August 11th, 2015
Review by Dan Scheiman
Starting the night off, Jojo introduced himself to the crowd as both an artist and a teacher of the drumming community. He seemed overjoyed at the fact that he was given the chance to teach the drum camp that preceded the evening. Jojo Mayer is a Swiss drummer who has been playing drums since he was 2 years old. For anyone who is unaware of his work, whether you are a drummer or not, it is well worth looking into his teachings as well as his live performances.
Jojo began his set with what appeared to be a warm up exercise to the untrained eye, but with a very gradual crescendo it was clear that the drum roll was gaining a specific groove. With the most delicate touch and very specific accents he turned a strong drum roll into the rhythm of the song just before cueing the rest of the band to join him.
Breaking the beat often to show his brilliant musicality and precise sense of time, Jojo was not only showing the students in the crowd a few more tricks, but he was also having the time of his life. It is very obvious that this man loves what he does, and because of that simple fact, the crowd seemed to enjoy his performance just the same. As he played games with the accompanying band, he would often back off entirely just to give them some space. This very basic (and often too easily forgotten) tactic of leaving breathing space for the other members of the band is something Jojo Mayer excels at. The most impressive aspect of his playing to me is his creativity, but others may say its his mechanically perfect movements or his physical abilities that very few compare to.
After the first set we were treated with a surprise intermission; Benny Greb and Steve Smith came out on stage with sticks in hand. The fans began clapping as soon as their feet hit the floor. These two had actually played the night before in their own drum clinic. Benny came up to the to explain how honored he was to be playing with such a legend. Steve just nodded in respect and offered a huge smile to the crowd as well as Benny. The two played a song called “Mr. Hi-hat.” As they both showed off a level of rhythmic comprehension and pinpoint accuracy I couldn’t help but drop my jaw a few times. The pure musicality these two portrayed, whether it was with just sticks and a hi-hat or brushes on an ironing board, I was continuously astounded at what I was watching.
As the final performer Dave Weckl came onto the stage and grabbed the mic. With a very stern look on his face, he thanked the crowd for supporting the musicians of today and tomorrow. He expressed very sincerely his love for teaching and how important musical camps, like the one he was running, are to future generations. The same band joined him on stage and Dave did not hesitate to bring the heat on the very first track. Dave Weckl is considered one the greatest drummers of anyone alive today. His jazz studies, along with his years of playing with legendary fusion pianist, Chick Corea, are just a few small pieces of what makes this man so versatile and incredible as a musician. It was an honor to see him perform his percussive magic live.
Nearing the end of their set, the band decided to turn it up a notch by playing an insanely complex and up-beat jazz piece called “Nothing Personal.” It is entirely possible that I have never seen another track this difficult to comprehend in all of the live shows I have seen. The pure endurance and relentless speed by Dave Weckl was already hard to wrap my head around, but the rest of the band were showcasing the reasons why these drummers chose them to play with. The pocket was so tight you could literally have heard a pin drop in between beats if you listened for it.
At the end of the night, the staggeringly impressive band were now looking back at both Jojo and Dave sitting on their thrones looking over at them. With a tremendous introduction of call and response between the two smiling drummers, the fans were cheering and clapping in unison with the beat. Exchanging words in a percussive language that only they appeared to understand, the crowd went silent as if they were all in shock. Each drummer would take the floor briefly as the other gave some space; at other times they seemed to be lined up perfectly with one another and the band. The crushing display of masterful ability and raw talent on stage was something I can’t imagine I will see again any time soon.
An encore that was kindly granted to the fans, was the one and only Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” Only a group with this much skill and natural talent could pull off such a masterful cover. I would be willing to say that anything either one of these drummers touch in the coming years will realistically be gold; not to mention their students who may even surpass them down the road. These two are prime examples of musicians that pour everything they have into their music.