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alumni profile: Adam Deitch '98

Family Traditions

 
  Drummer and producer Adam Deitch

Adam Deitch just might be one of the most open-minded drummers in New York. He embraces bebop, hip-hop, funk, pop, grunge, rock and roll, free jazz, and most any other style in the musical galaxy. At 31 he has already worked with a diverse roster of artists that includes John Scofield '73, Justin Timberlake, 50 Cent, and more.

"I think a lot of my interest in different kinds of music can be traced back to my mother and father, Denise and Bobby," says Deitch. "They're both drummers and were Berklee students in the '70s. They liked all sorts of music." In the Deitch household in Nyack, New York, musicians dropped in to play all the time. Additionally, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and Donnie Hathaway, as well as Herbie Hancock or John Coltrane were constantly played on our stereo. Consequently, Deitch says funk and jazz came to have the same emotional impact on him. Among his young musical peers in Nyack, there were heavy-metal kids and hip-hop kids. He gravitated toward the hip-hop world, and that style has remained a staple of his musical diet.

Carrying on the family tradition, Deitch enrolled at Berklee after high school. "When I got to Berklee, I was suddenly surrounded by a lot of great musicians," Deitch says. "I met some lifelong friends there. Keith Harris '99 [drummer for the Black Eyed Peas] is among them." Deitch cites faculty members Dennis Montgomery III and Dave DiCenso as important figures in his musical development. "Dennis chose me to play drums for the gospel choir," Deitch recalls. "That gave me a lot of confidence. Dave DiCenso helped me when I was having terrible problems with my knee from the way I was playing. He reworked my approach so I'd stop hurting myself. I don't know if I'd be able to play today if not for him."

"Sometimes, it's not what you play but the way you conduct yourself that gets you the best results in this business."  

After Berklee, Deitch got a funky drummer's dream gig playing for the Average White Band (AWB). "That was a tremendous time for me," he says. "I learned a lot, mostly because of a surprise backstage visitor after a gig. Steve Ferrone, the AWB drummer that I replaced, schooled me a bit. He said, 'Listen, kid, you sound great. But you need to play the patterns I set down on these songs. I did what I did on 'School Boy Crush' for a reason. It's the perfect groove.' Normally, I would tell a drummer to get lost if he said something like that to me. But Ferrone was such a hero, I figured he knew what he was talking about. I played his patterns on some of those songs, and they did sound better."

In addition to earning drumming credits, Deitch has been building his résumé with studio credits. He produced a song for 50 Cent's new album, Curtis, and three tracks on rapper Redman's CD Red Gone Wild. He also coproduced a song with Justin Timberlake for the disc Eardrum by Talib Kweli. Deitch also works frequently with John Scofield. According to Deitch, working with Sco is not as as different from playing a session with 50 Cent as one might think. "I've played with him on and off since about 2000," says Deitch, "including playing on a great record called Uberjam that was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. John is open to all sorts of different grooves on his records. If I tell him I want to put in a groove from Public Enemy or some sort of dub thing, it doesn't throw him as long as it's musical on top. He's really into whatever younger people bring to the table."

With all this activity, one wonders when Deitch is going to come out with a solo record. Soon, he thinks. "I've finally got something with just my name on it," he says. "The band is called the Adam Deitch and Friends. The CD will feature everything I love: hip-hop, funk, dub, and jazz." Deitch hopes to release the album by the end of this year.

Deitch's mother, who teaches music in New York's Clarkstown Central School District in Rockland County, says she's not surprised by her son's success. "We exposed him to lots of music in the house when he was a child" says Denise Deitch, "but Adam also had natural talent early on that was undeniable. He was snapping his fingers to the beat when he was nine months old, and he could play drums without much coaching from the time he was two. We just knew he was going to be great."

Deitch's strong, direct personality has also helped him in the high-stakes music world. "I became friends with Wyclef Jean of the Fugees some years ago, and he wanted me to tour with them. He told me, 'You have to come to a rehearsal and pretend to audition for [Fugees singer] Lauryn Hill. It's just a formality; you've already got the gig.' At the audition, Lauryn was giving me a bad vibe. So I said to her, 'Can we go and talk for a second?' She didn't like that, but she followed me. I just looked at her and said, 'Hi, I'm Adam, and I'm going to be going out on tour with you.' It was direct and to the point, and she kind of dug it. Sometimes, it's not what you play but the way you conduct yourself that gets you the best results in this business."