Doug: Todd, it seems like a lot of musicians today choose to be very specialized about what to play. I’ve seen musicians who are so focused on jazz that they seem to be completely unaware of any other types of music.
On the other hand, musicians like you and I enjoy playing a variety of music. How did you become such a well-rounded musician?
Todd: My first inclination towards music was listening to rock and roll which back in the day was the pop music of my generation.. Today pop music is a genera within itself.
My musical tastes started to branch out when my drum instructor suggested a few recordings for me to check out. He wrote down (which is in the drum lesson notebook that still have today) Mahavishnu Orchestra Inner mounting flame, Tony Williams Lifetime Emergency, and Miles Davis My Funny Valentine + Four and More. The first recording that I listened to was Inner Mounting flame and it blew my head off. Track one side one is “Meeting Of The Spirits” which starts with three fermatas before the melody is introduced. I could not believe what I was hearing. They started the song at the end which seemed totally crazy to me, but I was in the eighth grade at the time. So I sat and listened that recording from beginning to the end( I did have to take the cassette out to flip it over) so I would not miss out on anything. It was as if I were waiting for the next mind blowing experience. So from then on I was a Mahavishnu fan and are still are. Billy Cobham and Tony Williams became my new found drum heroes. If there is anyone who is reading this and has never heard of Mahavishnu Orchestra you need to check them out, that is if you like fusion. Thus my musical journey had just begun.
Over the next twenty years I would fall in love with a particular genera or style within a genera and really dig in. For instance I got into James Brown. I listened to everything that I could get my hands on then I would transcribe the grooves, and I even went so far as to transcribing the bass lines so I could play bass with my students. I did not realize how much this helped me as a player and at the same time helping my student by jamming with his or her teacher. The lessons became more fun for everybody and I was challenging myself on a different instrument.
Music became this mistress that I could not get enough of. I eventually explored other styles like Cuban, Dominican, Indian, African, and South American to name a few. I never looked at these different styles in the sense that I had to learn them for some sort of academic purpose or need to know basis. I looked forward to hearing something fresh and new. If you check out my music collection it is all over the place from classical to world music and everything in between. To me music is like food. I don’t like the same thing day to day or even week to week. I see some young players that get so focused on artist or style that they can’t see the forest for the trees. We must not forget that variety is the spice of life.