Tullio de Piscopo: Medium Rock
From Suonando La Batteria Moderna (Vedette, 1974)
I’ve said this before but I’m not the most ardent collector of drum breaks since, if you’re not producing, it’s hard to get all that excited over a one-bar break no matter how dope it sounds once you put it through an SP or MPC. Despite that qualifier, I’m still a sucker for a good beat though and that probably explains why I spent somewhere in the ballpark of 10 or so years trying to track down an “affordable” (and I use the term loosely) copy of this Tullio De Piscopo album after first hearing Egon play it at some long-forgotten party in the Bay Area from the early ’00s.
The “Tullio LP” (he has many but everyone knows which one you mean) just looks like it’s bad ass – the cover art could just be a red herring but the album delivers on the promise for the most part. It’s not pure funk drummage the whole way through – this is an instructional album after all so there’s a variety of styles, especially two samba cuts and a host of other Latin-flavored rhythms alongside “Medium Rock” (boring name, ridiculous cut), and “Rocking Special” (the other funky cut), plus “Drum Fantasy” which doesn’t sound so much instructional as it does inspirational.
Piscopo, who seems to have been a major Italian drummer in the ’70s and ’80s, includes notations for his tracks though I don’t know how actually useful they would be to a beginning drummer. I mean, I have a basic knowledge on how to read music but I don’t know if I could easily figure out how to replicate “Dodiciottavi” based on what they have there. However, the album (a gatefold) also comes with a cool history of jazz drumming, tracing it back to NOLA (and then offering the same lesson in Italian).
As for “Medium Rock,” the one thing that keeps nagging me is…is there a second musician playing the tambourine and cow bell? Because unless Tulluio has a third arm, I just can’t figure out how they make those elements work in the song (though, there’s the more obvious explanation: over-dubbing). But good gawd, talk about a drum solo to end all others – this is three-plus minutes of pure percussive fire that’s about as good as anything else I can put it up against (including strong competition from library or dance LPs). “Guns Blazing” indeed.
I included “Dodiciottavi” just to demonstrate some of the range of Piscopo’s stylings; it wasn’t all funky-funk stuff. I happen to like the rhythms he’s putting together here, especially his use of what sounds like a timpani(?).