Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oral Histories: Louis Bellson, Chico Hamilton & Roy Haynes

Treasures all, and thanks to the Smithsonian these priceless oral histories are available to those of us who appreciate what these gentlemen did for music and drumming.

Louis Bellson - 108 page transcript.
Audio clips: Clip 1 - on joining Benny Goodman, Clip 2 - Duke Ellington's band, Clip 3 - More about Ellington, Clip 4 - Louie's first arrangement for Ellington, Clip 5 - Pearl Bailey, Clip 6 - playing Benny Carter’s difficult arrangement of Errol Gardner’s performance of "For Once In My Life", Clip 7 - performing with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Louis Armstrong

Chico Hamilton - 153 page transcript.
Clip 1 - challenges of timekeeping, Clip 2 - meeting Dexter Gorden, Clip 3 - on Jo Jones with Basie, Clip 4 - on Art Blakey, Clip 5 - his encounter with Illinois Jacquet, Clip 6 - discusses meeting Larry Coryell

Roy Haynes - 72 page transcript.
Clip 1 - early life, Clip 2- culture of Harlem and New York City, playing at the Apollo Theater, Clip 4 - Lester Young, Clip 5- Sonny Rollins, Clip 6 - on being a drummer, Coltrane

What I love about Louis Bellson in particular is his three greatest influences coincide with mine: Chick Webb, Papa Jo Jones and Big Sid Catlett. In fact, Big Sid was one of Louis' teachers. A great article about Louis that augments his oral history above is Louie Bellson: Drumming's Patron Saint.

Louis and Roy Haynes narrated Legends of Jazz Drumming, and between the two you will get not only a history lesson in jazz drummers, but personal accounts and opinions that are as priceless as the oral histories above. An example is when Roy went to the West Coast in the 1940s and was mistaken for Chico Hamilton. Of course, Louis' insights into Chick, Papa Jo and Big Sid are equally priceless. Roy Haynes fans will find even more about material this remarkable drummer in A Life in Time – The Roy Haynes Story, which includes selected audio tracks on three CDs, and a DVD

Chico is one of the artists whose performance was captured (and showcased) in Bert Stern's wonderful Jazz On a Summer's Day, which I reviewed earlier.

If oral histories and biographies of these great drummers interest you, I strongly recommend Drummin' Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz The Swing Years and Drummin' Men: The Heartbeat of Jazz The Bebop Years, both of which are by Burt Korall. The Swing Years edition is especially valuable if you want in-depth biographies of drummers such as Dave Tough, Papa Jo Jones, Big Sid Catlett, etc. I found information on each - and many more drummers - that I have not found anywhere else. Another book that provides a focused history and solid bios of some great drummers and musicians is The Commandments of Early Rhythm and Blues Drumming. I was totally drawn into this book, and was surprised by the deep knowledge the author brings to not only R&B drumming, but how Six Degrees of Baby Dodds and a chart tracing roots back to those early pioneers add another dimension to the history of drum kit playing and jazz.

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