Vincent Todd Haddad 



  • You call yourself a Smooth Jazz drummer. So what is a "Smooth Jazz drummer"?


Well, a smooth jazz drummer is a drummer who is well versed in all fields of jazz music (ie.  african brazilian, samba, latin, etc..).  A smooth jazz drummer must not only understand drumming and percussion in general, but have the knowledge to apply drums and percussion to express and compliment an instrumental song.  Too many drummers just play a beat or a solo.  A smooth jazz drummer plays to a beat, and compliments the composition being played.  I was once told that the reason I was hired for a "gig" was because I watched all of the musicians and played to expand what they were doing.  By doing so, I made the instrumental song sing,  and become music instead of it just being a lot of noise.  A lot of drummers would just like to solo and play a few riffs to show their stuff.  A smooth jazz drummer PAYS ATTENTION to everything that is going on around them and within the music being played.
  • But is this intuitional grasp not also essential condition for a good jazz drummer? What is the difference between a jazz drummer and a Smooth Jazz drummer?
A smooth jazz drummer can make a song have a voice.  He or she can play with the other instruments to bring the composition to life.  A smooth jazz drummer plays with the other instrumentalists, not for or on top of the other instrumentalists.

Intuition comes with any drummer that plays with a group.  It is kind of a learned behavior that all good drummers and percussionists come to know.  To be SMOOTH you have to go the extra mile.  You have to understand what your other instrumentalists are thinking.  To understand this you must understand their instrument.  If you can not take the time to do so then you are just another JAZZ DRUMMER.

  • What is your personal definition of Smooth Jazz?
Smooth Jazz is music that is jazz that is easily understood.  In the past, Jazz music has been hard to listen to and understand by anyone who is not musically inclined.  Though I love all jazz music, when asked, many people say it does not make any since and it always sound like the musicians are making mistakes.  With smooth jazz,  it is easy to listen to, it is easy to understand and it is melodic, almost to a point that you can here the lyrics even though they are not there.


  • Do you play jazz music too?
Yes I do.  I enjoy all types of jazz.  Though, I find more and more every day that more "non musician" people enjoy the music called smooth jazz.  This is why I prefered to publish a smooth jazz CD.  It seems to appeal to more of the, "every day jazz listener", instead of just the musician or musically inclined jazz listener.

  • Are you changing your equipment, when you play jazz music? Do you prefer more brushes or cymbales?


I have always been a cymbal guy.  I tend to be very picky when purchasing new ones.  I just put down some tracks on Bryan Hughes new CD and he had me play a lot of brush work, so I tend to enjoy both practices.  When I was in school back in the 80's my teachers impressed upon me the importance of brush playing and the impact it would have on my musical development.  So to answer your question I know the importance of brush playing but enjoy cymbal technique as well.


  • How did you learn your technic? Did you visit a music school or did you have a teacher?
I started taking private drum lessons at age 6.  I studied in school and from records, tapes, etc.. from then on.  I further studied in college under Anthony Cirone, Dan Sabanavich and took privately from Billy Cobham. 
I think every drummer studies under someone.  No one just wakes up one day and can play drums well.  Some choose to study from teachers others choose to study from records, tapes and listening to the radio.  So when someone says they are self tought I ask them, "and how is that".


  • Do you have one or more drummers, which skills you admire?
I will have to say it is hard to pick just one drummer to admire.  There are so many good ones in the industry of jazz and smooth jazz.  I grew up thinking Mark Craney (from Gino Vanelli's Brother to Brother Album) was the best thing since sliced bread.  Steve Gadd, of course, is the drummer's drummer.  Harvey Mason can hold down a beat better than just about anyone.  But, recently I have enjoyed and admired the skills of Akiro Jimbo.  He got his start with a Japanese band called Casiopea and has been a mainstay in the studio industry since.  He can play with a band instead of just for a band.

  • Would you like to tell me precisely what kind of playing of the above drummers is the point of your admiration? Can we talk about the technic of these drummers?
Technic is a major reason I like these drummers.  They incorporate all 4 extremities and use a lot of counterpoint within their playing.  One minute they are playing cymbal left handed, the next playing right handed.  To be able to alternate or play left or right handed helps the music flow.  They also use there own ideas.  Instead of playing a rhythm by design they make it flow by incorporating there own feel.


  • It's obviously a special gift, that a drummer can play a rhythm with one hand, another rhythm with the other and the third beat with his foot and playing the rest with his other foot at the hi-hat. Can you learn this or is a talent necessary?
It can be learned but it takes forgetting all of the 'traditional style' drumming and making yourself learn it.  I was lucky to have a friend who played this style when I was about 14 years old.  He turned me on to his teacher and I became so interested in this style, I rufused to go back to the traditional.  It was hard but it opened so many doors and made playing so much easier.  So if I was able to learn it (though I am no Steve Gadd) any one who wants to learn it can. 
Billy Cobham and Myself performed at quite a few clinics together and he was the one who helped me put the final touches on this playing style.  It alsways seemed to be the main center of questions from the audience of how it was done.  I always said,  PRACTICE!! and PATIENCE!!!


