One of the most inquisitive and exploratory drummer/percussionists in 21st century creative improvised jazz, Brooklyn-based Andrew Drury is also a composer, bandleader, and collaborator involved in a wide range of projects, and he's active in educational and social programs across the United States and internationally. For Drury, music is certainly a vehicle for pushing boundaries of creativity, but it can also positively contribute to the lives of the disadvantaged, from homeless citizens and Native Americans in the U.S. to youth of Guatemala and Nicaragua. And when he isn't behind the drum set in a recording studio or live venue, or leading a junk percussion workshop at a homeless shelter, Drury might be found in his kitchen, making soup to go with the music.
Born in Bellevue, Washington in 1964, Drury grew up in the Seattle area and in Bainbridge Island, Washington, and began playing drums in 1976 while in sixth grade. When it came time to choose a college, he headed across the continental U.S. to the opposite coast, arriving in Middletown, Connecticut at age 18 to attend Wesleyan University, where he studied drums with Artist-in-Residence and former Ornette Coleman Quartet drummer Ed Blackwell between 1983 and his graduation in 1988. Drury's future wife, Alissa Schwartz, was still attending Wesleyan after Andrew graduated, so he remained in Middletown and began his multidisciplinary artistic endeavors, including a solo piece of performance art comprising percussion, tape, and poetry about U.S. involvement in the Salvadoran Civil War.
During the late-'80s and early-'90s in Middletown, Drury also performed creative jazz and improvised music with the likes of Wadada Leo Smith, Brad Mehldau, Wallace Roney, Vincent Herring, Chris Lightcap, Mario Pavone, Joe Fonda, and Matt Moran. However, the peripatetic Drury didn't remain anchored in Connecticut, instead performing and photographing drum solos in the deserts and mountains of the Western U.S. for his Earth Solos project, and in 1992 Drury and Schwartz embarked on a year of travel in Europe and Central America, performing (as a counterpoint to the celebratory activities taking place at the time) street theater protesting the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas 500 years earlier.
Returning to the U.S. after their international travels, Drury and Schwartz settled in the Seattle area during the remainder of the '90s, and Drury became part of the vital creative music scene there, recording his first album as a leader, Polish Theater Posters, at the Seattle area's Bear Creek Studios in August 1996. Produced by Wayne Horvitz and featuring Drury joined by alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss, tenor saxophonist/bass clarinetist Craig Flory, electric guitarist Timothy Young, and acoustic bassist Phil Sparks, with guests Eyvind Kang on violin, Brent Arnold on cello, and Steve Moore on trombone, Polish Theater Posters was issued by the Montreal-based Red Toucan label in 1998.
The year after Polish Theater Posters' release, Drury and Schwartz were drawn back east, and moved to the New York City borough of Brooklyn, although Drury traveled back and forth between New York and Seattle over the ensuing years, leading and participating in projects on both coasts and various locations in between, often with foundation and arts council support. He served as Artist-in-Residence with the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, and during his travels across the U.S. (and on trips to villages in Guatemala and Nicaragua) he conducted over 1,000 junk percussion workshops in diverse settings including -- in addition to Indian reservations -- museums, schools, homeless shelters, and prisons.
Drury's second album as a leader, My Fingers Will Be Your Tears, featuring the drummer joined by saxophonist Krauss and pianist Myra Melford, arrived in 2000 on the Cadence Jazz label. Krauss, Melford, violinist Kang, and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed and bassist Mark Dresser appeared along with Drury on the drummer's next outing, A Momentary Lapse, released by Innova in 2003. His next album would be issued by the Portuguese Creative Sources imprint in 2007; the self-explanatory Renditions: Solos 2004-2007 featured 12 solo percussion pieces recorded by Drury in Brooklyn over a several-year period. In 2005, he appeared on the Jessica Lurie & Andrew Drury Duo album This Is What It's Like to Be, featured on drums, percussion, and vocals along with Lurie on saxophones, flutes, and vocals.
By now an important contributor to the 21st century Brooklyn creative improvised music scene, Drury would also participate as a collaborator or sideman in a number of additional projects, including violinist/violist Jason Kao Hwang's EDGE quartet, appearing on EDGE (2006, Asian Improv), Stories Before Within (2008, Innova), and Crossroads Unseen (Euonymus, 2011). In 2012 he also appeared as a member of Hwang's expansive avant Asian fusion octet on Burning Bridge, released by Innova. His collaborators on these and other recorded outings have included Taylor Ho Bynum, Ken Filiano, Jack Wright, Reuben Radding, Nate Wooley, Denman Maroney, James Ilgenfritz, Angelika Niescier, Bruce Eisenbeil, and Tom Blancarte.
In February 2015 Drury issued two companion albums, Content Provider and The Drum, on his Soup & Sound Recordings imprint; the label name references a concert series curated by the drummer in his Brooklyn home, in which he not only produces the concerts, but also makes and serves up vegetarian-friendly soup. Content Provider is a recording by a Drury-led quartet featuring longstanding bandmate Briggan Krauss on alto saxophone, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor saxophone, and Brandon Seabrook on guitar; The Drum finds Drury conjuring up a host of unlikely sounds from various extended techniques and a single floor tom.
Amidst all these performing, recording, and soupmaking activities, Drury has continued his commitment to music education for those in need as a teaching artist with the Manhattan New Music Project, which, as the organization's website states, "empowers youth in underserved communities, using the performing arts to develop essential life skills and achieve academic success." ~ Dave Lynch