Between Beginner and Buddy Rich

582301_downbeat_drumads (dragged)

SKF NOTE: This 1958 photo of Chico Hamilton brings back memories of a turning point in my learning to be a jazz drummer. The first two jazz drummers I noticed, who really grabbed my attention, were Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. A little later, I added Max Roach to that list.

Well, the road from beginner drummer to the level of Krupa, Rich, and Roach, viewed from step one seemed very long. Would I have to walk the entire length of that road before I could play jazz?

Chico Hamilton was one of a few jazz service drummers I discovered early on, who gave me a valid drumming goal midway, I thought, on the road toward Roach, Rich, Krupa. Mr. Hamilton is a wonderful drum soloist, but it was his great role as supportive timekeeper, as bandleader and band member, that knocked me out. His brush playing, his bass drum accents — just perfect.

I found out early on that bandleaders often preferred service drummers, players who could swing, who had ears, who didn’t overplay, who saw their role in a band, first and foremost, to make the leader and other band members sound, feel, and look good.

Getting back to this Chico Hamilton photo, it was memorable for three reasons. It’s a wonderful addition to this Gretsch ad series by photographer Chuck Stewart.

Chico’s odd-size toms were unique. And it was the first time I had seen a drummer using single-headed toms on purpose, not because a batter head broke and they lacked time and/or money to replace it.

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