Hello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!
Readers, you never know where you’re going to find mentors. This past week my old friend and drummer-extraordinaire Quincy Davis was in Vancouver giving a jazz drums workshop (at the VSO School), playing a gig with yours truly (above w/ Paul Rushka) and just generally hanging out, seeing the sights, and being his Quincy self.
Quince has spent most of his professional career playing with the heavy hitters in New York (JD plug: you can hear Q with some of those NYC hitters on my most recent album here). For the last six years he’s been Assistant Professor of Jazz Drum Set at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. I can safely say though, that Quincy has been a teacher for a lot longer than that.
We met at Interlochen Center for the Arts, a downright magical place where we both had the extremely good fortune to study music. Even as a teenager, Q was an insightful musician with really big ears. And by “big ears,” I mean that he heard the inner workings of music on a deeper level than most of us. For example, it became a common occurrence that we’d be listening to a great recording and all of a sudden Quince jumps up and shouts “WHOOOO!”… and I’m saying “What?! It’s a great sax solo, we know that. Why are you so excited?!” So he’d rewind it and point out something happening behind that saxophone solo; maybe the bassist played a subtle, soulful chord substitution, or the pianist played an unusually beautiful voicing, or the drummer echoed/manipulated an idea from the saxophone player, etc..
I soon felt like the Watson to Quincy’s Holmes, mirroring the good doctor’s frequent and inevitable exasperation… “Oh for heaven’s sake! WHAT?! What did I miss NOW Sherlock?!?” Quincy just heard it all, and that awareness was part of what lead him to excel as a musician. The lovely part of all of this, for me, was that Quince likes to share his musical insight with others. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of his passions and this, in my opinion, is what makes Q such a strong educator. It’s not claiming to know everything. It’s realizing that we’re all continuing to learn and being excited to share what we’ve learned so far with others.
Anyways, let’s bring it back to me. A year after we graduated from Interlochen, I was looking for a University to transfer to (I was at University of North Texas but didn’t get scholarship to go back there so I needed a more affordable option) and since I knew Quincy was at Western Michigan University and enjoying it; I applied there. In fact, that was about ALL I knew about WMU at the time but somehow, that was enough for me. I ended up getting scholarship to attend and that was that. There were, of course, plenty of other teachers and students to learn from at Western (including Billy Hart which I’ll get to later) but playing/hanging with Quincy was one of the most salient learning experiences there for me. Like I said, you never know where you’ll find mentors; sometimes they’re also your peers.
We don’t get to connect as often as we did back in those Kalamazoo days (that’s right… Kalamazoo) but it’s always great when we do. To be a musician is a long and rich path to walk and it’s great to be able to share that path with some friends from so far back. Here’s to continuing the journey!
Note to DRUMMERS! As I mentioned above, Quincy is teaching at U of M so go take advantage of him over there! (He’s also got a YouTube channel full of “Q Tips” here.) Another bonus of being in Winnipeg?… There’s precious little to distract you from lots of practicing!
Speaking of which, I have to go practice now.
Thanks for reading and have a great week everyone!
*photo above courtesy of fellow drummer Kristian Braathen.