Krupa: The Sound That Launched a Million Drummers

SKF NOTE: I am among the millions of drummers first inspired by Gene Krupa’s sound to play drums and study drumming. Krupa has described his role in drum history as making the drummer a high priced guy. Others say Krupa was first to bring drummers to the public’s attention.

There’s no question Krupa’s influence is great, and cuts across many musical styles. Jazz drummers, rock drummers, country drummers — they all point to Gene Krupa’s primary influence.

This is a great movie short of Krupa fronting one of his big bands and trio. The soundtrack seems slightly out of sync with the movie, but it also appears to be a film of Krupa playing live. Unlike a few interesting Krupa clips where he is clearly mimicking, playing along with a pre-recorded song.

Notice Krupa uses his snare drum, not a ride cymbal, as his primary timekeeping instrument. In fact, he really has no ride cymbal. The year 1947 was right on the cusp of Kenny Clarke‘s innovation: keeping time on the ride cymbal.

At one point here, for a second or two, you see Krupa playing with his left (snare drum) arm held above, not below, his right (hi-hat) arm. This awkward way of playing is one reason Kenny Clarke said he first tried using a ride cymbal, liked it, and soon that way of playing drumset stuck.

Krupa’s snare drum playing here with big band and trio is exactly the sound that grabbed my attention on record more than a half-century ago. It’s very musical. Combined with Krupa’s showmanship it’s easy to see why so many people — musicians and listener’s — liked him.

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