Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Drummers

The drummer is the most important person in the band.

Even if the band has Pete Townshend AND Jimmy Page in it.

Over the weekend, we lost one of the last of the great jazz drummers, Louie Bellson. You can read his bio on your own time, if you want, but one of his major "claims to fame" is that he was one of the first to use a double kick (two bass drums, simultaneously, for those of you lacking music jargon in your vocabulary).

The last time I had the good fortune of seeing him play was at the Jazz Showcase, Chicago, when the club was in the Blackstone Hotel. Right upfront, too. I was blown away.

He was awesome, in a word. Smooth, powerful, tasty, and, above all, musical. Duke Ellington once called him the best MUSICIAN in the world, not just a drummer.

Just a drummer. Humph! Never should you say that. At least not when it's a good drummer.

Especially when it's a great drummer.

The drummer makes it all happen: the energy, the timing, the dynamics, and most of all, the attitude. It doesn't matter if you're playing the loudest, most rocking, hard-core, slamming metal, or the sweetest, loveliest, most touching ballad. The attitude is everything. The attitude, like the drummer, defines the band.

If the drummer's great, then chances are that the band is too. If the drummer stinks, then chances are that the band does too. And if you change your drummer, then guess what? You change your band. Period. Even with Pete and Jimmy as band members. The Who has never the same without Moon, and Zep without Bonham is precisely why they've never reunited for anything long-term. I, for one, have no desire to see the Who (or a Zep reunion, which will never happen), and they were the best! All because of Moon.

Louie had it. Buddy Rich had it. Gene Krupa had it. Art Blakey (MY fave) had it.

I have it.

I wish I had it like those guys.

So it goes...

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