Drummer Talk

Billy Kilson, “The Diversified Drummer” #PASIC14 Live Blog

We’re about to kick off Billy’s clinic.


Billy just oozes cool. Solo to start things off. Very sensitive textures around the kit. It ends as quickly as it started.

The tool system: define the feel

Over the last 3 decades, what is the common bond between styles is a simple beat. It defines my style.

It turns out his solo was actually a tune, just no music. The music was in his head. Odd phrasing.

When I’m playing traditional jazz, a lot of time the ride cymbal communicates with the bass player that the time is coming from this. I match the rhythmic pacing of the bass. The hh reinforces that time. When I’m identifying the time, I use the ride. I found out I needed to understand the components of the kit and how they’re communicating to the band.


“In jazz, the ride and HH plays the groove pulse, and the snare communicates with the band. If I’m playing contemporary music, the groove pulse rhythms come from the kick and snare.

Chris Botti has had 18 different bass players since I’ve been with him. Awe don’t have time to argue over the feel. So I follow with the bass player and adjust. I’m going to match his rhythmic pacing. I have to be humble enough to go with his vibe and his feel. If we don’t have a firm bed, then the band can’t get off.

When I studied with Alan Dawson, I want to only play. I don’t want you to be rhythmically driven. Be musically driven. When the band is playing, enhance what happens on the bandstand.”

Q: When you play tunes that go on for 20-30 minutes, how do you stay engaged?
A: A lot of the tools were developed with Dave Holland Band. We spent a lot of time rehearsing, just him and me. I got a sense that he wanted to learn my groove pulse, my rhythms. He taught me to be humble with him. We would play these things on the road, and explore with each other’s rhythms.


I’m constantly thinking melody. I’m not thinking “7’s” or anything. Get your rudiments going, and have clarity. We’re only playing singles, doubles, and paradiddles.

Q: Did you ever find that you lost the desire to play? That you couldn’t do this as a career?
A: Short answer, I worked for a phone company for 3 years. *laughter* That answered it for me.



Q: Have you always played matched grip?
A: I started out matched, but switched to traditional with Alan Dawson. I only knew 3 rudiments when I started studying with Dawson. I was self-taught playing with records. With Alan, I could play rudiments traditional, but couldn’t get around the kit as easily. Tony Williams told me I should be able to do both. With funk, I couldn’t lay into the snare as much.

Plays Dave holland tune in11/4. The meter is accentuated with the ride and kick. HH on 1/4 notes.


Remember the first compliment you got? “You have good time.” Then our singles got faster and you lost that time. If you want to have work, you have to keep it to good time.


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