Interview: Lee Hauser, drummer in Young Sounds of Arizona
By Patricia Myers
Lee Hauser, a recent graduate of Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, who has been playing drums since the fifth grade, will be pursuing university jazz studies for his lifetime profession. Lee, 18, started out playing drums for rock and funk music, then learned about jazz in a high school band. “I had a huge rock drum-kit with lots of toms. For jazz, I’m definitely about smaller, a traveling kit, and I took one of those toms and made it into a bass drum.”
As a member of Young Sounds of Arizona, Lee will perform in the 7:00 Band and 6:00 Combo on Monday, June 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the concert hall of the Museum Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix 85050, 480-478-6000, mim.org; tickets are $17.50, $12.50 for students.
Lee started drum lessons at Desert Canyon Elementary School and played in the concert band. “I remember being easily able to feel the beat, and I’ve been told that I have really good time. I was really physical as a kid, so I liked having to move around.” He then had seven years of private lessons with Phoenix drummer Cleve Huff.
Now he’s teaching, too. “I put an ad on Craig’s List and have a far-reaching age group, from age 44 to 6. Teaching supplements my income so I can sustain myself. It’s good money, and rewarding to make the students excited about playing drums. I don’t want to do anything else.”
Lee liked playing drums, and when he entered high school, he joined the marching band. Jazz became a new element in his life after his high school music teacher, Michele Irvin, suggested he join the jazz band, and later suggested that he try out for Young Sounds.
Although he liked marching band, Lee soon found he enjoyed playing jazz more, so he left that activity in his sophomore year. “Before, I really didn’t know what jazz was, just a vague outline. I wasn’t really interested and I hadn’t investigated it. I just knew ‘show jazz’ like Sinatra and Dean Martin. I was more into playing funk and rock.” He said his father influenced his first interest in music. “He played guitar when he was young, and he was always playing music in the car, Van Halen, ’70s and ’80s rock.”
With Huff, Lee began to develop his style of playing drums. “I credit my use of the ride cymbal, my looseness and my relaxed playing style to Cleve’s Elvin Jones influence. Cleve is a great musician.”
Then he began to study with local drummer Dom Moio. “Dom exposed me to the Alan Dawson method, the syncopation book and a different style of practicing and playing. Dom is one of foremost Caucasian educators in Latin percussion. He’s like a dictionary, and he took my Latin playing to the next level, too. Dom showed me more, and of my main guys lately, Max Roach is definitely a big one, and Shelly Manne right now is a huge influence, really far-reaching.
Lee credits his new focus for listening to recordings to Phoenix bassist Will Goble. “I had some lessons with him about what to listen to, from Baby Dodds in the 1920s New Orleans to Philly Joe Jones and Kenny Clarke. I credit Will for my knowledge of the lineage of drummers, and how it evolved into swing. Cleve and Dom did a really good job teaching me to read and the technical aspect. They gave me the pieces, the tools.”
Lee said being in Young Sounds was the next level for him. “It’s a higher level of musicianship; they keep their standards, no matter how big or small (the bands), so the quality control is pretty good. Being in Young Sounds helps you get better by playing with people at an elevated level. We were reading new charts, easily 30 charts a semester, and we sight-read at every single rehearsal, that’s always pushing us, not letting us slack off. That’s definitely helped me as a musician.”
Lee plans to enroll in the jazz studies-performance element of Portland State University in Oregon in the fall. “I’ve lived here all my life, and it was not an easy choice, because ASU definitely has a world-class jazz faculty. It was more a question of the city to live in.”
FootNote: Young Sounds of Arizona was created in 1971 by the Phoenix Musicians Union, Local 586 AFM, which has continuously sponsored the youth bands. The union also presents local musicians in free concerts on the first Tuesday of each month, open to the public in the comfortably cozy Musicians Hall, 1202 E. Oak St., Phoenix 85006, info 602-254-8838.