Play it as you hear it

The Trio of Oz jazz band plans to really mix it up in Herzliya this week.

Play it as you hear it (photo credit: Courtesy)
Play it as you hear it
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Omar Hakim takes the all- comers approach to music. The 54-year-old New York- born drummer will be here next Friday with his Trio of Oz band of pianist Rachel Z and bassist Luques Curtis for a concert at the Zappa Club in Herzliya. When Hakim talks about “the music,” he isn’t just referring to the jazz- oriented avenue of expression he will employ at his show. Over his four-plus decade career, he has delved into many areas and has chalked up gigs and recording sessions with the likes of jazz great Miles Davis, jazz-fusion band Weather Report and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. He has also kept time for Sting and David Bowie.
Wayne Shorter, one of the main components of Weather Report, was one of the titans of the discipline who featured in the earlier part of Hakim’s career. “I did a bunch of touring with Wayne [along with Hancock and bass player Stanley Clarke] in the mid-1980s. I have been fortunate to play with some wonderful musicians,” notes Hakim.
Collaborating with established stars a generation or so older than him has allowed Hakim to feed off the energies and mindset of players who mixed it with some of the founding fathers of modern jazz, while also getting into more contemporary sounds. In fact, Hakim benefited from a direct link to earlier musical sensibilities from a very young age.
“I fell in love with the music very early on. I grew up in a musical house,” he explains. “My dad was a professional trombone player, and my first gig was with him at age 10. He’d say, ‘Do your homework and come to rehearsal.’ It was pretty wild. I started playing when I was six. I started with one drum, and then my dad would keep adding pieces.”
Hakim also got some valuable assistance from a couple of old pros, Walter Perkins and Clyde Lucas. “Clyde helped me a lot with my technique, but while I was playing with my dad and studying with Clyde, I was also playing the music of my peers. The music back then was The Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown and all the Motown stuff.”
The late 1960s to early ’70s also saw the advent of jazz fusion, as the likes of Miles Davis sought to blend jazz with some of the energies and textures of rock and other genres. With his expansive musical upbringing, Hakim gravitated to the hybrid genre and fed off the endeavor of the leading fusion drummers.
“There were guys like Tony Williams and Billy Cobham and Lenny White. It was a great time, and also radio in America back then wasn’t so segregated, so you’d hear an eclectic mix of music on just a single station. That’s very different from these days, and it was an exciting time in music,” he says.
At home, Hakim got a good handle on the work of the older jazz masters. “My parents would be playing records by people like ‘drummer’ Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Clifford Brown and Max Roach,” he notes. “I grew up listening to all this music and loving all the things that came out of that [earlier] era, too.”
That included some of the masters on Hakim’s chosen instrument. “Besides Max [Roach] there were Elvin Jones, Buddy Rich and Philly Joe Jones. I was like a sponge just soaking up everything I heard,” he says.
Hakim’s willingness to delve into genres far and wide was also spurred by basic economics. “There was so much competition in New York if you wanted to make it as a musician, particularly as a drummer. I decided pretty early on that I was never going to say no to a gig if they called, I was just going to say yes and figure it out later.”
Hakim recalls one such incident. “One day a Jamaican guy called and said he was looking for a reggae drummer and asked me if that was something I could do. I immediately said, ‘Yes, I can do that.’ I knew nothing about reggae at the time.”
He quickly did his homework. “I went running down to a record store and bought a Bob Marley record and some other stuff, and I had about a week to get my act together.”
But Hakim soon felt that his approach was a bit too clinical and that there was nothing like the real thing. “While I was listening to those records, I realized there was a piece missing in what I was doing, so I ventured out to a reggae club and the DJ had the music blaring and people were dancing. I think that was the night I actually understood the spirit of the music. I think that shows you that learning the music is getting into the culture of the thing, not just the technicalities. You need to live the language of the music, too. I had a teacher who once told me, ‘Some things can’t be taught, they must be caught.’ That is exactly right,” he says.
Hakim is coming here with a couple of like-minded cohorts, particularly his pianist. Hakim and Rachel Z met 20 years ago but got much closer four years ago when Z needed a drummer for a recording session. It was a fortuitous turn of events on more than one level. They quickly found a common musical language and got married a year later.
“We’re very fortunate to work together,” says Hakim. “We work well together; it can be hard on a relationship when one of the partners is constantly away touring. Rachel and I are together on the road and off.”
The couple will be joined here by young bass player Luques Curtis. “Rachel actually taught him at a workshop a while ago and was very impressed with him. Luques is a really good bass player. I think the audience in Israel will enjoy what he does,” says Hakim, adding that they will be offering a wide range of musical goodies. “We reference jazz but also rock music and other things. That keeps it interesting for us. We connect everything we know about music into this experience.”
The Trio of Oz will play at the Zappa Club in Herzliya on April 1. Doors open at 6 p.m., show starts at 7:15 p.m. For tickets and more information: (03) 762-6666, *9080 and