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America’s got Bobby Previte

October 20, 2012

Bobby Previte is a crack drummer, composer and bandleader who’s been at the forefront of modern jazz and the improvised music scene for about 35 years.

All this doesn’t make one a household name though, as he discovered recently. On his Facebook page the other day, I ran across the following development, amusing to say the least.

Bobby Previte, future reality TV star? (Photo credit, Michael DiDonna)

He’d only just stuck up a link to his Bandcamp page. (Bandcamp is a website independent musicians use to market their wares.) Within five hours, he received a message via Facebook:

“Found you on BandCamp (sic) and love your sound. Reaching out to see if you would be interested in auditioning for America’s Got Talent Season 8. If so, please let me know. We begin auditions in Seattle, Portland, & Los Angeles in November; Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Nashville, Mephis (sic), Birmingham, Savannah, Daytona Beach in December. If you’re interested, I can let you know as soon as we release the dates and audition information. More info can be found at: americasgottalentauditions.com.”

Then he learned some bad news on the FAQ page informing him of the limitations for drummers. In short, the TV show recommends that drummers audition via DVD because of the time it takes to set up a kit; however, if he wanted to audition in person, he could bring a stripped down set, i.e. snare drum and hi-hat. In case he hadn’t gotten the message, the FAQ page continues: NO SET UP TIME WILL BE ALLOWED!

Previte’s tongue-in-cheek take on the lack of respect for drummers? “The best part is, two separate questions for ‘musical instrument’ and for ‘drum set.’ Ah yes, it never ends. My father was right. I should have become a dentist.”

As you can imagine, his Facebook friends peppered the page with comments over the absurdity of Previte appearing on reality TV.

The DVD idea got me thinking about the Robert Altman film Short Cuts and one of the subplots following a faded nightclub singer. The backing band was made up of a stellar cast, such as Terry Adams of NRBQ on piano and a familiar face behind the drum kit.

I posted the following to Previte on Facebook. “Maybe you can send them a copy of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts.”

“THAT is genius!” Previte replied.

When I first started listening to Previte, I always got the sense that he was an intense guy, not one you would naturally crack a joke around. About 10 years ago though, he held a clinic at a local college music program prior to a show in Vancouver. I think I was the only person there who wasn’t a student. What impressed me was what an enthusiastic speaker and affable guy he was. Instead of droning on about paradiddles and flams, or showing off his rudiments, he talked about music that inspired him like Sly and the Family Stone or Led Zeppelin. He was also happy to sign my copy of Pushing the Envelope, one of his early recordings as a bandleader. (I highly recommend any of his Gramavision releases, if you can get your digits on them, though there is plenty of other fine music available.)

Besides his drumming talents, he’s a fine composer who’s explored many types of music: Weather Clear, Track Fast was a greasy organ- and horn-heavy band; Empty Suits was more artsy, influenced by contemporary classical music among other things; projects like The Coalition of the Willing or his Groundtruther duo with Charlie Hunter could be described as avant-garde rock. Then there’s his work backing other musicians, from John Zorn to Tom Waits. (If all this doesn’t convince you, maybe the Guggenheim Fellowship he received earlier this year will.)

The odds of an audition are pretty low, I’d say, but America should know that it does have some serious talent in the form of Bobby Previte, and it’s refreshing that popular culture and reality television came so close to waking up to this fact.

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From → Essays

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