UW News

March 2, 2020

A conversation with Ted Poor, UW faculty, jazz drummer, with new album out, ‘You Already Know’

UW News

Ted Poor, assistant professor of drums in the UW School of Music, has a new album out. “You Already Know” was released Feb. 28 on New Deal/Impulse, his debut on that jazz label.

Poor is a Seattle-based drummer who has played with well-known artists such as fellow UW faculty members Cuong Vu and Bill Frisell as well as Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder, Myra Melford and Mark Turner. He plays with the band of Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Andrew Bird, who also performs on the album. He joined the UW faculty in 2013.

A single from the album, “Only You,” is out. Poor will have an album release event at 8 p.m. March 7 at Seattle’s Columbia City Theater, where he will be joined by faculty colleague Vu on trumpet.

The New York Times has called Poor “a trustworthy engine in countless modern-jazz settings.” Drumhead magazine called his drumming “extremely thoughtful,” adding: “He knows how to craft a part, and play for the song … the way Ted flows in and out of cohesive ideas when he’s playing improv is a sight and sound to behold, if you’re not already familiar.”

UW Notebook caught up with Poor with a few questions about his work and the new album.

How would you describe the music on “You Already Know”?

Ted Poor , School of Music professor of drums, who has a new album out, "You Already Know"

Ted Poor

Ted Poor: The music is a celebration of space — space for the drums to resonate and convey a feeling, and for the melody to dance around and push against that feeling. It is primarily a collection of duets with saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo and the sound of the record is focused on drums and sax throughout. At first there’s a simplicity to that combination, but out of that sonic world emerges tremendous depth and subtlety. I’m thrilled to feature the drum set in this way.

What’s the process for creating an album like this? How long does it take and what are the challenges?

T.P.: After recording the core duet tracks at Brooklyn Recording with Andrew, I went to LA and worked with producer Blake Mills to add some subtle orchestrations (piano, strings, percussion, harmonium etc.) to further illuminate elements of the compositions, but without taking up too much space or overstating our ideas.

We spent about 10 days in the studio spread out over a period of two years to get all the tracking done. Mixing and mastering took a few more weeks after that. The biggest challenge was staying true to the main sound of the band.  At times I had to fight the temptation to add more and more. In the end, I think we achieved our goal of balance and space.

Of the work on this album, of what are you most proud?

T.P.: I suppose I’m most proud of the clarity of the compositions and the clarity and direct nature of the drumming. The music has complexity but it is also very approachable: oftentimes nothing more than a nice drum beat and melody just coexisting. I think I was able to strip away all but the essentials in the drum parts and writing. All this leads to a sense of purpose and a specificity of emotion.

What will folks see and hear at the March 7 album release show?  

School of Music professor Ted Poor’s newest album, “You Already Know,” was released Feb. 28.

T.P.: The album release show is very exciting for me. I have been working for months now to work up this music with my dear friend Cuong Vu. We’ve been playing music together for 17 years now and it’s exciting to draw on the long history while we develop this fresh duet approach.

We’ll play many songs from the record along with a slew of new material. Also joining us is world-renowned visual artist and lighting designer Abigail Portner. Abby and I will be working the week prior to develop a video projection piece that will accompany the music and serve as the light show. Knowing Abigail’s work, I can assure you it will be stunning!

How does it work, being both a touring professional musician and a teaching faculty member in the School of Music?

T.P.: It is certainly a juggling act! Above all I try to remain in control of my own schedule and commitments. Honest, clear communication is the key. In the end I love how I can share openly with my students the challenges I face as a touring professional and draw on my experiences to help them tackle the issues relevant to them. If I weren’t out in the world making music, I would have a hard time standing in front of the students. My teaching is completely informed by who I am as a working musician and human.

Finally, we’ve been talking jazz drumming — care to suggest three jazz albums that you think feature great drumming?

T.P.: We Three” by Roy Haynes (who is also the drummer).

Evidence” by Steve Lacey featuring Billy Higgins on drums.

A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane featuring Elvin Jones on drums.


For more information on the album, contact Poor at tedpoor@uw.edu or visit his personal website.

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