Featured Musician - October 2006
Name: Drew Shoals
Early Years/Education: From Portland where my Mom put me in drum lessons at age five with Marty Higgins. In sixth grade at Whittaker Middle School I won the talent show on drums. ‘Till this day people who haven't seen me in ten years still come up to me and ask if I still play the drums! At fourteen I studied with Israel Annoh who turned me onto fusion jazz and all kinds of music. In high school (Grant) I was in the jazz band and other combos but kept very busy doing lots of other things as well as being student body president. Last Spring, I graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. There I worked with percussion instructor Spencer Martin and won the "outstanding drum soloist" award at the '05 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. I actually did quite a bit of playing in college but graduated with a BA in African-American Studies. While studying abroad in Botswana I got to play in a band that toured the country. It was then that I decided to focus on music when I was done with school. After moving home to Portland I started hanging out at the jam sessions. Ron Steen would always ask me up to play. He calls me his "nephew", I'm sure lots of people believe him! I've studied with some great drummers like Mel Brown, Gary Hobbs, Reinhardt Melz, Todd Straight, Steve Moretti (to name a few). Building off a foundation of rock and funk drumming I came to jazz thru fusion (Mahavishnu and Weather Report), it was an easy transition.
Go By Train: I'm currently in (guitarist) Dan Balmer's group, "Go By Train" that has Clay Giberson on keyboards. I met Dan about a year ago while subbing for Mel Brown's B-3 group and now I'm his drummer. What's great about playing with Dan is he'll throw in a tune from Rodiohead or Nirvana that really appeals to the twenty-somethings in the audience while still keeping the older jazz fan satisfied. We play Jimmy Maks on Mondays. Another group I'm in is the Ramsey Embick Trio with bassist Damian Erskine (Peter is his uncle). We play the Blue Monk on Tuesdays. I really enjoy playing with these guys. I'm also in the Ben Darwish Trio with Zach Wallmark on bass. This group represents a lot of our original material. We just recorded a CD at Randy Porter's Heavywood studio and our release parties are scheduled for December. I'm in guitarist Chris Mosley's Trio, Fiction Junkies (a mixed-metered fusion group), Karen Therese Band w/Brian Ward and Al Criado as well as play with Paul Evans, Renato Caranto, Gordon Lee, Andrew Oliver, Patrick Lamb, and Mary Kadderly. I also frequently sub for Mel Brown in his Septet and B3 Organ Group.
I'm very lucky to be playing with a lot of the younger professionals. I think there's a scene developing here of players that are completely different from the old guard. Obviously, we're coming out of that tradition, but I feel that these young players are really in tune with what's happening globally. I think we can create a unique Portland sound so we can put Portland on the map.
Musical Influences: Brian Blade, Billy Kilson, Quest Love, Dave King, Jorge Rossy, Jeff Ballard, Billy Cobham, Jimmy Chamberlin, Alex Acuna, Carter Beauford, Radiohead, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Bill Frisell, Dave Holland, A Tribe Called Quest, Charlie Hunter, Brad Mehldau, Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Stewart, Jason Marsalis, Terreon Gully, Matt Chamberlain, John Scofield, and John Ellis. Other influences include beat poets: Saul Williams and Gil Scott-Heron.
Most Satisfying Experience: Aside from winning the talent show in the sixth grade, the first thing that comes to mind is my senior project in college. I wrote a bunch of spoken-work poems about police brutality in Portland and performed them. That was really satisfying. Recently, it was a lot of fun playing the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival with "Go By Train". It was my first gig with them and I had to learn their catalogue (very intimidating) and play it in front of all those people.
Favorite Recordings: John Coltrane "A Love Supreme", Miles Davis "Four and More", Weather Report "Black Market", Dave Holland Quintet "Extended Play: Live at Birdland", Jamiroquai "Traveling Without Moving", Radiohead "Kid A", A Tribe Called Quest "Midnight Marauders", Smashing Pumpkins "Siamese Dream", Joshua Redman "Momentum", Charlie Hunter "Right Now Move", Brad Mehldau Trio "Anything Goes", The Bad Plus "Give", Death Cab For Cutie "The Photo Album", Branford Marsalis "The Dark Keys", Bill Frisell "This Land", John Ellis "One Foot in the Swamp", and Common "Electric Circus".
Discography: ‘06"Bridgetown Breaks" Vol. 2 (this is a collection of drum breaks from Portland drummers) You can pick up a copy at bridgetownbreaks.com.; Ben Darwish Trio "Industrial Hero" on Diatic Records out in December; ‘06 Chris Mosley "The Miraculous Aspect of Time"; '06 Grant Richards "Extra Step"; Fiction Junkies "Fiction Junkies" (a mixed-media fusion group); I'm also on two tracks of "KMHD Presents Jazz in Portland", one with pianist Grant Richards and one with the Fiction Junkies.
Where Playing Currently: Every Monday at Jimmy Maks with "Go By Train" at 8 pm; Every Tuesday at the Blue Monk with pianist Ramsey Embick's "Groove Trio" at 9 pm; October 4th at the Towne Lounge w/Double Dragon; October 6 at the Blue Monk w/Ben Darwish Trio 9pm; October 12 at Biddy's w/Jesse Young Duo at 9:30; October 21 at Macadam Bar and Grill w/Jesse Young Trio.
Gigs Coming Up: November 14 w/Karen Therese at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wi. ; November 25 at 8 pm at Jimmy Maks w/ Go By Train CD release party; December 15 & 16 at the Maui Cultural Arts Center w/Karen Therese, Maui, Hi.;
December 22nd, 8pm at Jimmy Maks w/Ben Darwish Trio CD release party; December 23 at 9 pm Blue Monk w/Ben Darwish Trio CD release party; December 29 at 8 pm at Jimmy Maks w/John Nastos Electric Quartet w/Damian Erskine and Clay Giberson; January 19 in Eugene at Jo Federigo's w/Ben Darwish Trio CD release party.
Future Plans: In a couple of years I'll apply to grad school. It could be music related. I'd go for a Masters in Music at the New England Conservatory or The Manhattan School of Music. I also aspire to be a professor of Africana studies (global study of African culture). I really do like New York, I hope to settle back East.
Other: Another thing I'm really grateful for is regardless of the fact that I'm twenty-three, the players in Portland will hire you . . . they think if you can play you can play, it's not an old boys club.
-- Interviewed by Rita Rega