In his day, Gene Krupa was a HUGE star The process of learning
a musical instrument is a funny, years-long step-by-step process. Master musicians amusedly comment that after about 50 years, they started to feel they were getting the hang of it.

Early in a musician's development, they invariably copy their idols, seeking not only the raw feeling of being as cool as the admired one, but also wisdom, in attempting to understand why it is so great to play in such a way.

Every musician has many such idols and may visit their styles to varying degree in the learning process. Ultimately, if they persist in seeking improvement, a musician's personality emerges, and lo and behold, their individual style contains elements of all these influences, a few wholly original things, and a never-ending assortment of odds-and-ends stolen from everywhere.

That's the way it is for virtually all musicians. Only the one-in-a-million freak might be excluded, the rare genius whose original sound emerges early and strong, to influence rather than be influenced. Even in those cases however, not a one would deny being indelibly influenced to the point of theft early on.

So it was with me and Gene Krupa in Sitting Ducks. I had lots of influences, from Ringo to Buddy Rich to Steve Gadd. But at this point in time, as the band's urban swing identity gelled, Gene was the man.

The fact that the band did a variety of numbers from the 1938 Benny Goodman Orchestra (in which Krupa made his name) and even Krupa's own band gave me plenty of room to study and imitate his playing.

In some cases I would play "in the style of." But in others, I would do the licks and short solos exactly as they were on the records, note-for-note. I couldn't conceive of any other way. They were too perfect and my own playing wasn't mature enough to fill the music with my own voice.

Take for example, the following solo from the Benny Goodman band's famous 1938 Carnegie Hall performance of Louis Prima's Sing Sing Sing.

Here's Krupa's solo (via realaudio or .wav file 413k). Nice, huh? Everything laid out just so, building to the perfect, thrilling conclusion.

Now, here's my version (via realaudio or .wav file 409k), from an October 1981 gig at The Mousetrap.

Get the picture?