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A Century of Drums and Drummers

A Century of Drums and Drummers

Story by Paul Matcott and Barnaby Gold

There is a certain irony in the fact that whilst a drum or percussion instrument of similar type would most certainly be amongst the first musical instrument used regularly by us humans, the drumset as it is now known is really a relatively new instrument. The idea of putting a pile of drums and cymbals together and getting one performer to play all of them only began early this century. When marching and parade bands stopped marching, and transformed themselves into dance bands, the drumset came into being. In this, the last issue of Drumscene for the old Millenium, I will attempt to give a potted history of the players and playing techniques that have contributed to the evolution of the drumset over this century.

When marching and parade bands stopped marching, and transformed themselves into dance bands, the drumset came into being. In this, the last issue of Drumscene for the old Millenium, I will attempt to give a potted history of the players and playing techniques that have contributed to the evolution of the drumset over this century. For all sorts of reasons I can only cover some of the better known drummers, whose influence on other drummers particularly has been considerable. As the world becomes more global in the next Millenium, the work of drummers from all over the world will be more readily available to drummers everywhere, and I for one will enjoy that. In this article however, the bulk of the players will be American, British and of course Australian. (I'm sure many readers will have lots of drummers that they consider worthy of mention who might not be included here, and that's fine I welcome ongoing discussion on the matter) My timeframe for discussing styles of drumming only extends forward in time to the early eighties. My rationale here being that most readers of this magazine have lived since then and will have their own views on contemporary drumming.

In the Beginning
Marching bands have been around for a long time, and the basic components of the percussion sections have essentially been a large bass drum, a side drum or some variation on a snare drum, and a tenor drum. Turkish 'Janissary' bands (military marching bands) also included cymbals, and for that we drummers must be very grateful - it spawned the Zildjian cymbal making tradition. Techniques for playing snare drums haven't changed that much, and consist mostly of combinations of the four basic strokes singles, doubles, flams and buzz strokes. Around the turn of the century in New Orleans, USA, the European marching tradition met up with a West African approach to rhythm when jazz music was born. We can't hope to know about all of the drummers from that time who made a contribution to the development of drumming, but there are some players whose influence is undoubted.

Whilst musicologists may tell us that jazz wasn't invented in one city alone, it seems that New Orleans, a port city on the gulf of Louisiana, is where most of the early jazz players were centred. The red light district of Storyville was where much of the emerging jazz music was played. The music itself had its origins in the marching bands of the time, who were well known then for their funeral parades. On the way to the burial they were all serious and solemn, but on the journey back they would play a more swinging, improvised form of march, celebrating the joy of living, rather than the sorrow of death. This style of playing became known as second line drumming, and is still played today. When marching bands stopped marching and drumset players emerged, it was this swinging approach to march rhythms that became the foundation for jazz. The instrumentation of the early bands consisted of one or more cornets, a clarinet, trombone, banjo and drums. The main function of the drums, at first, was to provide a rhythmic foundation that fitted comfortably with the various dance steps that were in vogue. With the traditional snare drum language as the basis for most drumming back then, improvisation was not easy for drummers. The march feel that was the mainstay of the marching bands was altered to a more swinging 12/8 feel, or the eighth note triplet feel that is the standard writing of most jazz today. The other big consequence of the transition to one drummer was the incorporation of other percussion instruments into the kit drummer's set up. Woodblocks, tom toms and cymbals found their way into the drummer's instrumental set-up. The style of playing was still very military, but through the use of these additional instruments, the drummer's vocabulary was greatly expanded. Most of the playing at first was on the drums or on the rims of the drums or on woodblocks, with cymbals being used mostly as exotic additions rather than as the timekeeping devices we now know them as. Recording at this time was cumbersome direct to disc which means that not a lot can be gleaned about the 'standard' ways of playing that first emerged. (With direct to disc recording, the performance was captured live straight to vinyl records, which meant that the big sound of the bass drum and the loud transient sound of the snare created problems for the needle that tracked across the vinyl. Because these drums caused the needle to jump, they were often left out of the recording completely.) One thing is sure: the new drummers had an opportunity to create a much greater timbral variety in the music they played, which gave a certain license to drummers to be creative and individual. There are many drummers who came to prominence at that time, but space prevents me from giving due regard to all of them. The ones profiled below are perhaps the most influential, and are certainly the ones that other drummers credit as being their inspirations:

