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Michael Carvin: The Making of a Master

By Published: July 30, 2012
Carvin has used his individualized approach to teaching in order to prepare drummers for very specialized situations—including mentoring individuals to follow him into specific jobs. "I loved Jackie McLean so much that when the time came where I had to separate from him, I told him, 'Jackie, I will create another drummer, and I will send him to you.' And I sent him Eric McPherson. And with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas—when I left Martha, I told her, 'I'm going to create a drummer just for you.' I sent her Larry Crockett. For Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
—I loved Abbey to death for giving me a chance— 'I said, I'm going to create a drummer for you,' and that was Jaz Sawyer
Jaz Sawyer
Jaz Sawyer

. That's all part of 'each one, teach one,' too. My goal is by the time I die to have enough young soldiers out here so the music doesn't drop —the level of drumming doesn't drop. Because if the level of drumming drops, then the music will just be nothing.

"A great drummer is one who works with great musicians and makes a lot of records. But who cares? In this country, we don't have masters. In other countries you have masters, like in the martial arts. You have Buddhist monks who are masters, philosophers who are master minds. What's a master drummer? A master drummer is one who teaches a young man how to be great, to push him all the way, to give him a dream and then make it come true. That's a master."

Carvin occasionally takes on students who play instruments other than drums. Saxophonist Tia Fuller
Tia Fuller
Tia Fuller

is one example. What does he teach them? "Mostly, breathing and listening, breathing and listening. It's not about you; it's about the music. Have patience. [Pianist] Hampton Hawes
Hampton Hawes
Hampton Hawes
1928 - 1977
used to tell me all the time. My first jazz gig was with Hamp in 1971. He would say, 'Michael, have patience.' All the guys would just fly straight on through, and he'd say, 'Guys, have patience.' I couldn't figure that out until after I passed 50. And then I'd say, 'That's what he was talking about.'"

With all of the mentoring he has done with musicians of nearly every instrument—including the mutual mentoring with other jazz greats—we could argue that Michael Carvin is more than a great drummer and more than a master drummer. He's a master musician.

Selected Discography

Michael Carvin, Lost and Found Project (Mr. Buddy, 2010)
Michael Carvin, Marsalis Music Honors Series: Michael Carvin (Marsalis Music, 2006)
Billy Bang, Vietnam: Reflections (Justin Time, 2005)
Billy Bang, Vietnam: The Aftermath (Justin Time, 2001)
Michael Carvin, Drum Concerto at Dawn (Mapleshade, 1996)
Michael Carvin, Each One, Teach One (Muse, 1992)
Cecil Bridgewater, I Love Your Smile (Blue Moon, 1992)
Johnny Lytle, Possum Grease (Muse, 1992)
Lonnie Liston Smith, Watercolors (Novus, 1991)
Hamiet Bluiett, You Don't Need to Know . . . If You Have to Ask (Tutu, 1991)
Michael Carvin, Revelation (Muse, 1989)
Michael Carvin, Between You and Me (Muse, 1988)
Michael Carvin, First Time (Muse, 1986)
Lonnie Liston Smith, Live! (BMG, 1978)
Frank Strozier, Remember Me (SteepleChase, 1976)
Pat Martino, Starbright (Warner Bros., 1976)
Michael Carvin, The Camel (SteepleChase, 1975)
Pharaoh Sanders, Elevation (Impulse, 1974)
Lonnie Liston Smith, Expansions (Flying Dutchman, 1974)
Jackie McLean & Michael Carvin, Antiquity (SteepleChase, 1974)
Jackie McLean, New York Calling (SteepleChase, 1974)
Gerry Mulligan/Hampton Hawes Quartet, The Shadow of Your Smile (Moon, 1971)
Hampton Hawes, A Little Copenhagen Night Music (Arista Freedom, 1971)
Hampton Hawes, Live at the Montmartre (Black Lion, 1971)
Hampton Hawes, This Guy's in Love with You (Arista Freedom, 1971)

Photo Credits

Page 1, David Sokol
Page 2, Matthew Ireland
Page 4, Courtesy of Michael Carvin
Michael Carvin
Michael Carvin

Page 5, Richard Conde
Page 6, Marsalis Music

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