On Jasmin Guevara
In a recent piece on Igor and the Red Elvises I called their new drummer “perhaps the best drummer in Rock today.” . How I got there was a bit of an adventure in writing (yes that is what I do!). First I thought I would call her the best “female drummer” but I thought that sounded patronizing and sexist and I thought that putting “female” in the sentence would be incredibly limiting in the mind of those that would read the piece. I thought of calling her the best “young drummer” or “promising drummer” in deference to the great drummers who have gone before her, but I thought that just made me sound old. After some reflection, I went with the superlative, because frankly that is what I was thinking at the time and I thought it the best way to convey what I thought was the incredible power of her performance.
For those of you not familiar with the band, you should catch up with them when they reach your town, as they surely will. What other band plays five bars in Montana…they go everywhere. Then you will understand why I consider them the best performance art tour band in the world. As I understand it, they are many bands, led by Igor Yuzov and Oleg Bernov, with whatever other performers wish to participate at any time. All the performers are incredible, so much so that to mention one is but a disservice to the others. Yet, I already stepped in that river so I might as well be baptized.
Like other drummers for the band, Jasmin Guevara is called on to provide the beat for the many style musings of Igor and the band. Since the band plays an amalgam of America’s music influences, the Red Elvises drummer has to be fluent in surf music, soul, polka, conga, country and European folk. Imagine being able to speak the language of every immigrant and native here; that is what band members are called on musically to do. That itself is quite an undertaking.
With that said, what brings out the superlatives in describing Jasmine’s performance is her five minutes of drum solo, which occurred just after the conga during “Sad Cowboy Song” at their recent shows. My wife remarked that it reminded her of Gene Krupa or the nights on the Tonight Show when Buddy Rich, who billed himself as “the world’s greatest drummer” would appear and show why. Not only were they technically proficient, something that is beyond my expertise to judge, but they also had a way of infusing personality into performance. That was the connection that made the performances so memorable.
So too with Jasmine Guevara. For eighty five minutes of the ninety minute set, she seemed nice enough, often smiling and relating nicely to the other kids in Igor’s playground. But man during that five minutes she turned into a shimmering mass of emotion. Even today, more than a week later I find the performance somewhat undefinable. I don’t think I ever seen such anger creatively expressed on stage before. She beat the shit out of her instrument while also loving it. That is something that you just can’t do to a flute, keyboards or a guitar. For a minute there she seemed to reach the highest plane of art, where she and her instrument became heart itself.
Maybe it was just me and just how I was feeling on a given day. Like many in this world, my emotions are stripped away leaving me unable to adequately convey or resolve the anger I feel at the world I find myself living in. With all the great beauty that surrounds us, as a civilization we seem to go out of our way to increase pain and we seem utterly without empathy to the plight of those whose lives can be made better. I don’t know what Jasmine Guevara is thinking about when she pounds away at the drums. I only know that when she is done, I feel a lot better. That, in itself, is a great accomplishment and for that moment alone it is worthy of the highest superlatives.