As the title implies, this two-DVD set from Drum Channel features guitarist Gannin Arnold jamming with five of his favorite stickmen: Taylor Hawkins, Jimmy Chamberlin, Simon Phillips, Terry Bozzio, and Gary Novak. With this billing, one might think that 5 World Class Drummers would appeal mainly to drummers. However, any fan of jazz/rock fusion of the Jeff Beck variety should enjoy the five mini-concerts and the preliminary interviews before each performance. And that’s just the first disc.
On disc one, along with Billy Mohler (guitar/bass) and Tim Landers (bass), Arnold fronts studio sessions of three instrumentals driven by each drummer. Each section demonstrates the various chops, styles, and contributions to the shaping of chosen numbers from each percussionist. Before every section, Arnold and the drummer in question briefly discuss their backgrounds and, in several cases, their past work together on other projects. While disc one is not as “instructional” as the packaging maintains, it is interesting to hear each drummer play their own interpretation of one selection, “Not From Here.” Drummers in the audience can watch special overhead and foot pedal edited versions throughout the number to see how all the performers have different takes on the same composition.
Disc two is where the musicians have a chance to engage in more in-depth interviews with Arnold and the drummers, discussing how their craft is as compositional as the melody-makers at the front of the stage. They reflect on the importance of jazz drummers of the past and the lessons they teach about being in sync with piano and bass players. Phillips talks about the usefulness of being able to read music to have mental “maps” of songs. The others, for the most part, emphasize listening to past masters, fellow band members, and finding the feel of a song. There are four bonus tracks as well: “Proto Cosmos,” “Air Blower/Scatter Brain,” “Stratus,” and “True Believers.” Another bonus is a reprise of the five versions of “Not From Here” put back-to-back with Arnold commenting on the different approaches throughout.
Even for non-drummers, there are 19 extended jazz/rock performances that are alone worth the price of admission. For drummers, and other musicians as well, there are plenty of insights and observations to broaden your views on the role of drums—especially smaller kits—in modern music. Your enjoyment, truth be told, will depend on how much you like Arnold, as he’s the one constant throughout.