Drummer Terry Silverlight Brings In Some Friends for New “Duets” Album

New York City - Although Terry Silverlight is a drummer first and foremost, he is really a renaissance man; a jazz, fusion, pop, rock and R&B drummer, composer, producer, arranger, author and educator, who most recently released his tenth solo album of original material titled Duets. Released in 2014, Duets features within each track, Silverlight drumming along with a different guest musician and instrument including world-renowned band leader Paul Shaffer and session bassist Will Lee, among several others.


Article Joe Milliken * Photos courtesy of Terry Silverlight

Born and raised in New Jersey, Terry made his drumming debut with a bang - at the tender age of 14 - when he performed on the critically acclaimed, landmark jazz-fusion White Heat album by pianist Barry Miles. “That recording was one of the true highlights of my life,” Silverlight once told this writer in a 2007 interview. “I was 14 and recording this highly innovative music with the fresh, new talents of Pat Martino, John Abercrombie, Lew Tabackin, Warren Smith and Victor Gaskin. I can remember that the drumming was so physically taxing that I was only capable of surviving at the most, two takes per song. Consequently, the entire album was recorded in just six hours.”

The young Silverlight would go on to drum on several more Barry Miles releases throughout the 70’s, (recording alongside such fantastic artists as Al Di Meola, Vic Juris and Eddie Gomez) and after attending Princeton University, moved to New York City to pursue what has now evolved into a stellar and prolific studio session career. The diverse list of artists Terry has recorded and performed with include the aforementioned Paul Shaffer and Will Lee, George Benson, Stephen Stills, Laura Nyro, Todd Rundgren, Edgar Winter, Bill Evans, Natalie Merchant, Phil Woods, Roberta Flack, Billy Ocean, Mel Torme, Tom Jones, Jeffrey Osbourne, Freddie Jackson, Anne Murray, Stephanie Mills, Odyssey and Jonathan Butler to name but a few.

More of Silverlight’s endeavors over the years have included the writing of the drum instructional books titled The Featured Drummer, The Stick Bag of Jazz, Funk Fusion and Gig Bag Series for Drummers: Rhythm & Percussion, several television credits including The Sopranos, Beverly Hills 90210, CSI, Melrose Place, All My Children and Jag, and film credits for Invincible (Mark Wahlburg),Head Over Heels (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and Marci X (Lisa Kudrow). As an educator, Terry taught drums at the Drummers Collective (DCI) in Manhattan (1981-85) and has appeared at several clinics including PASIC (Percussive Arts Society), Brooklyn College and Sam Ash.

As for his many endeavors as a solo artist, The Terry Silverlight Band has performed in such premiere Manhattan venues as Birdland, The Cutting Room, Jazz Forum Arts, The Bitter End and the Bronxnet TV Studio and he has recorded ten solo albums including four albums in the pop music genre, (Songwriter Producer: Volumes I & II, Collaborations: Volumes I & II, Music To Picture and Chill Out) and six in the jazz genre including Terry Silverlight, Wild!!, Diamond in the Riff, Live! and In Concert.

This brings us to Terry’s latest release titled Duets, his first solo album since 2011’s In Concert and self-recorded, mixed and produced, with a little help from his friends, of course. “I was thinking it was time to do another solo album in the jazz direction, but something different than I had done in the past... which were primarily small group projects of four, five or six players,” Terry Silverlight said in a recent, Standing Room Only interview. “Several concepts came to mind, but I went with the duets idea because of the space and focus it might allow, and the challenge it could offer me to find new ways to make some interesting and entertaining music."

The recording process moved fairly quickly as Silverlight already had the material written and mapped out entering the studio, allowing Terry and each guest musician to mostly lay down each track within a couple takes. He also overdubbed some subtle percussion and keyboard parts during the process for color and texture. ”Each song ended up following a different process,” Silverlight said. “One common thread throughout, however, was that no matter if the composition was mine, co-written or a cover, the performances are equal collaborations. What determined the path for each song depended mostly on the instrument I'd be playing with and the style of each composition.”

