By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer | Apr 22, 2013
When music historians look back on the big band revival that hit in the ’90s, they will find one name that connects some of the biggest of those big bands - Bernie Dresel.
The Sharon native put in several years as the drummer for the Brian Setzer Orchestra, has sat in with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and now anchors Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band.
An in-demand session drummer who keeps the beat for movie and television soundtracks and award-winning performers, the 51-year-old Dresel considers himself one of the elite drummers in the world as a result of hard work, but doesn’t believe he has reached his peak.
“I’m getting better and better,” he said.
Dresel will play with the 20-piece Phat Band at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Stambaugh Auditorium, Youngstown.
“This is the closest I’ve ever played to Sharon with one of these major bands,” he said, encouraging music and drum fans to make the effort to see the show.
“I may never do it again,” he said.
Dresel has cut back his touring since he exited the Setzer band a number of years ago in order to concentrate on session work. However, he is willing to turn down more lucrative session work to play with Goodwin.
“This is a special group,” he said. “It is probably the best big band of all time and probably forever, based on the quality of individual musicians. You will be blown away.”
He called the Phat Band a “modern big band” because of how it dips into samba, funk and Cuban rhythms.
“It’s not your granddad’s big band,” said Dresel, whose younger brother Jonathan, is the house drummer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
While some granddads enjoy Goodwin’s stylings, the music has more than its share of younger fans, and has become a staple of school bands, Dresel said.
“All age groups love this big band sound,” he said. “This is very accessible to the public. It’s not intellectual like a lot of jazz. It’s deep but it’s fun. This isn’t pop music but if definitely is not going to go over people’s heads.”
The band is heading to Australia in May, affording Dresel his first visit down under.
Goodwin actually doesn’t tour all that much, leaving Dresel plenty of time for session work. “He’s been working on “Planes,” an upcoming Disney movie; the next “Star Trek”; the new Superman flick, “Man of Steel”; and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”
For television, he’s regularly heard on “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show.”
He played behind Norah Jones on “Everybody Needs a Best Friend,” her Oscar-nominated song from “Ted,” and on her recent appearance on “The Tonight Show.”
He’s booked for a couple of gigs with tenor Andrea Bocelli.
When Dresel is not otherwise engaged, he leads a 12-piece funk band called Bern. It has four vocalists, four horns and four rhythm instruments that play ‘70s classics from the likes of Chaka Khan, Steve Wonder and Tower of Power.
More a concert band than a dance band, Bern is even known to do something that Queen never did - perform “Bohemian Rhapsody” all the way through on stage.
The father of two teenage daughters also is breaking in a new drum company, Craviotto, after years with Drum Workshop. Unlike most commercially available drums, which are made of shells of thin layers of wood glued together, Craviotto employs single-ply shells.
“These drums are amazing,” Dresel said. “It’s pretty rare to hear them, now, but they’ll be like Stradivarius,” a reference to the storied violin maker.