"I remember playing in Poughkeepsie," states master drummer Terry Bozzio. On September 21, 1978, Frank Zappa brought his finest post-Mothers band to the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in support of then-just-released LP Studio Tan. "George [Duke] and Napoleon [Brock-Murphy] took me to some little shack that was a BBQ place after hours. It was all new to me, man [laughs]. I was just a skinny little naive green jazz drummer from San Francisco and I was going out to eat in the hood with the heavy cats. It was great."
Over 35 years later, Bozzio returns to the Hudson Valley when he brings his one-man show to Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on September 17 as part of his 40-city North American solo tour dubbed "An Evening with Terry Bozzio" in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his very first drum lesson. For the 63-year-old former member of such groundbreaking acts as New Wave icons Missing Persons and the progressive power trio UK with keyboardist/violinist and fellow Zappa alum Eddie Jobson and John Wetton of King Crimson/Asia fame, this solo tour was born out of necessity.
"I've basically been doing solo drums for the last three years, [since] the economy changed," he admits. "The manufacturer stopped putting me on the road because it was too expensive. They weren't selling enough instruments, which was pretty much across the board. Nobody was doing drum clinics anymore."
But as luck would have it, he linked up with a good touring agent who helped him book a pair of successful tours in Europe as well as several trips to Japan before securing this current trek across the Great Divide here in the States. And right when he had just rigged his drum set in a way unlike anything fans of his prowess have experienced before.
"It's great timing," explains Bozzio. "I got this MIDI setup that triggers the notes I tune the drum to. The whole left side of my kit is chromatic, the whole right side is diatonic, so every melody that I play really comes out now with a sine wave of the note that I tune to, doubling the acoustic sound of the drums. I would say its a mixture of classical because its compositions, jazz because its spontaneous improvisation and ethnic instrumentation from around the world."
While Bozzio does still play in groups from time to time, including stints with Jeff Beck and Dweezil Zappa's tribute act to his father, Zappa Plays Zappa, and a recent reunion tour with the classic Heavy Metal Be-Bop lineup of the celebrated jazz-fusion outfit The Brecker Brothers overseas, nothing beats the direction Terry is taking his craft on his own accord. And, at least for the time being, it is a situation that seems to suit his preferences in the concert-as-clinic realm.
"I don't really give a shit about working with anybody at this point," he confirms. "I just play by myself and I'm very satisfied. It's the most sound thing to do because you're covering accompaniment and lead melody and doing the whole thing by yourself. Playing in a band at this point is like falling off a log compared to playing solo."
"An Evening with Terry Bozzio" hits the Bearsville Theater on September 17. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show. (845) 679-4406; Bearsvilletheater.com.