. We already established our means of communication. We already established our language. Since we know each other well, we can go past the superficial and start talking about what’s really important. You don’t try to get into a deep, philosophical conversation after you’ve met someone for five minutes. You try to find some common ground. JazzReview.com:
What about pick-up bands? Adam Nussbaum:
Sometimes you can
get that kind of interplay, but it doesn’t happen all the time. That’s why pick-up bands often don’t have the same level of communication as regular bands. JazzReview.com:
What do you think of some of the younger drummers’ abilities to inter-relate with band members? Adam Nussbaum:
I think that some of the best drummers are the ones with the broadest scope. I like Brian Blade because he can cover a lot of territory, and he’s very real, no matter what he does. He’s a very sensitive musician. Some people got it, and some don’t. Prowess as a drummer is secondary as a necessary attribute. What’s important is how well a drummer can hear and react. In my opinion, the greatest players are listening, feeling and responding. JazzReview.com:
What do you think of Matt Wilson? Adam Nussbaum:
I enjoy what he contributes. In a way, Matt is similar to me. We didn’t grow up just listening to bebop. We grew up with rock-and-roll. He taps into all of his experiences. I tap into everything I’ve been exposed to. I’ve learned things I want to do, and I’ve learned things I don’t
want to do.
I’ve found that the higher you get up the mountain, the more there is to see. The world is getting smaller, and music is being influenced by many different cultures.
I think jazz is an approach that can be put on any type of music. I try to look at the commonalities, instead of just the differences.