JEFF 'JJ' LISK
Drummer | Percussionist | Producer
I also encountered such interesting musicians as bassist Donald Rafael Garrett, who played and recorded with John Coltrane in the sixties. My roommate at the time was jazz trombonist Jesse Stamm, who was friends with Don and through Jesse I got to know him. We both used to ride our bikes around the neighborhood in the near north side and one day on the corner of Southport and Byron Avenue, Don taught me how to play and count an Afro-Cuban 6/8 rhythm on the handlebars of his bike. Jeff also studied downtown at Drums Unlimited with drummer Marshall Thompson, who was a popular Chicago drummer performing with groups led by saxophonist Eddie Harris and pianist Eddie Higgins. Jeff also studied briefly with Roy Knapp at Frank’s Drum Shop and privately with Costa Rican drummer/ percussion Alejo Poveda, and Dede Sampaio from Brazil, as well as Lee Diaz at the Percussion Shop in Evanston, Illinois, and a few private lessons with Mark Walker studying the Brazilian Bossa Nova rhythm.
Jeff participated in his school’s concert band, marching bands, orchestra and jazz bands throughout grade-school and high-school years, first under the direction of Michael Teolis, then in high school, Ed Stark. He also participated in the Horner Park jazz band program under the direction of Don Sadofsky. Don would help Jeff start his professional working career, giving him his first pro gigs in Chicago. Bassist/ composer Steve Hashimoto would also help Jeff get established in the Chicago jobbing scene.
This is where I started learning to adjust my style for a variety of musical situations, which led me into an extensive career of backing up various artists and bands in a vast range of style, in both live and recording situations. I learned in Chicago to be prepared to play anything – if you wanted to work – this included ethnic styles as well. And you had to work brushes. I've played with big bands, orchestras, jazz trios, quartets, funk groups, vocal groups, duos with organists, country bands, bluegrass bands, New Orleans brass-type bands, dance orchestras, blues bands, you name it. To be continued …
Jeff would like to mention these various influences from whom he learned his wealth of information (excuse the long list, please): Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Art Blakey, Tony Williams, Bernard Purdie, Sam Lay, Willie Bobo, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmerie, Ginger Baker, Bob Marley, Carlton Barrett, Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson, Freddie White, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro, Ohio Players’ drummer Diamond Williams, Danny Seraphine, Gino Vanelli, Steely Dan, Larrie Londin, James Taylor, Merle Haggard, Muddy Waters, Buddy Miles, Don Ellis Orchestra, Aaron Copland, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bach, oh well.
Depending on the gig, Jeff usually performs on a six-piece Taye kit, with various vintage Ludwig snare drums, LP ‘Tito Puente’ timbales, Sabianand Paiste cymbals, augmented by various tamborines, cowbells, jamblocks, metal percussion, two sets of high hats, and a partridge and a pair tree. Also used are Pearl, Yamaha, and Ludwig drumkits.
from ‘Graham’s Boogie’ recorded live at the Yardbird Suite, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
The Graham Guest + Raoul Bhaneja Concert
Tribute to a Great Drum Teacher
Roy Knapp, on the left, whom I studied with very briefly, at Frank’s Drum Shop, and Marshall Thompson, on the right, at a function seen in the full picture to the right.
Mr. Lishon (foreground), owner of shop, Jim Ross of Chicago Symphony Orchestra (from left), Frank Gault, former owner of shop; Roy Knapp, teacher; Marshall Thompson, drummer with Eddie Higgins orchestra; Haskill Harr, education director of Slingerland Drum company; Lou Singer, top percussionist on west coast; Bob Rosegarden, drummer on NBC Tonight show; Bobby Christian, midwest drummer who will direct clinic July 8 at shop; and Joe Cusatis of Peter Nero’s band. (photo circa 1967)
I first met Marshall Thompson at the famous Quincy Court Concerts in downtown Chicago (same event where I met Barrett Deems) where he was to perform with the Dave Remington Band. Before the show I went up to Marshall and he was very receptive to talking with a young drummer. (I do believe Marshall was playing a set of Camco drums, with Zildjian cymbals, one of which was a large sizzle cymbal — it had a beautiful sound.) We talked about rudiments and keeping time, and he related to me that the numbered stroke rolls, five, seven, nine, thirteen, etc., that when played closed the actual strokes for a five were three strokes, since the other beats were the rebound; same for the seven, four strokes, the nine, five strokes, etc. He mentioned he taught drums at Drums Ltd. on Wabash Avenue, down the street from Frank’s. Since I had been working at the catering hall I was confident in telling Marshall I would see him for lessons soon, which I did.
I would take the L-Train downtown for lessons on Saturday before work at the catering hall. Marshall would charge seven dollars for a half hour lesson, and taught me some of my first Latin American beats, like calypso, cha-cha-cha, samba, and bossa nova, plus a good review of rudiments and swingin’ the triplets. I do believe Freddie White from Earth, Wind and Fire, among others, also studied with Marshall Thompson. Marshall, though not as well known as the ‘Art Blakeys,’ ‘Philly Joe Jones,’ and the ‘Shelley Mannes’ of the jazz world, he was every bit as accomplished as any of them. He was a marvellous time-keeper, very conscious of dynamics and sound timbres, and extremely tasty. He recorded with some of the greatest: Eddie Harris, Frank Foster, Woody Herman’s band, Eddie Higgins, Richard Evans, and I might add a few more.
Marshall attended DuSable High School in Chicago, but quit to travel with a show. Clarence Allen and Marshall Thompson formed a tap dance act which was known as Peck & Peck. The act appeared at the Club DeLisa, and the Fifty-one Hundred Club on Chicago’s north side. They also toured with the bands of Erskine Hawkins and Duke Ellington. Marshall got married to pianist Earma Thompson in 1943, and began working together at the Cotton Club in Chicago in 1950. Marshall had already been working at the club and Earma replaced Horace Palm. Marshall Thompson, along with Earma, backed up some of the greatest vocalists at that time. Joe Williams began working Monday through Wednesday with them at the club, as well as others to follow: Phylliss Branch, Billie Holiday, and others.
Marshall was there the night Joe Williams was given a going away party to join the Count Basie Band. Other musicians Marshall performed with included Richard Abrams, E. Parker McDougal, John Gilmore, Clifford Jordan, Harold Ashby, and others. Marshall’s main gig, though, up to his death in 1978, was performing with pianist Eddie Higgins, who he had been performing with for over two decades. Marshall also has a son by the name of Terry Thompson, who is also a renouned drummer based in Chicago. I’ve always felt honored to have the opportunity to study with this man. Check out one of the recordings he is featured on above. They are currently available on CD.
You know, there was a time in Chicago in Frank’s Drum Shop, at a drum clinic featuring Louis Bellson and all these drummers were hanging out at the store that afternoon. And among those people there was Steve Smith, a great drummer who had just left Jean Luc Ponty’s band, and had joined the rock group Journey. I was actually talking with Steve about the transition from playing fusion into more of a pop rock group. The rest is history, Steve has gone on to become one of the world’s best drummers. All of my drum teachers were also hanging out there, Roy Knapp, renowned Costa Rican drummer Alejo Poveda, and Marshall Thompson. I believe Carmine Appice was also there. It was a place everyone had gathered to watch Louis Bellson do a drum clinic; it represented a true community of drummers and percussionists, and it was at that time that I realized this — and how great it was!
Drummers Louie Bellson & Jeff Lisk at the Louie Bellson Drum Clinic, Frank’s Drum Shop, Chicago, Ilinois
Some albums Marshall Thompson played on.