Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Two Questions: West Coast Percussion Edition

I first met LA-based drummer Chris Wabich when I attended an NYC gig by an early incarnation of Sketchy Black Dog.  However, I soon discovered that he wears many musical hats and crosses many genres.  Among the highlights have been a stage production of Frank Zappa's "Joe's Garage", plus the soundtracks of the TV shows, "Malcolm in the Middle", and "American Idol" as well as the film, "Wild California".  Furthermore, he has been involved in recordings with such varied performers as Ludacris, Sting, Stanley Jordan, Jimmy Haslip, Lalo Schifrin, Sheila E., Alex Acuna, Turkish superstar Omar Faruk and Prog Rock legends Kevin Ayers,  Mike Hoffman and Richard Sinclair.  In 2010 Chris participated in Mark Murphy's latest CD, "Never Let Me Go", and he currently is one-half of the World Music duo, Wahid.

During a break from his busy schedule, Chris agreed to answer the usual two questions.  

1.  Why did you decide on a career in music?

Actually i didn't!!!  It was a natural series of events.  I just loved playing with anyone and everyone as a kid, and it was never enough. my first "real" sort of gigs were when I was 15, winning an audition with the local symphony beating out the local college kids.  The same time I started subbing in at local country clubs playing big band music for people in their 60s and 70s who used to actually dance to Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, etc. eventually I was the house drummer in a few places and had no social life as a teenager... I was the kid and all the 60 something year old musicians would try to help me swing better. once I learned the songs it was easy, but before then...sorry guys!!

What's funny is that these days I feel exactly the same way. Whenever I have a performance and the music is good, I'm ready to play even more. sometimes even after a double header or triple header day I feel like "is that all you got? come on!!" however if someone in the band is killing the vibe, I'd rather be a shoe salesman.  

2.  What is is you love about jazz that made you decide to focus on that type of music?

Jazz for me is about connecting with your emotions.  I am a jazz person whether I'm playing rock, latin, or whatever.  I think melodically all the time.  I want to get inside the songs and weave lines around them.  I want to set the mood and play to elevate the song.  Being primarily acoustic, jazz leaves more room for me to express color and nuance. when things are unnaturally amplified, it takes the sonic interaction and intent out of how acoustic instruments were meant to blend with each other.

If I'm allowed the space to color and find new things, I'm the happiest person.  I also love playing ballads with the right people. that is where the true music comes out, no jiveness or shredding or practiced licks, a one-time performance of color.   On the flip side, if my life was just that it would be really boring, to be the tinkly, feel good, in a sweater gentleman... Above all, I'm constantly on the search for the night/gig/band with the "sweetest" grooves and players.  It doesn't have to go to the moon and back on every song (which is so common in jazz), just keep the established vibe and make it relevant to YOU.  Think of Wayne Shorter 60's... pretty sweet eh?

To see a video of Chris Wabich playing drums during a 2012 performance with Sketchy Black Dog, click here.