When I read interviews, your father is omnipresent. From a musical point of view, what does he represent for you ?
My father is my first reference point with regard to music. There was always music playing in our house. I would go with him to gigs as a child. My favorite place was in between the legs of the hi hat. This is on the stage during the perfomance. My father didn’t force me to play. I just wanted to be like him, so i played. As far as actual instruction, in a formal sense there wasn’t much of that. That’s probubly why I’m playing now. I learned from him in a very organic way by watching and trying to emulate what i saw and heard first hand. He didn’t force me to practice i played because I wanted to. When I say “practice”, I was just playing things he showed me. You know “mama dada, and basic patterns. 2 against 3 and such. No serious reading or anything like that. I feel extremely fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to learn in that fashion. It’s so rare especailly nowadays.
Can we say that Max Roach is also a spiritual father for you ?
I use the term, “Godfather”. He’s like family. Max and father were really good friends. He was a mentor to my father and later myself. When my father passed away Max was there for me and my brother. He along with others facilitated my reaquaintance with the drums. He would hire me to set his drums up or put his cymbals on the stands at concerts. He really didn’t need me to do that. There was generally a drum tech at those venues. He was just trying to put some money in my pocket and give me an opportunity to be in his and other geat musicians pressence.
Press use to put you in a "family" of drummers like Brian Blade, Bill Stewart, Billy Drummond... What do you think about other drummers like Jim Black, Kenny Wolesen ?
I’m slightly familiar with Jim Black’s playing. I just did some gigs with Dave Liebman, Ellery Eskelin, and Tony Marino. He is the drummer in that group so I learned the music from the recordings. I’ve heard him live on a few occasions as well. I enjoyed it. He’s a musical drummer with a nice use of colors and technique. I’ve never heard Kenny Wollesen. Hopefully sometime soon.
You have recorded a formidable album with the pianist Bojan Z : can you tell us more about this collaboration ?
He called me because he heard me on a recording of a concert with Bunky Green and Steve Coleman. He said he enjoyed what he heard on that recording and the recording with Bojan and Scott Colley manifested. I really enjoyed Bojan’s music and his piano playing. He has found a way to incorporate the music form his native country into his playing. It’s very honest. We’ve done some concerts in the past, hopefully we’ll work again sometime in the near future.
Do you have a double bass player with whom you feel particular affinities: Scott Colley ? Drew Gress ?
The first time i played with Tarus Mateen was at Marc Cary’s house. I played V-drums, He played electric bass, and Marc played keyboards. It was recorded. It was magical in the sense that I felt a level of comfort with him that i hadn’t really experienced up until that point. I could play whatever and so could he. We hit for a about 30 minutes straight in an extemporaneos fashion. There was a special communication that took place that afternoon in Harlem. We went on to record “Trillium” with Marc Cary. That recording for me was the first time I felt comfortable in the studio. Fortunately we’ve been able to maintain that connection through touring and recording with Jason Moran and the Bandwagon. Over the last few years I’ve enjoyed the artistry of Drew Gress, Eric Revis, Scott Colley, John Hebert, and most recently John Patitucci. All the gentlemen I listed are great in ther eown right. They have styles that are very personal unto themselves, and they’re simulataneously flexible and solid. That’s extremely important to me. Any time I do gig with one of these fine musicians I know I’m going to have a great time, and that there is going to be some specail music created.
You record a lot as a sideman. Which will be the thing which will decide you to decide you for a personal project ?
That word sideman isn’t really applicable in most of the situatons i find myself in. In the “Bandwagon” although Jason is the “leader” of the band in a traditional sense. Tarus and myself are an integral part of the coming’s and going’s of that group. As far as other projects I would like to explore. I’m involved in a two drums group with drummer Eric Mcpherson and saxophonist Abraham Burton. I also have a desire to do something with Logan Richardson. He’s a young alto player from Kansas City who sounds wonderful. We’re going to defintely do something in the near future.
You are teaching. The transmission of the knowledge seems to be important for you. I read in an interview that "Max Roach was like griot: answer you in parables ". It is also your way of teaching ?
I don’t think I’m old, or wise enough to be a griot yet. That’s a title that’s earned through decades of experience. I just pass on some of the jewels that my father, Michael Carvin, Max Roach, Fred King and people of that I have shared with me.
Interview by Jean Delestrade