Drummer Von Barlow is a man for all seasons. His playing is always musically captivating; encapsulating the nuances of the drum set that has always embodied his spirit. His mastery of playing the drums as a refined musical instrument goes far beyond percussion. Standing tall with a powerful presence, he plays the instrument as if it were a metaphor for life. At times his creative improvisations and boundless energy prevails, while at other times his gentle massaging of the drums skins exudes sensitivity, making his drums sing notes as well as percussive tones. Barlow is one of a few top drummers who treat the drum as a melodic musical instrument, making the traps sing with sweet vibrations.
Barlow’s skill behind the drum set has allowed him to travel the world and play with many of jazz’s prestigious elite. He has performed at Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater in New York City, as well as at the famed Woodstock festival in 1969. He has played in Morocco, France, Spain and Italy to name just a few geographical locales that have been privileged to taste this virtuoso drummer’s offerings. More recently, Barlow has performed at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival several times and played in The Great American Jazz Piano Competition rhythm section four times, including the first year when Marcus Roberts and Harry Connick Jr. were finalists.
He has played and recorded with such luminaries as Lou Rawls, Ray Charles, Etta James, Buddy DeFranco, Marcus Roberts, Harry Connick Jr., Della Reese, Mose Allison, Roy Ayers, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Ray Brown, Barney Kessel, Les McCann, Arthur Prysock, Della Reese and Marcus Roberts among many others. Many might remember him as the nautical-capped rhythmic force playing with bassist Ben Tucker at Hannah’s in historic Savannah.
And don’t for a minute think that his colossal talent is not appreciated. Barlow, 68, spends much of his time playing for people a third his age, virtual tots to whom an extensive résumé merely synopsizes his 40-year career. Most of his band mates weren’t yet born when Leonard Feather — among the first to chronicle the roaring, swinging dance band era — dubbed Barlow one of the rising young jazz drummers of the 1960s.
Barlow has just recently been inducted into the Jacksonville Music Hall of Fame.
If Gene Krupa had been granted a measure of immortality, and had lived to assimilate the styles that emerged after his own peak in the 1950s, he would probably sound a lot like Barlow sounds today.
The concert will take place at Four Points by Sheraton Historic Savannah on Oct. 21 at 5 p.m. The concert is free for Coastal Jazz Association members and $10 for non-members. Attendees who join CJA while at the concert will also be admitted for free.
For more information call (912) 675-5419 or go to www.coastal-jazz.org.