REVIEW: Sabian Artisan clinic. Poole Percussion 09/09/11
© Craig Stanley
It's been a great time for drum events lately and we were looking forward to this particular one as it rounded off an intense deadline week in the Rhythm office. Our destination? In-store at Poole Percussion for the Sabian Artisan clinic tour.
The tour was organised by Westside Distribution to promote Sabian's impressive range of Artisan cymbals, and who better to put these beauties through their paces than renowned session aces Ralph Salmins and Karl Brazil - two drummers playing very different gigs (Ralph's recent work includes a host of blockbuster film soundtracks and Karl has been touring relentlessly with James Blunt whilst recording with the likes of Feeder and Take That), but sharing a common thread - both are successful working musicians.
With two Gretsch kits adorning the stage we were treated to Ralph first. He demonstrated exactly why he is the first call for many top producers and artists, showcasing the importance of impeccable time-keeping, a graceful touch and considered dynamics. Performing a handful of tracks, including Georgie Fame's 'Yeah Yeah', he was able represent the essential weapons a session drummers should have in their arsenal. They're rare clinic tools, but brushes also make an appearance with Ralph laying it down whilst pushing and pulling a groove around a click. The key thread through all of his playing and discussion was to keep things simple, don't over-analyse and serve the music.
A relatively short session, but months-worth of practice ideas were taken on board, and the promise of a Q&A session before the end gave the gathered drummers time to think about pertinent questions.
Next up, Mr Brazil, the second Gretsch player of the evening. Shying away from his day job for a moment, Karl let loose on a high-energy fusion number, miles away from the two and four that pays his wages. This served as the perfect contrast to what he does for a living, before moving on to perform recent recordings from Take That and Jason Mraz, and then a rockier number from Feeder - adaptability is key. It was inspiring to hear more about Karl's musical background and his tips on getting involved with the session scene.
Both drummers also talked the audience through their cymbal set-ups to give insight into why their chosen metalwork helps them get the job done. With the subsequent Q&A the audience asked plenty of probing questions relating to recommended books for further study, ably fielded by Ralph, as well as industry based queries, with both drummers offering valuable advice to budding sessioneers. All in attendance, including this reviewer, walked away with plenty to practice and plenty to consider, an element often lacking from drum clinics.
The parting shot came with both drummers swapping kits (Ralph on Karl's rock monster, Karl on Ralph's economical jazz set-up) and proceeded to trade licks. Both had the chops and were clearly in their element. Proof that, although their jobs might appear 'easy' on the surface, at the foundation is a grounding in rudiments and consumer-pleasing musicality. A fantastic evening.