Allman Brothers Band: Jamming With The Trio

allman brothers

(Left) Marc Quiñones

“My quinto is tuned really high,” Quiñones adds. “People ask me why, but when they hear it with the two other drummers, they realize that if I were to tune my drums really low, they would get lost. Butch has four toms, you’ve got the congas, two snares – there’s a lot of things going on, so when you hear the sound coming out it’s more like a drum set.”

Once they’d figured out how to separate their tunings, the three had to separate their mindsets. At first, fitting in seemed daunting to Quiñones, but as they say, the family that plays together stays together. “It was tough for me at first with two drum-set players,” he admits. “There’s a whole lot going on, and I was thinking, ’What am I supposed to do?’ They invited me to play with them, but I wasn’t supposed to be here for 12 years. They’ve extended my visa!

“Our interaction seems to be second nature now, where we don’t have to think about it. Either I hear it or I don’t, and if I don’t, I won’t play. To me, less is more. If I hear slow blues, I won’t play tambourine just because I’m a percussionist. I’ll sit out – not because I want to take a break, but because I just don’t hear anything. When we play ’It’s Not My Cross to Bear,’ I play congas and tambourine, because that’s what I hear.”

mark quinones

Quiñones’ Rig

Drums: Pearl
1. 11 3/4" Conga
2. 12 1/4" Conga
3. Bongos
4. 15" Timbale
5. 14" Timbale

Cymbals: Zildjian
A. 20" China Cymbal
B. 32" Gong

C. Tambourine (nylon frame)
D. Tambourine (wood frame)
E. Shakers
F. Agogo Bells
G. Tambourine
H. Tambourine
I. High Pitch Cowbell
J. Medium Pitch Cowbell
K. Rock Cowbell
L. Woodblock

Marc Quiñones also uses Remo heads, Zildjian sticks and mallets, and a Gibraltar rack.

Taste is all well and good, but what makes the experience of a jamming band so uplifting is when the group gets fearless, taking risks with their music and the audience’s ears in hopes of unearthing a shining sonic discovery. “When it comes to taking chances, you have to think that if you’re going to screw it up, make it strong and wrong – don’t be afraid,” Quiñones urges. “If you’re going to be timid, you’re in the wrong business, especially in live situations. Strong and wrong!”

“I don’t take chances when him and Butch are playing 6/8s and 12/8s …” Jaimoe begins.

“He’s lying!” Quiñones interrupts, laughing.

“I’m used to playing by melodies,” Jaimoe continues, unruffled. “I don’t play by time signatures. If you start crossing a lot of things like that, it’s easy to get your ass lost and start screwing everybody up.”

“Taking a chance is improvisation,” Quiñones says. “Just ask Miles Davis, you’ve got to take chances. In order to come up with something brilliant, you’ve got to take chances. I don’t think any kind of artist can really sit and calculate what they’re going to do, because then they’re not really being a true creative artist.”

If something truly high quality emerges in an Allman Brothers jam, it just might be eligible for a permanent place in the arrangement. “Something may come back,” says Quiñones. “It may fall into place and we say, ’Damn, that’s what that needed.’ I’ve done a lot of sessions and people will say, ’I just transcribed the solo you did on Song X,’ and I’ll say, ’How did you do that? I don’t know what I played.’ A solo is spur-of-the-moment – you just play it as it comes. So sometimes you play something, and the only way you’ll remember what you played is if you heard a tape of it, because the next night you might not get it, or else you’re reacting to something someone else played, and they won’t play it in the same spot.”

“We’ll lock into a groove, and it doesn’t happen all the time,” Jaimoe says. “You can’t force it, if the vibration is not there.”

“Out of 20 songs per night,” Quiñones adds, “we’ll always find something interesting going on. This being an improv band, something is bound to happen.”

With so many other expert musicians in the group, including Greg Allman vocals/keys, guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, plus bassist Oteil Burbridge, the drummers have more than just rhythmic concepts to bounce off. As a unit within the band, Jaimoe, Quiñones, and Butch Trucks have come into their own as a distinct whole.

“The reviews will say, ’The three drummers were playing as one,’ and I think it being a three-drummer situation makes it a voice of its own in this band,” Quiñones points out. “Greg’s is a voice, as well as the twin guitars of the Allman Brothers. The bass is a third guitar, but he’s almost like me, playing a foundation, but he’s really interacting with the guitars. Me, I try to play a groove, but I’m interacting with the three drums. The rarity is that this is a shared spotlight, but we’re all considered one. It really is inexplicable for me.”

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