"Let the Drums Speak" - Bernard Purdie's Mind Game

Me and Bernard. I was teaching at Ultra Sound Studios in NYC and he was teaching upstairs. He stopped by to say hello.

Pretty excited about launching the new website. Seems like it’s been in the making for six months. Already getting some nice responses. I have a great team helping me:

Angelie Zaslavsky, Susan Bancroft, Luke Bogus, Jesse DeCarlo, and of course, my dear wife: Joanna FitzPatrick.

Thanks, thanks, thanks.


Meanwhile, just finished Bernard Purdie’s biography, “Let the Drums Speak,” written with Bob Porter. When I was studying with Bernard in New York in the 70s and 80s he took me to recording sessions and I would sit down on the floor in back of the drum booth. (Thank you Bernard!)

One session, I think it was a Pepsi jingle, he came in, joked with all the musicians and B.B. King, who was singing, and went to the drum booth. The music was on his music stand. He looked at for a few seconds and then turned it upside down!

Hey, what's up with this? I was shocked, to say the least. Never quite knew why he did that! Session went great, he nailed it and everybody was happy.

Only now, after reading his book did I find out that Bernard has a photographic memory! Now it made sense and it also made sense that he did so well with any reading gig or any non-reading gig for that matter. He said when the band was looking at the first few bars he was already half way down the page, and I believe him. I saw it happen.

I learned that memorizing, even if you don’t have a photographic memory (and I don’t!), is super-important. If I have the song memorized I can really dig in. It takes me longer than Bernard but it can be done.

I’ve been doing some exercises: memorizing 4 and 8 bar solo phrases from Marvin Dahlgren and Elliot Fine’s 4-Way Coordination, or parts of any transcription of a solo (Elvin, Max, etc.). It really trains my mind to stay concentrated. That’s the name of the game. My mind doesn’t wander off and loose the form, and my chops and ideas don’t suffer either!