Freddie Gruber - Drummer and Teaching Master
Freddie Gruber 1927-2011
Freddie Gruber, famed drummer and teacher, died today, leaving a decades-long legacy of teaching and performing.
Freddie, born in 1927, was part of the New York be-bop scene, performing with many of the great jazz musicians of the day, such as Charlie Parker, Al Cohn, Joe Springer, Buddy DeFranco, Zoot Zims, and others. He was a friend and roommate of Buddy Rich, who, of course, went on to become one of the world’s most famous drummers (and famous for his temper tantrums towards his band all who crossed him!)
A quote from jazz writer Barry Ulanov, from the book The Shape of Drums to Come: Some of us have heard the playing of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and now, for the first time, a few of us have heard where the future of drumming must go." Sort of like when Jon Landau said in 1974 “I have seen the future of rock and roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen.” They were both right.
I became familiar with Freddie while reading Neil Peart’s book, Ghostrider, Travels on the Healing Road. Neil had decided he needed to improve his drumming technique. He had noticed the improvement in Journey drummer, Steve Smith, and asked him how he had done it. Steve told him he had studied with Freddie.
Neil traveled to Los Angeles, where he spent many hours working with Freddie to basically start over. Over the years, many drummers have done the same, from all genres of music.
Neil summed up his experience with Freddie: “My take on all of this is that the apprentice takes something easy and makes it look difficult, while the master takes the impossible and makes it look easy.”
Freddie was featured in the Rush documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage. I have no doubt that film made young drummers seek out his work and advice, via the many articles written on the world wide web.
On January 15th, Freddie Gruber was honored by Zildjian cymbals. The daughters of the late Armand Zildjian, presented Freddie with an award for educational excellence.
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