You are a very "lyrical" drummer that plays with a great deal of impeccable timing and finesse. How would you describe your style of playing and does this have any impact on your compositions? (Bird Bath - A Young original being one of my favorites.)
J.Y. - "Thank you very much for the compliment! I try to work on playing as smooth as possible in order to create a good vibe for the other guys in the band. So I guess you could say that sometimes I write smooth sounding music. But, I can also play very jagged when I want to. It really depends on what the music calls for. "Bird Bath" is a blues utilizing one of Charlie Parker's alternative chord progressions. This is a pretty smooth sounding melody and conveys a feeling of happiness, which was what I was going for. Imagine a few birds just hanging out at the bird bath drinking the water and chilling on a hot summer day. It's also based on a Bird blues so go figure. My style is a work in progress. I still feel like it's constantly evolving. Although I would say it is based in the straight ahead jazz tradition. I've had a lot of great teachers such as Gerald Cleaver, Carl Allen, John Riley and Kenny Washington. These gentlemen have played a big part in my development as well."
Who are some of your favorite drummers and why?
J.Y. - " Wow, I have so many. Let me say that I am always checking out and studying the masters of yesterday and today, and there are so many great ones. I am constantly studying and when you do that you can really hear how the greatest cats playing today are an extension of the ones that came before them. As Dizzy Gillespie once said, "You need to have one foot in the past and one foot in the present." The following drummers are all great and very important to me. Each one has something very special and unique to their sound. Here is a list of some of my favorite drummers. Oh and they all swung their butts off too! ...Billy Higgins, Philly Joe Jones, Art Taylor, Lex Humphries, Kenny Washington, Bill Stewart, Roy Haynes, Brian Blade, Carl Allen, Max Roach, Gerald Cleaver, Jeff Hamilton, Joe Chambers, Jack DeJohnette, Specs Wright, Art Blakey, Billy Drummond and Jimmy Cobb.
Finally...Is swing something that can be taught or something you simply feel?
J.Y. - "Good question. I guess I can answer your question with another question. "Can you teach someone what love is, or is it something you need to feel for yourself?" Now you can describe to someone what it feels like to love. You can break it down to a million little components, describing all the emotions one might feel. You could make a list and provide examples drawing from a million different people. But, until you feel for yourself you never really know do you? The same goes for feeling the beat in this music. I could write out on paper the "jazz swing ride cymbal" pattern. The triplet based shuffle rhythm. I could have a 15 year old kid play it perfectly. But chances are it will have no feeling and no life. One really needs to digest this rhythm, really knowing the "ins" and "outs" on the most subtle level. I remember practising, and still do, along with some of my favorite recordings and hearing the drummers playing technically that same "jazz ride cymbal" pattern, yet they each felt completely different. Each drummer felt the music in their own way, yet swung just as hard. How I feel the beat may be different from how you feel the beat. This is part of the beauty of jazz music. I think Billy Higgins had one of the most beautiful cymbal beats ever. This stuff takes a long time to get. Its not about patterns. You can learn a pattern, but you need to put life into it, and that takes many years. This is why the masters are the masters.