Brian Chase’s Jazz Drummer Spotlight: 1952-’66

Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase is celebrating the release of Drums and Drones: Decade, a 144 page book and triple album, culminating the first ten years of his solo project, Drums and Drones. This project, which began in 2007, is initially inspired by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s legendary Dream House installation. The aim of the project is to create elaborate meditative soundscapes derived from the resonant acoustic tones of tuned drums. Drums and Drones: Decade captures the essence of the project in sound/image/text. Check out the Jazz Drummer Spotlight: 1952-’66 playlist he made for The Dowsers right here, and go here for more info about the book and its three albums.

Says Chase, “This playlist focuses on the drum solo in jazz from 1952-1966. What appeals here, in addition to the incredible music itself, is stylistic evolution and how the drum solo reflects its musical context at each step along the way. In listening to this playlist, an awareness is brought to how the drums ‘play’ melody, harmony, and texture, not only rhythm. Much gratitude and praise goes to these remarkable and pioneering musicians.”

Brief personal notes:

1. “Caravan” – “Papa” Jo is a master of melodic drumming.

2. “Skin Deep” – Louis Bellson’s grand drum solo is an early use of double bass drums on record.

3. “It Don’t Mean A Thing…” – Max is a master at outlining melodic phrasing (i.e. using the drums to create ‘shape’ which suggests melodic line), and establishing harmonic-like patterns (i.e. ‘arpeggios’).

4. “Minor Mode” – “Philly” Joe is a master of ‘melodic rhythm:’ one can sing the melody of “Minor Mode” along with the solo.

5. “Swinging’ Kilts” – Three classic Hard-Bop drummers play together here: Art Blakey, “Philly” Joe Jones, and Art Taylor.

6. “Folk Tale” – The playful freedom of Ornette’s soloing is beautifully reflected in Ed Blackwell’s melodies and rhythms.

7. “Kid Dynamite” – Motian’s playing represents the beauty of abstraction and gesture.

8. “Al’s In” – Alan Dawson’s brilliant and unconventional style showcase techniques that expand the ‘vocabulary’ of the instrument.

9 and 10. “Nomadic” and “Agitation” – Tony Williams, Dawson’s protege, takes center stage on these tracks. A more open and free-form playing style is on display with the drums given extended space to establish the musical scene.

11. “The Drum Thing” – Elvin! As Elvin improvises he establishes new thematic ideas which continually build intensity.

12. “East Broadway Run Down” – Elvin! I love in particular the long legato phrasing…

13 – 15. “The Drum Also Waltzes,” “For Big Sid,” “The Drum Thing” – These are Max Roach’s drum solo masterpieces.

16. “Nothing 19” – Milford Graves and Sunny Morgan, two drummers who helped establish the Free-Jazz style.

17. “Free For All” – Art Blakey in his glory.