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Do The Write Thing: Drummer-Composers Trade Their Sticks for Pens

Bill Stewart
Jack DeJohnette

In the gospel according to conventional jazz wisdom, certain wrong-headed stereotypes live on, despite their irrelevancy. One of these is the notion that drummers belong in the rhythm kitchen, leaving the “serious” business of composing and arranging to instrumentalists in the harmonic/melodic zone.

It may be true that, proportionally, far fewer drummers have ventured into writing and bandleading than other types of players. But it is also true that, especially in the last 25 years, some of the fresher and more intriguing jazz has come from the pens and minds of drummer-composers, including Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Matt Wilson, Terri Lyne Carrington, Bill Stewart, Jim Black … the list goes on.

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