Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gene Krupa

There are a few reasons why I am writing this post today. First, I recently purchased a box set of Gene's work titled Kind of Krupa

Second, this would have been Karen I. Karr's 59th birthday. Karen was a big fan of Gene, and took pride in the fact they they shared Chicago as their birthplace and home town, and the fact that both were Polish-American. Of course, Karen loved music, so today's post is in the memory of my muse who was all things to me, and a great drummer who inspired me, the generation before me, and subsequent generations of drummers. In the bio pic Swing, Swing, Swing Mel Torme was quoted as saying that the name Krupa would forever be associated with drums. I truly believe that.

About the box set, Kind of Krupa: discs in the set contain tracks spanning the period 1935 through 1959. They span Gene's work in big bands (notably Benny Goodman's and his own orchestras), as well as small ensembles.

The first disc in the set is basically an album simply titled V Discs, which were recorded for the US armed forces in World War II. Here is a sample track:

The next two discs are from two albums featuring drum battles between Gene and Buddy Rich. The first is Krupa and Rich that was recorded in New York in 1955 and features Gene and Buddy on drums backed by the Oscar Peterson Trio (Oscar on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar), plus Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, and Illinois Jacquet and Flip Phillips on tenor saxophone (Phillips also plays clarinet. The second is Drum Battle that was recorded live at one of Norman Granz' Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts in Carnegie Hall in New York on September 13, 1952. Musicians include Willie Smith (alto sax) and Hank Jones on piano, and features Ella Fitzgerald on Perdido. Here is a clip from that album, which has a lot more energy than the 1955 studio drum battle:

Discs 4 through 7 are comprised of tracks span 1936 through 1949, which include some excellent Anita O'Day performances. In fact, my 26 August 2012 post titled Anita O'Day in depth Part 4 covers some of the source albums for this disc as well as some video clips. The iconic Anita and Roy Eldridge performance of Let Me Off Uptown makes checking out that page worthwhile.

The Benny Goodman years is the focus of disc 8. It contains highlights from his 1935-38 performances with Goodman's big bands, as well as trio and quartet ensembles that featured Gene and Benny with Teddy Wilson on piano in the trio, with Lionel Hampton on vibraphone in the quartet. There are also tracks from the great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Here are some representative clips:

The complete album titled Complete Sextet Studio Sessions (featuring Ben Webster & Charlie Shavers) comprises disc 9. The original album was recorded in New York in 1953. Gene on drums is backed by Ben Webster and Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis on tenor saxophone, Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Bill Harris on trombone, Teddy Wilson on piano and Ray Brown on bass. Unfortunately I do not have a clip to share of this album, but suffice to say, Webster and Shavers make it a treat. If you go to the album link you can listen to sound samples, which are indicative of the great music it contains.

The final disc in the set is the entire 1958 album titled Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements. Gerry was an alumni of Gene's big band and served as arranger and conductor for the New York recording session. The big band was comprised of: Al DeRisi, Marky Markowitz, Ernie Royal, Doc Severinsen and Al Stewart on trumpet; Eddie Bert, Billy Byers, Jimmy Cleveland Trombone, Willie Dennis, Urbie Green and Kai Winding on trombone; Sam Marowitz and Phil Woods on alto saxophone; Frank Socolow and Eddie Wasserman on tenor saxophone and Danny Bank on baritone saxophone. The rhythm section was comprised of Gene on drums, Hank Jones on piano, Barry Galbraith on guitar and Jimmy Gannon on bass. Here are some clips from that album:

For more about the set, including a complete track list see my review.

There are some excellent web sites that pay tribute to Gene. One, The Gene Krupa Reference Page has been running for as long as I can remember. If you dig through the pages and links you will find a wealth of information about Gene. Also, the links that are provided to other sites point to even more information that is worth perusing.

I highly recommend the bip pic titled Swing, Swing, Swing as a fairly complete and factual portrayal of Gene's life.

Also of value is this two part interview:

As a parting shot I am including this video titled Gene Krupa and Friends - Legends in Concert. I hope you enjoy it.

The remainder of my day will be spent honoring the memory of Karen I. Karr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Piano: the other percussion instrument Part 3

My first post in this series was simply titled Piano: the other percussion instrument, with Part 2 - examples posted on its heels. The motivation for posting a third part in the series is the discovery of an excellent thesis by Thomas Andrew Van Seters and some new albums on the market.

The thesis is titled Eighty-Eight Drums: The Piano as a Percussion Instrument in Jazz and is comprehensive, and not the typical dry fare of academia. I found it engaging, and an easy read. It helps if you can read music and have some understanding of theory, but that is not absolutely required. If you find yourself drawn by the history and want to explore some of the true beginnings, check out Unique perspectives on blues (and jazz). If you are not that curious, but are still interested in the evolution of jazz, I recommend Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz As Told by the Men Who Made It.

On to some of the new albums I mentioned. Two of them were previously mentioned in my 05 October 2012 post, so I won't repeat myself here:

  1. Kind of Powell
  2. Kind of Silver
The other two are Kind of Monk and Kind of Peterson. Note that Powell and Monk are two of my holy trinity of pianists.

Regardless of your interest in piano - as a percussion instrument or otherwise - Thelonious Monk should be on your list of music to study. If for no other reason, you should dig into his music because of the drummers he recorded with: Ben Riley, Shadow Wilson, Philly Joe Jones and Frankie Dunlop to name but a few. More importantly, Monk had an amazing rhythmic feel and did things with time that will challenge you no matter how solid you are. Still not convinced? Check out Thelonious Monk: American genius and drummer's patron saint. If your interest is piqued, then do grab Kind of Monk:

Here is a taste to whet your appetite - Monk with Philly Joe Jones:

The next set that is new on the market and well worth snagging is Kind of Peterson. You will be treated to not only one of the world's great pianists (Oscar ranked up there with Art Tatum), but a masterclass in tasteful brushwork from Ed Thigpen, plus amazing examples of how drummers and bassists can work magic thanks to Ray Brown.

I'll wrap up with one final clip of a pianist you should be studying: Nina Simone. Her style was percussive and driving as shown here:

Check out Nina Simone's Greatest Hits for some excellent examples. Also check out Nat King Cole Trio for even more examples, and this time sans drummer.

Hopefully I will return to more regular posting here. Life sometimes gets in the way, but this should keep you busy if you follow all of the links.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Early jazz TV

In A nostalgia trip to 1957 I posted the entire 8 December 1957 CBS special broadcast titled A Sound of Jazz. This broadcast is in the public domain, as are a number of excellent episodes from 1958's Art Ford Jazz Party broadcasts. Here is a legal source for downloading them:, and here are the episodes that you can watch right here to determine if you want to download them:

Art Ford's Jazz Party 18 September 1958

Art Ford's Jazz Party 09 October 1958

Art Ford's Jazz Party 25 December 1958 - A Tribute to Jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden

Whole the above are free, there is another collection of TV broadcasts that are not: Ralph Gleason's series of half-hour programs for the U.S. National Education Television Network titled Jazz Casual. This series ran from 1961 to 1968. Including the pilot there were a total of 31 episodes, but only 28 of them have survived, and are offered in Jazz Casual: The Complete Series

Mark Sabbatini's review is so complete and frank that I do not feel that I can add anything to it. I will, however, provide a few clips to show what this set contains, as well as attest that I hold the set to be a treasure.

Even if the Jazz Casual: The Complete Series is outside your budget, you can still enjoy the Art Ford episodes both free and legally. There are treasures on the web!