2020 (self released)
All drummers I know (whether personally or not) are driven enthusiasts, musicians who are constantly engaged with their passion. All pots and pans in their homes are regularly pounded on; anything you can strike is subject to their drumming. Recently someone named Dennis de Graaff sent me an email. He asked if I would listen to his music. Over the years, he had made six albums as a drummer using various plug-ins. I immediately recognized that de Graaff could be added to the list of drumming addicts. Our email exchange confirmed this, but first, let’s look at the facts.
De Graaff started playing drums at the age of seven and began taking lessons at sixteen, leading him to attend a drum school a year later. He had never lacked skilled teachers. What followed was a period filled with bands and session work. De Graaff aspired to progressive jazz-rock and fusion from Jeff Beck to Transatlantic and from Pink Floyd to Mahavishnu. In the meantime he took lessons from highly respected drummers such as Dave Weckl. At the age of 27, de Graaff wrote his first composition and when he bought a new laptop with music software a few years later his creativity overflowed. The floodgates had opened in the de Graaff household and he eventually decided to release a new album every year. However, his precision turned out to be greater than his ambition so the current count stands at six albums instead of the intended twelve. Let’s fast forward a few years.
In 2020, de Graaff released his fifth album titled “Storm”. Like his previous albums this is exclusively a digital release, not that it matters. “Storm” is filled to the brim with a lavish blend of prog, jazz-rock and cinematic music. The cinematic aspect looms large over the music which is logical when you consider the album’s concept. De Graaff drew inspiration from Storm, Don Lawrence’s adventurous comic book series about an astronaut who gets lost in time while fighting against an evil force. Personally I only know the comic from Eppo in the 1970s but that doesn’t matter. De Graaff has created an imaginatively captivating work that listens like a comic book in itself.
The album consists of seven regular parts ranging in length from 3:24 to 12:08 plus a finale of over 18 minutes. Right from the first two parts you can hear how fantastic the plug-ins sound and the craftsmanship with which they have been utilized. Listen to the basses and how meticulously they dance around the drums or the rich keyboard sounds. It’s also a pure delight to hear the guitar plug-in which alternates between elegant, fiery and exuberant tones while the second part generates some power as well. And then there are the drums. Well… that’s the core business when a drummer creates his own music and you’ll be surprised to know that de Graaff programmed everything with a drum machine. He used the Yamaha DTX900, the cream of the crop. The device sounds so good that you’d want to banish any other drummer to the nearest landfill. The combination of the Yamaha, the plug-ins used and de Graaff’s ingenious skill makes the music highly enjoyable to listen to. The fifth part is particularly strong in this regard with fills flying all around. The first section is delightful jazz-rock with a lot of melody while the song transitions to the instrumental work of Genesis halfway through. De Graaff’s drum patterns often bring Phil Collins to mind. The fact that he is not just a drum wizard but also a skilled composer is evident in the Vangelis-like third part which culminates in a beautiful ending. The following twelve minutes contain so much stunning film music that any filmmaker would salivate and the serene opening of the sixth part is another bullseye. De Graaff continues undisturbed until the long finale presents itself. Once again a beautiful sequence of catchy melodies and interesting harmonies can be heard. De Graaff demonstrates great rhythmic and compositional insight. Towards the end of the track a theme previously heard on the album resurfaces completing the circle.
Dennis de Graaff has found an excellent niche for himself where he maximizes his taste and skills. As a musician you couldn’t ask for more. The result speaks for itself.
© Dick van der Heijde 2023