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Hot! Dave Hanlon

Dave Hanlon is a drummer/percussionist based in Syracuse, New York (USA). A consummate and exceptionally gifted professional, Dave is comfortable with most any style of music and has been a featured performer on several episodes of Studio Jams. He also took a few minutes to share a little of his background with us. As you will see, we have also included a short video, where he breaks into a terrific solo about two minutes into the clip. Enjoy.

How would you describe the original music scene in Central New York? What about the jazz scene in particular?

The original music scene in CNY is vibrant for all styles of music. Many groups are performing and recording original music on independent labels. It’s always difficult to play only originals in clubs, since audiences typically respond better to familiar music. The jazz scene is unique in that we have a 24-hr Jazz radio station, 2 major Jazz Concerts, a few minor Jazz concerts, and live jazz in clubs many nights of the week. Central New York has always been a hotbed of talented musicians & great bands.

You have a long and storied career, Dave. Can you give us a brief historical look into your background?

I  began playing at 14 years old…spent 3 hours+/day practicing during my 4 years in high school. I began playing with local groups within a few months of getting my drums. I paid for them weekly at the music store, with money I made from my paper route! I studied with Dick Howard in Auburn NY, while I attended the ACC junior college, then transferred to Eastern Michigan University, and soon played in groups in Detroit and Ann Arbor. Upon graduation, I returned to Syracuse and began playing with Rick Cua and Larry Arlotta – 6 nights/week for 2 years at the same club! In 1971, we formed a rock band “Dove,” regionally very popular – but the band lacked original music to move forward, lasted 3 years.

In  1973, I began studying in NYC with Norman Grossmann at the Professional Drum Shop. At that time, I really wanted to improve reading and  network. In 1975, I went to Los Angeles and started playing in a band within a few weeks. One of my career highlights occurred when I was invited by Louis Bellson to set my drums up, and join him at his drum clinic at Dick Grove School Of Music in LA. Louis brought me to the Tonight Show when he played the gig, to watch their rehearsals and taping. Louis was an incredible inspiration to me, both musically and personally.

In 1976, I  returned to Syracuse and formed my first band as leader. It was a Jazz Fusion group – “Dave Hanlon’s Funky Jazz Band.” We held a weekend club date for two years playing instrumental music! I then joined the band C.R.A.C. We played NYC many times at Mikells, but unfortunately could not land a record deal. In 1978 I joined Duke Jupiter in Rochester, NY and recorded their 2nd and 3rd albums on Mercury records. We toured extensively. But I wanted to play other styles of music, and in 1981, I returned to Syracuse, and formed my band “Dave Hanlon’s Cookbook.” Thirty one years later, Cookbook is still playing clubs, concerts and private events. It’s been a steady gig!

With few personnel changes, Cookbook still has two original members. We have recorded 3 CDs, having won a SAMMY award for each the last two. Cookbook is an R&B group, and has opened for many internationally known artists through the years. I have also been playing with Charlie Bertini’s Apple Jazz Band. We perform a concert annually for the last 29 years, with many cats from Orlando, FL and Syracuse, NY.

What are the SAMMY Awards, and how are you connected with them?

SAMMY stands for Syracuse Area Music awards. It has been in existence for over 15 years. I have had the pleasure of performing at some of these shows. They are annual awards are given to musicians/groups within a 60 mile radius of Syracuse, based on released CDs within the last year. They are by categories, and they also include Hall Of Fame & Lifetime Achievement awards. Cookbook has received 3 awards, Ava Andrews one, and I have received the Hall Of Fame Award.

Who were some of your early musical influences?

Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson, Joe Morello, Tony Williams and Billy Cobham.

What, in your opinion, are some of the keys to being a successful and effective studio musician? Any tips on how to best gain studio experience?

Be on time, straight and prepared musically. Be confident, but not cocky. Make sure your gear is in good working order. Have a positive attitude, and be a good listener – not only to the music, but also to the artist’s and engineer’s ideas with an open mind. Leave your ego at the door. Nail the music ASAP! To gain experience, seek out musicians who want to record, and get to know the personnel at studios. Always network! And obviously, have yourself musically prepared for whatever studio setting you find yourself in.

Who are some of the folks you have enjoyed working with in the studio over the years?

Musicians include Rick Cua, Larry Arlotta, Mark Doyle, Joe Jewell, Paulie Cerra, Ava Andrews, Loren Barrigar…the bands of C.R.A. C., Dove, Duke Jupiter, Cookbook, Apple Jazz Band…and Glen Kolotkin, Steve Katz, Tom Emmi, and Charlie Bertini, as producers.

Can you share details on one of your more memorable studio experiences? What made it so special?

Working with Glen Kolotkin on Duke Jupiter’s “Taste The Night.” This was my first National recording and he was great to work with. He encouraged me to play my drums with energy, and stretch out and do all kinds of percussion overdub. Major label…major budget…and a very experienced Producer.

As the drummer, what is typically your role in a recording session?

To make the songs groove. When recording Cookbook, I’ve also been Producer, and have spent much time with the band rehearsing and playing material. It then takes on a totally different flavor, and I can be somewhat freer to experiment with ideas…both instrumentally and vocally.

How do you approach an upcoming session as a “hired gun” by say, an independent singer/songwriter who wants to record some of his original songs?

Be open to any and all suggestions, no matter how simple, or complicated, the part. If possible, listen to as much of their music beforehand. Know your role. Execute and play for the song.

What recording approach do you prefer when recording your snare drum in the studio (type and placement of microphones, etc.)?

I always leave that to the engineer who knows better than me.

I believe you were Jon Fishman’s (of Phish) drum teacher. How was he as a student?

Jon Fishman came to me when he was 13 years old. He had just spent the summer being a “dead head,” following the Grateful Dead around the Country! He always came prepared, wanted to learn, and had a mission to play drums. When I received my SAMMY Hall of Fame Award, he was there to give it to me, and had his instruction sheet with him, from his 1st lesson with me! I couldn’t believe it. What a thrill.

Any practice tips for young drummers?

Today there are a wealth of drum books, drum videos, and good teachers available to students. I suggest they find the right teacher and learn all styles. Learn to read, and practice as much as they can. Shoot for the 10,000 hour barometer! Additionally, they need to play with other musicians as often as possible. They should record themselves, and evaluate. They need to listen to all the cats that came before them to understand the depth and origins of different styles, and those who are doing it now on record. I think they should also learn some Piano.

How can folks go to learn more about you?

My web site is www.davehanlonscookbook.com

Now that you have been featured on Studio Jams, how would you best describe your experience appearing on the program?

It was totally cool! Playing with world class musicians who you have never met or played with, in a setting of a recording studio environment…with camera crews…all added to a fun “pressure” to play well and be focused on the music and conversation of what we were going to play! Everyone was relaxed, in great spirits, and the ideas and music flowed. It was a magical day…probably one of my most unique musical experiences. Musically, I had to be right on the money, and not look scared, because not only was the music being recorded, but simultaneously we all were was being filmed! I loved it. I hope I have the opportunity to do it again.


“I am a huge fan of this show. I have been a musician all my life, but nothing like the artists you feature on this show. All of these artists are the best in the business and an inspiration to all of us to strive to do more. I love the show. Keep up the good work.”

— D.K.