Texas-based drummer Tim Solook is back on top with his 2020 album Delete Event. The 8-track, 50 minute CD features Tim on drums, vibes and percussion, backed up by a full band of talented musicians. Originally from New Jersey and currently based in Houston, Texas, Tim, over the past 30 years, has studied and performed with a number of music greats including Herb Ellis, Charlie Byrd, Randy Brecker, Diane Shuur and many others in addition to recording four albums with Houston-based pianist Joe LoCascio. Since 2005, Tim has also released four albums of his own original music with Delete Event, his fourth, recorded during the past Summer in Sugar Land, Texas at the height of the 2020 pandemic. The lockdown resulting from the pandemic has indeed adversely impacted so many musicians and, regarding this world-wide disaster for the arts, Tim explains, “Like a lot of musicians who lost most of their work, I tried to turn a negative into a positive by writing and recording new music.” Regarding the pandemic and its toll on musicians, Tim goes into further details printed in the CD album packaging. Tim Solook’s music on Delete Event is very much up-tempo, and occasionally introspective, jazz-based instrumental in scope that is also very easy on the ears. A full horn section, with four players performing alto, soprano & tenor sax, trumpet, flugelhorn and trombone appears as do other musicians, with the acoustic / electric piano of Paul English playing some especially cool keyboard licks. Adding in some fine guitar sounds are Brennan Nase and Paul Chester. Tim’s drumming, vibraphone and various percussion is unerring throughout and, all told, keeps the musicians well in time with the music, which as stated, is all composed by Tim. The title of Tim Solook's album may say “Delete Event”, yet the music is well worth sticking around for and enjoying.
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: Tell us about growing up in New Jersey. I guess living close to NYC was great as you had access to live music. You also lived in the San Francisco area before moving to Houston. When did you move to Texas and how would you compare those three parts of the US and how living and working as a music there has affected you musically? Plus tell us about graduating from the Manhattan School of Music and who did you study drums with?
Tim Solook: My last CD Jacksonville Rd. is an homage to my family and friends from Pompton Plains, where I grew up, which is a small town in northern New Jersey, about 45 minutes west of Manhattan. It was wonderful to be able to drive into the city whenever there was someone playing, and there was always someone playing! But not only in Manhattan. There were many clubs in Jersey that featured great artists to absorb. Places like Gulliver’s in West Paterson and Wallace’s in West Orange.
New Jersey had a very vibrant music scene between 1974 and 1984. I was fortunate to perform with a really outstanding group called Grover, Margret and Za Zu Zaz from 1976 until about 1980, when Margret (Machan Taylor) left the band. We continued for another three years as Grover Kemble and Za Zu Zaz. As Grover Margret and Za Zu Zaz we played some really top venues because we were booked through the Willard Alexander Agency who booked all the big bands. We were the opening act and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Brubeck, and Stan Getz and playing venues like The Newport Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., The Roxy in Los Angeles, California and The Bottom Line in NYC.
In 1983 the music scene in New Jersey pretty much died. I moved to Houston in 1986 and met pianist Paul English who offered me a steady jazz gig, and that led to working with many people in Houston until 2002, when I married my wife Lisa and moved to San Jose, California. All these areas affected me musically because I was very fortunate to work with really great players wherever I landed.
I started music school at The Philadelphia Musical Academy which I believe is now called the Philadelphia College of The Arts. I went one year there after high school then transferred to Manhattan School of Music. I had great teachers at MSM. My percussion teacher was Paul Price, and I studied vibraphone with David Friedman. And while I was at Manhattan, I also studied privately for three years with Joe Morello at Dorn and Kirshner Music in Union, NJ.
mwe3: What era of music did you grow up in? How old are you? Were you influenced by rock and classical or mainly jazz growing up and what artists and drummers and composers and other musicians had the most impact on you during your formative years?
