Rick Latham Celebrating 40 Years of Advanced Funk

Rick Latham is one funky drummer.

RICK LATHAM is known as one of the music industry’s most in-demand studio and touring drummers today. An exciting solo artist and sideman, acclaimed composer, and globally renowned author and educator, he is often considered a drumming guru among his peers. When he was just 25 years old, his groundbreaking and successful drum text Advanced Funk Studies launched him into the international percussion spotlight. But it has been his expertise as a versatile performer that has made him one of contemporary drumming’s most respected players.

Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, and now living in Los Angeles, Rick is currently a drummer with the Grammy Award–winning artist Juice Newton as well as the founder and driving force of his own L.A. all-star jazz supergroup Rick Latham and the Groove Doctors  and his Italian trio Latham—Robin—Sorato.


Rick Latham at Work

Rick was a featured member of The Edgar Winter Band for nearly a decade, with hundreds of stellar performances, including a very special appearance at the 1999 Montreux Jazz Festival. Before moving to L.A., Rick lived in Dallas, where he was a member of the R&B bass legend Chuck Rainey’s band, Rainey Man. He also performed with such greats as the bluesman B. B. King during this time.

Rick has enjoyed the opportunity to perform with a long list of other leading figures, including the rockers Rick Derringer, Neal Schon, and Pat Travers, as well as the jazz greats Howard Roberts, Bill Watrous, Jerry Coker, David Samuels, and Paul Smith, to name a few. His versatility has been highlighted in the theme for television’s 9 to 5 series, Fame, the Quincy Jones–produced soundtrack for Fast Forward, and more recently the DVD releases of Gone in Sixty Seconds, Daredevil, and Spiderman. As a composer, his music has been featured in network-television series, feature films, and product jingles.


Rick Latham is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of his book Advanced Funk Studies, this year.

Contemporary Drumset TechniquesShortly after relocating to L.A., Rick released his second successful book, ContempAll About the Grooveorary Drumset Techniques, followed by instructional videos that paralleled his works. 2005 brought the release of his highly anticipated 25th-anniversary DVD, which became an immediate hit. His latest solo release is his best-selling DVD package All About the Groove. Rick has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Asia, and is frequently invited as a featured performer to leading jazz festivals, drum festivals, and percussion-related events around the world.

In a recent feature interview, Modern Drummer magazine referred to Rick as “a man who many consider to be one of the best clinicians on the planet.” The Advanced Funk Studiesmagazine also named his Advanced Funk Studies among the “25 greatest drum books ever published.” The legendary jazz drummer Louie Bellson has referred to Rick’s book as “like a bible” for drummers.Louis Bellson is the initiator of the double kick drum idea. It started as a sketch in art class. Gretsch would later develop the idea.


Always Learning

Rick started drumming at the age of 12. Initially self-taught, his ears led him to the powerful rhythm-and-blues influences of southern Gospel music and the hit Motown and Atlantic Records artists

Rick Latham
Rick Latham

of the day. Playing club dates during his high-school years throughout North and South Carolina and the Eastern Seaboard, Rick attended to the technical aspects of drumming, but his primary focus was always playing the “groove.”While earning a bachelor of arts degree in percussion performance at East Carolina University, Rick expanded his rhythmic and percussion-related vocabulary, studying the snare drum, mallets, and timpani with Harold Jones. Rick was the winner of the school’s Young Artist Concerto Award, performing Milhaud’s Concerto for Battery and Petit Orchestra with the school’s

orchestra. In 1977, Rick was granted a prestigious teaching assistantship at North Texas State University, where he taught mallets and snare while pursuing his master’s degree in percussion with Robert Schietroma and Ron Fink, and studying the drumset with Jim Hall. While at NTSU, Rick was also a featured soloist, performing with the school’s wind ensemble, percussion ensemble, symphony orchestra, and the legendary North Texas Lab Band, and he instructed the NTSU drum line. Since relocating to L.A., Rick’s career has remained at a whirlwind pace, with only more great things on the horizon for this “doctor of groove.”

The Doctor of Groove was kind enough to take a little break from his kit to talk to us:

Chuck Schiele MakingMusicMag: Thanks for taking a few minutes for us, Rick. Drums are your life. Life is your drums. What’s going on, Doc?

Rick Latham: My pleasure, Chuck. Thank you for what you folks do at Making Music Magazine. I began playing the drums at age 12, initially self-taught and was immediately drawn into the music surrounding me in the South. A mixture of Gospel, Soul, R&B, Pop and Jazz were all around me. My parents had many Big Band albums such as Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and others as well as Pop singers of the day like Sinatra, The Mills Brothers, Joe Williams, The Letterman, etc. The rhythms, grooves and feeling from all of this music as well as the local radio stations just felt right to me and I was a natural, I guess you could say. I just knew that playing music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life

CS: You have found a certain freedom through discipline. How does that work for you?

Rick Latham: That’s a great question because I often use the phrase “The discipline of Music”, in my teaching. I feel there is a discipline for everything in life and once you learn or practice that discipline it opens so many doors of expression and freedom. You are in control and the sky is the limit. I feel that since I have studied for so many years the disciplines of music, I am comfortable in any musical setting or situation.

CS: Please share a bit on the skill of “listening” (as opposed to simply playing what you know…)

Rick Latham: As a musician, “listening” is so important. Not only listening to others when in a group situation but learning how to listen to yourself when practicing and performing. It’s one thing to play and another thing to play with feeling. Learning to listen to phrasing and musical execution is very different than just playing the correct notes or groove.

CS: On the subject of being the real-deal and walking the walk: While skill and proficiency are paramount, there’s more to being a successful musician that just “chops.” What are your three best non-musical practices that positively affect you as a musician.

Rick Latham: (1) Having a positive attitude (2) A thirst for learning more (reading and investigating new things) and (3) Love for and a knowledge of history.

CS: What are three musical practices that positively affect you as a person.

Rick Latham: Being somewhat of a perfectionist, knowing how to budget my time and knowing when to be quiet. Tacet is an important word to know.

CS: Wow. “Tacet is a good word to know.” I think I want a t-shirt that says that. What’s the one thing you do every day to persist as a musician?

Rick Latham: Practice!

CS: What do you think about the evolution in our planet’s music culture that is ushering in the now-future of being able to play together from different locations?

Rick Latham: I love technology and use it daily in my own studio. The ability to interact and collaborate remotely with someone on the other side of the world is truly amazing and offers so much for musicians today. I feel this will become even easier for us all as time goes by. Also, as a teaching tool, for study online. This opens up a whole new world of endless possibilities to access that would not be possible without the internet and streaming. I look forward to what the future will hold in this area for sure.

CS: Number one drumming tip that comes to mind for Rick Latham is…?

Rick Latham: It’s All About The Groove.

CS: Thank you, Rick. It’s been great chatting with you.

Rick Latham: Thank you, Chuck. It’s been a pleasure.

You can visit Rick’s website at www.ricklatham.com.

Register to Win a Lesson with Rick Latham!

May is International Drum Month
The Percussion Marketing Council (PMC) (www.PlayDrums.com) bring you a great new program Drum lessons with a Master. Rick is one of 4 master  in-demand drummers offering lessons as Grand Prize.

Check it out and register at Lessons with a MasterPro

Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, producer, editorialist, artist, activist and music fan. He still plays every day.

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