THE DOZENS: TWELVE GREAT MOMENTS IN MODERN JAZZ DRUMMING by Eric Novod

Transitions and developments at the drumset have been an essential driving force throughout the history of jazz. From the woodblock, bass drum, and splash cymbals of early jazz, to the big band drummer setting up brass hits, to the bop drummer interacting with all four limbs simultaneously, drummers have both adapted to jazz’s changing styles and initiated musical transformation themselves.

These twelve tracks serve as an introduction to the wide range of influential drummers and their personal styles. Some examples include the simple yet exciting (and always swinging) time keeping of Jo Jones, one of the most famous and electrifying drum breaks in jazz history from Shadow Wilson, the early bop independence and interaction of Max Roach and Roy Haynes, and the technical and musical expertise of Jack DeJohnette and Elvin Jones. Certainly there are hundreds of tracks that are equally as influential or famous as these, if not more so, but each track here has been chosen because it showcases the drummer’s individual trademark techniques and musical choices.


Jo Jones: Little Susie

Track

Little Susie

Artist

Jo Jones (drums)

CD

The Essential Jo Jones (Vanguard 101/2)

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Musicians:

Jo Jones (drums), Ray Bryant (piano), Tommy Bryant (bass).

Composed by Ray Bryant

.

Recorded: New York City, April 30, 1958

Albumcoveressentialjojones

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Jo Jones was an inimitable force in the development of modern jazz drumming. Not only was he an innovator in moving the pulse from the bass drum to the hi-hat, but he was also among the first to shift the drummer’s role from strict timekeeper to interactive member of an improvising group. From the Blue Devils in the late ‘20s to Basie in the ‘30s and ‘40s, Jones’ use of careful, interactive accents was so influential that it still warrants inclusion in a list of jazz’s modern drummers. This track from 1958 accurately displays his artistic timekeeping and solo style.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Clifford Brown & Max Roach: Cherokee

Track

Cherokee

Group

Clifford Brown - Max Roach Quintet

CD

Study in Brown (EmArcy MG 36037)

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Musicians:

Clifford Brown (trumpet), Max Roach (drums), Harold Land (tenor sax), Richie Powell (piano), George Morrow (bass).

Recorded: Capitol Studio, New York City, February 25, 1955

Albumcovercliffordbrownandmaxroach-studyinbrown

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

The clarity of ideas and ease of execution of Max Roach’s playing warrant his reputation as one of jazz’s most influential drummers. Taking Jo Jones’ and Kenny Clarke’s landmark transitions a step forward, Max blurred barlines, interacted with soloists, and added deceptively complex ideas and polyrhythms to the bebop drummer’s vocabulary -- and all with impeccable cleanliness. After years of landmark recordings and performances with Bird and Diz, Max’s two-year partnership with Clifford Brown marked one of the essential collaborations in jazz. Max’s drum solo on “Cherokee” brilliantly represents the idea of a melodically constructed drum solo with a beginning, middle and end.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Thelonious Monk: In Walked Bud

Track

In Walked Bud

Artist

Thelonious Monk (piano)

CD

Misterioso (Original Jazz Classics 202062)

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Musicians:

Thelonious Monk (piano), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass), Roy Haynes (drums).

Composed by Thelonious Monk

.

Recorded: Five Spot, New York City, August 7, 1958

Albumcovertheloniousmonk-misterioso

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)


Thelonious Monk, photo by Herb Snitzer

Roy Haynes’ natural, boldly interactive style, combined with his clean ride-cymbal sound and high-pitched, metal snare drum make him one of the most in-demand bop drummers. From Pres to Bird to Trane to Chick, musicians have always sought out Haynes, who often left behind the traditional jazz drumming patterns for a more instinctive, nontraditional -- yet fundamentally bebop-oriented -- approach to jazz interaction. The near-perfect foil for Haynes was therefore Thelonious Monk, evidenced by their constant musical communication throughout this track. Haynes’ solo is a classic example of basing a drum solo on the melody of the given tune.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Jackie McLean: Climax

Track

Climax

Artist

Jackie McLean (alto sax)

CD

Jacknife (Blue Note 40535)

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Musicians:

Jackie McLean (alto sax), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Larry Willis (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums).

