Perfection was drummer's sole mission. Ray Charles moved to his own beat, demanded that others do the sameBy JOHN BRYANT / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
With Ray's generation of jazz musicians, every time on a stage was a contest to see who could cut it and who couldn't. There was no forgiving or forgetting. Ray demanded that a musician play with his tempo and dynamics, and be able to read music and improvise. You had to be comfortable with rock, pop, blues, country, and most important, jazz. And so, there was a price to pay if you hit a wrong note, played too loudly or, if you're the drummer, failed to attach your mind and soul to his feet. The punishment was immediate, usually delivered with a quick upper body turn in a burst of fury. He combined hot directives with a look that burned a hole through you and made you freeze at the same time. If the drummer listened to his own clock instead of watching those size 10s ... look out! That's why drumming for Ray was considered to be a hazardous endeavor. And because Ray had to know whether you were watching him, he was known to speed up or slow down, just to make sure you were with him. On Ray's stage, it had to be played his way.
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John Bryant lives in Dallas and is 52. He is a music producer, drummer and co-owner of a music production company, Bryant-Hames Music. He is also a member of D'Drum, a world music percussion group.