Steve Williams: Explaining A Drummer's Role
AAJ: Do you ever get tired of playing ballads with her. Because she's known as a balladeer.
AAJ: I mean, a lot of drummers like Billy, wanna scream on the set.
SW: Oh I do. I do wanna scream. That's what my band is for. When I'm around DC, I'm playing with Mike Bowie, Donvonte McCoy and Aaron Weiman.
AAJ: Damn. Donvonte and Michael are some bad boys. I haven't seen Aaron, but I've heard...
SW: In fact we're at Twins this weekend. There are two reactions I usually get from people when they see me in this context. One is "My god, you're the same guy who plays with Shirley?" And the other is, "Yeah, I'm gonna come see you play with Shirley." ( breaks into laughter ). But I don't care man. Let people think what they want man.
AAJ: Who are some of the drummers you admire and wish got a bit more recognition.
SW: Victor Lewis and Billy Hart for sure. I used to see Victor come through DC with guys like Stan Getz and Woody Shaw I understand that now he's teaching at Rutgers. Which is great for him, but for us drummers and musicians who want to see him working, it's a drag. And we both know Billy Hart plays all the time. However, you never read anything about any of those guys in Drummer's World or Modern Drummer or even in much of the jazz press.
AAJ: Is that a reality about being a drummer in jazz?
SW: I guess. Yeah I would say that's the reality. And I mean look at what happened following the death of Elvin Jones. I heard from a dear friend that Carlos Santana wrote a scathing email to the producers of MTV for not even taking the time to mention the death of a drummer who we know was a profound influence on Jimi Hendrix'. Mitch Mitchell was an Elvin Jones freak. The guy who plays with the Stones. He loved Elvin. I bet if one of those cats split, they'd be on the cover of every music magazine. Elvin got a lot of press after his death, but he should have been venerated like this a long time ago.
AAJ: Finally what's the difference between working behind Shirley, and working behind John Hicks, and working behind Larry Willis.
SW: Wow. That's good. I'll start with Hicks. Actually Hicks and Larry because they're about the same age and because they came up with playing with the same guys. Lee Morgan, and Jackie McLean. They share that kind of musical background. So in that way they're similar. But they're also completely different players. Both are very romantic, while aggressive, and very musical. But they're both also more modern composers. They both listen a heck of a lot, which I can't say for all piano players out there. That modern sound allows me to be a bit more aggressive in my playing - to spice things up a little bit more.
Playing with Shirley is much different. I have to be slightly more restrained, but I can still color things in a way that the music still sounds right. Shirley is not known as a composer like John and Larry are. She is an interpreter of songs. Mostly that means she plays other people's music. But the beauty of Shirley is that through phrasing and the way we play behind her, we can give each and ever standard the Shirley Horn touch.
To find out more about Steve Williams visit his website at www.abrushfire.com .