Tim Solook: I’m going to be 70 in December! My influences were of course the British Invasion, The Beatles, Stones, Animals, The Who, along with The Rascals, Jimi Hendrix, then all the progressive rock bands like Procol Harum, YES, Genesis and ELP. I started playing drums at 9 years old in school in 4th grade, then continued taking private drum lessons at around 11 years old from a local drum teacher named Walt Lefler, who was in my older brother’s class. He would come to my house twice a week and show me rudiments and how to play the beats that a drummer can make a living with… Swing, Rhumba, Cha Cha, Bossa Nova, Shuffle and Brushes. It was very hip. Along with that, he would turn me on to who the hip jazz drummers were that I should be listening to. The LP he turned me on to that was life changing for me was a Riverside Lp called The Soul of Jazz Percussion. It just had drum solos on it by Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones Philly Joe Jones, Art Taylor, Jimmy Cobb and a few others.
I was listening to this stuff while all the ‘new’ rock and roll was being played on the radio. I was really getting the best of both worlds. While I was listening to all this music, I was playing in the school concert and jazz bands, had a rock band, The Gremlins that played a lot of school dances and played 3 years in a Drum & Bugle Corps from Pompton Lakes called the Lakeland Goldenaires.
mwe3: How did the global pandemic of 2020 affect you musically and socially? I guess one only needs to look at the title of your album, Delete Event to fully understand the impact on you. I saw, on the inside of the CD artwork, that one of the musicians still had a mask on so were you able to record the album live with the other musicians or was it done with overdubbing or as they say, “remotely”? Everything was tried “remotely” but I guess we have to thank the internet for that.
Tim Solook: The pandemic affected me just as it did everyone. I lost a ton of work! Like almost two thousand dollars just in the first month of the pandemic. It hit us all very hard. Luckily I was able to keep my teaching at Music & Arts Music Store doing Zoom drum lessons and the church I play for; Sugar Land Baptist kept a rhythm section for their streaming services. So at least I had a little income coming in. I had a lot of time on my hands. I discovered some older original compositions I had forgotten about and started to rework the arrangements. Then I found myself starting to write a few new tunes. The next thing I knew, I had enough material for a CD! Delete Event was what I was doing on my iPhone for that first month of the pandemic and I thought it was the perfect title considering what everyone has been through.
The recording is actually two bands. One band is a group of guys I’ve been playing with for a few years at Bush International Airport for a cultural arts program called ‘Harmony in the Air’. They are Paul English, piano, David Caceres, alto and tenor sax, and Rankin Peters, electric bass. We would play once a week for the passengers waiting for their flight. That gig got cancelled, so I knew those guys were available. The other band, Paul Chester, guitar, Andrew Lienhard, electric keyboard, David Craig, acoustic and electric bass and Warren Sneed, tenor and soprano sax are guys who recorded my last CD Jacksonville Rd. I wanted to do some more recording with them. I knew they would probably be available also. Believe it or not, we recorded all the basic tracks in one day. The studio had separate rooms with a good headphone mix and we were able to complete all the basics in about 12 hours. Various people came back other days to do overdubs.
mwe3: What instruments did you study as you were progressing first as a music student and how did you gravitate to the drums and vibes too? How many instruments do you play and also what instruments do you write your music upon? It’s amazing some drummers are also quite amazing composers too.
Tim Solook: My grandparents were Polish and they had a player piano in their parlor. The player part didn’t work, but you could still play it manually. When I was a kid and we went to visit, the adults would all be in the kitchen speaking Polish and I would wander into the parlor and just bang out little melodies on that player piano. My parents saw that I had an ear for music, so they bought a piano and I started lessons at around 8 years old. When I was 9, the school offered music instrument lessons, and I knew I had to play the drums. When I started drum lessons, I no longer wanted to play the piano, but my mother insisted I needed to play a melodic instrument, so I studied the trumpet for a very short time. The drums finally won out, but I did find myself being drawn back to the piano and keyboard instruments.
In college I was playing a lot of marimba and vibes and transcribing a bunch of jazz tunes for a group I had that I just played vibes in. I took some lessons with Dave Samuels in the mid 1970’s, and he’s the one who encouraged me to keep writing because I would bring original tunes to my lesson. I compose about ninety percent of my music on the vibes. Occasionally I’ll compose from the piano.
mwe3: How did you choose the musicians that play with you on the Delete Event album? Have you worked with any of them before? How would you describe the chemistry between these musicians as the album was being made? Did you work with any of the players on your earlier albums?
