Pete LaRoca: The Classic Drum Solo

My early 1970’s introduction to Jackie McLean’s New Soil (recorded 1959) was through a brand new cut-out LP from a store in Davenport, Iowa. It’s a great album by great musicians: Jackie McLean (alto sax), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Walter Davis, Jr. (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Pete LaRoca (drums).

The tune Minor Apprehension features Pete LaRoca in what is often called the first free drum solo on record. Minor Apprehension is a fierce hard bop tune. I expected the drum solo to reflect the tune: fast, high energy. Instead, LaRoca’s is more an impressionistic solo — totally unexpected and ear-opening. Not only for me, but for many others who’ve heard this cut.

If you’ve not heard Pete LaRoca on Jackie McLean’s Minor Apprehension — you’re in for a treat.

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3 Responses to Pete LaRoca: The Classic Drum Solo

  1. scottkfish says:

    Thank you for writing. I’ll give “Turkish Women at the Bath” another listen. I first heard it in 1973 as Chick Corea’s “Bliss!” album. The mix was awful. My recollection is the drums were buried in the mix and sounding as if they were recorded way off in the distance.


  2. I took a lesson with Pete LaRoca while playing some gigs at The Stone in NY in 2012, actually a couple of months before he passed away. I have to admit I was more interested in his life story than in an actual drum lesson since I had a rather good understanding of his playing already.
    But it was in a moment of my life where there wasn’t too much going on and I wanted to hear what it feels like to not be a professional musician anymore and how his life went after he left the music business. And I just wanted to meet the guy who inspired my playing so much. So the lesson was probably just an excuse to finally meet one of my heroes.
    I’ve read as much about him as I could before the lesson, but I still was in for some surprises.
    First he said he never left the music business, but the business left him. He simply refused to play non-swinging music, neither Free Jazz nor backbeat music and he made that very clear, so all of a sudden that left him without any gigs. He wrote the music for his second recording “Turkish Women At The Bath” while driving a cab. Driving a cab was really dangerous in NY in the seventies, so he decided to go to law school instead of waiting for gigs. He told me he’d rather be remembered for swinging instead being the guy to play the first “free” drum solo. But one of the things he really was proud of was helping to get rid of the cabaret card system in NY as a lawyer. And he sued the recording company when they were releasing “Turkish Women At The Bath” under Chick Corea’s name after he became famous. Being a lawyer came in handy sometimes.
    He was a very nice, relaxed & warm person and I will cherish those two hours I spent with him.

  3. Ted Warren says:

    Thanks for this! LaRoca is such a baddass!

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