Katie Patterson is home just long enough to do laundry after a gig with Drum! in Ottawa and then she's taking off again, this time for Privateer Days in Liverpool, where she's playing with pop/rock band Modern Citizen. The 20-year-old drummer talks breathlessly about playing on a "turning stage" in front of a crowd she numbers at 300,000. Patterson joined Drum! this past spring. "I play a whole bunch of different things," from African hand drums to pipe drums (a snare she found incredibly difficult to learn).
A student of percussion in all its varieties, she moved to Halifax two years ago from Truro, where she attended the Cobequid Educational Centre, which has a highly regarded music program. A teacher there, trumpet player Rick Waychesko, exposed Patterson and her classmates to all kinds of music. Patterson's father also influenced her. Now she continues to hone her craft by doing---playing with the likes of singer-songwriters like Cassie MacDonald and R&B vocalist Marinda (formerly known as Feral Bliss), whom she'll back for a free show at the Atlantic Jazz Festival Tent, Sunday July 13 at noon.
Being a service provider on skins is all right by Patterson: "I do what the song calls for. So the hard part for me is to try to figure out what want from me. It's trying to get inside their head.
"I'm getting better at creating parts that help the song and push me as a player," she adds.
Her real passion lies with jazz fusion. When the point's made that one doesn't hear many young women talking up the form, she answers straight away. "You don't hear many people at all talking about jazz fusion."
She's drawn to it because of the versatility required from all the musicians. "It takes all the best of jazz, the harmonies and melodies and puts it over rock and funk feels," Patterson enthuses. When she takes to the festival stage with her band, The Allsorts, expect a set that roams over vast musical territory.
The Allsorts entity allows Patterson "to try my own compositions." She writes all parts, from rhythm to horns, starting out on keyboards and transcribing the arrangements to bring to the band. She admits to still struggling with writing melodies, but points out her strengths. "I really hear chord changes big-time. That's usually how all my tunes start off."
Patterson's list of musical heroes isn't necessarily topped by a drummer. She names Chick Corea's 1970s outfit, Return to Forever, as a favourite: "They pretty much defined jazz fusion." Then she rattles off names, including the New York-based Brecker Brothers, so-called rhythm and jazz group Yellow Jackets, English pop (among them Phil Collins and Tears for Fears), Jamiroquai and Incognito. Along with her originals, Allsorts covers Yellow Jackets, Herbie Hancockand others.
When Patterson starts to think of all the music she still wants to experience as a listener and player, her voice quickens, as if panicked. "I feel I have to catch up. I'm always catching up."
Mark Adam can relate. Besides composing his own music, he plays with several different bands, teaches "drumset" in Acadia University's music department and is raising two young kids with his wife outside Wolfville. "That's the way my life is," Adam says casually.
A percussionist in several projects, including two festival performers, The Barriomatic Trust and ERA (playing with cover story artist Erin Costelo), the 35-year-old assesses his career. "I've always been a sideman. It's been a challenge to concentrate just on one thing."
While ERA is a "contemporary jazz trio," with pianist Dave Restivo and bassist Tom Easley, The Barriomatic Trust is a duo now, having slimmed down by a couple players. Adam plays with guitarist Kevin Lacroix, who also plays keys and looping pedals. In fact, the pair share a love for electronics---though not sounds canned on a computer, Adam is careful to point out.
The Barriomatic Trust has always been about one rule for Adam: "no solo voices." Even as a duo, Adam and Lacroix strive for ambience. While that sounds perhaps loose and airy, there are melodies, "basic structures that move into improvisational territory" and then back again.
This year's performance will also feature marimba, a percussive instrument Adam's always wanted to bring into Barriomatic Trust shows. "It's used in classical music a lot. You can access a lot of repertoire with it," he explains. "Marimba is the melodic instrument percussionists spend the most time on."
Adam taught Katie Patterson at summer jazz camps in the past that included marimba. He calls her an "incredibly driven" artist. "She's very excited to have a career in music and she's very aware of the reality of it."
One of the realities Patterson's facing is the high tuition she'll be paying at the Leeds College of Music in the UK, where she starts this September. She's still trying to raise funds for that while spending part of her summer teaching at Acadia Jazz Camp and a music camp at UNB. But she's confident she's made the right choice in schools and instrument. "You have to know everything else that's going on in the band," the drummer says.