Without a doubt the most remarkable drummer I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing perform live was the late Art Blakey. I saw him when he was in his 60’s. His band was made up of players mostly in their 20’s (“young lions”, as the jazz media were calling them), but Art was the prime force…the energy, the color, the power, the mood.
Watch the video below to witness Mr. Blakey in action. Notice how free his shoulders are. He never pinches them together or pulls them up toward his ears. He stays nice and wide across the front of his body (which lets his head, neck and back function quite well). His head sits directly above his pelvis, balanced on top of his spine. His hands are soft, but strong and responsive. His arms are well integrated into his back, moving freely and powerfully. Listen to how he never loses his sound at the expense of velocity.
He’s creating tension as he plays, but most of his efforts are going right into the act of making his music. His facial expressions change, but they always seem to represent his emotional expression in the moment. This is a model of intensity without excess strain. Enjoy!