by neil roberts

Yesterday I was lost,  and looking for a sign. I had just hallucinated through a bad audition. Still didn’t get the damn joke. Music had been frustrating me to a standstill. Wallowing in self doubt, I was drawn to a distant reverberation of some jazzamatzz drum solo playing in the subway I was sulking through. I started to watch a frail but steady man with a weathered smile and honest eyes, play a truly bombastic solo. Smooth transitions between time and phrases, he had the chops of a player from yesteryear.

Artist: Art Blakey
Song: Lou’s Blues


I watched two trains go by as he rattled and diddled, playing just for me. His drums kept scooting away from his feet but that didn’t stop him. Every fill was a shape, every swing pattern sounded like there were 50 people playing along with him. I stood there smiling for at least 10 min.  I finally approached him with a tear in my eye behind my sunglasses. He responded with a deep wise voice, “I’ll play all day to make just one person smile man”. I told him I was a drummer and I’ve been stuck. My train was almost there and he crashed a furious fill through the toms and yelled “IMAGINATION! It’s About Imagination.” “Fuck YEAH!” I yelled as I backed into the subway car not knowing it was full of preschool kids on a field trip.

So it goes.. Imagination.. so I went back to my drum kit, closed my eyes, and played like a little kid all night long. Reconnecting with where the ideas really come from. Stop thinking just do it. His name is John H. and uses the subway and the street as his free practice space. You’re the best John, thanks.

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