FIRE AND WATER IN CONTEMPORARY JAZZ

Marvin Smith is all head & feet. This masterful jazz drummer, a Mid-Hudson resident for the last 10 years, a man who goes by the name of BuGaLu, is that ole cantankerous cat you’ll hear trash-talking lethargic wannabes to the hammers of his understudies’ ears at taverns teeming with chance. One day, a number of years ago, a young musician had lit his fuse, & hurling caution to tornadoes, Marvin was spitting out sparks in a pool of gasoline. “Them cats be livin’ in Candyland, man!…” he shouted at me, adding “they think they all that when they can’t play their way outta’ paper bag…”

BuGaLu was fed up with that young musician who thought the world of himself & expected the world to do the same. BuGaLu was on fire, his voice powerfully rising. He shot rejoinders in blasts of vituperative gunpowder. He screamed into the mouthpiece of his cell phone, then, aiming at me. When flames curled out his nostrils, I heard the call to action & instinctively threw a bucket of water on him.

I was pleased to read Ron Petrides’ recent article on Marvin, published last February in Modern Drummer magazine. This musician, one of the few who can say he sat under the high-hat of the greats until they let him play, Marvin grew up studying under his older brother Earl “Buster” Smith, who played with Eric Dolphy & Oscar Petiford. Visits by hard-hitters like Roy Haynes, Charlie Persip & Donald Byrd were common at the Smith house. At the age of 19, BuGaLu went to California for a gig that, underfunded as it was, changed his 2 week stint into a 2 year stay. During his time in California he was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism & chant, “Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo”. After working with funk bands through the late 1960s, BuGaLu then opened a new chapter of his life when left the U.S. for Italia…

Continue reading this article at Barner Books’ blog

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