Natalie Bates - Homegrown Kansas City Drummer from Idaho
It was Friday, January 28, 2022. We were at the Record Bar, in Downtown Kansas City as Grand Marquis took the stage, ushering in a new chapter of live music in the popular extremely
The crowd slowly descended onto the dance floor until it was flush, and the drive of the drum kit led the veteran outfit. That drummer was Kansas City-based Natalie Bates. Her local stock on the jazz scene continues to soar.
She is originally from Idaho, but she has spent most of her life in Kansas City. "I started drum lessons in the second grade. I had asked my parents for the lessons, and they were all about it," said Natalie. "They found me a teacher in Doug Auwater, and I ended up studying with him until I graduated from high school and even when I went to the conservatory."
In high school she played in funk bands and weaved her way into the marching band. All of that led to jazz band. Specifically, it was the 5-Star Jazz Band led by Bob Drummond that sealed her music fate in the jazz world. “To play with that many people and to play so often was great. To play in a band where the drums (were the) lead was huge,” Natalie noted. “That made me find my purpose as a drummer and helped me (to) really listen to the people I was playing with.”
Her earliest jazz influences were the Queen of Jazz in Ella Fitzgerald and Drum Legend Jo
Jones. While their music swayed her, it was their approach to life that hooked her. “Both of them really had no rules. Growing up and studying out of a book and not really
understanding that you can break the rules,” Natalie said. “You think swing is this pattern. Once I started soloing, those two (artists) were very influential to my playing.”
Natalie is beginning to understand, more and more what her place is within this rich Kansas City jazz scene. It’s a destination for her career. She is not interested in leaving this town any
time soon. “Sometimes we take advantage of living in Kansas City. There are many musicians in this city (who) able to play many kinds of music. Most of them know how to play jazz,” noted Natalie. “It's a great and supportive (musical) community. Everyone can find their niche and explore new music abilities with other people.”
Being a member of Grand Marquis is affording her the dream she always wanted to have as a
professional musician. “I love touring, to get to go on the road and get to listen to what everyone else is listening to,” said Natalie. “That's a big perk. This is what you look forward to when you grow up playing (music).”
Her role in the Kansas City jazz scene and the mighty history it holds never escapes her. She
understands that and tries to stay true to the art form as she pushes forward her own respective voice as she did on that cold night in January, at the Record Bar, with Grand Marquis.
“I often think about who will be remembered in 40 years or so. When you are studying jazz
history in class, you find out that there were five other musicians playing the same type of
music,” Natalie said. “They never met or knew that they were doing that. One of them got
popular and the others didn't. I always wonder who's going to be remembered by the kids that
are studying jazz in a couple of decades.”
Her love of jazz is simple. She thrives on the freedom.
“You can be creative and really open up. It's a really special thing to learn as a musician,”
Natalie said. “I feel really free playing jazz.”
Her itinerary of live shows continues to grow, and she is deeply relieved that we will transition from streaming computers to the live environment again. During this time, she has homed in on who she really is.
“I consider myself a creative person that wants to try new things all the time. You must go
through some type of hardship,” Natalie said. “I feel like I'm kind of chasing experiences. You
know, try to understand other people and that helps (one) be a better musician.”
by Joe Dimino
Listen to the full Natalie Bates Interview: https://youtu.be/Sab0u5SeZA8