Tommy Igoe leads with his sticks at Thursday’s Jazz at Vail Square performance | VailDaily.com
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Tommy Igoe leads with his sticks at Thursday’s Jazz at Vail Square performance

Legendary jazz drummer Tommy Igoe fronts the Tommy Igoe Sextet for a performance tonight in Vail's summer jazz series. The show is in Lionshead.
Rob Shanahan/tommyigoe.com |

If You Go

  • What: Jazz @ Vail Square with Tommy Igoe Sextet
  • When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday
  • Where: Covered jazz tent at The Arrabelle in Lionshead
  • Cost: Preferred seats are $20 in advance, $25 day of show and general admission is free on a first-come basis.
  • Information: Go to vailjazz.org
  • target="_blank">vailjazz.org

Legends beget legends, which explains why Tommy Igoe is one of the world’s great drummers.

His father, Sonny Igoe, was a legendary jazz drummer before him, and Tommy is a product of both nurture and nature. Tommy was all of 2 years old when he started drumming.

“He had to be dragged away from the drums,” Sonny said before he died last year.

Sonny didn’t drag him far. Tommy spent the better part of two decades studying classical and jazz piano.

“I have a love-hate relationship with the piano because I love to hate it so much,” Tommy said. “Ha ha! No really, I love the piano. Studying the piano has made me a much better drummer. I studied all the instruments, and it has all helped me on the drum set.”

‘In my blood’

Musical mentoring also helps.

“My father was one of the most respected drum teachers of any era, so I think it’s in my blood,” Tommy said.

Tommy won about every junior and senior high school drumming award on the East Coast and went on to tour with the Glenn Miller Band when he was just 18.

Not long after he joined Blood, Sweat and Tears as their touring drummer. Other great bands followed: New York Voices, Stanley Jordan, Art Garfunkel, Dave Grusin and others. He helped create the drumset book for The Lion King on Broadway, integrating the modern drumset with traditional African percussion.

He’s still young, but Tommy has been at this for three decades.

And that brings us to The Birdland Big Band, the regular band at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club in New York City. It’s popular. Tickets are more rare than congressional ethics.

“The reaction to this band has been overwhelming,” Tommy said. “The fans are blown away and they can’t get enough.”

Big band sound

Unlike most drummers, Tommy is out front of the Birdland Big Band. He’ll also be out front for tonight’s gig in Lionshead, fronting a six-piece band — a small-ish band with a big band sound. It’ll be Igoe on drums, Phil Palombi on bass, Matthew Aaron Jodrell on trumpet, Allen Farnham on piano, Nathan Childers on alto saxophone and Rolando Morales Matos on percussion.

“The small group together has been an answer to the big band,” Tommy said. “The big band got so much attention, but it was hard to move around with so many people.”

He says he the sextet creates the same kind of energy as the big band.

“It follows the same artistic DNA as the big band. It’s much more than just a jazz event; it’s a music event with music from all over the world,” Tommy said.

Like his father before him, he spends part of his life educating young, up-and-coming drummers.

“I’ve invested a lot of my time and energy into the education field,” he said.

His educational DVDs answer the obvious questions, “How do you do that and not get tired? How do you not hurt yourself?”

As an answer, Tommy created Groove Essentials and Great Hands for a Lifetime. Groove Essentials is now required method work at many universities. Great Hands helps build a strong technical foundation for a drummer’s hands and is the drum world’s number one selling educational product.

“I’ve found a way to put it in one word: relax. If you relax, you can do anything. Really, anything,” Tommy said. “You’ll never hear any music teacher say ‘OK students, get ready … get as tense as you can be.’ In any activity — especially anything physical — the secret is relaxing.”

It’s a lifetime lesson. He learned it from his father.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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