BENEDIKT HESSE | DRUMMER
plays the drums and works as freelancer, bandleader and coach in Cologne and worldwide.
Early in his career, he made a musical pilgrimage to New York and New Orleans to study American styles at their source with some of their greatest masters including Johnny Vidacovich and Adam Deitch. His career now reflects the investment he made to delve into each of his many musical interests, having toured internationally with the musical Dirty Dancing, Tabadoul Orchestra, and Terrence Ngassa among many others.
Benedikt remains firmly rooted in his hometown of Cologne, maintaining a decade-plus tenure with the acclaimed Haenneschen Theatre, running his own drumming school, and cultivating original projects like CubaNola and the organ trio Hesse Koerner Petrov.
As a young drummer, Benedikt was fascinated with all types of music. He had studied a huge variety of styles and concepts with dozens of world class teachers and become passionate about them all, so it was hard to pick a team. But he soon realized he didn’t have to. Playing for the song is his passion, no matter what language the song is in, and music, especially in Cologne, is all one big team. So he set about building a career that has been as deep as his education and as broad as his interests.
Benedikt became obsessed with drumming as a teenager. At 19, he began studying privately with Phil Maturano who turned him on to funk, jazz, and Latin styles. Maturano urged him to spend some time in America where those styles (and the drumset itself) were rooted. So in 2005 at age 21, Benedikt moved to New York to spend a year studying at The Drummer’s Collective – “the drumming center of the universe” as Horacio Hernandez called it – including the Advanced Performance Program under the direction of the late Kim Plainfield. Benedikt also got to experience everything New York’s music scene had to offer. He went out to hear live music almost every night, and studied with many of the city’s drumming luminaries including Shawn Pelton, Antonio Sanchez, and Billy Martin.
Vince Cherico and Adam Deitch were particularly influential teachers. As one of the busiest drummers in New York, Cherico demonstrated mastery of a wide range of styles (especially Latin) and passed on to Benedikt the key to all of them: Identifying the inflections, accents and flavors that make a style feel organic – what Benedikt refers to as the “handcraft.” Deitch played this role for funk and R&B styles in particular. Benedikt described him as “an open book;” an encyclopedia of feels and grooves from Earth, Wind & Fire to The Meters to A Tribe Called Quest. Deitch took Benedikt on a deep dive into the pocket, reaching back the origins of backbeat, beginning with a gospel choir’s claps on two and four. During his year in New York, Benedikt found a deep well of inspiration and motivation. He continues to spend time there on a yearly basis to study, play, and add fuel to the fire that the city lit under him.
Benedikt then visited New Orleans, the true cradle of the music and drumming he had come to love, and began a long course of study with Johnny Vidacovich. Benedikt recalls spending more time talking with Johnny than playing and as a result, his development became more conceptual. Together, they explored aspects of musicianship like the relationship between a musician and an audience, how the drummer can bridge gaps between band members, and how Benedikt could sharpen (and ultimately trust) his own musical intuition.
Having completed his self-designed “degree” in America, Benedikt returned home to Cologne in 2006 and went to work. He began a long tenure as the drummer for the Hanneschen Puppetry Theatre, a 216-year-old beloved Cologne institution. He also got involved in various projects that perfectly encompassed all the styles and skills he had honed in America. He played on the Latin scene in Cologne with artists such as Chupacabras and Renis Mendoza, earning the nickname “El Pulpo” (The Octopus). He continued pit orchestra work on European tours with the musical Dirty Dancing, and his love affair with New Orleans music has deepened with the roots group Roamin’ Jasmine. He further explores world music and jazz with Cameroonian trumpeter Terrence Ngassa, Tabadoul Orchestra (a mashup of musicians from Cologne and the Middle East), and the New Orleans/Cologne-based jazz organ trio Hesse/Koerner/Petrov. His own band CubaNola fuses New Orleans and Afro-Cuban styles, and released a record “Gumbombo” in 2014. Benedikt runs his own drumming school where he teaches privately and brings in other artists for workshops and clinics, produces custom-made drum tracks and video content in his studio Area 51, and is a composer and performer of works for solo drumset, which he feels is the most exciting avenue of exploration and discovery on the instrument.