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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Mat Marucci
Interview by Joe Caroselli

mat marucciJazz Monthly: Well, it is our extreme delight to welcome to Jazz a multi faceted artist. You know they throw that word around loosely “Multi-Faceted” but it really rings true in this case. He wears many hats… as they say. He is listed in “Who’s Who in America” and also the International who’s who in music, and calling Mat Marucci just a drummer is like calling the Empire State Building just a skyscraper. Mr. Marucci is a drummer, a percussionist, an author, an educator, and a clinician. Welcome to Mat.


MM: Hey thanks. And thanks for having me.


Jazz Monthly: Well I know that you’re actually based out of California, and have been for some time. But, actually you’re originally an Eastern kid. You’re an Easterner.


MM: Yeah, I’m an Easterner. I was raised in Upstate New York. Some of the best musicians come out of the Upstate New York area. I left there when I came out to California. I’ve been out here except for a year in Manhattan, I’ve been out here pretty much ever since.


Jazz Monthly: Was it Rome?


MM: Rome, New York. But I worked all through Upstate New York. I worked in Rochester and lived in Rochester, and I worked in Schenectady and the Albany area, Utica… I did a lot of work in Utica.

Jazz Monthly: Now Mat, how did your drumming journey begin. Did it start on the East Coast?


MM: You know that’s a good question. (Laughs) That’s a real good question because I didn’t start out as a drummer. I started out as a piano player when I was about four years old. My father told me that when he was teaching me to read music I could recognize the notes when I was three so when I started playing piano I was about four. I come from a family of musicians, both professional and amateur. I played classical piano right into high school and kind of lost interest because I wanted to go in another direction. But when I got into college, I was always fascinated with the drums.

I was hanging out with a guy, and his father was a professional drummer up in Auburn New York and I kept asking him questions about this and about that. I went out and brought a pair of sticks. I was just fascinated. I never thought that I could do it. I used to see that stuff, people talking about it on the game shows… celebrities trying to play the drums, and I just said “I could never do that.” But I just got a pair of sticks and I started buggin’ him every time he came over to my apartment. Finally he said, “Hey man you know there’s a guy right across the street who gives drum lessons, why don’t you go over there and take a couple of lessons and leave me alone. (Both Laugh) So I went over and the guys name is Dick Howard and a very respected teacher and player in Upstate New York, and I took some lessons from him and from that point on… I became a drummer! That was about when I was 19 years old.

Jazz Monthly: OK.

MM: But the piano gave me a lot of harmonic and melodic background you know.

Jazz Monthly: Well you could tell, Mat, because in my introduction I mentioned somewhat kiddingly, but there was a lot of truth in it when I said that “This man is multi faceted and hence being a composer also! I don’t even know if I mentioned composer. Did I mention composer in the intro, DID I SAY ENOUGH FOR YOU MAT???!!


MM: (Mat Laughing real hard) Joe, I don’t think you mentioned composer, but you did now, so it’s OK.


Jazz Monthly: OK (Both laughing)

MM: I write the majority of the original music that we do for the CD’s. In fact the CIMP CD’s we did, we did a double session for him and we ended up with two CD’s in one day. We did seventeen tracks I think, and out of the seventeen, fourteen or fifteen of them were my original tunes.

Jazz Monthly: Yes… absolutely.  I know that you’re listed here in Jazz as a Jazz Teacher based out of California. And you know Mat, it’s so hard to say, “how do you teach Jazz,” I mean is it a matter of you teaching your students to be ready, technically to play Jazz or to kind of… open up their ears or to give them some kind of building blocks. You know, you can’t really teach Jazz… can you?

MM: Yeah, you know everything you just said, you try to open up their ears. A lot of times, students will come to me and they just want a specific thing. They just want to learn finger techniques, or they want to develop their stick control more. So in those cases, we kind of focus on what they came to me for. But if somebody comes to me and says that he just wants to really learn it, he wants to learn it from scratch. From there I take him through the whole routine: We start with developing the hands properly, the correct grips and fulcrums and the circular ride on the cymbal, and how to use the hi hat properly with the bouncing heel technique. I also go through Chapin’s book with them…


Jazz Monthly: What’s that, the Jazz Independence variations?

MM: Yeah, it’s coordinated independence. It’s Jim Chapin’s "Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer."

Jazz Monthly: He wrote that back in the 1940’s didn’t he?

MM: Yeah he did. And the one thing I really like about that book is... I really don’t like the term “independence” because I think that’s what screwed up a lot of people. I was even taught that way in some respects.  They get this idea of independence that they have to get one thing going in one hand and another thing going with another hand, and they have to get this separate third thing going with one foot. I like what Dahlgren and Fine did with “Four-Way Coordination,” and the way Chapin sets it up in his book because he calls it “Coordinated Independence” where you can see the parts of the instrument… and I do teach the drums as one instrument and not as separate instruments… he (Chapin) sets it up so that you can see the different parts of the instrument and you can see where they fall together, where they complement each other, and fall opposite each other, so that you have a unit. You know what I mean?

Jazz Monthly: Yes.

MM: Well I’m sure you know what I mean because you’re a drummer. (both laugh)
It’s kinda like when you’re learning a Samba. You don’t learn to do the right hand part, and you don’t learn to do the left hand part. You put it all together. You see where everything falls together and where things don’t fall together… and then you have a complete pattern. Well it’s the same thing with jazz.

I teach them with the Chapin books and with my books and I teach the circular motion on the ride cymbal, not that its carved in granite you know, once you get it you can change it around. So if their right hand is moving on the ride cymbal, the same motion every time, and the stick is moving in the same direction, every time they play on “2” or on the “and of 3” or anytime they play on the “e of 4” the right with the left hand, the right is always going to be in that same position and they are going to develop a coordination. So if they are reading a chart and all of a sudden a note comes up on the “a” of “3,” it’s gonna just drop in naturally.

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