Each month in 2021, we will be featuring a member of the worldwide Gretsch community as our spotlight “featured player” of the month!
The first featured drummer of the year is Hal Howland. . .
The year 2021 marks Hal Howland’s 50th anniversary as a Gretsch drummer. He was a “Friends of Gretsch” endorser beginning in 1987, shortly following Fred and Dinah Gretsch bringing the Gretsch company back to family ownership.
Hailing from Washington, D.C. Hal showed a love of music about the age of four, studied the piano from age eight, and began to play drums, guitar, and bass at twelve. He has performed and composed classical, avant-garde, jazz, rock, pop, and folk music in America, Europe, and the Middle East. He received his B.A. in music from James Madison University in 1973 and his M.A. in music history from Catholic University in 1976. Among his teachers were Fred Begun (National Symphony Orchestra), Kenneth Krohn (Israel Philharmonic), and Bill Reichenbach (Charlie Byrd Trio).
In addition to being a drummer, Hal is also a published author. You can find his titles at the Amazon author’s link. Hal released his long-awaited pop album Every Time It’s You in 2018.
We asked Hal . . .
Why did you choose Gretsch?
Two of my middle school classmates played Gretsch, and I found their instruments’ unique features charming. I fell in love with Gretsch in college when I saw the Progressive Jazz kit in hand polished Walnut. The drums sounded as beautiful as they looked, and I’ve been playing Gretsch since 1971.
What Gretsch gear do you currently use?
Currently, I play two Gretsch kits, a USA Custom bebop four-piece in Caribbean Blue Gloss and a Catalina Club rock four-piece in Gloss Crimson Burst.
As a teenager I admired my friends’ Country Gentleman and other Gretsch guitars. Among the guitars I play on my 2018 CD Every Time It’s You is the engineer’s Gretsch Electromatic.
Which musicians were the biggest influence on you and why?
My musical influences extend from Gregorian chant to the avant-garde; the composers and players I respect are too numerous to mention. My favorite drummers, whom I admire for their musicality, taste, and innovation, include Hal Blaine, Art Blakey, John Densmore, Steve Gadd, Levon Helm, Elvin Jones, Jim Keltner, Mel Lewis, Joe Morello, Paul Motian, Max Roach, Ringo Starr, and Tony Williams.
How did you adjust and stay musical during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic canceled hundreds of book signings and gigs, extending well into 2021. My weekly Sunday Jazz show at the Green Parrot Bar in Key West (viewable online) resumed in September, with serious reservations on the part of everyone involved. Our quartet plays behind huge Plexiglas panels, like fish in an aquarium, and we spend our break time avoiding the audience. Given the surge in coronavirus cases, this gig could disappear again at any time.
You could be featured in 2021 just like Hal. Click to find out how!