Jazz Drummer Larnell Lewis Hears Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for the Very First Time, Then Plays It Near-Perfectly

Even if you don’t think you know “Enter Sand­man,” you know “Enter Sand­man.” For more than thir­ty years it’s been the sig­na­ture song of Metal­li­ca, the best-known heavy met­al band in the world, and as such prac­ti­cal­ly unavoid­able — unavoid­able, that is, unless you’re jazz drum­mer Lar­nell Lewis. Pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his demon­stra­tion of the thir­teen lev­els of drum­ming dif­fi­cul­ty, Lewis is most close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the fusion band Snarky Pup­py, and has, fair to say, spent his pro­fes­sion­al life out­side the realm of met­al. Hence the intrigue of the chal­lenge he takes on in the video above: can he play through “Enter Sand­man” after hear­ing it just once?

Metal­li­ca die-hards know how for­mi­da­ble a task this is. Record­ing the song in the first place took the band’s drum­mer Lars Ulrich more than one take — in fact, it took him near­ly fifty takes, in each of which he played just one sec­tion of the song, nev­er the whole thing straight through.

The final mix edits togeth­er all of the most pre­cise and intense pieces of his per­for­mance into one seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble-to-repli­cate whole. But for Lewis, learn­ing a song by ear and then play­ing it per­fect­ly is all in a day’s work, a process he demon­strates in the ear­li­er video just below, talk­ing his lis­ten­ers through his men­tal process of active lis­ten­ing to a per­cus­sion-free song, then com­ing up with all the drum parts on the fly.

Watch­ing Lewis active­ly lis­ten to “Enter Sand­man” has the appeal of those viral videos in which Youtu­bers hear hit songs for the first time — but even more so, since Lewis knows his craft back­wards and for­wards, and does­n’t hes­i­tate to express his own reac­tions and per­cep­tions. He notes a few tricky shifts into half time, and even one espe­cial­ly dra­mat­ic shot that he fore­sees miss­ing when he tries his own hand at the song. Apart from that, how­ev­er, he then plays the song him­self with an accu­ra­cy that aston­ish­es even the Metal­li­ca fans in the com­ments. As one says, it’s hard to say which is more unbe­liev­able: Lewis’ extra­or­di­nary tal­ent or the fact that he’d nev­er heard ‘Enter Sand­man’ before. The man must nev­er have set foot in a gym — but then, he prob­a­bly gets more than enough of a work­out at the drum kit.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch 13 Lev­els of Drum­ming, from Easy to Com­plex, Explained by Snarky Pup­py Drum­mer Lar­nell Lewis

Watch Metal­li­ca Play “Enter Sand­man” Before a Crowd of 1.6 Mil­lion in Moscow, Dur­ing the Final Days of the Sovi­et Union (1991)

Metallica’s “Enter Sand­man” Sung in the Style of David Bowie

A Blue­grass Ver­sion of Metallica’s Heavy Met­al Hit, “Enter Sand­man”

Metal­li­ca Play­ing “Enter Sand­man” on Class­room Toy Instru­ments

The Neu­ro­science of Drum­ming: Researchers Dis­cov­er the Secrets of Drum­ming & The Human Brain

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (5)
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  • Kristine Adams says:

    Aston­ish­ing! Start to fin­ish, you shine, then shine some more, then arc us OUT with your strong burst of pos­i­tiv­i­ty, appro­pri­ate for any endeav­or. THANKS & CONGRATS & THANKS TO YOUR BUDDY for this chal­lenge!

  • JT Nolan says:

    Mr. Lewis,
    What a great job on Enter Sand­man!
    You are absolute­ly bril­liant
    A real plea­sure.

    All the best,
    JT Nolan

  • Andy Bonser says:

    Dear Lar­nell,
    Great job on enter Sand­man. How­ev­er, I was com­plete­ly impressed and aston­ished what you did with Chicks Pain!!!
    This was the first time I was ever exposed to you and heard you. Your tal­ent is amaz­ing. Thank you for shar­ing it. I am I gui­tarist of 50 years, self-taught. But I’ve always had a love of the drums I’ve dab­bled many times I am a flu­ent to it and respect all the greats from, but are you rich to Mike Port­noy and Mike Mangi­ni.
    Now I’ve dis­cov­ered you and I have to buy some of your stuff to ful­ly appre­ci­ate what you do.
    Thank you for doing this!!!

  • Ralph Toles says:

    Lar­nelle Lewis is one of my favorite drum­mers. He is extreme­ly ver­sa­tile, is I knew he could pull this off with now prob­lem. Way to go! I must say that it is a dis-ser­vice to call him a jazz drum­mer.

  • Linda C says:

    Kudos to you on your per­for­mance Mr. Lewis. You had an amaz­ing feel for it. I saw this per­formed in a live Metal­li­ca con­cert a num­ber of years ago.

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