Tag Archives: pre swing drummers

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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