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Mat Marucci interview page 2

mat marucci - jazz drummerJazz Monthly: Good Point.

MM: You’re not going to scuffle to get it in there because their left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and vise versa. So I teach that method to start them out.


You know what I believe, Joe, is that if you learn the foundation and you learn the traditional way of doing everything, and the traditional way of playing THE REPERTOIRE, then anything else that you do is valid. Because once you can do it the way it suppose to be done, the way it has been done and you want to vary from that and take liberties with it, it doesn’t matter if you stand on your head!

Jazz Monthly: (Laughs) Great point! By the way, I think Duke Ellington once said that it’s OK to break the rules but first you have to learn the rules, first, in order to be able to break them. Right?

MM: Exactly. It’s like free music. When some guys start, they don’t even have a tone center to start with. Well, what do you have to be free from? You’ve got to start with something in order to be free from it.

Jazz Monthly: And that’s true, Mat, really in almost… not to digress too much but in almost all of the Arts, in painting the best artists Picasso and Dali and so forth. First they learn to be able to paint and draw realistically before they took it to the next level. Right?


MM: Yes

Jazz Monthly: Speaking of which, this is a perfect lead in for a great quote Mr. Mat Marucci about you. It was said by none other than the distinguished Jazz Critic, Leonard Feather. Everyone knows him from Downbeat Magazine for many years and the LA Times. And he said that “Mat Marucci is an unpretentiously efficient drummer.” That’s high praise coming from Leonard Feather, Mat.

MM: It was high praise. On the gig where that quote came from, I was working with Tommy Tedesco you know the great late guitar player.

Jazz Monthly: Absolutely.

MM: When that came out in the Times, my phone rang, and I picked up the phone and it was a horn player that I worked with a lot, and the only thing that I heard on the phone was “Efficient maybe, but unpretentious!” (Both Laugh). I took some ribbing from that too.

Jazz Monthly: I love it! By the way, another great quote here we can mention is by the late Jimmy Smith, “Mat is playing his you know what off.”  And that’s great! What was it like playing with Jimmy Smith Mat?

MM: You know Joe, I did a gig one time with Jimmy Smith and Kenny Burrell as a trio and I was probably, I think I was probably subbing for Grady Tate. I don’t know for sure. But I did that gig, and when that gig was over I felt like “ You know, if I don’t ever play another note… I’ve accomplished something.”

Jazz Monthly: Yeah, you could lie down and die right then, right?

MM: Yeah, because I used to practice to Jimmy Smith’s albums when I was just learning drums.

Jazz Monthly: The Organ Grinder Swing. And all those jazz trio’s with Kenny…


MM: Yeah all those. In fact, now that you mentioned Organ Grinder Swing, when I did the gig with him (Jimmy Smith) and Kenny, that’s what we did. We did the Organ Grinder Swing. I was with Jimmy off and on for ten years. It was a tough gig because you had to play… Jimmy’s way. You know, He was the star, he was the artist… and I respected that. I deferred to him all one hundred percent because it was his gig and he paid you good, you know.

Jazz Monthly: Absolutely.

MM: So when someone’s got his reputation and he pays you good he deserves all the deference you can give him. It was a tough gig because sometimes it would matter on what kind of mood he’s in. You know on whether he wanted you to keep the time and keep him from movin, or if he wanted you to go with him. You had to be on your toes. If you were on the set with him for an hour, it was an hour of work brother. It was an hour on your toes.

Jazz Monthly: Yeah well he swung. He was one of the real originals on that Hammond B3. By the way, I think you played on one of his last CD’s I think Daybreak?

MM: Yeah I did, I’m on part of it. We did that in a small studio. The producer was in Florida…


Jazz Monthly: That was in 2005, right Mat?

MM: Well I think it was released in 2005, but maybe 2003. It kind of ambiguous because somehow a German company got a hold of the tape and the guy who was the producer died and it was sent to the German company without any eq’ing done or any mixing or anything at all. It was just the raw multi-track. And I just wasn’t happy with the sound, but the good thing is that I could say that I recorded with Jimmy.

Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and you played on one of his last gigs, right?

MM: Yeah, it was up in Portland. It wasn’t one of his absolute last, but it was in that year I think. Yeah it was up in Portland and at that point he was using an electric bass player. He was using a cat from Indianapolis. This guy was playing seven string electric bass because his knees… he was seventy-one years old at the time..

Jazz Monthly: He wasn’t able to use the foot pedals anymore.

MM: Yeah right, his knee was killing him. He’d been telling me for a couple of years how his knee was really bothering him. To give his knee a rest, he hired this cat, and this guy did a great job man. I wish I could remember his name off the top of my head right now, but he did a great job because the way we were set up, the bass was kind of behind me and I was next to Jimmy. And sometimes, when I would turn to the right and catch the bass player out of the corner of my eye it would remind me that there was a bass player there because his bass lines sounded so much like Jimmy’s when he kicked the pedals, I would forget that we had a bass player on the gig.

Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and I’m sure that’s why Jimmy Smith hired him too because he played so much like him.

MM: Oh yeah, yeah.

Jazz Monthly: Tell us some of the other people with whom you performed. You mentioned Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith.
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