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Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Masters Move On & Hand Us the Torch

In 2009, we lost some masterful musicians. here we pay tribute to these Masters of percussion. They left behind some amazing work, and some of us are very lucky to say, they were our past teachers.

Jim Chapin
By Rick Mattingly
You'll rarely see Jim Chapin without a pair of sticks and a practice pad. Part of it is his sheer love of playing; part of it comes from when his book Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer was first published in 1948 and he was frequently challenged to prove that the patterns and exercises in the book could actually be played.

"A lot of my inspiration came from guys who played the shuffle, like Lou Fromm, Cozy Cole, O'Neill Spencer and Arthur Herbert," Chapin says. "My approach was to start with the shuffle rhythm in the left hand and then leave notes out of it while the right hand maintained the standard swing ride-cymbal pattern. A big misconception is that the book came out of what the bebop drummers were doing, but all the exercises that showed how to play dotted-eighth/sixteenths, straight eighths, triplets and sisteenth notes against the cymbal pattern were written in 1941 - long before bebop.

"By the time I put the book out in 1948, the bebop era was in full flower, so I wrote some exercises with a lot of the phrases I heard the bop drummers playing. But those drummers didn't play independently. When they would play those phrases, they would stop the cymbal or play it in unison. All I did was notate the mechanics and show how to play those phrases while keeping the swing pattern going on the ride cymbal."

The bop drummers were quick to take notice. "He beat a lot of drummers up with that book," says Max Roach. "We were all stumbling on it. But he made a significant contribution to conceptualizing what the drumset is all about, explaining it so clearly in his book."

For well over four decades, "the Chapin book" has been considered the definitive study on coordinated independence as applied to jazz drumming, and generations of drummers have struggled to master it. "I started studying from Advanced Techniques when I was about thirteen, and it was the first really frustrating thing I had encountered," says Dave Weckl. "That book definitely put me through changes. It was helping both my reading and my coordinated independence, and it brought me to a new level of concentration and ability. I went through it again with Ed Soph in college, and Ed had some different approaches using the same material, so it was the same thing all over again at a higher level. I always recommend that book."
( hall of fame article,

Alexander Lepak

Alexander Lepak, co-author of the Friese-Lepak Timpani Method and timpanist of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for 56 years died on March 25, 2009 after a battle with throat cancer. He was 88.
Lepak's career in music began as a youth in Hartford, Conn. He played timpani in his high school orchestra, studied music theory and played in various clubs and hotels with dance bands. Lepak served as the conductor of the Marines' 3rd Brigade Orchestra during World War II. When the war ended, he relocated to New York, performing with jazz orchestras and studying with Henry Adler and Alfred Friese. He returned to Hartford finish his degree at Hartt, graduating cum laude in 1950 and immediately being appointed to the theory and percussion faculty. He founded the Hartt School percussion ensemble in 1950 and conducted the Hartt Concert Jazz Band, which he founded in 1955. Lepak retired from the Hartt School in 1991.

And we also have to add another great drummer who left us this Summer, Rashied Ali
I remember having conversations with Rashied at the now defunct jazz club, Dharma.
I would perform at the early set 5pm-8pm and he would be arriving with his drums for the eve set, I once helped him set up his drums and in those few encounters, received some masterful knowledge from a completely humble, down to earth, and amazing musician, Rashied. I have recently been listening to his work with Alice Coltrane, such as Journey in Satchidananda.

::: Jazz drummer Rashied Ali.

Born in Philadelphia in 1935 as Robert Patterson, Ali worked in his hometown with a variety of rhythm and blues bands as well as with McCoy Tyner, the Heath Brothers, Lee Morgan, Don Patterson, and Jimmy Smith. After moving to New York City in 1963, Ali became active in the avant-garde jazz scene, working with Pharoah Sannders, Don Cherry, Paul Bley, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and Archie Shepp, with whom he made his first significant recording, On This Night.

In November 1965, John Coltrane invited Ali to join his group, playing drums alongside Elvin Jones. He appeared alongside Jones on Coltrane's album Meditations. Jones left Coltrane's group soon after that, and Ali remained the drummer in the group until Coltrane's death in 1967. Ali appeared on the Coltrane albums Cosmic Music, Live at the Village Vanguard Again, Concert in Japan, Jupiter Variations, and Interstellar Space, which consisted only of Coltrane and Ali.
some rare sounds here:

And of course

Louie Bellson -Drummer, bandleader and composer Louie Bellson died on February 14, 2009.

Best known as a big band drummer with phenomenal technique, Bellson is credited with popularizing the use of double bass drums. During his career he worked with such leaders as Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and his wife, singer Pearl Bailey. He also led his own big band and was an active composer, clinician, and drum book author. He was also known as one of the nicest guys in the music business.

Born July 6, 1924 in Rock Falls, Illinois, Bellson began learning to play drums at age three. When he was 16, Bellson won the national Gene Krupa drumming contest, and when he was 18 he worked with Ted FioRito and then with Benny Goodman for several months before going into military service. Afterward, he played with Goodman again and then worked with Tommy Dorsey. In 1950 he co-led a septet with Charlie Shavers that included vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, and then played briefly with Harry James before joining Duke Ellington in 1951. In addition to playing drums with the Ellington orchestra, Bellson also contributed several arrangements including "The Hawk Talks" and the drum feature "Skin Deep."

A Flashback Video from 1963:
Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Reggie Workman, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton.
(This band will swing you out the door..incredible band here. Wow!
notice blakeys use of matched grip and sidestick snare conversation at 2:08)