Polyrhythmicizing With Grant Schroff

Grant Schroff Takes The Helm And Drives The Bus

The San Jose Jazz Festival is right around the corner from the DRUM! headquarters. We're taking advantage of this opportunity to highlight some of the artists we'll be hearing and photographing that we think you should know about. There are more than 120 shows on 12 stages featuring jazz, blues, Latin, funk, R&B, salsa, New Orlean, world and many other styles of music. The Polyrhythmics are a band that stands out due to tight afro-funk grooves and smooth percussion work. They'll be on the Big Easy stage Sunday August 14th at 4:30pm. Grant Schroff took some time off from touring to talk with us about the upcoming festival and what it's like to drum in a 8-piece band, before setting off the next day to continue touring with Polyrhythmics.

DRUM! How did you first get involved with Polyrhthmics?

Grant I was one of the founding members. The guitarist Ben Bloom and I started getting together with the bassist Jason Gray. From the beginning our intent was to get a large ensemble together. We started as a trio just working on grooves that we were interested in and then started recruiting different players back in 2010.

DRUM! How hard was that process of finding sympathetic players that wanted to get into that style?

Grant It wasn’t that hard. We had all been playing in the scene. Several of us went to Cornish College Of The Arts in Seattle, Washington. That’s where we originally met. Some of the other members were in the University of Washington music program. It wasn’t hard getting people together because at first we wanted to make a record. Everyone we recruited was busy but then as the project got more serious it became more of a priority for everybody. It kind of happened naturally.

DRUM! How many pieces is the band now?

Grant We’re 8 pieces. This summer we released a new single with a vocalist by the name of Lucky Brown. A lot of the summer festivals that we’re doing were featuring him on about 5 or 6 tunes. He won’t be at the San Jose Jazz Festival, but sometimes we tour with 9 members.

DRUM! We watched the live performance in the radio station we noticed a couple things.

Grant Yeah, KEXP. That’s Seattle’s killer radio station that’s recognized around the world.

DRUM! So the band is really tight. A lot of that seems to come from you and Ben, but you seem to keep the groove responsibility with different members of the band.

Grant The way that I like to think about it is that were all percussionists in that band no matter what we play. We try not to step on each other’s toes. That’s one challenge with a band this size. We try to keep as much space as possible and really allow those moments where each individual part can shine through.

DRUM! No doubt the guitarist is really a drummer in the band.

Grant Yeah for sure! I didn’t know Ben personally before we started the band. When I first saw him play in Seattle he seemed like he was all about rhythm guitar. That was his thing. The leads took second to the rhythm. I was like "This is the guy I need to seek out," so I gave him a call and it turned out he was actually thinking along the same lines as me. He had the same thought about a month prior to that. He wanted to also start something that was a large rhythmic ensemble oriented with Afrobeat elements.

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