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Billy Kilson: Nasty Pitch

Trish Richardson By

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Besides his drumsticks, there is one thing Kilson will not begin a performance without—his chewing gum. In fact, it is so much a part of his drumming, that Kilson teasingly muses, "I think I need an endorsement. Not for sticks and cymbals and drums, I need a gum endorsement. I would rather not have the gum. But not having the gum, it's like Kryptonite. In the last fifteen, twenty years or so, it's gotten worse and worse and worse."

According to Kilson, playing the drums was not a conscious choice he made. "I wish I had had the opportunity to make that choice, but they chose me. They said, 'Hey, guy, come over here and sit down. We think you'll like these.'"

Kilson adds, "My mother, if she were still alive, would say, 'This boy always wanted to play drums.' I tore up all her furniture. I didn't get a drum set until I was sixteen, but everything you could think of, I was beating and banging on. I'm doing something I always wanted to do all my life. And I am very, very, very, very fortunate. Very fortunate.

"The thing that I love about music is that it transcends any race, any culture, any politics, and any religion. If it's performed purely, if it's from your heart, it is going to connect to someone who doesn't even like that kind of music.

"Music is life. For me, how I get through life is the strength of water. What I mean is that water is so strong, yet soft. You can't hold it in your hands, but it is strong enough to penetrate a rock. That's music for me; that's my artistry. That's my being, and I try to be like water—tangible. You can drink it, but it has that substance and strength of being able to penetrate anything. Anything."

Selected discography:

Billy Kilson, Rhythm Dancer (Tuniverse, 2012)
Chris Botti, Impressions (Columbia, 2012)
Larry Carlton & Tak Matsumoto, Take Your Pick (335 Records, 2010)
Chris Botti, In Australia (Universal Distribution, 2010)
Chris Botti, Live in Boston (Columbia / Sony Music Distribution , 2009)
Chris Botti, Italia (Sony Music Distribution, 2007)
Billy Kilson, Pots & Pans (Aspirion/Arintha Star, 2006)
Chris Botti, Live: With Orchestra and Special Guests (Sony Music Distribution, 2006)
Chris Botti, To Love Again: The Duets (Columbia, 2005)
Dave Holland, Overtime (Sunny Side, 2005)
Chris Botti, When I Fall in Love (Columbia / Sony Music Distribution, 2004)
Dave Holland Big Band, What Goes Around (ECM Records, 2002)
Dave Holland, Not for Nothin' (ECM Records, 2001)
Dave Holland Quintet, Prime Directive (ECM Records, 2000)
Billy Kilson, While Ur Sleepin' (Truspace Records, 2000)
Dave Holland Quintet, Points of View (ECM Records, 1998)

Note: Portions of this interview originally appeared in the book, The Soul of Jazz: Stories and Inspiration from Those Who Followed the Song in Their Souls.

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