Always One Good Musical Takeaway

SKF NOTE: One night at a club in Illinois, back when I was earning a living as a drummer, musician friends and I were checking out the band. This was not a name band. It was a lounge band traveling a circuit, probably, of short stints at different Midwestern venues.

The only bit of music I remember from that about 47 years ago? During a ballad, the drummer gently dragged the loop on the wire end of his brushes straight down, from just below the cymbal bell to the cymbal edge.

I had never seen that before. What a great sound effect. I’ve used it countless times since.

And it taught me that, in almost every musical situation, even the mostly lame musical situations, if I keep my eyes, ears, and mind open — there’s always at least one good takeaway.

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Alan Dawson on Drums, Gear, and Individual Sound

Alan Dawson

SKF NOTE: This excerpt is from an in-person interview with Alan Dawson in his living room over a tuna fish sandwich. The more complete back story is here.

Here’s Alan Dawson answering my questions about the need for us to own and use the exact same drums and gear used by our drum heroes.


Scott K Fish: When you first saw or heard Jo Jones did you have a burning need to know what size his drums were? What kind of heads he used? And what size his sticks were?

Alan Dawson: No. That never even occurred to me. Frankly, he’d sound that way on any drums. He had his own sound. An individual sound. These guys sounded like they sounded no matter what drums they played on.

I didn’t rush out to buy a drumset like Jo Jones’s. Now, just about everybody that heard Jo Jones play the hi-hats wanted to get that kind of a sound. They were experimenting with cymbals to get that too.

But, that’s a little different. That’s not like trying to duplicate by gettinng the same size drums, heads, and all of this business.

I had a drum manufacturer say to me, “I’m not all that interested in having jazz drummer endorsees. Who cares about Buddy Rich? How many drums does he play?”

The average rock ‘n roll star has eight or more drums, usually. And a bunch of cymbals. If a kid sees Carmine Appice and says, “Hey, I’ve got to have a set like that,” then I can see the dealer being a whole lot happier than if a kid comes in an wants to buy a drumset like mine: five pieces and three cymbals.

Everyone has a right in this free enterprise system. If a person has a business, he can’t ignore profits. But, I still think there’s an obligation to deal with profits, and deal with artists, from some artistic perspective; in terms of what they’ve contributed to the music, their feelings about the music, and their commitment to it.

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Mickey Roker with Lee Morgan – ‘The Complete Live at the Lighthouse’ Coming Soon

SKF NOTE: Blue Note Records has some exciting news for fans of trumpeter Lee Morgan and drummer Mickey Roker. The Complete Live at the Lighthouse session will be released this July 30. That’s 12 sets of music, including four hours of previously unreleased music. The album track here, The Beehive, is part of the unreleased music.

Mickey Roker, a complete drummer, is one of my favorites. Aside from the many times I’ve listened to him on albums, in the early 1970s I saw Roker with Dizzy Gillespie’s small group at the University of Iowa.

Lee Morgan? If I don’t own every album Lee Morgan recorded, I’m close. Currently, I own the 3-CD edited version of Live at the Lighthouse, and I’m looking forward to listening to the date in its entirety.

Here’s more info from Blue Note Records’ press release:

Blue Note Records has announced a July 30 release date for Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse, an expansive collection that presents for the very first time all 12 sets of music the legendary trumpeter’s quintet with saxophonist Bennie Maupin, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Jymie Merritt, and drummer Mickey Roker recorded during their historic engagement at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California from July 10-12, 1970.

Originally released 50 years ago in 1971 as a 2-LP set, and later expanded to a 3-CD set in 1996, this definitive edition produced by Zev Feldman and David Weiss will be available as an 8-CD set and a limited-edition 12-LP all-analog 180g vinyl set that encompasses 33 performances including more than 4 hours of previously unreleased music that lets the listener relive the experience of being in the club for every exhilarating moment. A previously unreleased version of Mabern’s composition The Beehive from the 2nd set on Saturday, July 11 is available now to stream or download.

The audio was mixed from the original ½” 4-track tapes….

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Buddy Guy – Being With the Greats Broke My Heart

SKF NOTE: Neil Ralph was arguably my best friend at Harborfields High School. An accomplished musician, we certainly traveled many musical miles together. We certainly spent time listening to and playing Chicago blues tunes.

Fast forward to 1980 when Buddy’s Stone Crazy! arrived at my Modern Drummer desk. Great album, and the opening track, I Smell a Rat, is a pure killer.

Neil introduced me to Buddy Guy’s records. I remember especially Buddy’s A Man and the Blues album, and This is Buddy Guy – both on Vanguard records.

I spotted Buddy Guy’s book, When I Left Home: My Story, for sale at the Turner Public Library. It’s an interesting read, filling in some gaps in my blues history knowledge. And the book has a generous sample of words of wisdom from Buddy Guy.

For example:

At the same time, being with the greats also broke my heart. It broke that dream I had back in Baton Rouge that the greats were living in mansions and driving gold Cadillacs. Of all the greats, only Muddy [Waters] had a house. His was at 4339 South Lake Park, a place I’d get to know real well. The others, living in little rooms, could barely scratch up a living.

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Dannie Richmond’s Magnificent Musical Drum Solo

SKF NOTE: I owe so much to Charles Mingus. While listening to his small band (quintet?) at Newport 1970 jazz made sense for the first time. I’d been self-studying jazz for a long time and liked much of what I was hearing. But I didn’t really grasp the jazz form. I didn’t fully understand how jazz musicians in bands were relating to each other.

Charles Mingus changed all that.

I was intrigued by the recent reissue and remaster of Mingus at Carnegie Hall. This 2-CD set is the complete concert, rounding out the original LP which had only the second half, the jam session part of the concert.

This album reminds me again of just how magnificent was the team of Mingus on bass and Dannie Richmond on drums. I haven’t listened to the full album yet, but what I have listened to so far ended with Fables of Faubus – a Mingus classic. And I wanted to bring your attention to Dannie Richmond’s great, imaginative, dynamic drum solo. It starts at 14:21 on this digital version.

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