Take Five With Ralph J DeLorso Jr.
I am a 59 year-old seasoned professional drummer. For 43 years I worked for WM Morris and Willard Alexander. For many years I have performed and recorded with many artists. I have performed with the late Jackie McLean two years before his passing at the Artist Collective in Hartford. I started playing drums at four, and at 12 I worked in a burlesque house with Ann Corio in Hartford. I snuck in with house drummer Harold Standard, where he taught me the art. I met Standard while shining shoes at Wooster Pool Hall in Hartford. Harold would get his shoes shined and send me to pick up his food while he shot a game of pool. One day he told me he was a drummer after seeing my drum sticks out my back pocket. This was a the beginning of a seven-year friendship.
Teachers and/or influences?
First was Rich Smith, a teacher at Roger Wolcott Elementary School. Mr. and Mrs. Valerin were my tap dance instructors who taught dance at our school. Harold Standard was the pit drummer for Charlie's Steak and a burlesque club in Hartford where Ann Corio performed. Joe Rowland, Joe (Skinny) Porcaro at Lepaks Drum Shop, Al Cardello at Cardello's Drum Shop, Richie LaPore, Art Perretta, Tilly Lisbein, Bob Gatzen, Mickey Roker, Gary Chaffee, Mark Carter, Al LePak, and Ed Soph.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I started when I was four years old with a pad and a snare drum. I played with the VFW Drum Corp learning rudiments and got my first kit at seven. From there I started taking lessons on the kit. I saw the Gene Krupa Story (1959) and got to watch Gene Krupa at the London Palladium when I was seven years old in 1960. I got my first jazz album, Miles Davis' Bag's Groove (Prestige, 1958), when I was eight. I was listening to Kenny Clarke and Buddy Rich, and knew I wanted to spend my life as a drummer. Everyone has their heroes who inspired them; mine was not Ringo Starr, mine were Gene Krupa, Cozy Cole, Buddy Rich and, later, Bobby Colomby, Billy Cobham and Sandy McKee. I was hooked on jazz, jazz-rock, soul, Motown, funk, Latin, and blues-rock. Despite my wide musical taste, jazz, funk, and R&B was my thing. I love to groove and lay a deep, fat, in the pocket, balls-to-the-wall groove.
Your sound and approach to music:
My sound is unique in it of itself. I tune my drum depending on the style of music I'm playing. I usually like a tight deep punchy sound for funk, but for jazz and bebop, a higher pitch for the toms and bass drum with a loose feel on the snare drum. I approach my music as I was once taught by Ed Thigpen when I took a few private lessons I was 13 years old. He told me to sit on his set and as I did he yelled at me saying "Get off my lady! You don't ever mount my lady as though you were jumping on a horse." He taught me a proper mindset of approaching my set. That introduction in it of itself was a life lesson I never forgot.
Your teaching approach:
I've developed my own teaching concept using old school methods with modern technology. My first lesson is teaching how students how to read. We cannot approach or work unless we share a language and that language is essential to being a drummer to communicate. I've heard all the arguments about how reading stifles your creativity and it is such bullshit. There are rare people who build extraordinary careers by not reading back in the day, but if you want to be a serious musician you must read. It's the language we share and it is a reference to repeat a performance if needed. Without it, I don't care how good your ears or memory are, you'll never replicate the same piece again without reading. There are exceptions, but in the real world you must read.
Your dream band:
For the rhythm section I'd love to have Gene Harris on piano, Jeff Beck or Ray Obeido on guitar, Jaco Pastorius or Charles Mingus playing bass, Jimmy Smith on organ, and Tito Puente with Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion. On horns, the Brecker Brothers, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Performing with Richard "Groove" Holmes when I was 15 years old at Jerry Mack's in Hartford. Richard Holmes loved my playing and I played every gig at Jerry Mack's with him. After that I also played with Jimmy McGriff and Brother Jack McDuff.