The Early Players
Warren 'Baby' Dodds.
Baby Dodds came straight out of the New Orleans brass band tradition, and translated that music from the customary march set-up to the 'drumset'. Born in 1898, in New Orleans, Baby Dodds grew up with the emerging jazz music. He worked on the river boats with his brother, clarinetist Johnny Dodds, and with Louis Armstrong and Fate Marable amongst others. With the close of Storeyville in 1917, he ended up, like a lot of other jazz musicians, in Chicago, working with King Oliver's Creole Jazz band, which also included Louis Armstrong. The style of music that this ensemble played was a more soloistic one, with more than one melodic line being played at the same time. Dodd's playing was the epitome of military flavoured jazz, and his use of press rolls, strong bass drum playing, and great melodic inventiveness marked him as one of the drummers that others turned to for inspiration. George Wettling attributes the broken triplet pattern that became the norm for cymbal playing to Baby Dodds, and he was also one of the first to play simple breaks and solos between phrases and different soloists. "It was on the riverboats that I began using the rims instead of the woodblocks it sounded so soothing and soft. On the boat I also worked out the technique of hitting the cymbal with the sticks. I worked that out around 1919. Now everybody's using it, but it came from me on the riverboat." (quoted in 'Star Sets: Drumkits of the great drummers, by Jon Cohan p. 9)

Gene Krupa said of Baby Dodds "..(he) taught me more than all the others. Not only drum playing, but drum philosophy. He was the first great soloist. His concept went from keeping time to making the drums a melodic part of jazz. Baby could play a tune on his drums, and if you listened carefully, you could tell the melody". (quoted in Modern Drummer, 'History of Jazz Drumming Vol. 1 June/July 1980)

Zutty Singleton
Born in New Orleans in 1898, and self taught, Zutty singleton went on to play with The Tuxedo Jazz Band, Louis Nelson, The Maple Leaf Band, Fate Marable and gained his greatest fame as the drummer on Louis Armstrong's Hot Five recordings. He also moved to Chicago with the close of Storeyville and played with Doc Cook, Dave Payton and Jikky Noone before moving further north to New York, where he worked with Armstrong, Fats waller and Sydney Bechet, He also recorded with Jelly Roll Moreton, Pee Wee Russell and Buster Bailey. Drummers such as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Davey Tough and Jo Jones all credit him with being a major influence: "He had a loose, simple, funky approach to his instrument, always respecting and supporting the soloist that he was accompanying and never getting in the way" (Cohan, p.11). His use of the press roll, maintaining the pulse through the accentuation of beats two and four of the bar presaged the modern jazz cymbal beat. Zutty played a simple kit that consisted of a snare drum, bass drum, two toms and two or three cymbals.

Chic Webb
Originally from Baltimore, Chic Webb came to New York in 1924 and formed his own band, working the nightclubs of the Harlem district. When his band started recording regularly he became prominent nationally. Playing at the Savoy in Harlem became the testing ground for many drummers, in the legendary cutting contests of the day; Webb was the master in this situation, and the fact that he was a hunchback, eventually dying at the age of 32 from tuberculosis, made his feats behind the drumset all the more amazing and inspiring. His playing was pulsating and powerful, with a control over the bass drum that was unique for the time. He played with tremendous speed when needed, and had a wonderful command of light and shade behind the kit. He was born only a couple of years after Baby Dodds, and his playing was also military in style, but his style was more legato and flowing, and he had a lighter overall touch, one that many drummers used as their inspiration. Such drummers included Buddy Rich ("I was there, I saw him. I idolized him. There's nobody around doing it today"), and Gene Krupa ("That man was dynamic. He could reach amazing heights. When he felt like it he cut any of us down."). Webb was perhaps the main bridge between the early jazz drummers and the drummers of the swing era, a style which he helped pioneer. Another of his big claims to fame was that he discovered Ella Fitzgerald.