  • Can you explain with short words the difference between the so called traditional style and the style you are playing now?
Traditional style is what I define as the "crossed arm, palm up style" with the right handed drummer holding the left hand stick between the middle and ring finger (wrist control).  The modern style uses the open armed, palms down, holding the sticks primarily with the thumb and index finger and using the other fingers to control the stick (finger control).


  • What do you think about drum-machines?
They are wonderful if used properly.  Many Smooth Jazz groups incorporate them into their music even in live performances.  One of the best groups at doing so is The Rippingtons.  Russ Freeman is one of the best with this type of arrangment.  Tony Morales never gets off tempo even when the core of the percussion is being played by a drum machine or sequencer.  I used some overdubbing of live drums over drum machine/sequencing in my CD as well.  They are a great asset.


  • Which sequencer do you use? Cubase, Cakewalk?
Cakewalk Pro Audio 8.  I also use a Yamaha sy55 and its sequencer
  • You have just released a new album. "All About Time" is the title. Is there a story behind this title?
Initially I had planned on calling the Album "It's About Time" because for so many years I had talked of doing my own project but never got around to it.  I continued to write songs but always got side tracked with other musicians projects or my medical training.  One evening while I was putting some finishing touches on the final song, my wife said "why don't you call it All About Time".  When I asked her why she just pointed at the drums and said, "your a drummer, and isn't drumming All About Time".  To me this sounded better and had more meaning from a drummers standpoint.  So in actuallity the story changed at the last minute, but to me, It's About Time for All About Time.
  • How did you started this project?


I got started on the project over 3 years ago.  At that time I was watching Bryan Hughes finish an album.  I met Christoph Spendel and he offered to put down some keyboard tracks for me and from there Bryan talked me into doing my own project.  I collected loops from various musicians over the next 6 months and then slowly started incorporating them into some songs I had written even years before that.  I got very frustrated on many occasions and gave up for a while.  Then everything seemed to gel about a year ago when Yamaha's Mike Lamb gave me some Pro Audio upgrades to try out.  It made working with the loops so much easier.  Within 6 months of that time I had completed the project.  I can guarantee It will not take me this long with my next album!!

  • Let's talk about Christoph Spendel. Where did you meet him at which occasion?
Christoph is a good friend, of a good friend of mine.  He comes to visit Bryan Hughes at least once a year, and sometimes twice a year. Bryan and I grew up together and attended the same pre-schools and High Schools together.  He (Bryan) and I played in many bands together.  Bryan and Christoph became good friends in New York when he was with Special EFX.  Christoph has played on all of Bryans CDs.  I met him in the studio while I was putting down tracks for Bryans second CD.  I last saw Christoph at Christmas of 2000.  We were suppost to put a little trio together for a Christmas Party but, Christoph just ended up playing Christmas jingles on the piano due to the large crowd that was not really interested in music that night.  Christoph is an excellent player (one of the best).  It is too bad his works have not done better in the states.


  • Christoph is a very busy musician, he often travels from Germany to NY and back. I met him last year in Duesseldorf/ Germany. Did you know, that he is now professor of jazz music in Frankfurt?


Yes, I did know that.  Bryan refers to him as "The Professor".  On Bryan's last CD, that Christoph and I both performed on, He credited Christoph as being a Professor in Germany and calls him Christoph (the professor) Spendel within the credits.
  • How would you describe his influence at your album?
To be honest, I would have liked my album to be more latin style.  Christoph plays a hell of a nice latin groove.  I think there would have been more influence from him if I had done what I wanted instead of the more pop Smooth Jazz that it ended up.  I also trained extensively in African/Brazilian style of playing and enjoyed playing with, and watching Christoph.  I did not use as much of Christoph's tracks as I would like to have.  I hope my next album will feature him more because he is so much of a player and groover.  You can appreciate his work by listening to track 8 of my CD (Another Montuno).

  • You are living in Florida. Is this a reason for your affinity to African/Brazilian style?
I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.  I was born in Florida back in 1963 and have spent most of my life here.  I don't know when or where I became interested in the Latin style of drum playing.  It has just always interested and felt good to me.  It is very fun to take these Latin rhythms and incorporate them into a music composition.  It can change the whole sound of a song.  Understanding and knowing how to play the different percussion instrumentation of the African/Brazilian realm came when I was in music college in California.  I was in heaven because they actually had a coarse at San Jose State University that taught nothing but African/Brazilian technic and instrumentation.


