Corrie Dick- A musician who just happens to be a drummer

Corrie Dick is reflecting on his brief spell as a violist at school. His experience isn’t dissimilar to the one often recalled by accordionist Phil Cunningham, who was told by a teacher that he’d never go anywhere with music.

Dick hasn’t yet followed Cunningham’s lead in sending ‘said teacher a postcard from every exotic location he’s visited as a busy world- travelling musician. However, since the twenty-two-year-old drummer from Glasgow has attained the current Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year title and is on his way to a Bmus in jazz at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, his viola teacher might wish to reassess the report that dismissed Dick as “not musical.”

“I remember feeling disheartened at the time,” says Dick. “But I still really enjoyed music.”

Indeed, he moved on swiftly to trumpet, which makes drums the fourth instrument to have captured his attention. Growing up in a musical family – his father plays and teaches piano and both his parents are enthusiastic music listeners – he became interested in music at a very young age. He remembers sitting at the piano on his father’s knee, trying to make tunes up, and was always hearing and liking music of all different stripes, including jazz, at home.

It was while playing trumpet in Jordanhill School Big Band at a West of Scotland Independent Schools music event, aged fifteen, that he came to the realisation that he should concentrate on one style -jazz - but as a drummer. Pete Johnstone, who coincidentally was Dick’s predecessor as Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year, was also playing trumpet, for another school, and when he sat down at the piano during a break, Dick saw an opportunity for fun and joined in on drums, which he’d begun to dabble in when his older brother abandoned his drum kit.

Johnstone’s enthusiasm and apparently effortless ability on piano sent Dick in search of a drum teacher and Berklee School of Music graduate Ryan Ross taught him the basics before drummer and bandleader Stu Brown opened the doors to the whole jazz spectrum.

Playing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra and Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra, where he played trumpet as well as drums, broadened Dick’s experience and as he began to prepare for his studies at Trinity, he was leading his own sextet, with whom he recorded an album of his own compositions, Scenes for Someone, in 2010.

Immediately on his arrival in London, as well as studying with the highly respected New Yorker Gene Calderazzo, Dick immersed himself in the active jazz scene around Trinity, working regularly in a variety of gigs in the time-honoured round of far-flung pubs for less than rich pickings.

“It was great because my generation in Scotland has produced a lot of really talented drummers and while that was inspiring in its own way, it was hard to break into bands that were already well served,” he says. “But when I came to Trinity there weren’t many drummers around and I suddenly had all these opportunities. I was playing at least two or three gigs every week.”

He currently leads his own quartet, with Sam Rapley (tenor saxophone), Matt Robinson (piano) and Connor Chaplin (bass), and septet, with added alto, trumpet and percussion, and works with the song-based ‘alternative improv’ band Blue-Eyed Hawk, with vocalist Lauren Kinsella, trumpeter Laura Jurd and guitarist Alex Roth, whose exciting potential has been noted by influential jazz blog London Jazz News.

“Blue-Eyed Hawk is maybe a little less like jazz than some of the other groups I’ve worked with,” he says. “But I enjoy the broad range of sounds we create. It’s quite expansive and although I play drums in that group and my own bands, I don’t actually see myself as a drummer. One of my main motivations is to move people and let them get lost in a dream for a moment and if there are songs with strong characters in the lyrics, then you can really connect with an audience. But more and more I think of myself as a musician first and a drummer second - or a musician who just happens to play drums.”

From The Herald, October 30, 2013.

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