Name: Jonas Oglesbee
Early years/Education: My parents tell me I was always drumming on things, and [due to] the fact my uncle was a rock drummer, they put me in drum lessons. I went to the Metropolitan Learning Center from Kindergarten through grade 12 -- it’s an alternative school in Northwest Portland. It was kind of tough because there wasn’t a music program there. [But] growing up, my parents took us out to see live music. When I was 12, I started going to Jefferson High School for an after-school music program where I was in a jazz combo. That’s where I got into jazz. At that point I was studying with Kurt Deutscher, who was a teacher there. Before Kurt I studied with Marty Higgins. Around that time there was the Mt. Hood/Mel Brown Jazz Camp. I got to go and studied with Mel and Carlton Jackson. I did those for a couple of years, getting more into jazz. In the eighth grade, I got a real Ludwig jazz drum kit.
After high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I started at Mt. Hood Community College around 2000, and then I transferred to Indiana University. Suzie Jones was the director at Mt. Hood then . I took music and general classes. I got into Indiana through recommendations. A handful of people from here have gone through the Indiana program -- like trumpeter Sara Herbert from West Linn. I was there with her. I went to Indiana for three years; it was a great experience. David Baker was head of the Jazz Department, and Steve Haughton was the drum teacher. Professor Baker was one of the first guys to put a jazz program together at a University. I received a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies, a performance degree, from there.
Indiana University: There’s nervousness at first because there’s lots of good players. At the same time it’s exciting to be surrounded by that many good players. You get to connect with people and learn from each other. You’re playing all the time. There’s around 20 drum set players and four big bands. Each gets two drummers. Then there’s the combo program; they made sure everybody got a chance to play. Indianapolis is about an hour from Bloomington, which is where the University is located, and there was a good jazz scene there. Fortunately, some of my friends who were drummers passed on their gigs to me when they left school. I played up there a lot, it was a second education. Showing up on time and knowing how to dress appropriately were things I learned -- along with the music. There’s much more of a casual vibe here, it’s rare to have to wear a tux in Portland. The Indianapolis bands I played with included: Frank Glover, Rob Dixon, Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra and Melvin Rhyne.
After graduation: I slowly got into the scene here in Portland. The bands I currently play with include: Robert Moore, Blake Lyman, Art Resnick and Egg Plant (folk/rock group). I also sub with Devin Phillips and Chuck Israels and whatever else comes my way. I recently broke my hand playing basketball with Devin. Someone on the opposing team hit my hand with his hand. I finished the game and played two gigs over the next couple of days. It got really swollen and hurt, and my wife insisted I see the doctor. I had to cancel a lot of gigs. I’ve been out of commission a little over two months. I’ve just completed physical therapy and am getting back a full range of motion.
Musical Influences: Brian Blade, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Jack De Johnette, Elvin Jones, Philly Jo Jones, Art Blakey, Bill Stewart, Jim Black and Jim Keltner
Most Satisfying Experience: When I’m on a gig and it all clicks. It all comes together, you hit that higher level [that] you try and get to. It doesn’t always happen. The song ends and you think that particular way was just right for that moment. That’s the most satisfying when it happens. You can always hold onto that one time. It’s always nice to look forward to it, it keeps it exciting. Not all the gigs are that way.
Favorite Recordings: Chick Corea, “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs”; Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue”, “Four and More”; John Coltrane, “Impressions,” “A Love Supreme”; Bill Evans, “Explorations”; Keith Jarrett, “Standards in Norway”; Pat Metheny, “Rejoicing”, “Trio Live”; Wayne Shorter, “Footprints Live!”; Ornette Coleman, “The Shape of Jazz To Come.”
Discography: Pat Harbison-- “Conspiracy Theory,” Whole Tone Records. Frank Glover—“Politico,” FGA Records. Blake Lyman—“Anthology For Now,” self released.
Gigs: Jimmy Mak’s, in saxophonist Blake Lyman’s Trio opening for the Ben Macy CD release party, 8/31/12.
Future Plans: Rehab the hand. I’ve been out of commission since June. I’d like to explore some of the rock side of things, too. I think it would be fun to do some of that. Just lay down a good groove, focus on that rather than a ton of chops. I think I’d also like to pursue graduate school in music. I feel I still have so much to learn.
Other: In Indianapolis, sometimes people who were traveling would sit-in and even there you’d kinda feel that different intensity from the New York players. Being fairly close to Chicago, Indianapolis got a little more of the touring acts than here in Portland. It’s inspiring to see guys that are at the top of their craft. Sometimes Portland gets by-passed.
Art Resnick says of Jonas Oglesbee: He’s a good listener, a fine drummer, very tasty. He plays a variety of styles excellently.
-- by Rita Rega