Tim Solook: Yes, as I said earlier, all the guys on Delete Event are stellar musicians that I’ve known and played with for some 30 years. There is super chemistry between all of us. I think that’s why we were able to pretty much record this whole project in one day. They’re all amazing players, and I’m very grateful to have them on this recording.
mwe3: Tell us about your drum kit, which company’s drums do you play and do you have an endorsement? How has your choice of drums changed over the years? Also tell us about you vibraphone and other percussion instruments that play on the album.
Tim Solook: No Endorsements. My drums are Gretsch. They’re a hybrid of a 1959 Anniversary Sparkle and a 2007 Anniversary Sparkle that work amazingly well together. The snare drum is a 1939 Gretsch Broadcaster that was given to me by my dear college friend Tom Venable in New York. That snare was owned by the late N.Y. session drummer Pete Morgan, who played with Wilson Pickett, and was the inspiration for the tune “Song for PM” on Delete Event. The cymbals are 50+ year old K Zildjian and A Zildjian. One of my 18” A Zildjian is the first cymbal I ever owned. It has a crack in it, but still sounds great! My vibraphone is a Musser Pro with silver bars that I bought at Manny’s Music on 48th St. in NYC while I was in college. It still sounds great!
mwe3: Would you describe the music on Delete Event as being timeless? Even so, the lead off track “Where You Beeen?... Quarantine!” may have a current title but it sounds like a truly vintage track musically. To me it has a kind of classic jazz sound but also I was thinking of Cab Calloway as being from the 1920s and was that done on purpose?
Tim Solook: I would like to think this music is timeless but we’ll have to see in about 50 years. Cab Calloway! You know Za Zu Zaz used to play a lot of Cab Calloway music when we first started that band. In fact “Za Zu Zaz” is the name of a Cab Calloway song. I never think of a style before I write anything. It just comes out. Maybe in the back of my mind, from playing those styles years ago, a Cab Calloway reference appeared, but I’m not aware of it. I just try to write things with a good melody, nice changes and a good beat.
mwe3: How would you compare Delete Event with you earlier albums both from a compositional standpoint and in the way the albums were recorded?
Tim Solook: I love all my recordings but I think my last two, Jacksonville Rd. and Delete Event are my best. I used bigger drums on the last two which I thing gives the record a fatter sound.
mwe3: Despite having an ominous sounding title, the track “Delete Event” is very upbeat and even buoyant. Was that kind of the mission of the entire album, to put an upbeat, optimistic spin on a crazy time in history? Who plays the keyboard solo on that track? Sounds like a Rhodes.
Tim Solook: Exactly! Everybody had been pretty bummed about what’s been happening in the world. I wanted this recording to have a positive feeling. The keyboard player on the track “Delete Event” is my good friend Andrew Lienhard. I don’t know what keyboard he used but it does have a Rhodes sound which I love. It contrasts the acoustic piano tracks that Paul English plays really well.
mwe3: For some reason, “When The Waiting Is Over” reminded me a bit of Jobim’s music. It has a kind of bossa nova influence yet there’s also a kind of smooth jazz vibe to it too. Is that Paul English on the piano solo? How and when did you meet Paul? Also is that a soprano sax on that track? Even the song title has a kind of upbeat wording.
Tim Solook: ”When the Waiting Is Over” is definitely referring to the pandemic. Yes, both Paul and Brennan captured the samba perfectly. David Caceres plays alto sax on that tune. The only soprano sax on Delete Event is on the title track played by my good friend Warren Sneed. Warren and I played together in the Joe Locascio Group in the late 80’s. He also played on my last CD, Jacksonville Rd. On Delete Event he also plays some great tenor sax on “Mickey’s The Cat” and “Happy Zone”. I met Paul when I came to Houston in 1986.
mwe3: Is “Mickey’s The Cat” about a cat you know? It has a kind of slinky, cat-like sound to it. There’s some cool guitar soloing on that track. Who is playing the lead guitar on that track? And tell us about working with Paul Chester and Brennan Nase, who each played guitar on the album sessions. How did you choose to divide the soloing on Delete Event? Did you write parts out for specific players or how did you choose what players would play what parts and solos?
