It may be hard to imagine someone saying “Thank God for my broken neck,” but that’s exactly what drummer Eddie Tuduri said at the end of a moving film about The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) on Feb. 17 at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre. Tuduri broke his neck in a surfing accident in 1997, and his subsequent recovery, which involved using drums as therapy, provided the genesis for this amazing project.
TRAP integrates drums into the treatment and education of children with developmental disabilities. Tuduri has partnered with developmental therapist Seiko Niimi to put together a curriculum that reinforces learning and coordination via simultaneous stimulation of the visual, tactile and auditory senses. It also builds self-esteem and confidence in the students. As shown in the aforementioned film, and demonstrated before our eyes in a wonderful live performance by TRAP student Dion, it has been an effective and fun educational activity all over the world.
Friday night’s event at the Lobero was a benefit for TRAP, and Tuduri called on some stars from the world of entertainment to make it a smashing success.
The event was hosted by Tuduri’s childhood friend and Academy Award-nominated actor Edward James Olmos and John Densmore, former drummer for The Doors and a TRAP board member. Tuduri, Olmos and Densmore did some good-spirited reminiscing about the tight-knit music scene back in the day.
There was also a mind-blowing invocation by Airto Moreira, a celebrated Brazilian drummer and percussionist who played with Miles Davis, Weather Report and Return to Forever. With only a pandeiro and his voice, Airto produced an amazingly rich set of sounds that mesmerized the audience.
The headliners for the evening were guitar phenom Robben Ford and the Yellowjackets, consisting of a spirited and oft-smiling Russell Ferrante on piano, the powerful Jimmy Haslip on bass, and an on-fire Will Kennedy on drums. Their set was colored by percussion from Airto.
Ford, Ferrante and Haslip first played together in the late 1970s, at that time with drummer Ricky Lawson. Their early collaborations included Ford’s 1979 solo album The Inside Story and the first two Yellowjackets albums. Although not a band member since the early ‘80s, Ford has worked with the others in various guises over the years. There was an undeniable chemistry right from the group’s start, and Friday’s concert amply showed that it is still there.
Not surprisingly, the set had instrumental flourishes galore. As a sometimes guitarist myself, I was most taken by Ford, who is a fluid, expressive and precise player, effortlessly wowing the audience with his skill and grace. But the others are equally impressive, both in soloing and supporting roles. Together, they are pure magic. It should be mentioned that Ford’s singing also shined on his own song “Peace on My Mind” and the standard “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’.”
For the encore, Tuduri joined in with some nice drumming and Olmos sang heartfelt thank you’s to everyone who made the night so memorable. At the VIP party afterward, Olmos led the charge for donations to purchase TRAP equipment to bring the program to Santa Barbara schools, and many generous people stepped up.
Kudos to Tuduri for turning a broken neck into a way to have a positive impact on so many lives, and thanks to his friends for pitching in to celebrate and expand this important program.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.