These are the drums

Aug. 21, 2014 @ 10:08 AM

A benefit concert to be held this weekend for NCCU’s Jazz Studies Program will draw attention to alumni who make their living playing drums and percussion, instruments so vital to so much American music, but arguably taken for granted.

The “Give the Drummer Some” Concert will bring together five alumni of the program – Alvin Atkinson Jr., Larry Q. Draughn Jr., Dan Davis, Jasmine Best and Tyler Leak. All of the drummers will perform a 30-minute set with their individual groups. Thomas Taylor, who teaches percussion at NCCU and who put together the concert, also will perform with his group, a guitar trio. Audience members are likely to hear all styles of the music – straight-ahead, fusion, funk, Latin – “whatever you like, you’ll probably get,” Taylor said. His band will perform music that pays tribute to “three of my musical heroes” – Dennis Chambers, Max Roach and Art Blakey.
Items for bid in the silent auction include art, travel packages, spa packages, meals, and golf packages.
Taylor put together the program in part to allow current students “to see the success of our alumni and see that at one time they were students sitting in their seat, and going through the same” classes, he said. The concert also will update local fans about what graduates are doing. “Sometimes people who are fans of the program may have liked a particular student, or a particular year, but as time goes on they forget that particular name,” Taylor said.
Atkinson has toured internationally as a Jazz Ambassador for the U.S. State Department’s cultural outreach program. He has taught classes in jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz in Schools program. Draughn, Best, Davis and Leak also tour and play frequently at local concerts and in local venues.
Davis earned his master’s degree in jazz studies from NCCU and studied with Taylor, and now teaches percussion at UNC Chapel Hill. He rates NCCU as “one of the best traditional jazz schools on the East Coast, where the tradition is emphasized.” Davis has played music in the area for some 25 years, and has seen the level of musicianship increase with the influx of younger players. He also credits places like Beyu Caffe, the West End Wine Bar and the Durham Jazz Workshop with providing a good forum for listening to music. “You get to play,” Davis said. The proprietors “don’t simply want you to provide background music.”
Taylor who has taught in the NCCU program for 16 years, previously taught in Greensboro and always had high regard for NCCU’s program. “I always knew about Ira [Wiggins, jazz studies director] and the jazz program,” Taylor said. “When I was teaching in more of a community music school in Greensboro, I would send my students here. … I told them, if you really wanted to play jazz, go and see Ira.”

GO and DO

WHAT: “Give the Drummer Some” benefit concert and events
WHEN: Concert is Sunday at 6 p.m. Workshops begin at 2, and a silent auction begins at 5.
WHERE: B.N. Duke Auditorium, N.C. Central University
ADMISSION: Free, but silent auction proceeds will benefit the NCCU Jazz Studies Program