I've noticed lately, on warmer weekend afternoons in Five Points, some pick up drum circles on Welton St. and it brings a smile to my face every time I hear them. The other day, on my way to the store to pick up a jar of sweet relish (I like it in my tuna salad these days), I heard what must have been two or three groups playing, the effect of which was beautiful to me. The sound of so many drums resonated throughout the whole block in all directions, echoing and turning in on itself, creating new rhythms and time signatures literally out of thin air. It had a bass-like drone that I could almost feel and it created a wonderful soundtrack to the neighborhood.
Halfway walking in the direction of the store and halfway following the sounds, I came across one of the groups, tucked away in a small open garage and for a brief moment stood and watched. They were three older gentlemen, one playing three high pitched drums, one playing four slightly deeper drums and one holding, but not playing a single bass drum. I assumed the latter was the leader since he wore a whistle and an old school jumpsuit, the other two being dressed much more casually. And once the leader, who was clearly the oldest of the old group, noticed my presence, he banged his drum twice, signaling the other two into frantic solos.
While they impressively showed off their skills, the leader, his movements slow with age and deliberate with experience, pulled out his tuning tool and tweaked his instrument, chiming in every once in a measure with a tap or two. Then, suddenly with one loud bang he signaled the end of the performance; and the group was visibly pleased with the session, as was I.
I hope to see them again, and maybe then I'll ask to join in (I'm no pro, but I can keep up), or maybe I'll just bring a sixer to share with them and sit and listen. Either way, I definitely appreciate some tunes on Welton St., one of the hippest places in the country to hear jazz back in the day, it is sadly silent these days...safe for a few drum circles on a sunny afternoon.