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Drummers, beating jazz into new terrain

November 6, 2010 |  8:00 am


While rarely receiving due credit for driving jazz innovation, drummers have played an essential role in the music’s evolution ever since Warren “Baby” Dodds devised a new rhythmic vocabulary for accompanying Louis Armstrong.

From swing pioneers Big Sid Catlett and Papa Jo Jones in the 1930s and bebop trailblazers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach in the 1940s through the swirling polyrhythms of Elvin Jones and pointillistic barrages of Tony Williams in the '60s, drummers have played an essential role in every jazz era, and this one is no different.

Three ensembles performing in the area in the coming weeks capture the way that the restless musical investigations of drummers drive jazz into new territory. From the gospel and folk-tinged anthems of Brian Blade to the Indo-funk of the Raga Bop Trio and the captivating song forms of Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom, the drum chair is the center of the action. The old stereotypes that denigrate the musicianship of drummers (joke: what do you call someone who hangs out around musicians? A drummer) have mostly been laid to rest in recent decades, but these players and their trap set peers should dispel any old notions about the limited imagination of rhythmic explorers.

For the Arts & Books section article, click here.

--Andrew Gilbert

Photo: Steve Smith performs with the Raga Bop Trio at Catalina's on Dec. 1-2; credit: Naoju Nakamura.