Steve Hass: A World of Rhythms
AAJ: You play with Manhattan Transfer quite a bit?
SH: I’ve been with them for about a year and a half, maybe a little more. That’s a really fun gig. It’s a show, but at the same time we play some backbeat stuff. There’s a lot of big band and small group swing. They’re really into grooves. Singers can feel stuff right away if it’s not right and it’s really demanding on the drummer. The dynamic thing, especially. Because they want that intensity; they want that kick behind them. But when you hit the cymbals too hard or something that’s at ear level to them, they don’t appreciate that. They’re still traditionalists in the sense that they don’t use ear monitors, they have the regular monitors on stage. So they’re not cut off at all. They hear the band, they can feel us right there. So far, so good. I really dig that gig. It’s fun, playing tunes like “Four Brothers” and stuff like that.
AAJ: It must be a challenge to jell with those different types of musicians and different recordings that you’re on.
SH: I had some long talks with Vinnie Colaiuta about that. At one point in his career, he would go from playing with Chick [Corea] to playing with Sting, all in the same week. He would have breaks with Sting in the Far East and go play the Blue Note with Chick. How do you switch gears like that? At that time I was having a problem switching gears. I would change my grips of the sticks to play certain styles. I couldn’t stop doing that. But he told me he doesn’t really think about it at all, he just plays music.
At the time, I thought, ‘That’s easy for you to say.’ But eventually, you see [music] is all linked. The more you play them consistently, the more you realize how related to each other they are. You might have to change a couple things. You have to hit the snare drum a certain way to get that backbeat on rock stuff, but where the group comes from, the feel, all comes from really early black America. I love listening to the old early rock drummers who were still playing on bebop kits and had that twitchy swing in their groove.