Discovering a New Drummer: Marcus Gilmore

Lately I’ve been listening to Vijay Iyer’s 2005 album Reimagining.  Even though Iyer is a one-of-a-kind pianist, since I’m a drummer, let’s be honest, I’m paying lots of attention to the drummer, Marcus Gilmore.  Instead of the standard, swingin’, ding-dinga-ding ride cymbal pattern of traditional jazz, Gilmore chops up the time to follow Iyer’s quirky lines.  Yet he still drives the music along.

According to Jazziz magazine, “Gilmore started playing in the rhythmically complex environments of Vijay Iyer’s trios and quartets in 2003, when he was a 16-year-old high-school student.”  (Jazziz, Summer 2011, Vol. 28, Issue 6, p.78)  Wow.  And that was after Gilmore had played with saxophonist and odd-time innovator Steve Coleman.  It reminds me of whiz kid Tony Williams (1945-1997) joining Miles Davis’ quintet at age 17 after playing with saxophonist Jackie McLean.

It’s natural that Gilmore (b. October 10, 1986) would gravitate towards great drumming since he is the grandson of still-living, mind-melting, master drummer Roy Haynes (1925- ) and nephew of cornet player, Graham Haynes.  But perhaps more importantly, it’s Gilmore’s practicing and the opportunities he got while a student at the famous Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts that set him on his way.  And in his mid-twenties, Gilmore is already a well-established figure in the world of jazz drumming.

Bill Milkowski sums him up well in Modern Drummer:

…it’s his talent alone that has led Marcus Gilmore to be considered one of the most gifted young drummers on the New York scene.  Blessed with an abundance of chops, flawless time, a penchant for intricate subdivisions, and a remarkable sense of independence on the kit, Gilmore also exhibits rare poise and a quiet intelligence on the bandstand — a natural-born drummer indeed. (Modern Drummer, March 2008, Vol. 32, Issue 3, p. 110)

— Tim

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