Ran into Kevin Kanner last nite. Apparently he’s in town for a brief spell. We reminisced and bitched and told stories you don’t repeat. That guy is such a great jazz drummer. And I mean jazz drummer. You could drop him into a Blue Note session two generations ago and he would swing those mothers like mad. He’s just got that thing, that blues thing, deep down, that goes back all the way to the beginning. He could play with Louis Armstrong in Chicago, I think, or with Lester Young in Kansas City. He could fill in for Jimmy Cobb or Tootie Heath or Art Taylor–especially Art Taylor–in a hard bop New York City. He wouldn’t play like them, he wouldn’t copy them–that’s not what jazz is about, mimicry–but he sure the hell could sit in when they had to sit out for some jazz player’s reason or another, better left unsaid. He could sit in and swing, really swing, and the cats would turn around and nod, just nod, and he’d know he was in the groove, in the pocket, solid. That’s Kevin Kanner. He’s back in New York City now, where his playing always fits in somewhere, uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, wherever the music is cooking. He’s doing well, since he plays more like a New York drummer, and less like one of our own. The players swing back there and experiment out here. Well they experiment back there too, obviously (that’s where it started!), but they also swing hard, way hard, which seems passé among the new jazz generation in L.A. The state of the art here in downtown is just that, art, which is kind of ironic since swinging Kevin Kanner pretty much kickstarted the whole scene when he brought his weekly jam session east from the Mint. It grew and grew into something world class out here, that Blue Whale scene, daring and innovative and full of everything but the old school. Everything but the blues. What would Ray Brown say? Kanner asked once, and apparently Ray Brown would have said go to New York. Which he did. Other drummers, like Zach Harmon and Dan Schnelle and Tina Raymond, filled in nicely and were more attuned to the new vibe. They can be wild or textured or subtle or ethnic and in Harmon’s case especially, absolutely brilliant. They can switch time like you or I switch socks. Which wasn’t Kevin’s thing. Not at all.
I miss him out here, not just because he’s such a swell cat but because when he was behind the kit you’d have no worries at all that this shit was gonna lag, gonna stumble, gonna transform into crazy meters and advanced music theory. No, it’ll just be jazz. That’s all. Just jazz. That’s Kevin Kanner. Just jazz.