Parks hasn't skipped a beat since kindergarten

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Deantoni Parks — drum phenom, better known to his friends as “D” — is featured in the April 2010 issue of Modern Drummer magazine and has been touring with singer/songwriter Sade.

By ALEX McRAE alex@newnan.com Local music fans knew Deantoni Parks had a special gift when he was featured in The Times-Herald playing a pint-sized drum kit before he started kindergarten. The drum phenom, better known to his friends as "D," has not skipped a beat since, growing his talent over the years and becoming one of the most sought-after drummers on the modern music scene.
Park's accomplishments and signature style are now featured in the April 2010 issue of Modern Drummer magazine. He spoke about the recognition and his career during an Easter weekend stop in Newnan on his way back to his New York home after playing in Wroclaw, Poland, with John Cale, co-founder of legendary rock group Velvet Underground. "It's nice to be recognized by the magazine," Parks said. "They said they had followed my career for years. I don't think about those things much, but I realize I'm lucky to be making a living doing what I love and meeting so many great people along the way. Right now, my life is great... but it's really busy." Before he skipped off to Poland, Parks was shuttling back and forth between New York and Los Angeles on a so-called TV tour with singer/songwriter Sade (Shar-Day) who rose to stardom years ago with hits like "Smooth Operator" and "The Sweetest Taboo." Sade is promoting "Soldier of Love," her first CD in 10 years, and appeared on "Dancing with the Stars" last week. Parks is a featured percussionist on the CD and says it was interesting to spend a few weeks appearing with the singer on hit TV shows including "Ellen," "The View," "The Today Show," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and the "David Letterman Show." "It was a nice change of pace," he says. "But to be honest, I was ready to get back home and get back into the routine. I have more commitments than I can keep." Sade is considering a fall tour and Parks says he will go if his schedule permits. "It would be nice and I'd enjoy it," he says. "But right now I don't know what things will look like a few months from now." Parks says he grew up in a home filled with music and was always hearing gospel songs and hits from groups like The Gap Band and Earth, Wind and Fire. "I was playing along with Rufus when I was 3," he says. "I loved it." After graduating from Newnan High School, Parks took his act to Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music and then on to Brooklyn, where he started his professional career. He wasted no time talking fellow Berklee students Sylvia Gordon and Nick Kasper into forming a group called KUDU. The group stays as busy as members' schedules permit, despite the fact no one has been able to nail down KUDU's musical niche, which seems to defy musical description. One reviewer raved that the group "blends jazz, soul, and electronica into a heady concoction of urban music." In addition to regular gigs with KUDU, Parks has toured with The Mars Volta, Me'shell Ndegeocello, John Cale, Lenny Kravitz and scores of other big-name acts. He is considered unique both for his far-reaching musical vision and for his technique. Behind a drum set, Parks' hands move as fast as a bee's wings and he kicks a bass drum like he has four feet. He is so fast and technically advanced he has sometimes been mistaken for a drum machine. Parks says after one performance, someone came up and said when he first heard the music it was so fast and precise he thought it was a drum machine and was astonished when he looked up and saw Parks playing the licks. "We got a laugh out of that," Parks says. Parks' style has even earned him a cult following of young drummers who aspire to emulate him. One of them is shown on a YouTube Video called "Shedding some Dee Parks licks." "That's a huge compliment," Parks says. "It's nice to know people are paying attention and like your work." Parks is also in demand as a producer and was recently involved with creating part of the music track for the independent feature film "Sympathy for Delicious," which stars Orlando Bloom, Juliette Lewis, Christopher Thornton and Noah Emmerich. The film won a jury award at this year's Sundance Film festival. The film is actor Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut. He wanted to film a live band playing one of the tracks by The Mars Volta that Parks played on and helped produce. But no one else could play Park's rapid-fire licks and he was hired to perform on drums and act in the film. "Sympathy for Delicious" is expected to be released later this year. "It was fun," Parks says. "A nice change of pace." When editors of Modern Drummer decided to make Parks the subject of a feature article, they told him they had followed his career for years. And they weren't alone. They said that in recent years just about every drummer they wrote about said how much they admired Parks. "They said I should be called your favorite drummer's favorite drummer," Parks says. "That was a nice thing to hear." In addition to playing and touring, Parks is pursuing another passion developed during his years of marching band. He realized years ago that on the practice field or parade route, band members worked as hard physically as athletes. Parks felt they deserved the equipment to make that job easier and developed a campaign dedicated to that idea called "Music is a Sport." "Marching is not like rehearsing," Parks says. "It's more like athletic training. I've seen studies of heart rates and physical exertion that prove it. Parades and marching shows are very physical." Parks is seeking a company to help him design and develop new uniforms that make the task easier for marchers. He has met with film director Spike Lee for advice and counsel. Lee has ties to Nike, which Parks says would be an ideal company to develop uniforms and equipment that can make the marching band task easier. "Those kids are out there working hard and sweating and most of the uniforms being sold right now are polyester," Parks says. "Polyester. There's nothing hotter or more uncomfortable. We can find materials that are a lot cooler and more user-friendly and that's what I want to do." Parks says marching band is undergoing a growth boom in China, which has a potential market of millions of school musicians needing state-of-the-art equipment and uniforms. He has been promoting his campaign in trips to China and has even met with Chinese TV personality Yui-Sai Khan, often called the Oprah of China because of her influence and appeal. Parks says Yui is enthusiastic about his idea, and if she agrees to promote it, good things will happen. "I'm trying to use everything I do, whether it's recording or touring or acting, to promote this project," Parks says. "I think it can really make a difference."

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