“For me, it’s not the instrument that creates the human being, it’s the human being that creates the instrument,” Max Roach says, explaining his extreme reluctance to list his equipment. “I’ve seen people like Charlie Parker and Art Blakey and Buddy Rich play on crap, and they still sound brilliant.”
Source: Max Roach: Drum Architect, by Kevin Whitehead, Down Beat, October 1985
SKF NOTE: Reading singer/songwriter Carole King’s memoir, A Natural Woman, I am not surprised at finding several words of “keeper” advice for all musicians. Here’s Ms. King’s advice on performing in front of an audience.
Performing wasn’t something to fear, it was a merely a larger circle of collaboration. The more I communicated my joy to the audience, the more joy they communicated back to me. All I needed to do was sing with conviction, speak my truth from the heart, honestly and straightforwardly, and offer my words, ideas, and music to the audience as if it were one collective friend that I’d known for a very long time.
I had found the key to success in performing. It was to be authentically myself.
SKF NOTE: In the mid-1970s I played drums for a couple of years with the Millard Cowan Trio in Davenport, IA. I remember Millard asking me then if I had ever seen Fred Astaire’s dancing/drum solo routine.
I had not. Of course, in the mid-1970s, unless I lucked out and the 1937 Astaire movie, Damsel in Distress, was shown on tv, I would probably never see the Astaire routine.
Millard couldn’t believe it. He did his best to describe Astaire’s dance/drum routine, but….
Credit to the internet for making Damsel in Distress and so many other great drum moments available for anyone to study and enjoy.
This drum solo is fun, rhythmic, and musical. Notice there’s not special effects, no playing of a million notes. Musical, rhythmic, fun. And, so far, Fred Astaire’s solo has been around 82 years.
SKF NOTE: Here’s another hour of in concert video of some top shelf musicians. The drummers are Roy Haynes with Jimmy Smith, Roy McCurdy with Cannonball Adderley, Alan Dawson with Dave Brubeck, and Roy Brooks with Charlie Mingus.
SKF NOTE: Recently I posted a quote from Gene Krupa in which he tells us some of what he learned about drumming from Baby Dodds and other older drummers. He’s more from Krupa on the same topic. Thank you writer Rudi Blesh for sharing Krupa’s words for posterity.
Now at last Gene [Krupa] was hearing in person the real masters who had led his generation into jazz. He finally heard Louis [Armstrong] and Earl Hines…. He also met and heard the New Orleans drum giants who had nourished [Dave] Tough and [George] Wettling. There was Tubby Hall and Zutty Singleton….
[Krupa said,] “They were great! They knew every trick and just how to phrase the parts of the choruses behind the horns, how to lead a man in, what to do at the turnarounds, when to use sticks and when to use brushes, when to go for the rims or the woodblocks, what cymbals are for.
“But there was only one Baby Dodds. He was at Kelly’s Stable with his brother Johnny, cornetist Natty Dominique, and a piano player. Baby taught me more than all the others — not only drum playing but drum philosophy. He did all that the others did, and more. He was the first great drum soloist. His concept went on from keeping time to making the drums a melodic part of jazz. It was partly the way he tuned his drums — the intervals he used. I got that from him. And it was partly his concept of tone. Baby could play a tune on his drums, and if you listened carefully, you could tell the melody.”
SKF NOTE: A music history lesson from guitarist/singer George Benson. He’s absolutely correct about Motown’s now famous studio jazz musicians.
I was surprised at first to learn how many rock musicians of the 40s and 50s were either jazz musicians, or were strongly influenced by jazz. But the more I thought about it, there was no reason for my surprise. Jazz was a demanding, creative American music. Why wouldn’t serious young musicians aspire to be jazz musicians?
George Benson: I’m using my artistry to show kids who have been told not to listen to jazz. You had musicians who came out of the jazz era recording for Motown records and selling a hundred million copies and creating the number-one sound int the country. But the kids don’t know that, they don’t know that it’s not the Jackson Five playing the music behind them. Those were jazz people and we never got the credit. Now we’re stepping forward and getting the credit.”
George Benson, Bensonality, Riding on a Blue Note: Jazz and American Pop, by Gary Giddins, Da Capo Press 1981
SKF NOTE: I just came across this 1972 Timex All-Star Swing Festival with great drummers throughout.
Harold Jones with Count Basie, Rufus “Speedy” Jones with Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa with Benny Goodman Quartet, Alan Dawson with Dave Brubeck, Bobby Durham (?) with Ella Fitzgerald, and Barrett Deems with a Louis Armstrong Tribute band.
Good stuff. Harold Jones is a study in motion. He wastes none of it. Alan Dawson is on his four-piece set of clear Fibes. And Krupa is Krupa. Good music all around.