Sid Catlett
Born in Louisiana in 1910, Sid Catlett started playing in Chicago at age 16. At 20 he moved to New York, working there with Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman. Sid was an all round player with very steady time, who understood that his primary musical role was to tie all the rhythm section ingredients together, to provide a solid foundation. He influenced other players through his conceptual innovations and his contribution to the rhythm section rather than exhibitionism. One of his greatest contributions was in his solo construction; he explored themes and melodic lines in his playing, based on the tune. He also pioneered the use of the hi-hat as the primary timekeeping device. Sid managed to bridge the gap between Swing and Bop on recordings with Dizzy Gillesie and Charlie Parker in the early forties, one of the few swing drummers to do so.


Early jazz, or what most here in OZ would call Dixieland, was essentially a 2-beat rhythmic feel. During the twenties, as jazz moved north to Chicago and New York, the dominant style became a four beat feel, where each beat receives equal stress as the basis to the metric feel of the music. (This way of thinking in jazz is still the most prevalent I think; check out Peter Erskine's first video, 'Timekeeping is Everything' for a good explanation and demonstration of the steady forward motion of an even quarter note approach). The instrumentation of the bands became that of the Big Band, with trumpet, trombone and saxophone sections, together with a rhythm section that included bass, drums, guitar and piano. The swing bands led the first and really the only commercially successful phase of jazz. Swing leaders such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, the Dorsey Brothers and many others, became nationally and then internationally famous, and so did the drummers who worked with them. The style of playing became integral to the needs of the music. Timekeeping on a Zildjian cymbal (as opposed to the sound of a Chinese cymbal) became the norm, and with the invention of the hi-hat, and its' incorporation into the drumset, the instrument began to take on the standard set-up that most of us envisage when we think of the drumkit. There was the use of the standard time pattern 'ding-dingaling' and a lightness in the overall playing, except for solos and breaks, which were to take on more importance with the emergence of the standard drum solo to end the set each night.

Gene Krupa
Gene Krupa was possibly the most famous drummer in all of jazz. He was a key figure in the Chicago style of the late twenties, spending hours in the informal tuition offered by Chicago's black drummers. According to Krupa "I had no idea of the wide effects you could get from a set of drums. I picked up from Zutty and Baby Dodds the difference between starting a roll...with the left or right hand, and how the tone and inflection changed entirely when you shifted hands. Many white musicians of the day thought drums were something you beat the hell out of; few of them realised that drums had a broad range of tonal variations so they could be played to fit into a harmonic pattern as well as a rhythmic one."

Krupa was born in southside Chicago in 1909 and was originally headed for the priesthood before drumming took over. In 1935 he joined the Benny Goodman Orchestra, which was soon to become the hottest band around. Gene soon became 'the King of Swing' and his lengthy solo on the tune 'Sing, Sing, Sing' directly led to the general acceptance of the drums being used as a solo voice in many bands. He successfully led his own band in the late thirties/early forties, before working with Tommy Dorsey, and once again, Benny Goodman. He toured with the Jazz at the Philaharmonic band for several years, and led a lot of small combos up until his death in 1973.

Krupa's legacy in drumming is huge; he is responsible for bringing the drums into the spotlight for the first time. His style was based on the black drummers he grew up with - he simplified the complexity of Baby Dodds, but maintained the military flavour. He was a master technician with a flexible and dynamic time feeling, whose thirst for knowledge helped to increase his understanding of the history and nature of percussion.

