Drummer Kyle Poole will be making his début as a leader at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, December 12th. A prodigious young drummer originally from Los Angeles and currently studying at The New School on a full scholarship, Kyle was a semifinalist in the 2012 Thelonious Monk Competition and has performed with Mike LeDonne, Peter Bernstein, and many other musicians on the New York scene. We caught up with Kyle by phone to talk to him about his upcoming début and how he’s balanced school and work:
The Jazz Gallery: Can you say a bit about the music you’ll be playing?
Kyle Poole: We’ll be playing two original tunes; I’ve written two for this particular gig with this particular group, and we’ll also playing one of Albert’s tunes, one of [Alex] Claffy’s tunes, an old church hymn as a ballad which Elena will sing, and one by my friend Jason Matthews, who’s a great piano player from Philly who lives in Miami. The music seems to fit the vibe for The Jazz Gallery.
TJG: What do you think of as the vibe of The Jazz Gallery?
KP: I feel like it’s the kind of place that’s different from like a jam session at Smalls, where sometimes I’ll have original music and other times feature music from people more around my age who I like. I feel like The Jazz Gallery is the place to showcase your own artistic development; I wouldn’t go down there to play some standards!
It was a challenge for me since I haven’t written much before and I really wanted to write some music for The Jazz Gallery—especially because Elena’s playing on it, since I’d never written for flute. The rehearsal went really well, and I think the instrumentation really sounds good together.
TJG: Were you thinking of any particular groups or records when writing for this ensemble?
KP: I didn’t necessarily picture this group to be or sound like any other group that I listen to a lot, but I just went with my ideas. That’s what’s hard about writing with me: you get one idea and you get stuck, and you start over. I had to discipline myself to just embrace everything my mind can think of. At the same time, I’m checking out a lot of Walter Smith [III] and definitely a lot of Brian Blade and the Fellowship. When we were playing through the tunes for the first time, it kind of reminded me of the Fellowship, like the Fellowship meets flute! Elena’s playing such beautiful stuff over it, which really reminds me of Walter.
TJG: Have you studied much composition during your time at New School?
KP: I haven’t, actually. Theory classes have been helpful, and I’m just starting to get that together. Theory classes and ear training have been helpful to writing, and I’m just starting to get into it a little bit, trying to learn a little bit of piano.
TJG: Between school and work, how do you find time to practice?
KP: With school it’s been kind of rough finding time to practice. I’ve been practicing a lot more lately, especially because of who I’ve been studying with—it’s really important to have good teachers who give you material, as far as what books to learn. I’ve been practicing a lot of basic things, which kind of sucks: you think you get one thing together, and then you study with someone and you they you that you skipped over a million things!
I’m practicing accents and grace notes, that’s all I’ve been doing, and also hand technique—where my hand should be, my touch on the cymbal. Two years ago when I got to New York, I was practicing super gospel chops, trying to sound like Eric Harland or Justin Brown or whatever, but now I feel like my practicing is more focused. The times when I’m too busy to practice, I’ll practice grace notes and accents and feathering and hi-hat technique, but on the train, you know, before the gig. I’m glad I do have more time, though. School’s about to be done, and I have a whole bunch of method books to go through.
TJG: Could you say a bit about when you moved to New York and how you adjusted to the scene?
KP: I moved here in August of 2011, so I’ve been here about two and a half years. The way I adjusted to it was just forcing myself to…actually, not even forcing myself. When I first got here, I was just really eager and went out to the jam sessions every night. The more I went, the more I got connected with people who were looking out for me and seeing where I wanted to go. I’m thankful for guys like Eric Wyatt, a great tenor saxophone player; I was coming to Smalls and I came on the night when he was leading the jam session. He didn’t call me for a gig, but he took down my number and he said, “I can see that you want to see this.” He gave my number to a cat named Bill Saxton, and a lot of people have been in his band when they first came to New York, like Ali Jackson. I got the old style education from Bill for a year: carrying my drums through the snow to get to the Lenox Lounge to play and then, at 4 a.m. in the morning, taking it back through the snow again. It was tiring, but I wanted it so bad so I just did it.
Kyle Poole and the Gang performs at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, December 12th. The band features Albert Baliwas on alto saxophone, Elena Pinderhughes on flute, Lucas Del Calvo on guitar, Alex Claffy on bass, and Victor Gould on piano. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m., and the first set is $15 general admission and $10 for Members. The second set is $10 general admission and $5 for Members. Purchase tickets here.