Composer, improviser, percussionist, and educator Andrew Drury celebrates the release of two long-awaited records, Content Provider, the eponymous debut of Drury’s quartet featuring Briggan Krauss, Ingrid Laubrock, and Brandon Seabrook, and The Drum, a collection of solo floor tom and percussion improvisations, at Roulette on Tuesday, February 17th.
The program you are presenting at Roulette features two projects and celebrates their respective releases. Is there a complementary relationship between these two records?
“Complimentary” does seem like the right word. They express two apparently very different directions in my musical output. Content Provider comes right out of my jazz origins, playing drum set in all kinds of bands, composing for a band, and being part of the social organism known as a band. The Drum is a solo project coming from my involvement in sound oriented approaches to free improvisation that don’t have much surface resemblance to jazz or the kind of drumming I have done most of my life—it can sound more like classical, electronic, noise, or a movie soundtrack than what gets called jazz. On The Drum I use a single floor tom and a small number of other objects that employ extended wind and friction techniques I’ve developed over the last decade or so. But both express my fundamental love and fascination with drumming, improvisation, composition, and some kind of visceral or primal approach to performance.
Often the people who hear my jazz work don’t know about my extended technique work—or even about how lyrical or compelling other uses of improvisation might be to them. And the more “experimental,” “free improvisation” oriented folks think the more conventional approaches are passé or not as sophisticated. I want to both to be confronted with both. Music, creativity, and expertise are timeless (ancient and “as new as tomorrow”) and take many forms, so that’s what I’m striving for. These two projects are two sides of one coin and I think hearing one will make people hear the other in a different way.
Your program consists of four parts (ContenTrio, Content Provider, solo, and Content Provider + Special Guests). Are there specific musical ideas each group seeks to explore?
The core concept of the group, the quartet, is asking what can this group do given the abilities, resources, and imaginations of these three particular individuals: Brandon Seabrook, Briggan Krauss, and Ingrid Laubrock. They all have a lot of facility and their own voice on their particular instrument, they make magic happen when they play, and I dig ‘em as people too.
For the solo project it’s about zeroing in on certain sounds and techniques I’ve found through my free improvisation/extended techniques area of work and giving full attention and space to those, allowing them to form the basis for entire pieces or passages. There are a fair number of sounds I’ve gotten into that I think people should hear but it’s not always possible in group situations.
As a composer, improviser, and percussionist, can you tell us about your musical background and process?
I’m a drummer. I never received training on other instruments. I taught myself how to get around on the piano when I was a teenager. This background gives me certain abilities and limitations that I try to use to my advantage. Drumming has been central to my musical development and this affects how I conceive melody, phrasing, intervals, harmony, pattern, rhythm (of course), and the shaping of energy. I’m grateful actually that I wasn’t burdened with compositional training because my independence from that allowed me to make music in a way that was very direct and personal to me.
Another part of my process, or background, is my non-musical or extra-musical aesthetic experiences. My experience of the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Ocean. Poetry. Certain encounters with theater, dance, and performance art. Lots of visual art. Travel. I feel like all these things give one a taste of something powerful—beauty maybe—that one wants to re-experience or replicate or communicate to others. And the medium I’ve been blessed or cursed with during my time on the planet is music so for me to convey or commune with this aesthetic stuff on the deepest level I have to engage in acts of musical creation. That’s the medium I’m best at. In another life it might have been mountain climbing, carpentry, who knows…
Anyway this background material is like magma under the crust of the earth and given some pressure and some fissures, it kind of erupts when I start playing around on the piano, singing into a recorder, or writing in a journal. And what comes out becomes the composition.
Part four of your set concludes with your piece, “The Band Is a Drum Set”. Does this title perhaps suggest something about your approach?
This particular piece I wrote in 1989 as an experiment for myself to see what would happen if a band with some horns played the kind of melodic figures that a drummer plays. (One of the musicians who played it on its premiere was Wadada Leo Smith!). The melody uses three pitches (analogous to snare drum, small tom, and floor tom) and phrases them in a way that I thought was characteristic of a Max Roach or Ed Blackwell solo. The piece was a success and I subsequently expanded and explored this idea in other pieces, i.e. imposing drum-like material on non-drum instruments more and realized there was something to it. It provides a slightly different algorithm for how a band can function, and a slightly different sound result. Plus the drums are an ancient instrument, a primal instrument that has been used for ritual and altering consciousness and perception, altering one’s sense of existence in space and time. I found that what I was also doing was trying to use a band to do that. Ingrid protested though—she wants me to write “The Drum Set Is a Saxophone”.