George Colligan of the Jazz Truth blog speaking to Jack Dejohnette. As usual, I've edited out my favorite parts- be sure to go read the entire thing:
For developing the bass drum technique, at least for my type of practicing, I play with ride cymbal beats, letting the right foot follow the right hand, practicing slowly, always practicing slowly and gradually build it up. You determine what speed and intensity you can do it, so you don’t overdo it. You have to develop this technique utilizing the spastic muscle. You’re doing this off of your toe, so your heel is up. You can also try and do it flat footed, heel toe heel toe heel toe, doing it that way, or doing both ways. But you get more power out of it when the foot is up, using the heel toe.
And then the other thing to do is play triplets, utilize the triplets, and then playing with accents, you can either use your ride cymbal to follow, and just play independently. Then the next thing to try is to play things, ideas that you know, between the hand and foot, or play ideas with the foot that you normally play with 2 hands, or one hand. It takes some time to build it up. I’m still working on developing it. It depends on the solo I’m doing whether I’ll utilize… sometimes I’ll take a whole solo with the foot. And you know that’s a whole other kind of concept, but doing it in the way so that it communicates something musically….
I see myself as a colorist, not as a drummer, per se… I always thought…"I wanna do on drums what somebody like Keith Jarrett does on the piano." The drum set is a musical instrument like guitar and everything else; you tune them, you tune the set, like you tune a guitar or bass, and I tune my drums in such a way so that no matter what I play, whatever I hit on it is a melody and that makes me think differently, it makes me think more melodically.
Much more after the break:
I have a very defined stick beat, and so when I first came out playing drums, I wanted to have a cymbal that emphasized that rather than get obscured by overtone buildup.
Your own voice
I think the challenge for musicians is to have the courage to maintain their own voice. Now people can get more work if they play like somebody else. [...] And they might work less if they play like themselves and that’s when I think musicians have to be more courageous. It’s your voice, you know? That’s how you sound. That’s you. That’s your identity, and try to develop THAT and make THAT work in different situations… and that’s how you get hired.
GC: Is that something you always had, that confidence? You were always comfortable with your own sound? I think that’s how a lot of younger players understandably have problems with that. It’s not being like an egomaniac; it’s just sort of being comfortable on stage, comfortable with your own voice.
JD: Well, it has to do with your environment, like the environment I came up in; we hung out at each other’s houses. There were a lot of jam sessions, so you got a lot of on the job training playing before an audience, getting feedback from musicians and the audience as to whether you were doing good.
R & D
I spent a lot of time with a tape recorder; that, and a mirror helped me a lot…. a tape recorder playing the records and listening back to myself and then doing research and development on myself. [...]
Like “Oh, that’s too harsh, oh let me change that, oh my touch is too harsh, its too forceful.. So that helps, you know, you’re listening back to yourself for critical analysis. I think that’s important, as far as playing the drums , any instrument, just watching how your body is when you play, see where the tension is. Because the whole thing is to have the right balance of relaxedness, relaxation and tension in your body when you play and be totally there in the moment, and not somewhere else, but focused on the moment. And, if you’re focused, you don’t have to make yourself be focused.
GC: Many of the musicians who played with Miles that I have been around say that Miles rarely said anything about the music.
JD: No, unless there was something specific he wanted to hear. Otherwise, everything was cool if he didn’t say anything. And he expected you to come up with something different every night, not play the same licks. You were expected to play what you don’t know, not what you already know…It’s easy to sit home and play all kinds of great ideas, great, but then when you’re playing with an ensemble, you can’t play that shit. You gotta react with the musicians, and sometime that may require you just keeping time and not playing all the hip stuff… it doesn’t work, because now you are part of a team.
Read the entire interview at Jazz Truth.