What I think most about when I consider my time studying The New Breed is the before and after. Before I studied with Gary Chester, I had spent many years practicing chops, beats, fills, etc. After studying with Gary, I studied music and musicians. That period of growth was what I value most to this day, and I credit him for that realization. His approach to studying the drum set was a holistic one. Studying the performance of multiple lines while singing the individual parts (and sometimes the rests) resulted in a system of five-way independence and a heightened ability to hear my own parts and everything else going on in an ensemble.
Through application of the systems and the “melody” pages, they became more than exercises. They actually developed into musical phrases, even songs at times. Just imagine the myriad of mental processes from applying different possibilities and approaches, while singing all the different parts and playing ambidextrously over a wide range of tempos!
I know many of Gary’s former students, and what is most striking to me is that no matter what genre or area of music they have pursued, a common fundamental skill set from the studies is that we all hear better than we did before Gary. The life-long journey of studying the “systems” can be described as a Zen of drumming. It is an awakening — something that lives in the subconscious mind of drummers. I would go as far to say that those systems are a great jumping off point to rhythmical or musical meditation, and they have become hypnotic for me many times in my life.
I am not going to say that I did not throw a stick or two at the wall while trying to learn a new system, but in the end, every week, I would dig deeper into my calling to meet the challenge Gary had set forth, often achieving skills that, at times, I still cannot explain. As a teacher, Gary continually challenged your personal limits of concentration, execution, and facility, all in the service of making his students better musicians and people.
The New Breed functions extremely well as a stand-alone timeless classic of drum set pedagogy. However, it is different because of what I discuss above. I am hopeful through the upcoming series of lessons, documents, and other resources on the R!S Blog, I can articulate and even transfer some of the processes and insights I experienced with Gary.
Gary was a consummate performer, as evidenced by his nearly unparalleled body of recording work, and he would go on to become perhaps one of the most important innovators and instructors the drum world would know, with his final gift being the birth of The New Breed. I am grateful for the time I spent with Gary, and I hope to impart some of the additional information that lives between the pages of his book.
Worth noting additionally, through tireless work and dedication, Gary’s daughter, Katrina Chester, created a New Breed Video Series to preserve Gary’s legacy. In this project, former students share their nuances and experiences as they witnessed and studied these systems from the inception. She has also been pairing New Breed-Approved teachers with students who would like to delve into the philosophical aspect of this incredible book, as it is much more than a book of exercises. Katrina can be reached at GaryChesterTheDrummer@gmail.com or via Facebook and YouTube at @GaryChesterTheDrummer.
Karl Latham has performed and recorded with Grammy Award-winning artists, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members, and many acclaimed performers including The Shirelles; Johnny Winter; Bernie Worrell; Mark Egan Unit1; John Lee Quartet with Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Cyrus Chestnut, and Jon Faddis; Ali Ryerson with Pete Levin; Jerry Vivino; The Fantasy Band; Howard Paul with Laurence Hobgood, Anat Cohen and Tom Scott; The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Group; Andy Snitzer; Vic Juris; Mitch Stein; and Rachel Z. Karl has performed in Europe for decades in the groups of vibraphonist Wolfgang Lackerschmid and pianist Johannes Mossinger. Latham co-led the 2016 BMW World Jazz Award-nominated “Constellations” with Mark Egan and Ryan Carniaux and co-leads Don Braden/Karl Latham Big Fun(K). Karl has subbed on the Broadway productions of Bring It On, Hamilton, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and Ain’t Too Proud. Karl is an adjunct instructor at Drew University, County College of Morris, and PCCC. More information available at karllatham.com.