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Interviews

Jim Doxas: Beat and Beatitudes

By Published: June 26, 2007
AAJ: Do you prefer working and developing new music or playing live?

JD: Each situation has its pros and cons; one isn't better or worse, just different.

AAJ: I notice that you use a fairly minimalist drum kit. Is this deliberate?

JD: It can be. I go through phases. Sometimes I bring in a lot of accessories, which I may not use. Listening to other drummers, I've come to realize that more equipment doesn't necessary make you more creative. Sometimes working with less forces you to exploit to the maximum what's in front of you. You'd be surprised what sounds and notes can produced from a single drum when you have to produce them.

AAJ: Sometimes when I'm listening to you, I feel that I'm almost hearing melody?

JD: I'm glad to hear that. I have always loved melody. I had two wonderful teachers, Denny Christian and Jan Jarzyk, who really focused on the melodic aspect of improvising. When I play drums, I feel that I'm playing a melodic instrument. I always try to sing the form in my head. Often, just thinking about a certain tune, I hear the drumming part as a melody or harmony. But, as mentioned before, you have to really trust the musicians you're with before you can indulge in that kind of creative playing.

AAJ: Were you always listening to jazz?

JD: As a matter of fact, no. When I was in grade and high school, I was listening mostly to FM rock. It was only when Chester turned to jazz that I became interested in it. Of course my father, who is a great musician and music teacher, exposed us to all sorts of different music, including some jazz, but it wasn't a focus until I was in my late teens. My mother was into big bands and Motown. My father liked James Taylor, BJ Thomas and Don Ross.

AAJ: Talk to me about Oliver Jones. How did you two connect?

JD: First of all, Oliver saw me live with guitarist Benoit Charest, composer of the soundtrack for the Academy nominated film Les Triplettes de Belleville. It was after my brother, Ben and I worked on and recorded the tracks, which features lots of very conceptual percussion, that I got a call from Oliver—I called him Mr. Jones then [2004]. He asked me if I would like to play some gigs with him. I was of course ecstatic; it was such a confidence booster. Being a fellow Montrealer, I grew up listing and seeing him.

And then, maybe a couple of months later, he called again and asked if I was still into it, I said yes, and he gave me the line up for a sixty-date tour, which of course floored me—and that's how it began. But before we hit the road, I had to do my homework. I was a product of the Miles Davis/Keith Jarrett school; drummers like Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette were instrumental in my development. But with Oliver, who plays mostly from the American Songbook, I was forced go back and listen to bebop and drummers like Max Roach, Ed Thigpen and even Jeff Hamilton.

AAJ: It must have been intimidating the first time you practiced with one of the best jazz pianists Canada has ever produced, regarded by many as one of the great jazz pianists on the planet. [Oliver Jones studied under his idol and legend, Oscar Peterson]

JD: We didn't really practice. Before the concert, he gave me an idea of the pacing, and then we went up on stage and played. It went really well—and what I mean by that is Oliver was listening to me as much as I was listening to him. For sure, I was a bit intimidated at first, playing in front of 2,000 people instead of 200, but that quickly passed, especially in light of the freedom Oliver gives to the drummer.

I should add that even though we're separated by maybe 45 years, the world of music is such that we've become good friends; there's no one I respect more than Oliver Jones. He continues to be so amazingly dedicated to music of all kinds. I remain in awe of his natural humility and generosity as a musician. What you see is what you get. He's the real deal! Come June [2007] we'll be opening up jazz festivals all across Canada before closing down the Montreal Jazz Fest on July 7th. I can't wait!

AAJ:When you discuss ways of looking at a song with a master like Oliver, what are some of the things you talk about?

JD: We talk a lot about shaping the feeling of a song. Oliver has played with so many different drummers, so to hear him talk about how Max Roach, Lewis Nash or Elvin approach a certain time feel is really interesting.

AAJ: What kind of drummers do you most admire?

JD: I would say those who have a unique voice on their instrument. And this doesn't just apply to drummer but to all musicians.

AAJ: I've always been amazed by drummers who can perform one beat on the left hand and a totally different one on the right, as if each hand has its own separate brain (like they say about each of Bach's fingers). Can this be learned or are you more or less born with the gift. And if you don't have it, is it a handicap?

JD: Well, from what I have gathered through observation and teaching, one can impart a lot of skill but if someone has a propensity for multi-tasking, musically speaking, then the creative juices really can be unleashed.


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