Composed by Jack DeJohnette

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Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, September 24, 1965

Albumcoverjackiemclean-jacknife

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

Jack DeJohnette has had a widely varied career primarily as a successful bebop drummer, but he is also an accomplished pianist and composer as well. Performing with projects as varied as Miles’ Bitches Brew sessions to Charles Lloyd’s quartet to Keith Jarrett’s long-running trio, Jack is always reliable and musical while maintaining his reputation as one of the more loose and free drummers in jazz. This track from early in DeJohnette’s career displays him executing a complex groove demanding extreme independence over a tune that he composed for Jackie McLean’s 1965 session.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Hank Mobley: This I Dig of You

Track

This I Dig of You

Artist

Hank Mobley (tenor sax)

CD

Soul Station (Blue Note B2-46528)

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Musicians:

Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Art Blakey (drums).

Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, February 7, 1960

Albumcoverhankmobley-soulstation

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

Art Blakey is one of the most original yet traditionally rooted modern jazz drummers. He (along with Max Roach) was one of the first true bop drummers who blurred barlines and set the interactive standard for the bebop drummer. Blakey was also known for his solid, unwavering, traditional hi-hat foot (on beats two and four) while later drummers were more likely to free themselves from any strict timekeeping patterns. This solo is one of his finest, and perhaps best encapsulates Blakey’s solo style.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Count Basie: Queer Street

Track

Queer Street

Group

Count Basie Orchestra

CD

Complete 1941-1951 Columbia Recordings

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Musicians:

Count Basie (piano), Lucky Thompson (tenor sax), Joe Newman (trumpet), Harry "Sweets" Edison (trumpet), Freddie Green (guitar), Buddy Tate (tenor sax), Shadow Wilson (drums),

Ed Lewis, Al Killian (trumpets); George Matthews, Eli Robinson, Louis Taylor, Ted Donelly (trombones); Earl Warren, Jimmy Powell (alto sax), Rudy Rutherford (baritone sax), Rodney Richardson (bass)

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Recorded: New York, January 9, 1946

Albumcovercountbasie-complete1941-1951columbia

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

Count Basie, photo by Herb Snitzer

Since the successful release of the Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall Concert in 2005, the underrated Shadow Wilson has received an increased amount of well-deserved commemoration. Wilson’s major musical collaborations were with Monk (T.S. Monk recalls his father saying that Wilson was his “favorite drummer”), altoist Sonny Stitt, and the Basie Orchestra. In this most famous of the Basie-Wilson tracks, Wilson sets up the band with great dynamic contrast, from whisper-soft timekeeping to extended, confident fills. The “must-hear” moment of the track comes at 2:45 with a two-measure drum break. As Buddy Rich proclaimed, “this is the most perfect drum break ever recorded.”

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Ornette Coleman: Forerunner

Track

Forerunner

Artist

Ornette Coleman (alto sax)

CD

Change of the Century (Atlantic 81341-2)

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Musicians:

Ornette Coleman (alto sax), Don Cherry (trumpet), Charlie Haden (bass), Billy Higgins (drums).

Recorded: New York City, October 9, 1959

Albumcoverornettecoleman-changeofthecentury

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

The drumming style of Billy Higgins might best be described as the modern syncopated bebop style of Max Roach and Roy Haynes infused with a rhythm and blues sensibility. Having performed with Bo Diddley early in his career, Higgins may occasionally stray from common bop techniques and create more of an R&B-infused groove in his bop playing, but he is first and foremost a bebop-trained drumming pioneer. This is evident in his extended collaborations with Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, and Ornette Coleman. This Higgins-feature track has it all – smart, perfectly executed solo ideas and a deep, strong, swinging groove.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Paul Motian: Liza

Track

Liza

Artist

Paul Motian (drums)

CD

On Broadway, Volume One (JMT 834430)

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Musicians:

Paul Motian (drums), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Bill Frisell (guitar), Charlie Haden (bass).

