Big Sid Catlett – A Beautiful Sense of Composition

Big Sid Catlett photo from

SKF NOTE: Ruby Braff was a jazz trumpeter born in 1927 and died in 2007. Having first hand accounts from musicians who knew and worked with great drummers like Big Sid Catlett is invaluable. In Ruby Braff’s brief remembrance here, he gives us insight into important universal principles of drumming Sid Catlett used so well: economy of motion, knowledge of music composition, and a musical style of soloing.

Ruby Braff on Big Sid Catlett — He arranged his drums so tightly around him they looked like little balls hanging off him. Watching him take a solo was a thrill. He hypnotized you. His sticks went so fast they were blurred. But they also looked like they were moving in slow motion.

Each solo had a beautiful sense of composition. Most drummers can’t even count, but if he took a twelve-bar solo he played exactly twelve bars and if he took a thirty-two-bar solo he played exactly thirty-two bars. And each solo sang its own song.

Source: Whitney Balliett, American Musicians II (Oxford University Press, 1996)

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