  • Which instruments are representative for the African/Brazilian style?
Most of the well known instruments are incorporated into the African/Brazilian style of music (i.e.. piano, guitar, voice).  The major difference that I find is in the percussion.  Most of the African/Brazilian percussion is made out of natural skin heads for the drums, and metal shells and rims.  Most of the percussion is designed to be played single handed (this is where finger control really comes in handy).  A Tambourim is nothing like our Tambourine.  It is a small dish sized drum designed to be played and muted with one hand/fingers underneath the drum while the other hand is used to strike the head of the drum with a split/double stick.  This gives you a hi-pitched, bright sound.  Instruments that are similar to our Tambourine are called the Pandeiros and the Chocalho De Platinela.  Initially they sound "cheap" compared to our Tambourine, but they are much brighter and pleasing to the ear when played live or in the studio.  Cuicas are fun to play, but very difficult to play well.  I spent a whole semester in school to learn how to properly play this instrument.  It is a drum that has a stick embedded into the drum head underneath the drum shell that is rubbed with a wet cloth to produce a laughing sound or deep grunting sound, depending on the pressure of the other hand being applied to the top of the head.  The Surdos are deep sounding drums that replace bass guitars within some African/Brazilian music.  I once went to a parade where a Brazilian marching band was playing.  I had no problem finding them because the bass of a Surdo can be heard from miles away.  Though it is similar to our marching bass drum, it has no comparison in the deep, rich sound it produces.  From what I remember in my theory training, this drum was used to communicate messages between tribes back before we had the Internet.  There are many other types of drums within this style of music but I will only give you a brief description here:
Caixa = Snare Drum
Timbas = Conga
Repeniques = Bongo
Agogo bells = Rounded Cow Bell (higher pitched)
Timbales = same as in US but single and played one handed
Timbalitos = Small Timbales
Ganzas = Shakers
And of coarse all of the well known Latin drums and accessories.


  • I believe, playing drums is like dancing Samba a popular sport in Brazil. Did you ever attend the carnival in Rio or Santiago?
No.  But it is one of the things I will do before I die.  One of my instructors told me it was incredible.  He told me he could here the sounds of the bands 10 miles away!!


  • Do you have a special percussionist who is your model? I mention for example Paulhino da Costa, Lenny Castro or Luis Conte.


Paulhino da Costa is awesome.  When I was in Miami years ago, I was able to see him in person.  I stood there with my mouth open for hours watching him do things I did not know were possible.  I took a friend who is a Rock and Roll drummer.  He was telling me how boring he thought the concert would be.  He has not stopped talking about it since, and he now incorporates the style into his playing as well.  The style and music is addicting even to the tin ear of a rocker.  This tells you something about the music.  You can fell it as well as hear it.


  • Tell me more about the production of your new album. Was it a one-session album or did you practice overdubbing?
Most of the drums and percussion were "one take" tracks.  But, since I am no Christoph Spendel on keys, I did plenty of overdubbing and loops when it came to my keyboard work.  Since many good musicians tend to over play or get in their best stuff in one measure of the solo or melody, many of the horns and woodwinds were bits and pieces of sessions that I cut and pasted together with computer software such as cakewalk.  It is much easier to work on projects today with these wonderful programs.  It sometimes takes away from the live feel but it can also make a song more appealing to the average listeners ear without compromising musical quality.


  • So you received the parts of the other musicians by email or how did you manage this?
All of the tracks were recorded out of several locations here in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.  The majority of the the parts were done at my studio and others at studios convenient for the musicians.  Remember that with todays  Panda Productions (www.pandaprod.com) was were the final mastering was done. 


  • Do you have a favorite tune? Can you explain why it's your favorite?


My favorite track of the CD has got to be track 2 (Cruizin Sierra).  Though it may not be my favorite to perform, it is enjoyable to listen to.  Everything fits together with this song.  It is smooth just like the ski mountain it was named after.  The funny thing about this song is that I spent less time on it during the recording process than any of the others.


  • Which knowledges and experiences did you get by your project?
The knowledge I obtained from doing this project, I will have to say, was in production.  In the past, all I needed to worry about was writing or playing tracks on a song.  To be the final word on the final product, from start to finish, sure made me appreciate its difficulty.  I can truly say I was not totally pleased with some of the mixes and parts with this album.  Then I let George Harris at Panda Productions mess with it a bit and it all came together.  He showed me some tricks I hope to incorporate in my next album from the start.
The best experience I have had is the experience of having people truly enjoy my music.  When the album was first released I thought no one would like it.  Then people started buying it, and so far all of the feedback has been positive.  I realize there may have been some things that could have been better but even the best, and most well known artists, feel the same way after a release.  This experience makes me happy that I spent the time and effort doing my own project.


  • What are your future plans?
I will start working on my next album by this spring.  I have already started on a few songs but will need some time to get new tracks from other musicians to complete them.  Bryan Hughes tells me Christoph is thinking of coming over around or shortly after the Holidays.  I will hopefully get him to put down some tracks while he is here.  Until that time I will continue to promote "All About Time" so the smooth jazz industry can get to know me for more than just another jazz drummer.
  • Todd, thank you for this interview and further success with all your current and upcoming projects.