Connie Kay – Learning About Drums from Sid Catlett (1959)

Modern Jazz Quartet. Connie Kay is standing center. Photo courtesy

SKF NOTE: I am reading the Kindle edition of Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews, Edited by Toby Gleason. The book is a compilation of interviews Ralph Gleason had in 1959 with leading jazz musicians, including John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Philly Joe Jones, Duke Ellington, and separate interviews with the members of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

The interviews are interesting and insightful. My one criticism? The book is more expensive than most Kindle books: $17.41. Obviously I was willing to pay that price. Gleason’s writing is a major influence in my life. I am grateful for this book of his newly released interviews.

That said, I hope Mr. Gleason or someone else will re-edit Conversations in Jazz. Run on sentences, run on paragraphs, and sloppy punctuation make this book harder to read — and enjoy — than need be. Perhaps the paper book versions are better edited. I don’t know.

Still, jazz history lovers will appreciate this book. Ralph Gleason had a great relationship with all these musicians. The mutual respect and love — notwithstanding the poor editing — comes through each of these conversations.

This excerpt is Gleason with Modern Jazz Quartet drummer Connie Kay. Asking Kay about his informative years as a drummer, Gleason says, “Did any of the [already established] drummers help you?” Here, in part, is Connie Kay’s answer.

Connie Kay: Sid Catlett. Now here’s a funny thing about him. We never actually sat down with the drumsticks and the drum pad or the drum book. But I got more out of him by sitting, just talking to him, not talking about drums, but about anything in general.

But by his conversation and his feel for things in life I could see why he played the drums the way he did, and I learned more from him that way about drums than if I think if I just sat up and said, “Sid, show me how you do this and show me how you do that; how you do this and how you do that.”

We hung out together. Sorta just pals. And I really got a lot out of it.

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