Kenny Clarke & The Musicians Well of Inspiration

SKF NOTE: DrumForum.org member, “Wheresmyroadie?,” posted an excellent, new-to-me, video of Kenny Clarke with a big band playing the song, Bebop. Access to such footage — especially free and easy access — started happening about 50 years after I had been researching and writing about drummers. When excellent videos of classic drummers appear online I am:

  • Delighted someone thought enough to shoot the video and preserve it, and
  • Someone thought enough to make the video available to the public

gillespie_things_to_comeI enjoy watching how, say, Kenny Clarke does what he does. My first hearing of Mr. Clarke — long before I knew of his place in drum history — was on record with the original Modern Jazz Quartet. Clarke’s playing with the MJQ worked well with that group. But when I began reading accounts in books/magazines about Clarke’s being fired from big bands for his innovative bass drum accenting (aka, dropping bombs) — I hadn’t heard that side of Kenny Clarke.

Then I bought a budget label Dizzy Gillespie album that included Kenny Clarke on Dizzy’s 1946 big band recording of Things to Come. Hearing that tune was a real WTF? moment for yours truly. I remember thinking, “How is it possible to play drums that fast, that well, while driving a big band?”

Years later, I bought a Bud Powell album, Live at the Blue Note Cafe, Paris 1961, with Pierre Michelot on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. Unlike his laid back playing on the MJQ album, and not-so-hot sound on Things To Come, I was happily surprised with the Blue Note Cafe album. It is well-recorded and Kenny plays busier than I had ever heard him play. The Blue Note Cafe album remains one of my favorites.

Now, with the advent of historic video of Clarke, Powell, and other musical greats, the Musicians Well of Inspiration grows deeper. Hopefully more and more musicians will have the wisdom to draw from that Well, and perhaps adding their creativity to it from which future musicians can draw.

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About scottkfish

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