Ray Ayotte is indeed returning to collaborate with the company he left all those years ago. Gospel truth. I know. I was there.
That is, playing devil’s advocate, I made several phone calls that started it rolling. The first was to my friend Ray. The next was the the new protagonist in this drama, Ayotte Drums owner Jean Denis Beaudoin. I remember getting shivers, such was the strength of my feeling that these two were kindred spirits. After another few calls, I left it to the two master drum makers I’d introduced, and maybe the Creator, to prove whether my hunch was correct.
Would that I followed my hunches more often! This one seems to have been spot-on.
It’s a small world this drum community. The current, somewhat startling, twist of events began with an article on the new Ayotte Drums. Ralph Angelillo, founder of the Montreal Drum Fest and also of the Canadian magazine Drums Etc, asked me to write about Ayotte Drums v.2012-2013. The company had relocated to Quebec, Canada. My job was to interview owner Jean-Denis Beaudoin.
It was interesting, to be sure, especially given that I’ve known Ray Ayotte long enough to chat endlessly on aspects of the drumming experience on urban street corners round midnight, oblivious to bag ladies and ancient mariners and honking taxis. We go way back to a mutual love for legendary Camco drums that immediately preceded Ray’s creation of Ayotte Drums. Our relationship is close enough that we can agree to disagree. We freely debate truths, tell lies, and talk dirty.
Speaking of dirty, 15 years ago, if a day, Ray lost the right legally to badge drums with his surname. I can’t get into the sorry details. Suffice it to say that Ray landed on his feet, designing and implementing the entire Taye Drums line (pronounced tie-ee) on behalf of a Taiwanese firm that had built drums for a slew of drum companies but had never had one to call its own.
When Ray severed ties with Taye, he established the Raya line (get it? Ray Ayotte). Loyal Raya drummers should not be alarmed. The current turn of events will not cause Ray to abandon hand crafting drums for you. All things equal, Ray will work Raya into the equation somehow.
Let’s be clear on the dirty pool that almost drowned Ray when sweeping him away from Ayotte Drums. Jean-Denis Beaudoin had nothing to do with alleged spurious business practices of the past, which dissociated Ray and Ayotte, when recently JD bought the Ayotte Drums name and tooling. Acting in good faith he sought simply to restore the noble Ayotte marque to its former glory. Only then would he introduce his own ideas on drum manufacturing and tone. JD knew that living up to the Ayotte legacy was a daunting proposal and would take time.
While interviewing JD I was struck by his respect for Ray Ayotte, a man he’d never met but knew implicitly. Get this: I interviewed JD at the Ayotte Drums booth at the Montreal Drum Fest 2012. In two days time, if you attend the Montreal Drum Fest 2013, you will witness Ray Ayotte hanging with Jean-Denis, talking drums. And planning for Ray’s renewed and vigorous participation in Ayotte Drums, witness a booth at winter NAMM 2014.
My motivation for making phone calls to introduce the two was curiosity and, perhaps, a gut feeling that I was doing the right thing.
What if? That’s what I wondered. What if Jean-Denis Beaudoin and Ray Ayotte happened to meet? I’m neither a king maker nor am I an agent for eHarmony. But I know a match made in Heaven.
But now that Ray and JD are hard at it, it’s time for me to step back. You see, my website is shifting to industry, to drums-as-instruments, and, of course, to that which I do well: reviewing the thing. Expect drum reviews, cymbal reviews, vintage and modern. Expect the latest inside scoops like the Ayotte triumph.
One thing you can rest assured on is that I will never sacrifice objectivity and impartiality. What I did with those preliminary phone calls was following a voice inside me. No it wasn’t gas although the new Ayotte drums are going to move a lot of air down the tunnel. I’m excited. You’re excited. We benefit from Ray’s collaboration with Jean-Denis. Only could can come out of this remarkable turn of events: good drums, nay great drums; manufacturing and quality control standards that pin the needle in the red consistently. When that happens, most recording engineers would just as soon lower input dB levels. Not so with Ayotte drums. The signal chain, initiated by Ray Ayotte decades ago, became tainted and risked breaking up. Fortunately, Jean-Denis Beaudoin cleared the path. He’s been a prince and his selfless engaging of another master, the original owner as key collaborator, will send ripples through the drum industry.
Phone calls, in the pale of history, are nothing. I’m proud I had a pivotal role, even if it was essentially conducting liaison. The real excitement—the industry buzz—will begin to build in a few moments when I publish this article. Then at winter NAMM 2014, you will get a clearer look at things I know but cannot utter…and at the crazy high standards and innovative products can result from the humility that is the thread behind all this. And don’t be surprised to hear that high standards can live happily with the current price, price, price ethic.
Already my ears are ringing with tones that were lurking behind the scenes waiting to get out there. And my face is a little flushed for daring to beat my chest—to dare utter my name in the same breath as Ray’s or JD’s. But, you know, a man’s gotta say what he’s gotta say. In this instance, I’m barely scratching the surface. That’ll take a while: have you ever tried to scar an Ayotte drum? Takes an extreme act of will and finely-honed tools none of us own. Then again, all we need is a key.
That’s it for now. You heard it on TBruceWittet.com first.
I’m returning to duty on this website…with very special reviews, more industry news, and an outlook even the MRIs and road blocks couldn’t detour. Tbw