posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
First in our “Give The Drummer Sum Series” on iconic and jazz ‘s greatest Drummers in our opinion. BIG SID CATLETT
“Big Sid” Catlett was one of the most flexible drummers in the history of jazz. On one hand,Catlett was skilled enough in the pre-modern styles to be Louis Armstrong’s favorite
percussionist; on the other, Catlett’s powerful swing and generous adaptability allowed him to play commendably on the early Parker/Gillespie bop sides. Catlett excelled particularly as a combo drummer in the swing era.
A sensitive player possessing great drive and spirit, he was every bit the equal of such better-known contemporaries as Jo Jones or Gene Krupa.
As a child in Chicago, Catlett played the piano and learned the rudiments of drumming. His first professional gig was with Darnell Howard in 1928. Catlett played with other undistinguished Chicago bands before moving to New York in 1930. There he became a hired gun, working and recording with Benny Carter (1932), McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (1934-1935), Fletcher Henderson (1936), and Don Redman (1936-1938). In the late ’30s and early ’40s Catlett worked and played endlessly, appearing on countless recording sessions with a staggeringly wide variety of musicians.
Catlett became Louis Armstrong’s drummer of choice, from 1938 –
1942 he was featured with Pops’ big band. In 1941, he played with a particularly excellent
Benny Goodman big band that also included trumpeters Billy Butterfield and Cootie Williams.
The advent of bebop appeared not to trouble him and if he never fully adapted his style he certainly gave his front-line colleagues few problems. Though Catlett was not a bebop drummer per se, he made an effort to accommodate the new music. He played on one of the first bop recording dates in 1945, a session that produced the classic early Gillespie/Parker sides.
In the early ’40s Catlett was a member of the superb Teddy Wilson Sextet. He also joined Duke Ellington briefly in 1945. Catlett led his own bands throughout the ’40s, until he joined Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars in 1947.He remained with Armstrong until 1949 when the years of all-night jam sessions began to catch up with him.
Catlett was forced to quit touring in 1949 due to ill health, but he continued to play, becoming the house drummer at a Chicago club, Jazz, Ltd. He also worked with Eddie Condon and John Kirby in New York in his final years. In early 1951 Catlett suffered from a bout of pneumonia and in March, he collapsed and died of a heart attack while visiting friends backstage at a Oran “Hot Lips” Page benefit concert at the Chicago Opera House.
Although a brilliant technician, Catlett chose to play in a deceptively simple style. With the fleet,smoothly-swinging Wilson sextet he was discreet and self-effacing; with Goodman he rolled the band remorselessly onward, with Armstrong he gave each of his fellow musicians an individualized accompaniment that defied them not to swing. Instantly identifiable, especially through his thundercrack rimshots, Catlett always swung mightily.
On stage, he was a spectacular showman, clothing his massive frame in green plaid suits, tossing his sticks high in
the air during solos and generally enjoying himself.
Enjoy the month of April with the HIPSTER!!
‘I Walked with Giants’
Autobiography of Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath and Joseph McLaren, foreword by Bill Cosby, introduction by Wynton Marsalis
Jimmy Heath has long been recognized as a brilliant instrumentalist and a magnificent composer and arranger. Jimmy is the middle brother of the legendary Heath Brothers (Percy Heath/bass and Tootie Heath/drums), and is the father of Mtume. He has performed with nearly all the jazz greats of the last 50 years, from Howard McGhee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis. In 1948 at the age of 21, he performed in the First International Jazz Festival in Paris with McGhee, sharing the stage with Coleman Hawkins, Slam Stewart, and Erroll Garner. One of Heath’s earliest big bands (1947-1948) in Philadelphia included John Coltrane, Benny Golson, Specs Wright, Cal Massey, Johnny Coles, Ray Bryant, and Nelson Boyd. Charlie Parker and Max Roach sat in on one occasion.
During his career, Jimmy Heath has performed on more than 100 record albums including seven with The Heath Brothers and twelve as a leader. Jimmy has also written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards and have been recorded by other artists including Art Farmer, Cannonball Adderley, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie J.J Johnson and Dexter Gordon. Jimmy has also composed extended works – seven suites and two string quartets – and he premiered his first symphonic work, “Three Ears,” in 1988 at Queens College (CUNY) with Maurice Peress conducting.
After having just concluded eleven years as Professor of Music at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, Heath maintains an extensive performance schedule and continues to conduct workshops and clinics throughout the United States, Europe, and Canada. He has also taught jazz studies at Jazz-mobile, Housatonic College, City College of New York, and The New School for Social Research. In October 1997, two of his former students, trumpeters Darren Barrett and Diego Urcola, placed first and second in the Thelonious Monk Competition.
Heath’s enduring dedication to jazz as well as his musicianship prompted the following tributes:
“All I can say is, if you know Jimmy Heath, you know Bop.” — Dizzy Gillespie
“Trane was always high on Jimmy’s playing and so was I. Plus, he was a very hip dude to be with, funny and clean and very intelligent. Jimmy is one of the thoroughbreds.” — Miles Davis
“My pick from the world’s talent would be Diz as leader, John Lewis or Hank Jones on piano, Ray Brown bass, Milt Jackson vibes, Jimmy Heath tenor, and Sonny Stitt alto.” — Kenny Clarke
“I had met Jimmy Heath, who – besides being a wonderful saxophonist – understood a lot about musical construction. I joined his group in Philadelphia in 1948. We were very much alike in our feeling, phrasing and a whole lot of other ways. Our musical appetites were the same. We used to practice together, and he would write out some of the things we were interested in. We would take things from records and digest them. In this way, we learned about the techniques being used by writers and arrangers.” — John Coltrane, Downbeat, 1960
If you love jazz, you have to love Jimmy Heath..he’s that perfect bridge between the “Bop Era” & today’s contemporary jazz artists. In his compositions you hear all those years of experience being visualized through his music and yet his attitude and approach to his playing is very well received by fans of all ages. Like a fine tuned race car, Heath is playing “Much Saxophone” and very much at the top of his game. Robert J. Carmack is a music historian,writer and blogger,you can follow him on twitter @blues2jazzguy or https://www.facebook.com/groups/hipstercollectoncorner/