Last month we lost a legendary jazz drummer and musician, a “hep cat” named Mr. Gene Stone. He recorded and played with many greats such as The Don Randi Trio, Claire Fischer, Don Ellis and the Prince Lashea Quintet.
I first met Gene Stone in the early ‘80s when he arrived at our home for my dad’s weekly Monday night jazz jam session. I was around 10 years old at the time and remember all kinds of amazing “cats” coming to the house. My father, Daniel, always referred to him as “Gene The Machine” because he knew every tune in the “Real Book” and was a true master drummer.
As an early Freddie Gruber student, his time, execution, dynamics, technique and style were unmatched. As I watched Gene play, I would focus on his technique and how effortlessly he moved around the kit. Gene would refer to his hands and feet as “universal joints.”
Building your “universal joints” is how every drum lesson would begin–with a drum pad, several books and a metronome. After an hour, Gene would say, “Now go play drums and forget everything we just did.”
He watched me play for a bit and would then bring me back to the drum pad. He’d graciously spend an extra hour of his time for no extra charge. He loved playing drums, talking about drums, listening to records and telling the most amazing stories, and at the same time he was humble as pie.
Gene would always want to know where I was playing and he would show up in a Frank Sinatra kind-of-way. He would cruise in under the radar (and was always on the guest list), watch my entire set and afterwards say, “Sounds great man, keep doing what you’re doing and everything will work out.”
If I ever called to cancel a lesson with the, “I haven’t had a chance to practice much this week” excuse, his reply was always, “After an hour with me, man, you’re going to be a much better drummer, so it doesn’t matter.”
Gene dedicated his entire life to the art of drumming. He loved his family, friends, students and animals–especially cats. I will leave you with one of my favorite stories about my great friend Gene Stone: When I was in high school, somehow a kitten got stuck under my house. After finally pulling this little tiger out, I immediately thought of Gene. When he showed up at my house for the next drum lesson, I showed him the tiny kitten and he wanted him right away.
I asked, “Hey Gene, what are you going to name him?”
His answer, “BUDDY!”