Buddy Rich
Buddy was born in Brooklyn New York in 1917, and started performing with his parents vaudeville act at eighteen months of age. At four he performed on Broadway, and by age six he had already been here in Australia, under the name of 'Traps the Drum Wonder'. During the swing period he worked with Bunny Berrigan, Artie Shaw, Benny Carter and Tommy Dorsey. He was in the Marines from '42 -44, after which he rejoined Tommy Dorsey for a while before starting his first Big Band. He worked with Harry James in Las Vegas after the swing era, before starting his own band once more in 1966, which he was to continue to run until his death.

For many drummers, and for many years, Buddy was 'the' drummer; his awesome technical facility was universally admired. Few drummers could match what Buddy did behind the kit. His playing was full of imagination, humour, impeccable taste and musicianship, and was the epitome of technical excellence. His power and endurance were legendary, as was his sense of swing. Buddy came as close to technical mastery of the drumset as anyone has.

As far as Buddy's influence on other drummers, here are some tributes that speak for themselves:

Roy Burns: "Buddy Rich probably influenced every drummer, to some degree, since 1940. He showed all of us what the instrument could do. He pushed back the inherent limits of the drumset and took it to new heights...you had to respect his ability, his drive, and his dedication to the art of drumming."

Jim Chapin: "For all of us who grew up in the swing era, he was the ultimate paragon of skill. Styles have come and gone, but to many, Buddy remained the incomparable delineator of what was good in drumming always on top of any worthy advance in the art."

Armand Zildjian: 'During all of my life in this business, there was always Buddy Rich. He gave me the best musical experiences of my life. He had talent, and natural ability with that drive behind it. You could recognise his playing 100 miles away. I don't know how to explain it except to say that he just knew how music should sound."

Peter Erskine: "Buddy was the greatest drummer ever to pick up a pair of sticks."

Louis Bellson
At 17, Louis Bellson played with Benny Goodman. He went on to play with Duke Ellington's orchestra, then later with the big bands of Count Basie and Henry James. Though his playing reputation is great, Bellson's major contribution to the world of drumming was that of designing and pioneering the use of double bass drums. He experimented with a range of set-ups, including two 20" bass drums between which sat a large 16" floor tom to which were attached 9" x 13" and 7" x 11" toms on either side. His regular set-up became two 24" or 26" bass drums with two 7" x 13" mounted toms, two 16" floor toms, 5 1/2" x 14" snare, 15" hi-hats and several ride cymbals. Bellson has always been a strong advocate of passing on drumming heritage, as Big Sid Catlett and Jo Jones passed it to him.

Dave Tough
Another of the key players to shape the art of jazz drumming in the late twenties, Dave was a member of the Austin High Gang out of Chicago. He worked with Bud Freeman and Eddie Condon in the late twenties and freelanced in New York with Red Nicholls. He joined Tommy Dorsey in 1936, later working with Bunny Berrigan, Benny Goodman, and Jack Teagarden. He went on the play in the Woody Herman 'Herds' in the mid-forties. Originally a devotee of Baby Dodds' style, Dave absorbed the New Orleans message to an even greater extent than his fellow Chicagoans and was a player who continued to evolve well into the Bop years.

He used larger cymbals than most, and they spread like a golden shimmer behind Woody. Dave made the ride cymbal the basic instrument of the set. His playing was subtle yet inspired, and he played with an intensity that only a Buddy Rich could match.

'Papa' Jo Jones
Renowned for his work with the Count Basie orchestra, Jo Jones, together with Freddie green on guitar and Walter Page on bass, formed arguably the first true rhythm section: "Never before in American musical history did any rhythm section create so much heat with so little wasted motion an effortless kind of cruise control. Walter Page's bass was the trunk and Freddie Green's brush-like strumming was the rustling of the leaves, as Basie skittered in and out of their beat in a cat and mouse exchange with Jones' understated yet indomitable pulse In his melodic dialogues with the great tenorist Lester Young, you could hear the roots of Bebop and modern jazz in the making; and when he tore into a hip-grinding break with...tenorist Hershel Evans, you could hear the birth of modern R and B and Rock and Roll in the making." (quoted in Modern Drummer Jan '84, p.10.)


