THOUGH BEST KNOWN AS THE INVENTIVE TRAP DRUMMER in the groundbreaking fusion band Living Colour (whose aggressive and noisy metallic funk helped shape the sonic landscape of late '80s and early '90s hard rock), two-time Grammy Award-winner Will Calhoun is also a respected jazz percussionist who continues to play and record with a diverse roster of major artists.
He recently wrapped four shows at NYC’s Performance Space 122 that found Calhoun integrating his loves of poetry, sound and photography into a mixed-media event drawing on his studies of global ethnic music.
He returns to Savannah nearly two decades after his last visit for a special clinic at Portman’s Music Superstore. I caught up with Calhoun by phone.
How did the shows at PS122 go?
Will Calhoun: Tremendous. It allowed me to play dulcimer and interesting indigenous flutes handmade for me during my travels abroad. It was called Black Holes because those are missing spaces in the middle of universes. No one knows how big or deep they are — just like our lives.
Is there any particular recording or live situation that has brought you the most joy or sense of personal accomplishment?
Will Calhoun: I like them all, but my most recent one, Native Lands —which I’ll have for sale at the clinic— is my current favorite. It’s the best representation of who I am musically. There are some great cats on there: Wayne Shorter, Pharaoh Sanders, Buster Williams. The DVD with it has interviews and footage of me studying the music and cultures of foreign lands.
Do you favor a particular style or genre?
Will Calhoun: I don’t believe in styles of music. Not to offend anyone, but I believe in sounds. Is it okay that a rock and roll kid wearing all black and fingernail polish walks into a jazz club to sit down and listen? It’s cool in my eyes, but I know some folks for whom that might be a problem!
For those not familiar with drum clinics. What can folks expect from this event?
Will Calhoun: It’ll be a combination of things: me playing acoustic drum sets, playing along with tracks and demonstrating some electronic music as well, such as loops and samples. We can talk about technical stuff all day long, but the most important thing for me is that drummers, non-drummers, guitarists, parents, whoever shows up is inspired to become what they’d most like to be — which, hopefully, is an artist who thinks outside of the box.
Do you feel Living Colour’s success opened a lot of doors not only for black musicians, but for more commercial acceptance of experimental rock music?
Will Calhoun: That’s a great question, and I have to say the answer is absolutely yes to both. There’s still a tremendous amount of experimental music not being seen, but did we open a lot of doors? Absolutely. Just go back and listen to the bands before we hit, and the ones that are out now.
Will Calhoun Drum ClinicWhere: Portman's Music SuperstoreWhen: 3 pm, Sat., May 10Cost: $5 (benefits St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital Info: willcalhoun.com, portmansmusic.com
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