Terry had visited the duet format in the past, as the first “jamming” he ever encountered at age 12, were duets with the aforementioned Barry Miles on piano. “During that time, Barry wrote the music for his pioneering jazz/fusion album White Heat, drawing some of his ideas from the duet playing we were doing. When I was 14, I played drums on that album, which was my first recording. Three years later, Barry recorded his Barry Miles and Silverlight album, for which I wrote the opening song titled 'Buck Rogers.'”

For his Duets release, Terry revamped “Buck Rogers” which was originally a drum/keyboard duet on Barry's album, but here it's performed with Mike Hall on acoustic, upright bass. “I wanted one song where I could create some ‘walking time’ featuring an acoustic bass, so I thought it would be a challenge to revisit ‘Buck Rogers’ in a different light.”

On his own composition titled “Organic,” Terry brings in old friend and legendary Late Show with David Letterman (and a million other musical credits) music director/band leader Paul Shaffer. “Paul played what I wrote in the head, but for his organ solo, I asked him to play freely… whatever he wanted to do. I'm so delighted he agreed to play on this track because I was looking for someone who would approach the traditional organ/drum setting differently, and Paul definitely took it to an unexpected place.”

For the track “Deep Pockets,” Silverlight brought in another old friend and Late Show with Letterman band member, bassist Will Lee. “Will and I wrote that one together and as with Paul, he took the song someplace I hadn’t expected; yet his part works perfectly with mine... I can always count on Will for his ‘deep pocket,’ while also giving it an original stamp. As for "Break Away", another one I wrote myself, I presented vocalist Tabitha Fair the track with me singing the demo. As always, she has an uncanny ability to understand the essence of my demo vocal, maintain the feel and nuances of my version and then take it to a whole other level which also makes it her own!”

In another Silverlight composition titled “Peace to the World,” pianist Tom Jennings added his own interpretation of the song, which was recorded in a church where Jennings resides as music director, while “The Professor,” was co-written with trumpeter Vinnie Cutro. “I had been planning on inviting Vinnie to one of my projects at some point, and I’m glad I did for this one. He played exactly what I had been hoping for.”

“Lang Hang” was co-written with Morris "Arnie" Lang, percussionist with the New York Philharmonic from 1955 to 1995. “Arnie plays timpani, concert bass drum, triangles and bongos on this track. I wanted something different and I sure got it! I studied briefly with Arnie when I was a teenager and it is truly an honor to have him join me for this song.”

For another track titled “Songbirds”, Terry puts the birds in his backyard to work. “To my knowledge, only humans can join a performing rights collection agency, establish their own publishing company and join the union! Though I take credit for composing this song, the fact is that it’s a co-write with the birds. It’s a recording of the birds in my yard as they performed it, before I wrote a synth part around them and improvised the drums. I hope I did it justice, because what they created is as natural as it gets!”

Other collaborations include “Conversation” with saxophonist (and Late Show with Letterman band member since 2012) Aaron Heick, “Inner Voice” with guitarist Jeff Ciampa, “What is This Thing Called Love” (a Cole Porter composition) with jazz guitarist John Hart and “Loved Ones” with sax-great David Mann. “David's coloring, shading and mastery at stringing the chords together… and the sound he gets from his instrument… are beautiful.

Terry also hopes for the opportunity to showcase songs from Duets in an upcoming performance. “I'm planning on doing something in Manhattan, perhaps this October. Ideally, I'd like to follow the format of this album by inviting a different guest artist up for each song… just the two of us. However, it may be more feasible to have a set rhythm section throughout and invite soloists from there.

“There were many musical surprises and paths taken throughout the process of recording,” Silverlight concluded. “That’s exactly what the concept and intention of the album was from the beginning and as for particular stories to tell, I hope the musical ones are evident when listening.”

To learn more about the busy musical world of Terry Silverlight – drummer, composer, producer, arranger, author and educator – or to purchase his new solo album Duets, visit his website at www.terrysilverlight.com.