By Charlie Persip
I have been asked on numerous occasions, why do I have, as my main product, a big band. Of course the big band is not my only product, but it is my major pursuit.
One of the reasons for having the big band is very simple - I like the sound of the large ensemble. The tonal colors, the harmonic blend and the strength and power of a group of horns propelled by a rhythm section, for me, is a sublime listening experience.
For the drummer, playing in a big band is very challenging. Dealing with the diversity of the rhythmic time feeling of the musicians in a large ensemble can be quite a task, albeit for me an enjoyable one. In most big bands, this situation is dealt with by the musicians depending on the drummer to keep time for them and for a conductor to lead them through the arrangement. While these elements work in keeping the band tight and together, the rhythmic feeling, to my ears, is stiff. The drummer is chopping wood with the rim shot on two and four, especially on the faster tempos.
This brings me to another reason for my having a big band. I like the loose, dancey, relaxed rhythmic feeling in the small ensembles. This comes largely because the musicians in the small bands are not depending on the drummer to keep time for them. They are inspired by the time feeling and rhythmic embellishments of the drummer. By not having the pressure of having to keep time for the band, the drummer is more relaxed, and this relaxed feeling transmits to the band.
My concept is to bring this small band feeling with big band power to the large ensemble: for the musicians to enjoy and be inspired by the drummer but not to be dependent. Of course the drummer must have a good time feeling. Also in the small bands there is no conductor per se. Visual cues may be utilized from time to time but in the small band musicians know the tune, the melody and the harmonic structure. In my band we strive for the same thing. We strive for every musician to know the tune, the melody and harmonic structure relating to the arrangement. Therefore we eschew the need for the conductor bringing a more relaxed feeling of confidence.
These aforementioned elements make up my concept of how I play in a big band and having my own hand allows me to practice and perfect this concept.
Playing the drum set can be quite physical so I am very conscious of maintaining my body. Being an avid sports fan helps me to do this. I also find a great similarity in the elements that make a successful sports team and what makes a successful big band. Running my band as a team is very enjoyable to me and to the musicians. So, my reasons for having a big band?
IT IS A LOT OF FUN!!!