Tim Solook: “Mickey’s The Cat” was our very cool 18½ year old house cat that we had to put down this past October. We got him while we were in California. That tune was one I had written while in California and forgot about until I was going through some old charts and realized what a great tune it is. Paul Chester is another old buddy who I’ve been playing with for many years. He did an amazing job tracking the guitar parts on “Mickey’s The Cat” and “Delete Event”. Brennan and I have been playing off and on with Paul English for a number of years. Brennan is a savant. Most if the other guys had the music to look at before the session. Brennan comes in, sight reads all the music, pretty much one or two takes. Nails it… brilliant!
mwe3: Is “Trust” one of the more low-key introspective tracks on Delete Event? Paul English adds some excellent piano work on that song. It has a very relaxing sound to it. Did you model that track after one of your musical mentors or influences?
Tim Solook: I like to bring the mood down on most of my recordings to feature certain players. “Trust” features Paul with his beautiful Legato intro and solo, and Dennis Dotson, who is a Houston treasure, on flugelhorn and David Caceres on tenor sax. Influences would be Bill Evans and Wayne Shorter.
mwe3: “Song For PM” is a great showcase for your drumming. How did you approach writing that composition and what kind of drum patterns did you use on that track? Again it has a very upbeat sound to it. Is that the trombone solo by Thomas Hulton and also is there a trumpet solo on that track as well? The composition has a circular sound to it and it’s really perfect for soloing right? Is that how you write and find room for the soloists? That track also has a Latin vibe to it right?
Tim Solook: When my friend Tom sent me Pete Morgan’s snare drum, I set it up on my drum kit and immediately started to play a send line groove. It felt so good! The next day I wrote “Song for PM” for Pete. It does have a Latin feel but also a New Orleans spirit. Thomas Hulton, who plays with the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, is a wonderful jazz trombone player. And by the way, Thomas also came into the session not having seen the music beforehand and just nailed it in one or two takes. In combination with Dennis Dotson on trumpet and David Caceres on alto, you can’t go wrong. These musicians are world class!
mwe3: Track, 7, “Mike’s Peace” is very introspective sounding. It’s different from the other tracks in that it’s a pure solo track with just you on it right? I found the sound of the vibes on that track fascinating sounding. How did you record that track and how many overdubs are on it? Who is Mike? Also who is your favorite vibraphonist? It’s such an underrated instrument!
Tim Solook: “Mike's Peace” is dedicated to Houston drummer Mike LeFabvre who passed away in 2005 while I was living in California. I wrote it for him while living there but never recorded it or got to play it for him. I wanted to record it with just me on vibes and bass, who by the way is David Craig and does a wonderful job on all the tracks he plays on, as does Rankin Peters who plays bass on the other tracks. I recorded the vibes first, then we added bass and percussion.
We didn’t get to video this project unfortunately, but we did the video “Mike’s Peace” which can be found on YouTube. I also need to mention our incredible recording engineer, Tan Truong, from Westside Recording who has recorded my last three CDs as well as videoed “Mike’s Peace”. My favorite vibes players are Gary burton, David Friedman, Dave Samuels, Joe Locke, Milt Jackson and Mike Mainieri.
mwe3: “Happy Zone” is a great way to close the album. Did you set out to create a very upbeat, happy tune to close the album? Plus the solos are great on that song. Both Andrew Lienhard and Paul Chester add a lot to that song. Did they record their parts in real time?
Tim Solook: Yes, I wanted the recording to end upbeat especially after coming way down with “Mike’s Peace”. Most of the solos were done later after the basic tracks were completed. But let me tell you, if we were playing this live, it would sound just as good!
mwe3: So do you have any forecasts on the future? I realize you want to go back to performing live concerts. Is that the feeling among all the musicians you worked with on the album and people you know in general? Someone mentioned remote concerts streaming online but I guess that won’t solve the problems!
Tim Solook: Thing are coming back very slowly. The gig we play at the airport is partially back to twice a month. Little by little calls are coming in for local gigs. No big national or European tours are scheduled, but those things can happen again. We just have to be patient. My hope is that once things start to open up, where we can live without masks, normal life will follow, and music will be in the air.