Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

September/October 2008: Curtis Fuller

Terreon Gully:
Tank Reinforcements

Written by:

The University of Manitoba has announced its first new hiring in the Jazz Studies program: drummer Terreon Gully. Gully has performed often in Winnipeg over the past several years—he’s an annual faculty favourite at the summer Jazz Camp, he’s been featured more than once at the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances, and he laid down the groundwork for Steve Kirby and Larry Roy’s CD Wicked Grin. Now he is making Winnipeg his new home.

Director Steve Kirby is pinching himself. “It’s incredible that he’s here,” he says. “He’s one of the most important and innovative drummers out there right now. His rhythmic signature is so original and sophisticated that it is certain to influence the rhythmic conception of everyone here. When Terreon’s disciples start rolling out onto the scene, the Winnipeg scene will be impacted in a big way.”

Terreon Gully—or “Tank” as he’s known to his friends—was born in East St Louis, and carries with him a strong grounding in jazz education. Ron Carter, one of the pre-eminent jazz educators in the world, developed his craft there, and Terreon was one of his protégés. After studying with Marvin Sparks at the University of Houston, Terreon moved to New York, where he’s been wildly busy, playing and recording with The Christian McBride Band, Stefon Harris and Blackout, and a host of others, from jazz legends to modern masters to hip hop icons.

Versatility is one of the bywords of Gully’s career. He came up through gospel music and marching bands, and has been led by an insatiable musical curiosity into everything from R&B to the avant-garde to traditional world musics. That wide range bodes well for students and players in this city—Terreon has all the groundwork, both technical and historical, of the jazz tradition, and at the same time, he can play with a lot of authority at the outer edges of it. Kirby is excited by that: “The mainstream is essential for jazz education. Some people avoid trafficking in the mainstream because they just can’t do it. Terreon has moved his musical focus out of the mainstream because he’s done all that and now he’s exploring further. He has so much integrity.”

Terreon Gully is already establishing himself as a gifted teacher. He’s been one of the mainstays at Jazz Camp for the past three years, and has run several clinics with university ensembles during other visits to the city. “I watched him sit 20 feet from a band and transform them into a cohesive group with just a few well-placed suggestions,” Kirby says. “It was amazing!”

Kirby calls Gully one of “the most clear, the most honest—brutally honest—and at the same time most nurturing teachers” he’s seen. “He invests himself in giving you the information. He’ll take himself up onto the bandstand to demonstrate. He has a lot of natural authority, yet he also shows respect to his students, regardless of what level they’re on. He comes off as somebody who’s hip to something you’re not hip to—he wants you to share his knowledge with you.”

“There’s a lot of things in his arsenal,” says Kirby, “and he’s extremely intelligent. He’s an absolute original and he has a wealth of experience. We’re all gonna benefit from knowing that this kind of power and musicality lives right here with us—we’ll be reaching for a higher goal because we’ll have a chance to hear him and work with him.”

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