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Edgar Bateman

1929 - 5/18/10

Edgar Bateman was the greatest drummer I ever heard, and was equally extraordinary as a human being. He had great nobility of spirit. He was extremely focused and disciplined. He never drank, smoked, got high or used profanity. He was an excellent boxer in his youth (once having sparred with Ali when he was still Cassius Clay, and held his own). He maintained incredible physical strength, fitness and stamina throughout his life, studying Karate and doing 400 push ups a day well into his 70’s. He was curious, open minded, kind, humble, deeply spiritual and always eager to study, learn and grow. He loved women, yet was always respectful and never dogged them as many men (and musicians) do. He loved to laugh, and had a wicked, sly, deadpan sense of humor. Often 2 or 3 seconds would elapse before you realized he had zapped you. He exhibited perseverance, optimism, positivity, good humor and grace throughout what could certainly be described as a very difficult life. He was my first and greatest inspiration as a drummer and person. I loved him like a father.

It was the early 60’s and I was a teenager when I first heard and met Edger Bateman. Makanda Ken McIntyre, the gifted composer, multi woodwind player who was a family friend invited me to a Sunday matinée at the old Five Spot to hear his group. I had no idea that day would change my life so profoundly. It was never my way when seeing a band play, to sit near the drummer as many young drummers do. I always preferred to stand in the back center so as to have an overview of the whole band and also so I could make a graceful exit if I wasn’t into the music. However, after hearing Edgar, within 5 minutes I had moved to a seat very near to the drums. I remember vividly, being amazed, mesmerized, flabbergasted, stunned and blown away by what I was hearing. I clearly recall thinking, “Wow, this is the greatest drummer I’ve ever heard”, and it’s not like I hadn’t heard other great drummers, having grown up in the same building as Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones. After the set I introduced myself, told Edgar how moved I was by his playing and made him promise to call me whenever he had a gig and I would be there, and so began an over 40 year relationship of trust, faith, appreciation, respect, brotherhood and love.

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