Duke Ellington (featuring Louie Bellson): Skin Deep


Skin Deep


Duke Ellington (featuring Louie Bellson)


Ellington Uptown (Sony Jazz 5129172)

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Duke Ellington (piano), Louie Bellson (drums), Cat Anderson (trumpet), Clark Terry (trumpet), Willie Cook (trumpet), Ray Nance (trumpet), Juan Tizol (trombone), Quentin Jackson (trombone), Britt Woodman (trombone), Paul Gonsalves (tenor sax), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Jimmy Hamilton (reeds), Russell Procope (reeds), Hilton Jefferson (reeds), Wendell Marshall (bass).

Composed by Louie Bellson


Recorded: December 8, 1952


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

A few years after this recording, rock bands would discover the allure of long, intense drum solos. This was more than mere bombast—there is solid clinical evidence that prolonged exposure to powerful rhythms impacts a listener's brain rhythms and creates a trance-like state. Well, long before Ginger Baker and Keith Moon, there was Louie Bellson, who actually was the pioneer who developed the two-bass-drum-setup adopted by these later mega-rockers. And Bellson also was a master of the supersize drum solo, as demonstrated on this seminal performance with the Duke Ellington band. Ellington himself was just beginning to experiment with the potential for longer recorded tracks unleashed by the LP format (this same album also featured his brilliant tone poem Harlem, perhaps my favorite of his extended works), and with one of the great swing percussionists in the band, the time was also ripe for a big drum feature. "Skin Deep" did not disappoint. This Bellson original created quite a stir at the time, and still stands out as one of the defining performances of big band drumming. Bellson not only shows off his formidable technique, but also proves that he could build a solo over the course of several minutes while keeping the audience focused on his every move. If you want to take the measure of Mr. Bellson, one of the finest drummers of the Swing (or any) Era, this is the place to begin.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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  • 1 Les Day // Mar 22, 2009 at 05:50 PM
    I had met Louie on several occations. He is one of the great drummers of our times and will be missed in the music world. His "Skin Deep" is certainly a clissic.
  • 2 regis // May 19, 2009 at 05:35 PM
    I heard "Ellington Uptown" as an impressionable teenager and was blown away by the whole album. As to Bellson, the music speaks for itself. I only ever heard one other person who might match his combination of skill, coordination, and the sense of musical drama that Louie put into "Skin Deep". That was a rock drummer from PA named Steve Fecker, who played in several bands--Sundae Train, Roadapple, and Choice, back in the 1960's and 70's. Musicians like these are few and far between.