Drum Legend Bernard Purdie Talks Longevity, Shares 'Elevate' From Record Store Day Release

Bernard Purdie
Courtesy of Bernard Purdie

Bernard Purdie

Bernard "Pretty" Purdie is pretty up about "Elevate," the opening track from Cool Down, his first new solo album in nearly a decade, which is premiering exclusively below.

Purdie, billed as "the most recorded drummer ever" because of his voluminous session resume, tells Billboard that "Elevate" was recorded after he and collaborators Pete Shand and Brian J ate lunch one day during sessions for the album in New York, at a vegetarian-friendly spot they visited several times during the process. "It was kind of easy," recalls Purdie, whose credits include work with James Brown, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Steely Dan and scores of others. "I had the feel of what the song was going to be and we talked about it and it just started and built from there. There were three of us at the time, and we went bonkers. Then (Ivan Neville) came in and did the organ thing and just jumped on the bandwagon and knocked everything out of the park."

And that, according to Purdie, was pretty much the way every one of Cool Down's 10 tracks came to be. "We all worked on music together and did a lot of the writing together as a unit," Purdie says. "I tried to keep everybody focused on the groove; Even when we were doing a ballad we tried to keep it groovy and also keep it funky. If we liked what we heard on a playback we just went back and dug in. If we could stay and hang with the groove, everything would happen its own way."

Arriving 50 years after Purdie's first solo album, Soul Drums, Cool Down comes out on Saturday (April 21) for Record Store Day and also features guest appearances by Cyril Neville, Anthony Cole and Mayteana Morales. And with two tracks from the sessions that weren't included on the album, Purdie feels that he's got a head start for his next album. "I'm certain that we will do one because we like what we do and it just makes things easier when you have everybody liking how they play," he says. "I was very happy with the way it came out." And Purdie, 78, is also confident he's in shape to be playing for the foreseeable future.

"I try to explain to people (that) I don't smoke, drink or gamble," Purdie says. "I don't do drugs, never did and never wanted to try. I never liked experimenting with anything that I didn't know. I saw my idols fall by the wayside, especially in the '60s. That's not the way I wanted to go, so I take good care of myself, and I think it shows."