Drum giant Antonio Sánchez on 'Birdman' tour after album with Trent Reznor, Dave Matthews and Pat Metheny

George Varga, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

"One of my major heroes in these past years is Iñárritu," Metheny said. "Starting with his (2000) film, 'Amores Perros,' he revolutionized the idea of linear time in a way that inspires me, as well as his particular narrative and sonic use and visions of what a film might be. We became friends years ago. I recommended that he use Antonio for 'Birdman,' with a solo drum score. ... It worked great for both of them!"

The soundtrack for "Birdman" also includes periodic segments from 19th-century symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Mahler. But what makes the film snap, crackle and pop — literally and figuratively — is Sánchez's remarkably creative drumming.

His playing musically mirrors and enhances "Birdman's" characters and their actions with stunning imagination, pinpoint whisper-to-thunder dynamic control and expansive rhythmic and tonal textures. His lightness of touch is unusual for a drummer who plays with such intensity. He has an astounding command of his instrument and is a master of metric modulation.

"Iñárritu told me: 'I want you to improvise; I really want jazz.' He didn't want anything too premeditated," Sánchez recalled.

"He would explain scenes to me in great detail and have me improvise. So, that's what I basically did, just reacting to what he told me and trying to follow the vibe of the story he was telling. That's what I do when I play with a band or for myself. It's all about storytelling."

Had all gone according to plan, Iñárritu would have filmed Sánchez for the scenes in "Birdman" in which a drummer performs solo in the corridors of the New York theater in which much of the film is set.


But Sánchez had a concert tour that conflicted with the shooting dates. He handpicked highly regarded jazz drummer Nate Smith to drum in those scenes.

"It was really interesting," said Sánchez, whose grandfather, Ignacio López Tarso, was one of Mexico's most famous actors. "Nate played some stuff when they were shooting and when I was finishing the scoring, after the movie was already shot, I had to adapt some of the things in the score for it to look like he played it.

"Because what you hear in the movie is not him. You see him but hear me. So, I had to learn some of his moves to play accurately in the score at the same time when he was doing it in the film, so that it would look like he was the one doing the drumming that you see and hear. That was a really weird exercise!"

Sánchez's onstage performances of "Birdman" are doubly intriguing since his drumming has been removed from the soundtrack.


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