Today the Winter 2018 edition of Drum! Magazine came out and we are so proud that one of our favorite drummers, Adam Deitch of Lettuce and Break Science, landed on the cover, The Funk Issue, of course.
There are a few articles in Drum! Magazine about cover boy Adam Deitch. There is an article detailing Adam’s drum rig set up. The feature article in Drum! Magazine entitled ‘Groove Analyst’ breaks down segments of Deitch’s drum playing. Both via video, sheet music, and using examples of what Drum! Magazine determined as teachable moments of epic drum playing to break down to all their readers, clearly drummers. It’s a daunting task but a laudable ambition to afford direct tribute to a musician as iconic as Miles Davis and a work of his equal in stature, Bitches Brew; however, Lettuce proved up to the task.
What most interested me about the example Drum! used was the fact I was lucky to be present during the live 2017 Miles Davis tribute album, Witches Stew. This one time only set which was released as Witches Stew occurred at one of my all-time favorite festivals, The Catskill Chill, was the members of Lettuce playing a full set of Miles Davis music ala Bitches Brew. I am a huge Lettuce fan and I have seen them hundreds of times all over the country and in many different incarnations over the years; however, when I witnessed them playing this Miles Davis set that got chosen in Drum! Magazine I had a flashback of being one of the hundred lucky people that got to watch this set live. I clearly remember the entire hour being a transcendant hour at high noon on a Sunday morning after Lettuce tore down and closed the main stage of The Catskill Chill on Saturday night.
The band handpicked the chosen songs. For the hour-long, seven-song set from The Catskill Chill in Lakewood, PA, Lettuce largely but not exclusively focused on Miles’s groundbreaking work from 1970. Nevertheless, the group reaches further to broaden their song choices beyond the album to which the title alludes (hence the subtitle). The Lettuce ensemble chose to interweave material from the main source and its immediate predecessor in the Davis discography, In A Silent Way plus other selections from the legendary trumpeter’s electric era.
“Shh”/Peaceful” and “In A Silent Way/”It’s About That Time,” extend the mood set by this talented band’s musical muse including on “Miles Chases the Voodoo Down.” The synthesizer flow s around electric piano from keyboardist Nigel Hall, while guitarist Adam Smirnoff consistently add s further color to the flow while plucking notes from his guitar with the perfect tone.
“Sivad,” from Live/Evil offers a marked contrast to the tranquility of the bookended numbers. This is where Adam Deitch really shines on this album and pushes the band through a roiling set of changes, illustrating how much Mile Davis’ influence resides so heavily on band’s collective consciousness: it’s no surprise this number is where the performance really blasts off and assumes a life of its own. A demonstration of the band’s patience subsequently arrives in the form of the jaunty and jagged likes of “Jean Pierre,” which Deitch has cited as one of his favorite Miles Davis tunes.
Deitch has said he and all of his Lettuce bandmates have been drawn to Miles Davis for most of their lives. In fact, he met Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn, Jr who has the family’s blessing to help carry the torch for his uncle’s music into the next generation. “I actually sent the record to Vince and he liked it,” Deitch tells.
“Being surrounded by people who knew Miles so well—plus, reading all these books and such—we’re all obsessed with Miles’ life and his ability to change, grow and do new things [in his music].”
Despite how well-received “Witches Stew” has been, this was never a rehearsed or planned endeavor. They were in the middle of their tour and it never occurred to them to schedule in a Miles Davis tribute.
“Yeah, we never played this stuff before,” Deitch says. “We were prepared mentally because we had listened to the music a lot, but we had just never played it in front of people.”
The fact that Lettuce hasn’t played much of this music very often since this sole date remains unfortunate, yet understandable. For better or for worse, in an era in the music industry which forces bands to tour after putting out any new material, this model has thereby restricted the dissemination to a larger swath of the public the brilliance of this album, Witches Stew. Moreover, this effort allows Lettuce to do justice to one of their clear influences, while still managing to retain their own collective persona.
We couldn’t be happier here at Fangeist that one of our favorite drummers got his due today on the front cover of Drum! Magazine.
You can check out the epic groove analysis of Adam Deitch’s drumming both in Drum! Magazine on newsstands and on their website here.