Drummer Bob Rees
“ It's easy to get attached or psyche yourself out and worry too much about where a piece hasn't gone or where it is going and sort of have it fizzle. I have gotten better about not getting so attached to it and I think it has helped the music - not thinking about it too much but making sure you are listening all the time and just creating energy. ”
Bob Rees is well known around the Pacific Northwest for his work as a free jazz drummer and as an improvising percussionist as well as for performing with jam bands Beecraft and Flowmotion. His work with the Wally Shoup Trio has received critical acclaim as has that group's 2003 release entitled Fusillades and Lamentations . AAJ writer Jack Gold was able to interview him in August immediately after Bob's return from a tour of Alaska with Flowmotion.
All About Jazz: When did you start playing music?
Bob Rees: I started playing the drums in seventh grade just like, you know, beginning band kind of thing. This was in Spokane. I got hooked up with a local teacher; I just took private lessons and by the ninth grade that teacher had sent me on to his teacher who happened to be Marty Zyskowski who teaches percussion at Eastern Washington University. He runs the percussion studies program there. So, by the ninth grade I had started to study with him and I ended up continuing all through high school and college with him so he pretty much became my mentor. And actually there are a few drummers over here that have studied with him. Mark Ivester is an old student of Marty's. Marty is a really well known teacher and I ended up studying with him from a pretty early age.
AAJ: Who would you say were some of your early influences? Musicians, drummers, you know, it could be anybody. It could be writers, you know, people that influenced how you played and how you studied....
BR: Well, even back in the seventh or eighth or ninth grade I was listening to all kinds of stuff. Prince was a big influence, still is. I remember listening to Buddy Rich, being a huge Buddy Rich fan and also being a huge Prince fan. And even to this day, I mean, I'm all over the musical map. Always have been and I think it reflects in the way I play and the projects that I am involved in. They are kind of all over the map (laughter). I grew up listening to country music because my dad was a fan and, you know, heavy metal, and eventually jazz and classical. I don't know, everything (laughs). Quiet Riot was like the first cassette tape I ever bought. But, you know, this was a long time ago. I would say in college I got really focused in percussion, like twentieth century classical music and jazz and that continued for a long time, even past college, really becoming obsessed with jazz knowing all of the players and all of the albums and who played with who and just that music. I just loved it and I thought I was going to be a jazz vibraphonist when I got out of college. I was mainly a mallet player and thought I was going to be like a Gary Burton or a Bobby Hutcherson or something. Not so much anymore (laughs).
AAJ: Well, you are still playing the vibes and a lot of percussion.
BR: Yeah, I still play the vibes and some marimba too. In fact, Flowmotion tours with the - I get to tour with the vibes now. So, I get to do percussion, congas and all that and then vibraphone.
AAJ: So Flowmotion is your current group then?
BR: Flowmotion is a group that plays a lot of shows, about 150 shows a year, and, you know, makes a little bit of money so we can pay our bills and stuff.
AAJ: 150 shows a year. And that's touring mostly?
BR: Yeah, mostly touring. We play in Seattle about once every month or six weeks like at the Tractor and then down on the coast, California, Colorado, and Alaska.
AAJ: That's quite a schedule. Are you still playing with Beecraft then?
BR: Well, Sabu, our bassist, went back to Japan and so the band kind of fizzled out. Some of the Beecraft guys joined Flowmotion which was doing sort of what Beecraft was doing, a little more accessible to more people and sort of on a bigger scale, so some of us jumped ship and went with Flowmotion. But, you know, Sabu is back so I think Beecraft will still play. It's just that some of us saw an opportunity. Flowmotion needed a drummer and a percussionist and a keyboard player so some of the Beecraft guys jumped onboard.
AAJ: Now, did you study music in college?
BR: Yeah, I studied music education with a focus on elementary music and got my ed. degree and I also got a performance degree - percussion. Marty taught us how to listen really well. We never studied improvisation from like a free jazz standpoint or anything like that but we were always free to improvise parts or come up with different ways or different solutions to a problem. That had a big influence on me. He is a tympani player and a classical musician and really open to twentieth century music - jazz and all sorts of music, exploring all sorts of different genres. He always let us explore and learn and kind of play the way we wanted.
AAJ: Do you teach or are you primarily performing music?
BR: Mainly performing. It has gotten to the point where I am pretty much playing all the time. When I am here, I do have an ed. degree and I substitute teach every once in awhile for the Bellevue school district. That helps me keep my teaching chops up which I love to do. It's fun and, you know, one day it's like a high school band - conducting, and another it's like a bunch of kindergartners and we're doing a drum circle or something. So I do that, but I don't get to do it as much anymore but that still happens and then I do some stuff for Pacific Northwest Ballet, you know, drumming for dance classes which is fun too. But it's kind of to the point now which is we've got a pretty full schedule. I'm just trying to play mostly. I guess when I'm home, also, I try to continue with Wally, doing stuff with Wally Shoup. A few years ago I just started to get involved with a lot of different things and was trying to play with as many people as I could. I have kind of narrowed my focus down to Flowmotion and Wally Shoup and a few other things here and there.