We were absolutely thrilled to be able to host an exclusive UK Masterclass with the legendary Mr . Nate Smith at Turner Sims, Southampton on Sunday 16th September.
You could sense the excitement in the air as the GRD drumming community began to arrive for this wonderful evening event when the doors opened at 7pm. By the time the show was due to commence at 8pm, the beautiful concert hall that is Turner Sims was packed with 250 drummers & musicians all eager to hear Nate Smith play & talk.
This was always going to be a very, very special event and Graham was clearly overwhelmed at the support of everyone when he gave a speech to thank everyone who had come out to be a part of it. Graham then introduced Nate to the audience to roaring applause and Nate wasted no time in going to work- he started out with a wonderful piece from his upcoming drum solo album ‘Pocket Change’ which features 11 improvised drum solo pieces, breaks, beats & excursions.
At this point, jaws had already hit the floor all around the auditorium as expected! The combination of depth, musicality, groove, dynamics & touch in Nate’s playing is simply astounding, it’s no wonder he has become perhaps the most in demand & most talked about drummer in the world today.
After this stunning opening & moving solo piece, Nate treated the GRD drumming community to a real insight into his career all the way from his childhood years in Virginia where he first fell in love with music through listening to his Dad’s record collection which comprised mostly of instrumental R & B records featuring master drummers such as Steve Gadd & James Gadson.
Nate then discovered the band ‘Living Colour’ with Will Calhoun on drums, his love for this band was very apparent and Nate cites this influence as a big reason why he plays the drums! Later, in high school, Nate became hip to Jazz and his obsession with mastering the drums stemmed from there. Drummers such as Max Roach, Tony Williams, Art Blakey & Elvin Jones among many, many others have all shaped the way Nate approaches drums & music.
Nate then treated us all to another solo piece which was again pure music at the drum set. Armed with an egg shaker in one hand Nate built the groove up and strongly communicated the shape of the piece with an awesome display of rhythmic prowess, dynamic range and full independence of all four limbs.
The work Nate has put into his craft is immediately apparent every time he sits behind the drums. He stressed the importance of playing with other musicians wherever possible and taking any gig, anywhere - no matter the fee! This is where you cut your teeth and learn the art of performance. Varied musical opportunities, of course, can open many doors and it was whilst working with the band at Disney where Nate was first discovered by legendary jazz vocalist Betty Carter. Betty heard Nate play and felt he had some serious talent and invited him to her ‘Jazz Ahead’ education programme which featured the most promising young musicians from all over America. This was the first time Nate had worked with young musicians who were really at the top of their game and also Betty herself was a real task master who was notorious for putting the heat on her musicians. He came into contact with the legendary Eric Harland who was also on the programme, he say’s after hearing Eric, he became even more obsessed with pushing himself to be the best he could be.
Nate also has many other contemporaries who he truly admires. Drummers such as Mark Guiliana, Marcus Gilmore, Questlove, Kendrick Scott and Karriem Riggins all inspire Nate to play & create. Nate also gave a shout out to Josh Jones, a Canadian rudimental drummer who is putting together amazing excerices for the conditioning of the hands on his Instagram page ‘Josh Jones Drums’ - Check it out!
Behind the drums once again, in dedication to Max Roach, Nate played another wonderful solo piece. It was Max Roach’s legendary album Drums Unlimited which inspired Nate to put together ‘Pocket Change’, mentioned earlier in this article.
Nate went on to discuss the next part of his musical journey, working in legendary bassist Dave Holland’s band who had heard Nate with Betty Carter and was knocked out with his obvious talent. Nate is on 3 Dave Holland albums and we strongly urge you seek them out and listen! Nate also communicated the importance of creating your own music & learning how music works. As a composer Nate is a two-time Grammy Nominated recording artist with his fantastic band Kinfolk’s debut recording!
Before an excellent Q&A session, Nate performed another drum solo piece from ‘Pocket Change’ dedicated to Heather Heyer whose life was tragically taken in the 2017 Charlottesville Riots, a completely unnecessary and awful moment in American history. With soft mallets, Nate was able to communicate the emotion of the tragic 2017 events and his sadness & anger that the life of a Wonderful young lady had been taken so mindlessly.
During the Q & A session, the GRD drumming community asked Nate some really excellent questions which later that evening after the show he was completely knocked out with. The questions inspired Nate to talk about his artistry and how he creates as well as a dedication to the legendary James Gadson who Nate admires so greatly and was completely on his mind when he recorded the latest album with Jose James, which is a tribute to Bill Withers.
This was a truly amazing night and we at GRD are so happy that we were able to make this possible and that Nate was able to take the time out of his overwhelming schedule to communicate so beautifully with the GRD drumming community. Nate Smith’s continued contribution to the world of music is simply astounding, he is in the midst of creating a legacy which will undoubtedly be marvelled at for many, many years to come. Above all, Nate is a beautiful person who is a joy to be around- there’s an amazing energy about him!
Of course, events like these would just not be possible without the support of the incredible GRD drumming community. Thank You to all of you and thank you to our sponsors at the Zildjian Company, Evans Drumheads, Vater Drumsticks & The Music Den, Harpenden. We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Nate Smith, a master musician & truly wonderful person.