Bebop was born of a desire to do something different. As swing music became so omnipresent lots of jazz players felt it had reached its use by date in a creative sense, and many, particularly black players, stated experimenting with new ideas. Minton's Playhouse in Harlem was the setting for most of the early Bop experimentation, which featured players such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Jimmy Blanton, Charlie Christian, Bud Powell, Theloniuos Monk, and drummers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach. Bebop was small group oriented rather than Big Band, and was not really a dance form, but more one of individual musical self-expression. As with most changes in jazz, the most notable was the rhythmic change. No longer did drummers have to maintain a steady dance beat on the bass drum, they were free to drop bombs as it was known then - to place rhythmic accents where ever they liked, using all the colours of the drumset. Timekeeping became more focused on the ride cymbal and the tight 'shick, shick' sound of the hi-hat. The trend to smaller kits was another product of bop, though this was as much to do with getting the instrument into a car as it was with the aesthetic of the music.

Kenny Clarke
Kenny "Klook" Clarke was a pioneer of the bebop style, namely as a major contributor to time feel. After experimenting with his bassist brother, Frank, Klook began to use the ride cymbal as a focal time-keeping device, whilst reserving the snare and bass drum for creating a "dialogue" with solo instruments. Playing in this way enabled the bass line to be better heard, unlike the "four on the floor" use of the bass drum in the previous swing era, which obscured the sound of the acoustic bass.

A story goes that Klook was often sacked for his broken cymbal patterns and "bombs" on the bass drum. When he set up for a gig, he left his cases sitting open behind him, in anticipation of leaving early.

Klook recorded with Julian and Nat Adderly, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Bud Powell, and Dizzy Gillespie among many of the great musicians of the early bebop era. He appears on Bag's Groove with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.

Max Roach
Continuing in the vein of fervent, vital bebop music that he helped pioneer, Max Roach made significant waves in the early 1950s with friend and trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown. Their famous versions of "Cherokee" broke records in note articulation at fast tempos, some as quick as 400 bpm! Roach's drum-set epitomised the bebop sound and set-up, using a 20" bass drum, 4" x 14" snare, 12" mounted tom, 14" floor tom, 14" hi-hats, 18" and 20" or 22" cymbals. His drums were always tuned melodically, including the bass drum, and his solos were consequently tuneful. "Joy Spring", recorded with Clifford Brown in 1954 contains a pertinent example of Roach's articulate solo phrasing over a 32-bar form.

Roy Haynes
Born in Boston in 1926, Roy worked with Lester Young and Louis Russell before playing on 52nd Street in 1949 with Kai Winding. He went on to work with Charlie Parker from 1949 - 1950. Haynes, now known as the father of modern jazz drumming, has been sought by a virtual "Who's Who" of 20th century jazz: Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny. His distinctive drum sound was described as "snap, crackle" which was probably a reference to the crisp array of buzzes, stick and rim-shots he achieved on his tightly-tuned 4" x 14" snare drum. At 73, Haynes continues to play in modern jazz contexts, though he mainly tours with his own quartet. He established himself as a bandleader in 1958 with his album, We Three, and went on to arrange and compose on his 1962 album, Out of the Afternoon. Reed-man, Roland Kirk on Haynes:

"He plays so spontaneously and never holds you back from what you want to play. And he does more than lay a beat. I can hear him making those drums talk."


After the harmonic and rhythmic tension of Bop, jazz went through a 'cool' phase, where the music became calmer and smoother. Fast chord changes were replaced with greater emphasis on soloing over fewer chords, with more melodic invention and use of different scales becoming the dominant approach. Miles Davis was a leading exponent of this style in the fifties. Drummers also became more expressive, using more light and shade rather than rhythmic complexity to create the background to soloists. Drummers such as Shelly Manne played with less energy and more musical refinement. At the same time, by contrast, there was Hard Bop, which was pure Bop, enriched with a greater harmonic understanding, and a more 'perfect' instrumental technique from all the players. Art Blakey, Max Roach and a young Elvin Jones figured prominently in this style. Elvin in particular, managed to fuse complexity of rhythmic ideas and structures with a vitality and energy that was at the time unique. Another musical journey from this time was the excursion into odd meters, epitomized by Dave Brubeck's famous composition, 'Take Five', featuring the legendary Joe Morello on drums.

