Glenn Radley was eleven when first saw drums being played at The Music Cellar’s annual spring concert, and he fell in love on the spot. Now a graduate of the Jazz Studies program at the University of Manitoba, he is busy with several different musical projects. Sunny Roseland is a traditional jazz project spearheaded by Kevin Curtis and Gabriela Ocejo; they played the Cube Stage at this year’s Jazz Festival. Sebastian Owl is a rowdy folk-rock band which performed across the prairies this summer; they’ve just released an album, Captain Tomorrow And The Dream Orphans. Glenn teamed up with singer Jay Buchanan and guitarist Cole Moreau on an original Fringe show called Life’s Lyrics. He also hit community stages with the Jazz on Wheels band, supporting a couple of young apprentices who are happily following his footsteps.
What is the hardest part about playing drums?
The challenge of coordinating four limbs at once is significant. But the bigger challenge is making what I do completely pertinent to what’s going on in the music moment to moment.
What jazz artists have been your biggest inspirations?
The first two records I played along to are Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which has Jimmy Cobb on drums, and Straight Ahead, an awesome Count Basie record from the late 60s featuring Harold Jones on drums. You only really need to listen to the first two quarter notes to understand the depth of swing in those rhythm sections.
Since attending the Jazz Studies program I’ve expanded my influences considerably. Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and Roy Haynes are all on my list of favourites, along with more modern players like Eric Harland, Ari Hoenig and Bill Stewart. The attribute I find most inspiring about a drummer is his originality, balanced with his knowledge of the idiom. Drummers who are able to find a distinct sound are the ones who make me want to improve.
Who’s on your playlist these days?
I’ve been listening pretty obsessively to Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section. As legend would have it, Art Pepper (a West Coast alto player) woke up to discover that he had a session to play with Miles Davis’ rhythm section, without any time to prepare. The result is pretty incredible! The band is completely symbiotic and for me it’s one of Philly Joe Jones’ best albums—right up there with Milestones. The other one I’m really into is Bill Evans’ Explorations. The contrast between different piano trios is something I’ve grown to appreciate more and more, and Evans’ trio with Scott Lafaro and Paul Motian really has a unique sound.
What have you learned from this art form?
The biggest thing, I would say, is stepping outside of my own pre-conceived notions as much as I can. Jazz has taught me to always be skeptical of my own knowledge, and to constantly strive to be more engaged as a listener, not just in music but also in day-to-day life. It’s made me more empathetic, and willing to admit that I’m wrong. I see it as a form of exposure therapy to failure, especially the setting of the jam session, which is a nerve-wracking and humbling experience. It’s in that crucible that you learn the most about music and yourself.