The source of rhythm

Eric Gravatt and his quintet Source Code will play at Jazz Central Studios on Friday.

Eric Grávátt

Image by Photo courtesy of Eric Grávátt

Eric Grávátt

by Danylo Loutchko

Eric Kamau Gravatt’s gravelly bass voice could not be more different than his style of drumming.
He prefers lighter, more intricate rhythms played on the upper part of the drum kit — a style that landed him in Wayne Shorter’s legendary jazz-fusion band Weather Report in the ’70s.
Gravatt’s musical biography could simply be a list of bands — his current band Source Code will play a concert at Jazz Central Studios this. As of now, the quintet of local musicians plays only jazz standards.
“We’re doing covers of Coltrane, Monk, Jackie McLean, people like that,” Gravatt said. “No originals so far. We’ve got a few originals in the works, but we haven’t pulled them out yet.”
Source Code includes Gravatt on drums, Solomon Parham on trumpet, Lucia Sarmiento on saxophone, Dean Magraw on guitar and Ron Evaniuk on bass. 
Gravatt was born and raised in Philadelphia where he began drumming at a young age.
“I picked up the sticks at 8 years old, and I started studying at around 14 or 15,” he said. “One thing led to another.” 
Gravatt never went to college for music or drumming, instead opting to taking the fate of his career into his own hands, literally. 
He joined the jazz group Weather Report in the heyday of the ’70s-era jazz-fusion experimentation, when Gravatt made his name with his distinct drumming style. 
A phone call from Wayne Shorter clinched him a spot in Weather Report.
“I liked his approach. He left a lot of space,” Gravatt said. 
Over Gravatt’s two years with Weather Report, he recorded three albums with them. He then moved to Minneapolis to join the local fusion group Natural Life.
While with Natural Life, he went on to record albums with jazz greats McCoy Tyner and Joe Henderson before leaving to play with his current band Source Code. 
Around that time, however, the financial realities of being a jazz musician and raising a family forced Gravatt to get a full-time job as a guard at the correctional facility in Lino Lakes, Minn. During those years, drumming took a back seat to providing for his family. 
Since retiring, he has toured extensively once again with the legendary pianist Tyner. 
He’s reemerged in the Twin Cities jazz music scene not only with Source Code but also with his recording studio and small music publisher, “1619 Music Company.”
At the concert at Jazz Central, Gravatt will meld his early experimental aesthetic with a stylized approach to jazz standards for a unique night of music.
Eric Kamau Gravatt and Source Code
Where Jazz Central Studios, 407 Central Ave. SE, Minneapolis
When 7 p.m. Friday
Cost $10, $5 with student ID