New York City might be one of the most historically significant U.S. cities for jazz history, but Philadelphia is a close contender. Philadelphia most recently raised NYU Steinhardt freshman Lucas Ebeling, whose drumming passion has grown from simple rock-and-roll to the rolling and rippling rhythms of jazz. WSN sat down with Ebeling to learn more about his early days as a musician and what jazz means to him today.
Washington Square News: Why the drums?
Lucas Ebeling: When I was really young, I started on trumpet. I had to play a classical instrument — it was the rule in my house. If I wanted to do that, then I could play a rock-and-roll instrument. I tried guitar at first and didn’t like it. Then I tried bass, but I still didn’t like it. Then I tried drums and loved it. I’ve played drums since I was around 10 or 11.
WSN: Have you always been focused on jazz as a musician?
LE: Not at all. In my early days, I used to have this boom box, and I would put a Ramones CD in there. I would put the boom box on blast behind me, and I would play along to these Ramones songs. I went from playing Ramones covers to playing rock. I played in rock bands with my older brother. When I was a junior in high school, I started going out to jam sessions at a place called the Penn Taproom. That’s where I really started to swing and play real jazz. They really taught me to swing there. All these Philly cats were there, like Mike Boone and Byron Landham. That’s where I started getting into jazz.
WSN: Where are you from?
LE: I’m from a place called Doylestown. It’s about an hour north of Philadelphia. But I learned to play jazz from the Philly cats. I was always going to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia to play in jazz programs and camps and just hanging at sessions.
WSN: How is the scene there compared to NYC?
LE: It’s different. NYC has pretty much everything. There’s free jazz, out jazz, funk — there’s everything. Philly has a huge straight-ahead scene. I’m sure there are other scenes in Philly, but that’s what I tapped into. They really teach you how to swing there, which is essential to playing jazz.
WSN: Are you more comfortable at a gig or in the studio?
LE: Definitely at a gig, just because I haven’t done a lot of studio stuff, which is something I’d like to do more. In the studio, when you’re being recorded, you don’t want to screw up. When you’re tense, you play worse. During gigs, when you’re playing with the cats, it can be kinda nerve-racking, but when you’re with your friends it’s always really fun.
WSN: Would you ever consider playing a different genre than jazz?
LE: Oh yeah, and I do. Back at home I still play in rock bands with my friends. Just whatever comes my way, like I played a pop gig a few weeks ago.
WSN: Any upcoming gigs?
LE: I’m playing with Jared Auslander, a freshman guitarist in Steinhardt’s jazz program, at the Juke Bar on April 16. I’ll also be playing Monday, May 8 at the Blue Note with the NYU Jazz Orchestra and special guest Randy Brecker.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 21 print edition.
Email Connor Gatesman at [email protected]