Jim Doxas: Beat and Beatitudes
AAJ: I've always been amazed by drummers who can perform one beat on the left hand and a totally different one on the right, as if each hand has its own separate brain (like they say about each of Bach's fingers). Can this be learned or are you more or less born with the gift. And if you don't have it, is it a handicap?
JD: Well, from what I have gathered through observation and teaching, one can impart a lot of skill but if someone has a propensity for multi-tasking, musically speaking, then the creative juices really can be unleashed.
AAJ: What are you views on pre-recorded looped drumming?
JD: I'm all for it. My father owns a recording studio so I was literally brought up working all the gear. I used to spend days making drum loops. My dad wasn't into it so it was left to me. I'm kind of out that scene now even though I still engineer a bit, but my studio chops are a little rusty. In more general terms, I think the "drum machine" has really heightened the awareness that drummers give to sound, time, and 16th note syncopation. But, there's nothing like the real thing!
AAJ: You teach music at McGill University. Do you notice that today's students, whose ears have been informed by mostly monophonic composition (if you'll pardon the oxymoron) like rap, hip-hop, are less able to handle complex music?
JD: You have to distinguish between university music students and the general listening public. The former are serious about music, with most of them hopefully serious about making a career out of it, so their ears are already quite developed. Nonetheless, in my view, most of them are not familiar enough with the history and evolution of their instrument. How can someone ever hope to understand the sax if he or she has never listened to Stan Getz?
For sure, the general listening public is not being well-served by monophonic music or simply boring music. In terms of jazz, I think it's simply a matter of exposure and education. Those who have not been previously exposed to it will not be able to understand what's going on because their ears can't handle the more complex forms of music. Which of course doesn't augur well for jazz, but we do what we do because we love doing it, and if there's an audience for it out there, so much the better.
AAJ: What music are you listening to now?
JD: The new Dave BinneyCities and Desires (Criss Cross, 2006).
AAJ: What music were you listening to ten years ago and are still listening to?
JD: The Police, Michael Jackson. From jazz, Frank Sinatra and Oscar Peterson.
AAJ: A lot of jazz musicians have spoken against fusion jazz. Your thoughts?
JD: I've never really gotten into fusion, but it's certainly a legitimate form of expression. There have been some good things that have come out of it. The music of John McLaughlin and Steps Ahead comes to mind.
AAJ: Do you think jazz is in danger of being hijacked by more and more technology? I ask this noting that most of your repertoire, whether playing with John Roney or the Chet Doxas trio, is basically un-plugged.
JD: No, Not really. I think that kind of relates to the drum machine question. I think the majority of musicians in my generation embrace, rather than dismiss, the new technology and its virtues. Those days are gone when enhancing your sound with technology made you less of a purest.
AAJ: And now for the desert island question. So there you are, stranded for life, and you're allowed 100 minutes of your favorite music. And the winners are?
JD: Equal quarters of: Miles Davis's Plugged Nickel (Legacy, 1965), John Coltrane's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964), Frank Sinatra's Sinatra at the Sands (Reprise, 1966) with Count Basie, and finally Keith Jarrett Live at the Blue Note (ECM, 1995).