The next major phase of jazz (sixties...) was the 'Free' style of playing, where atonality and a lack of formalised musical structures became the norm. Classical music had already gone through an atonal phase some fifty years earlier, and now it was the turn of jazz players to stretch the boundaries of musical sound beyond the traditional Western tonal centred approach. "For the young generation of free jazz musicians, the music preceding them had been depleted in terms of playing...harmonic structure and metric symmetry. It had become rigid in its cliches and predictable formulas, similar to the situation twenty years earlier, when BeBop was created...All possibilities of traditional forms and conventional tonality seemed exhausted. That is why the young musicians searched for new ways of playing - and in the process, jazz again became what it had been in the twenties when the white public discovered it: a great crazy, exciting, precarious adventure. At last, there was collective improvisation again, with lines rubbing against and crossing each other wildly and freely." (Joachim Berendt: The Jazz Book. p25) The main players of this style were Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman, together with John Coltrane (although Coltrane didn't go as far in this direction as did the others). Drummers such as Sunny Murray, Don Moye, Rashied Ali, Ed Blackwell, Elvin Jones and Beaver Harris were all contributors to this style of jazz playing. Their playing became less metrically oriented and more pulse oriented, using a great variety of rhythmic influences (African, Indian, Arabian...) to create a new kind of tension within the music. Timekeeping was out the window in the traditional sense, with many tempos coexisting within the one piece, with melodies and harmonies clashing and with structure basically improvised for each performance. Drummers played 'moods' or 'emotional' colours, using whatever combination of sounds they could call upon, which greatly expanded the overall palette of colours that all drummers could then begin to use. Elvin's rolling tom tom patterns for example led drummers into completely new tonal territory.

The next major phase in jazz was the 'fusion' of jazz with Rock, which was to become the next major commercially successful jazz style.

Post Bop Drummers
Art Blakey
"I think I'm the least educated about the modern method of drumming than anybody in the field," said Blakey, "I just play what I feel. I don't care if I got my sticks backwards, forwards - if I hear something that calls for me to use my elbow, I'll do it." Yet, students of jazz drumming seem to have plenty of time to educate themselves about Blakey's raw energy and swinging groove (and that monster press roll). The inescapable 'Blakey shuffle' can be witnessed on the track "Moanin", recorded in 1958 with his group, Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, which spanned over 40 years and spawned many of the modern jazz leaders, including: Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, and Terence Blanchard.

Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones (nicknamed "Philly" from Philadelphia to distinguish him from the still burning "Papa" Jo Jones) could be characterised thus: a searing ride cymbal sound, a snare drum with strong rhythmic statement, and rudimental solo chops, all executed with musical taste and sensitivity. Philly was brought to fame through his work with Miles Davis in the 1950s. Fine examples of his ensemble playing can be heard with Red Garland (piano) and Paul Chambers (double bass) on the Workin', Relaxin', Steamin' sessions. One can hear in his playing the essence of the big band drummers to whom he was exposed; he adapted the elements of taste, power, and style to modern jazz.

Shelley Manne
A "late bloomer" studying the drums at age 18, Shelley Manne joined Stan Kenton's big band in 1946 where he flourished as a player and became a star in his own right. He was primarily identified as an exponent of the West Coast Sound, a hybrid of cool jazz and bebop solo concepts.

