“It’s one of those ancient arguments, like a black guy can’t be a quarterback or a woman can’t fly a plane,” Jeff “Tain” Watts tells Shaun Brady in this month’s Chops piece. He’s referring to those worthless stereotypes about how drummers can’t be effective composers or songwriters—an extension of a larger trope that views drummers as timekeeping musical furniture, necessary but nonintellectual. This is, of course, a gross untruth across genres. (Take Charlie Watts out of the Stones and tell me what’s left.) But in jazz, where drummers have constituted a large chunk of the most important writers, conceptualists, mentors, bandleaders and soloists, it’s especially preposterous, and I’m reminded of that fact every fall as I edit this drum-focused issue.
In the cover story, Geoffrey Himes talks to Antonio Sanchez about his boldly experimental and political new album, Bad Hombre (CAM Jazz). Fusing his affinity for electronica with the improvisational scoring method he refined during his work on the film Birdman, Sanchez takes a rhythm-first approach to protest, pushing back against President Trump’s immigration stance. Guided by our Aidan Levy in this installment of Bright Moments, Louis Hayes remembers the sessions behind his most historic LPs, in the process detailing the development of hard bop and soul-jazz. Andrew Gilbert, in a fantastic piece split between reportage and critical rumination, considers the legacy of Buddy Rich on the occasion of his centennial. The subtext here is huge, bringing up questions about how the drummer’s role has evolved in jazz and the jazz musician’s function has devolved in pop culture.