Chauncey’s Choices: Jazz Drumming Before The Ride Cymbal

If you can excuse Chauncey Morehouse’s less than subtle bias and treat his examples as pedagogical conveniences rather than stylistic axioms, his mini survey of jazz drumming might prove insightful, even encouraging:

courtesy of the late Walt Gifford via Michael Steinman

Courtesy of Walt Gifford via the late Joe Boughton through Michael Steinman. Date and periodical unknown but estimated to be from DownBeat circa mid-forties.

There is more room for spontaneity or “feel” in loose small group settings than in “concerted” big bands, or over-rehearsed combos for that matter. Yet the interaction between the drummer and the band in “Dixieland” (what was it like to hear that word as five letters rather than four?) is also a matter of content as well as degree.

Morehouse helped pioneer (on record, anyway) a syncopated style of drumming where drummers punctuate the beat as much as they lay it down, though not necessarily ride it a la Jo Jones or for that matter Art Blakey or Roy Haynes. Dixieland drumming stomps before it swings. As Tom Everett once described, it’s the difference between telling dancers where to put their feet down versus suggesting when to pick up their legs.

Morehouse obviously knew which style he preferred and his comments seem tailored to tick off the mussic generalization copps. Yet decades later and after hundreds of textbook pages making it sound as though bop invented the concept of the drummer as more than a flesh metronome, it’s good to hear someone advocate for this style rather than merely remember it.

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3 thoughts on “Chauncey’s Choices: Jazz Drumming Before The Ride Cymbal

  1. pwlsax says:

    Drummer Chris Tyle reminds us of a crucial distinction: that cymbal beat you hear starting in 1930 or so – ring on downbeats, choke on upbeats – IS NOT RIDE. It may sound similar to non-drummers, but it does not serve the same function rhythmically – which is an even, four-beat, free-ring.

    Walter Johnson of Henderson’s band generally gets credit for the true, four-beat ride technique starting in 1931. But I seem to hear Gene Krupa doing it behind Bix on “Deep Down South” with the latter’s all-star band the year before.

    • Andrew J. Sammut says:

      Paul, it’s nice to hear from you and hear your thoughts on this music.

      I don’t have access to the music now and can’t remember which drummer told me, but Ben Pollack may have also done a ride (or ride-ish) beat on the four Benny Goodman And His Boys Sides, maybe “Room 1411?”

      As for Mr. Morehouse’s examples, I wish I had access to them or at least what he was referring to. Your point makes me wonder if maybe the two-beat versus four-beat distinction just wasn’t as important to him as it was to others? Again, more conjecture on my part.

  2. pwlsax says:

    Are Morehouse’s Examples A and B forthcoming, or useful at all? I notice he avoids the terms two-beat and four-beat, which is kind of unusual when differentiating Dixieland vs. swing!

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