"I realised that drums could be used as a melodic instrument and still maintain their place in the rhythm section. Instead of letting the rhythm imply its own melody, my concept is to play melodically and allow the melody to create the rhythm," said Manne of his playing approach in the 1950s. To him, technical virtuosity was secondary to a good set of ears: "Technique is only a means to get there... The main thing a drummer still needs to do is play time that swings... The time has to live, not just be good time. A metronome has good time." Notable performances can be heard with Andre Previn, West Side Story, and with his own group At The Blackhawk.

Elvin Jones
The Elvin Jones sound is unmistakably true to the rule: "It ain't the drums, it's the drummer." His approach to the drum-set as a singular musical voice was a rhythmic canvas to the innovative saxophone styles of his major employers, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter in the early 1960s. Primarily self-taught, Jones culled ideas from Sid Catlett, Jo Jones, and Gene Krupa. As he said in Down Beat magazine: "It all boils down to a lot of hard work and midnight oil. You just have to listen and learn and try to relate the things you hear to your own playing."

Any recordings with Coltrane and rhythm mates McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison (e.g. Coltrane's Sound, The Real McCoy; and Shorter's Juju) showcase Jones' original playing style, the feature of which is his seamless, legato approach to time playing, utilising continuous rolling triplets around the drums and cymbals. Speaking of a holistic approach to the drum-set, Jones said: "Everything that's included in a drum-set is there for a purpose and should be learned. Whether you use it consistently or not, you should know how to use it."

Tony Williams

At 17 years of age, Tony Williams was playing with jazz legend, trumpeter Miles Davis. His first recorded appearance with Davis was on the album, 'Seven Steps to Heaven' on which he displayed a focussed time feel and a stylish, tightly phrased approach to soloing. In the 1960s, Williams was part of the formidable Miles Davis quintet which included Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, and Ron Carter on double bass. 'Miles Smiles' and the live double album 'My Funny Valentine' and 'Four and More' are exemplary pieces by this ground-breaking contemporary jazz ensemble.

Following his engagement with Davis, Williams went on to form 'Lifetime' with guitarist John McLaughlin. This raw mix of jazz and rock was later to be called 'fusion' music. It was through this style that Williams continued to create a new vocabulary of drumming that transcended traditional approaches.

During the 1980s, Williams pursued his role as composer and bandleader, a role he maintained until his untimely passing in 1997. He is remembered as a great innovator of drumming, embodying the style and tradition of all the early bebop players whilst adding an unrelenting drive to push music forward.4

Jack DeJohnette
Born in Chicago, Jack DeJohnette studied classical piano and was a graduate of the American Conservatory of Music. He went to New York in 1966 working there with Jackie McClean, John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Chic Corea, Thelonius Monk, and Miles Davis. He played on Miles' 'Bitches Brew' album, one that presaged the emergence of fusion music. Jack went on to figure prominently in the free jazz period, collaborating on numerous ECM albums with bassist Dave Holland and pianist Kieth Jarrett. A fiery player, with a style that has a strong mixture of Bop, Rock and Elvin Jones.


Rock and Roll was born from the fusion of two existing musical styles Blues and Country and Western, both of which had their own history. People like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson were already well known Blues players, and there were many locally known Country and Western singers. Most of the playing was focused on the singing, and the familiar four and eight bar phrases with which we assosciate Blues today was not the norm. Drummers were not integral to these styles at first, mostly because they were centred around solo guitar or piano playing singers. As the players moved from country centres to urban cities, the need for a fuller sound became apparent and drummers were added. Prior to using drums, players would often tap their feet, or their instruments to create the time feel. Bass players would play slaps on beats two and four as they walked their way through the changes. Early Rock drumming was simple, as was the music, although capturing the right feel was not an easy thing to do. Musicians have been trying to copy the feel on records from the early fifties without great success. (Muddy Waters described the feel as being a result of social conditions of the time 'One day I would eat, the next day I wouldn't. Ain't got them kind of Blues today.') The early drummers were most likely to have started off playing jazz, so they had some musical schooling on the instrument which translated well enough to these styles, albeit in a modified way.


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