Friday, February 23, 2007

Bang the drum slowly

Percussionist will offer four-week world beat workshop

Express Staff Writer

Russ Caldwell, on congas, plays with Jaimie Valle, on guitar, Alan Phillips, drummer, and Bill Andrews on bass, at Tutto Mare in La Jolla, Calif. Courtesy Photo.

Making music, teaching music and sharing music could be Russ Caldwell's mantra. The newly minted Hailey resident—he moved from San Diego in July 2006—has already been playing with notables such as Joe Fos, Paul Tillotson, and Jeff Rew, around the valley and in Twin Falls.

On Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 6:40 to 8 p.m., he will be offering a free Latin/Afro Cuban Percussion Workshop at Notes Music store in Hailey. The workshop will continue over the course of the following four Tuesdays. The workshops—for anyone age 9 and older—will also be taught by Kurt Schmiege, who founded the African drumming group called Valley of the Suns Drumworks.

"The workshop will be very hands on," Caldwell said. "People can bring their own drums, or hand percussion instruments, and there will be a lot there to use. The most important thing is that people get what they want. It'll be informal."

No experience is required for the workshop. Caldwell said there will be some discussion of the history of rhythm from Africa to Cuba and beyond as well as "insight into instruments and the array of sounds you can get out of drums."

Caldwell's career, before moving to Idaho, was long and varied. He is a San Francisco native, but lived in San Diego most of his adult life. With his band Conalma, he was a regular performer at Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar, a landmark in San Diego's historic Gaslamp Quarter. He also played percussion with musicians such as Dave Hoffman, Ray Charles's longtime trumpeter, session work and movie scores including "Liquid Stage: The Lure of Surfing," for which he won three Emmy awards and a Cine Golden Eagle.

Along the way, Caldwell also kept busy teaching kids the art of percussion in elementary schools.

His move to the Wood River Valley was not entirely without foresight. Caldwell first came to Sun Valley when he was 15 years old and lived in Eugene, Ore. He and his partner, Leslie, are self-described "outdoor-oriented" people. And they had spent time at a friend's ranch near Mountain Home.

Another connection was more of a surprise. Caldwell met pianist Joe Fos in San Diego in 1965.

"He was just blowing everyone away," he said. "I met Jeff Rew shortly after that."

As they have for years, Fos and Rew still play together nightly at the Duchin Lounge in Sun Valley.

"Last time I saw Jeff was '69," Caldwell said. "We played some jazz gigs together. When I walked into the Duchin Room, when we moved, he stood up and yelled, 'Do you have your drums with you?'"

Since then, Caldwell has sat in with the Joe Fos Trio a number of times at the Duchin. He also played with Paul Tillotson, Alan Pennay and others at the Jazz at Warm Springs series held last summer, as well as private parties and at the Sun Valley Swing 'n' Dixie Jazz Jamboree.

Caldwell also offers private and group lessons.

In his "spare time," Caldwell is working on producing instructional DVDs in percussion and building an underwater TV camera.

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