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Louie Bellson: The Go-To Guy

There’s an innate elegance about Louis Bellson. Not just in the princely garb he usually wears, or in his self-assured manner, but in the way those qualities come together to produce a timeless image of a classy musician in action. Even now, at 83, he climbs onto his drum stool radiating the confident connection with the music that has been present for nearly seven decades.

That inner-focused sense of self is already visible in Benny Goodman films from the early ’40s, revealing Bellson as a dark-haired, good-looking 18-year-old, smoothly propelling the rhythm in one of the era’s great swing bands (fronted by one of the era’s famously irascible leaders). Given all those qualities, it’s no wonder that Bellson has had, and continues to have, a career that reaches far beyond the ambitious dreams of most jazz drummers.

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