Gregg Bissonette is an accomplished drummer. But he says that isn’t his chosen instrument.
“I used to play metal oboe,” Bissonette says during a phone interview. “But that was years ago.”
A metal oboe?
“I am kidding.”
Bissonette loves to joke it up — when he called for the interview, he asked, “I’m not cutting into Beyonce’s time, am I?” But he is a serious musician, adaptable to all sorts of music stylings, especially rock and jazz. For five years Bissonette toured with Ringo Star and his All-Starr Band, and was a member of the lineup in its eight-show run at Planet Hollywood a year ago.
Bissonette has also backed David Lee Roth, Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana (on Santana’s wildly successful “Supernatural” album), Toto, Electric Light Orchestra, the Bee Gees and jazz trumpet master Maynard Ferguson’s band.
At 3 pm. Sunday, Bissonette sits down in at Ham Hall on the UNLV campus to perform with UNLV Jazz Ensemble I. The ensemble is directed by column fave and the school’s jazz studies program head Dave Loeb, and Nathan Tanouye of Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns and Celine Dion’s orchestra. Included will be selections made known by the great drummer Buddy Rich.
From there, Assistant Professor of Music and DownBeat Magazine readers poll winner Adam Schroeder will be featured on an original student composition by Jorge Machain. Student pianist Patrick Hogan will perform Bill Cunliffe’s Grammy Award-winning arrangement of “West Side Story” in a tribute to Leonard Bernstein.
Hogan, a massively talented artist, is a member of the UNLV Honors Trio that recently performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival after winning the College Combo Division at the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival in the spring, competing among the top university groups in the nation. (Tickets to Sunday’s the show are $10, general admission, $8 for seniors and military with ID. CCSD and UNLV students are free with ID. Tickets are available through the PAC Box office at 702-895-2787 or through box office website.)
Much of Sunday’s program is dedicated to Rich. Bissonette, similar to most professional drummers, is a big fan of Rich’s.
“My dad was a drummer, mom mom played vibraphone and they were both really into Buddy Rich,” Bissonette says. “I was on the same bill with him in the old days, maybe 15 times with Maynard Ferguson’s band.”
Bissonette met Rich, eventually, though not in the forum you might expect.
“When I was with the David Lee Roth band, Buddy’s daughter was a big David Lee Roth fan, and she introduced me to him,” Bissonette says. “Buddy probably had no idea who David Lee Roth was, but that was the connection there.”
Of Loeb, Bissonette says, “I’ve known Dave and been a fan of his for years and he’s a great jazz educator.” Bissonette was enlisted to play UNLV by drumming proponent and benefactor Thomas Bridge, who is an important source of artistic and financial support for the jazz studies program.
Bissonette’s appearance is also made possible by myriad support outlets. The drummer is a one-man music convention, backed by Dixon drums, Sabian cymbals, Remo drum heads, Vic Firth sticks, LP percussion instruments, DW pedals and Direct Sound headphones.
“These sponsors are so important,” Bissonette says. “They help generate interest in the arts. They really make these shows possible.”
“I was brought in to play this auto convention, and we wore tuxedos and played all these soft bossa novas,” says Bissonette, who had just graduated from the University of North Texas College of Music. “I was like, ‘Gaaaawly! This is the Strip!’ ”
Now, he says, “We’ve pulled some of Buddy’s charts and arrangements and I’m looking forward to playing them Vegas, baby!”