Daniel ‘Zoro’ Donnelly

Zoro - 'The Commandments of R&B Drumming' DVDNot being a fan of drum clinics, I rarely attend such events these days, having left them behind in my previous life as technique-hungry goon. 2004 was different though; Zoro was coming to town. Well, Manchester to be exact, along with the brilliant Greg Bissonette. By this point in my life, my re-education in what really matters about being a drummer musicians want to play with was well underway. Already in receipt of a fresh copy of ‘The Commandments of R&B Drumming’ DVD, my anticipation for seeing Zoro in the flesh was high.

What Zoro doesn’t know about the history of Black American R&B music isn’t really worth knowing. Quite simply, the guy is a walking, talking, drumming encyclopaedia of Funk drumming history. He’s not the only one on the planet preaching his gospel of respect for the retro side of our craft, but he certainly can be attributed for kicking off the interest to my generation of drummers. Once you discover Zoro as an educator, names like Daniel Glass, Jim Payne and Stanton Moore soon become drum education bedfellows.

On the clinic in question, Zoro was on first (Zoro and Bissonette alternated headline spots) and proceeded to frankly, blow my mind with a journey through the history of R&B drumming, right up to the 21st century. My suspicions were, that the room was probably divided in favour of drummers hungry for fireworks, but despite the obvious lust for chops, Zoro did not fail to capture the attention of everyone in the room. This man was truly on a mission to educate and entertain, failure was not an option. We were treated to examples from the greats – the James Brown drummers (all of them!), Bernard Purdie, Ed Greene, James Gadson, Modeliste, Al Jackson Jnr, Earl Palmer, Harvey Mason, Steve Ferrone – so much good stuff that is passed too quickly, leaving me hungry for more. In fact, the night was another one of those life changing experiences that normally don’t hit me until later on; except in this case, I knew immediately where my future lay as a drummer. No looking back, Zoro’s educational sermon had put me on a musical pilgrimage of my own; to go back in time and study the roots of an activity I once loved, but had somehow lost my way with. For this alone, I cannot thank, or recommend Zoro highly enough.

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