The Joy of Discovering New Drummers

SKF NOTE: Three times I helped compile Modern Drummer Annual Readers Polls. That is, I opened reader envelopes, removed the official MD Readers Poll ballots, and kept score on large sheets of paper taped to my MD Managing Editor’s office wall.

One year, while compiling Readers Poll results, I realized there are great drummers who deserve to be in MD‘s Hall of Fame, but never will be. It is a case of bad timing. Not bad time keeping. These drummers’ heydey came, went, and, based on how I saw MD Readers Poll votes falling, I knew these drummers would never be in MD‘s Hall of Fame. Papa Jo Jones, Kenny Clarke, Philly Joe JonesEarl Palmer, D.J. Fontana, Jerry Allison, Ed Blackwell are players who come quickly to mind. There are many others.

At the time, this had me feeling blue. It was as if the Universe would be the worse for so many great players absent from MD‘s Hall of Fame.

Today, away from the hallowed halls of MD, I have a different view. I realize there is life for drummers outside of MD‘s Hall of Fame. And while an MD Hall of Fame entry would help bring attention to a drummer – there are other ways for drummers to grab attention.

Finding out about drummers really is an individual journey. I love discovering great drummers, or listening in-depth to drummers I once knew by name only, or from one track or album. Such discovery remains one of my great joys in music. It doesn’t matter if the drummers are from the past or the present.

In the last decade or two I bought several Blue Note CD’s with Joe Chambers on drums. I met Mr. Chambers in New York City during an interview with the percussion ensemble M’Boom. And I was first knocked out by Joe’s playing on Charles Mingus’s Three Worlds of Drums where Chambers, Steve Gadd, and Dannie Richmond are playing together.

Fast forward 20 years or so and I began hearing much more of Chambers on Blue Note dates by Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, Andrew Hill, and others. What a great player! For me, a new discovery. Mine is often a mixed feeling: part joy in my new discovery; part regret that I hadn’t discovered a great drummer sooner.

Clifford Jarvis is another of my new discoveries. I knew of him – from an old Down Beat interview – but had never heard Mr. Jarvis play. During my renewed Jackie McLean study phase I heard Jarvis on McLean’s Right Now! album — and was bowled over. Great player.

That’s the way it goes, I suppose. The road from fledgling drummer to seasoned pro, from fledgling listener to seasoned pro, passes by every drummer who ever added to the language of drumming today and forever. Whether we choose to stop along the road to say hello, or to spend time getting to know each drummer, is up to us.


About Scott K Fish
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