Recorded: November, 1988

Albumcoverpaulmotian-onbroadway1

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Whether recording classic tracks with Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett in the 1960s or leading one of his own Manhattan-based groups at the Village Vanguard in 2007, Paul Motian has been successfully performing as a jazz drummer for over fifty years. His trademark is balancing traditional swing patterns with freer, looser rhythms. While he certainly can and often does play traditional swing patterns, Motian constantly experiments with his time patterns, often leaving space in order to “poke” back in at his bandmates in musical conversation. Here Motian plays Chick Webb’s famous drum feature “Liza” with post-bop twists and turns.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Miles Davis: Walkin' (1964 live version)

Track

Walkin’

Artist

Miles Davis (trumpet)

CD

The Complete Concert 1964 – My Funny Valentine and Four and More (Columbia C2K-48821)

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Musicians:

Miles Davis (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), Tony Williams (drums).

Composed by Richard Carpenter

.

Recorded: Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City, February 12, 1964

Albumcovermilesdavis-completeconcert1964

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)


     Miles Davis, photo by Herb Snitzer

Along with Brown/Roach and Coltrane/Jones, the musical pairing of Miles Davis and Tony Williams marks one of the great leader/drummer partnerships in jazz history. Joining Miles’s group when he was just seventeen, Tony Williams changed the realm of possibilities for the bebop drummer with his unique four-way independence (especially the freeing of his left foot to play more complex patterns) and his “quiet burn” – the ability to play independent, polyrhythmic patterns while comping at a soft volume. These drumming elements are all evident in this live example, made all the more effective through his interaction with rhythm-section mates Hancock and Carter.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Chick Corea: Part II (Dedicated to John Coltrane)

Track

Part II (Dedicated to John Coltrane)

Artist

Chick Corea (piano)

CD

Three Quartets (Universal/Polydor 9273)

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Musicians:

Chick Corea (piano), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Eddie Gomez (bass), Steve Gadd (drums).

Recorded: January-Febuary, 1981

Albumcoverchickcorea-threequartets

Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

While primarily known as a rock/pop drummer with Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, and James Taylor, Gadd is a successful and influential jazz/fusion player in his own right. Some of his jazz credits include sessions with Charles Mingus, Jim Hall, Chet Baker, Milt Jackson, Michel Petrucciani, and Chick Corea. Gadd has credited Max Roach and Art Blakey as his main jazz influences, and he has therefore absorbed their bebop vocabulary. His unique development, as heard in this Corea example, is to base his timekeeping solely on quarter notes as opposed to the usual swing pattern. He then occasionally adds swing (or straight) notes to the quarter-note pulse.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


Joshua Redman: St. Thomas

Track

St. Thomas

Artist

Joshua Redman (tenor sax)

CD

Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard (Warner Bros. 45923)

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Musicians:

Joshua Redman (tenor sax), Peter Martin (piano), Christopher Thomas (bass), Brian Blade (drums).

Recorded: Village Vanguard, New York, March 21-26, 1995

Albumcoverjoshuaredman-spiritofthemoment-liveatvillagevanguard

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

Brian Blade, a Louisiana native born in 1970, is the foremost jazz drummer in the generation after the bebop and post-bop greats. He began his professional career in the early 1990s and quickly recorded with high-profile artists including Kenny Garrett, Brad Mehldau, Bob Dylan, and Joshua Redman. Blade then formed his own group, The Brian Blade Fellowship, and released two well-received solo records. He became Wayne Shorter’s drummer of choice in the late 1990s, and he still performs with Shorter today. This live recording displays the energy of the legendary Redman/Blade performances that propelled both into the spotlight. Note Blade’s clean, fast movement around the drum set, and his varied dynamics within his Latin-to-swing-based soloing.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


John Coltrane (featuring Elvin Jones): One Up, One Down

Track

One Down, One Up

Artist

John Coltrane (tenor sax)

CD

One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (Impulse B0002380-02)

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Musicians:

John Coltrane (tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), Elvin Jones (drums).

Recorded: Live at the Half Note, New York, March 26, 1965

Albumcoverjohncoltrane-onedownoneup

Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

A vital part of any extended Coltrane improvisation (this one is 20+ minutes) is the intense interplay between Trane and Elvin Jones. Elvin revolutionized jazz drumming by accenting alternating upbeats of the ride-cymbal pattern (instead of accenting on beats two and four). He is also known for his Latin-to-swing grooves and his ability to build intensity by gradually adding upbeat accents and complex polyrhythmic snare-drum comping. As Coltrane experiments with various motives throughout this improvisation, notice how Elvin is always listening and reacting to Trane’s statements while building to an intense burn on the ride cymbal.

Reviewer: Eric Novod


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