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(Credit: Diliff)


Watch Carter Beauford jam on Dave Matthews Band song '#41'


Of all the jam bands to get caught up in the wild alternative rock gold rush of the early 1990s, the Dave Matthews Band was certainly one of the stranger groups to be given a massive record contract. While groups like Blues Traveler and Phish had a more direct line to the Grateful Dead ethos of the past, Dave Matthews Band were far more jazzy and experimental in their approach.

Part of what made them so different was their atypical rock band lineup. For many years, Matthews was the only guitarist, usually sticking to acoustic instead of electric. Around him were mostly jazz musicians: teenage bass prodigy Stefan Lessard, expert saxophonist LeRoi Moore, and eclectic violinist Boyd Tinsley. The mix of those strange elements gave Dave Matthews Band a signature sound, but if one musician stood out from the very beginning, it was drummer Carter Beauford.

Originally a house drummer for the BET Network and a wandering jazz musician around the Richmond, Virginia music scene, Beauford was immediately recognisable through his unusual technique. Beauford employed ambidextrous techniques, often switching between traditional and open-handed styles. His rolls were lightning fast, his fills were informed by drumline rudiments, and his grooves were heavily syncopated.

Beauford made himself invaluable to Matthews in more ways than one. For the entirety of the band’s career, Beauford has been the primary backing vocalist for the band, complimenting Matthews’ unique bray with a high, often falsetto harmony. But really, Beauford could never be replaced because his drum skills are so immense, and so unique to him, that they remain almost impossible to replicate.

No matter what you think about the Dave Matthews Band’s music, it’s hard not to watch Beauford do his thing and not be entertained. He has so much panache, so much undeniable skill, and so many strange hits that no other drummer would even think of attempting. To watch Beauford play the drums is akin to watching a professional athlete perform at the top of their game: it’s poetry in motion, even if you don’t believe that Matthews’ music is.

‘#41’, a song taken from the band’s 1996 sophomore album Crash, is a feast for the eyes and ears when you focus on Beauford’s drumming. Fluid and dynamic, Beauford constructs a beat that’s far more complicated than the traditional timekeeping in rock music. But Beauford also never loses the beat, throwing in skittering fills and wild tom hits without ever losing where he is in the song. Like Keith Moon before him, Beauford responds to the vocals and accents them with appropriate rhythms that compliment the melodies. It’s part of the jazz training: to listen and respond to whatever the lead instrument is doing.

For his first drum video, Under the Table and Drumming, Beauford runs through the entire song, laying down a mostly-faithful rendition of the studio recording’s original pattern. Of course, this being Carter Beauford, a few new fills and improvisations are also thrown in. Apart from the album’s next song ‘Say Goodbye’, which is combined with a direct transition on Crash, ‘#41’ very well may be Beauford’s finest drum performance on record.

Check out Beauford’s performance of ‘#41’ from the Under the Table and Drumming video down below.