Reuben Bradley

Reuben Bradley


After arriving in New York during the freezing winter blizzards of 2007, Reuben Bradley, armed with drum sticks and grim (find a better word than ‘grim’) determination, tracked down master drummer Barry Altschul and undertook a series of lessons that would change his musical landscape forever. On his return to New Zealand 6 months later, Reuben set about composing material for his new CD.

In conversation with Reuben

The period you spent in New York was crucial to your musical development. What motivated you to go there? What did you think you and your music needed? What were you specifically looking for in musical and personal terms?

I was at the point in my career where I felt I needed some serious inspiration musically; I was playing a lot of great gigs with creative musicians but I wasn’t completely satisfied. I needed to find a way to get to the next level in my creativity and I wasn’t hearing a direction locally that I found appealing. I have a few friends that live in NY, as well as friends that have studied at various Universities there. I sent over a few audition CDs to some Universities to try and get a place in a Masters Degree programme, which led to an invitation to audition in person. So, off I went, successfully gaining a position on the MMA programme of City College NY, the one and only position that year for a drummer. It was a huge achievement, but due to the expense of doing the course for 2-years I decided against it. However, whilst there I had the opportunity to check out a LOT of music, many big name jazz stars including master drummer Barry Altschul, who I ended up having 6 or 7 life changing lessons with.

Were there any memorable experiences?

Many, but the biggest was when Barry took me to a recording session he did with Anthony Braxton, just the 2 of them, an engineer and me hanging out for 2 days! They hadn’t even seen each other for 20 years let alone record together so the music was very special – I’m still waiting for the album to come out though!

What did you bring back to NZ in musical terms?

Some of the best advice I received from my lessons with Barry was to make the most of the scene in NZ, as the scene in NY is BAD!!! What he meant was, there are so many musicians in NY and not enough gigs - even he only plays in NYC once or twice every 6 months! Not the exact information I was looking for, but what it instilled in me was that in NZ I have a good chance (with hard work and lots of self-promotion) to carve out a creative and successful jazz career. Apart from that, my overall sound palette was broadly widened thanks to the instruction of Barry; now I feel that I have greater control over the huge range of sounds available on the drum kit. I also learnt a lot about transcribing and utilizing the language of harmonic & melodic instruments in the jazz idiom and transferring that melodic phrasing directly onto the drum kit.

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