“He’s in it all the time. He’s listening all the time. He’s got kind of a small range of stuff he listens to over and over again: Monk, Bird, earlier Miles Davis recordings, Sonny Rollins…he’s addicted to that music. He’s a real student of the music, and a student of the greats. He has no time for anything else. You might put something on that could be killing to you, but he’ll be like, “Eh…I don’t know…” He’s got very particular tastes. I guess as you get older, you develop that. You make your circle a little bit smaller…”
— Bassist Doug Weiss on Al Foster
A follow up question:
Do you think that intentionally narrowing his scope in that manner strengthens his artistic voice?
Yeah, I think so. He’s got a very strong identity, and very identifiable sound and approach to drumming, different than anyone else I’ve played with. Other people share that aesthetic of hearing the “big picture;” he’s hearing the entire piece of music as it’s happening, he’s not just hearing some hip shit on the drums (although he certainly plays a lot of very hip shit on the drums). I think that’s probably the biggest piece- his sense of radar, of being able to anticipate what’s going to happen, and help things go in a certain direction, without being pushy. He’s really not pushy as an accompanist. He’s very giving and selfless in that way, but still able to carry on this little dialogue with himself within the kit. That transfers out to the people that play with him, if they can pick up on it.