Week 265: “Big Dream” by Antonio Sanchez


Drummers don’t get enough respect. They have the most high-demand, low-recognition job in the traditional band setup.

To get an idea of how hard drumming is, try rubbing your stomach with one hand and patting your head with the other. Now, continue to do that while hopping on one foot and counting to 300 in perfect time. Now do that for the length of the average concert. It’s not easy. Their reward is to play right at the back of the stage, well out of the way of the spotlight, while vocalists and lead guitarists get all the glory.

And of course, we’ve all heard the jokes. How can you tell if a stage is slanted? The drummer’s only drooling out of one side of his mouth. How can you tell if a drummer’s at your front door? The knocking speeds up and he comes in too early.

But in my experience, drummers are not only the nicest people, but often the most multi-talented musicians, too. Giving a guitarist a pair of drumsticks is usually about as useful as giving a rhino a pair of figure skates, but most drummers are proficient at several other instruments. They’re often good songwriters too. Dave Grohl is the best example from the rock world. Antonio Sanchez is his jazz equivalent.

His soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film “Birdman” earned him Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, but he was passed over for an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score because the film contained too much music that Sanchez didn’t compose.

But like any good-natured drummer, Sanchez took it all in stride. Instead of complaining, he released Three Times Three, one of 2014’s best jazz albums. It features Sanchez in collaboration with six different musicians, in three ensembles.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. Brad Mehldau on piano. The uneasy chord changes in the piano give the song an eerie vibe.

2. Matt Brewer on bass. I love the recurring downward scale that appears for the first time at 1:42.

3. Sanchez, on the drums, takes it easy on this song, peppering it with cymbals and toms when necessary. Rather than make this album all about him and filling it up with wanky drum solos, he made it about the relationship between himself and the other musicians involved.

Recommended listening activity:

Hiding a $20 bill in the pocket of a friend who deserves it.

Buy it here.