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Keeping the music flowing as Springtime blossoms

4th March 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Chris Dave & the Drumhedz – A Musical Journey
It’s just possible that those who think that they’ve never heard Chris Dave actually have. The drummer, who arrives with his group the Drumhedz at Tulane University’s Dixon Hall on Wednesday, March 6, for a free concert, boasts a rather mind-boggling resume that’s all over the musical map. His as well as his band members’ — bassist Thaddeus Tribett, saxophonist/flautist Kebbi Williams and guitarist Isaiah Sharkey — diverse experiences and influences come into play when they team as Chris Dave & the Drumhedz.

According to Dave, the group’s vibe has most often been described as “a live audio mix tape. It’s like walking through a record store and picking up your favorite records as if you were about to buy them with no {specific} genre,” he explains.

The Houston native began playing drums in church and early on recorded with noted gospel singer Kim Burrell.

“That was my first introduction to people outside the church in Houston,” says Dave who earned a Grammy this year for his work on keyboardist Robert Glasper’s album Black Radio. He’s performed in New Orleans numerous times including with the Rev. P.J. Morton and laying down the beat at Essence Festival with stars such as D’Angelo, Erika Badu and Maxwell.

“I started real early,” Dave explains. “When I was 19, I was already on tour with Janet Jackson. I just kept hitting different genres every couple of years. It would be jazz one year, then it would be R&B, then it would be rap, then it would be pop, then it would be country (he recorded with Dolly Parton!), then it would be M-Base. Every-thing they thought I couldn’t do, I’d go after that.”

Dave, who when asked his age laughed and said, “I think I’m goin’ go with 35,” really got a career boost when he began playing with R&B band Mint Condition. “That was the hottest thing for the underground young people. We were always touring – every city, all the time. I would see nothing but musicians every night in different cities and different states and I kept friends with them. The producer who got your number three months ago, really is a producer and he’s calling you about an album.

Next up on Dave’s continuing musical journey was touring with Kenny Garrett, the renowned saxophonist, flautist and bandleader who spent five years blowing with the great Miles Davis.

“That’s how I met Herlin Riley and all my favorite drummers – Max Roach, Jack DeJohnette, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams…” Dave says of the opportunities of being on tour with Garrett particularly overseas.

Dave cites New Orleans drummer Riley as being particularly influential to him. It shows in Dave’s light touch and attention to the tonal qualities of his drums.

“We’re doing something for him later this year as a homage to all the things we’ve learned from him,” Dave says of an upcoming show with Drumhedz plus other drummers. “People don’t always know who you’re influenced by.” The goal, says Dave, is to show him that we appreciate him and even if nobody else ever told him, they’re going to tell him. Dave’s other New Orleans links include playing with trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Wynton Marsalis.

The stint with Garrett led to the drummer linking up with another artist of diverse tastes, vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello with whom he toured and recorded.

“I just kept marching after that,” Dave says with a laugh. “I just accidentally stumbled into everything.”

Chris Dave & the Drumhedz have technically been together for several years though the musicians have worked with one another in various settings for the last decade. Most of the band’s gigs have been in Europe but now the musicians, all of whom have been busy playing with other major artists, agreed to concentrate on the Drumhedz and tour throughout the United States.

“We’re going to be everywhere in about three months,” Dave promises. “We’re going to pop up a lot.

“It’s a new era for disciplined musicians. That’s the vibe of it. We’re just trying to put our little two cents into what’s going on in music today from our point of view as opposed to what was going on 40 years ago today. It’s a music party on stage.”

Happy Wednesday, Happy Thursday, Happy Sunday
One of the signs of spring in New Orleans is the return of several music series that offer different flavors to the scene. The popular Jazz at the Sandbar kicks off on Wednesday, March 6, with three of the top guns in the University of New Orleans Jazz Program headlining the show. Guitarist Steve Masakowski, saxophonist Ed Petersen and pianist Victor Atkins will take on the wonderful works of legendary New Orleans musicians/composers saxophonist Harold Battiste, drummer James Black and pianist Ellis Marsalis. They’ll be joined by students from the jazz program bassist Sam Albright and drummer Peter Varnado and thus the music of the master composers is passed down to yet another generation. The series, presented at the Cove on UNO’s campus, continues through May 1 with March’s schedule to include trumpeter Antoine Dyre (March 13) and pianist Joanne Brackeen (March 20). Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is $5 and free to UNO students and faculty.

The “Thursday Night Swingin’” series, which got a jump on spring, continues at the Prime Example with pianist David Torkanowsky making a too-rare appearance as leader. He’ll be manning the big B-3 organ for the 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. shows that are presented by community radio station WWOZ 90.7FM. Admission is $15 with a $5 discount for ‘OZ members.

Classic New Orleans jazz reigns on Sunday evenings in March at the free Nickel-A-Dance series held every week from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Maison, 508 Frenchmen Street. Importantly, the leaders of each group have the opportunity to put their own band together for these shows so they offer lots of variety and interesting combinations. The schedule includes Shannon Powell’s Traditional Jazz All-Stars, March 3; Frank Oxley’s Joint Chiefs of Jazz, March 10; Ernie Elly’s Ponchatoula Strawberries, March 17; Davell Crawford & the Creole Jazzmen, March 24; Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band, March 31.

This article originally published in the March 4, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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