When I was 13 my older brother gave me a very hip Christmas present. It was a three-LP collection called The Drums, released on the ABC/Impulse label in 1974. The recordings represented the spectrum of the jazz-drumming legacy, from Warren “Baby” Dodds to Barry Altschul. A few of the names I was familiar with-Louie Bellson, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones-but most of the drummers I did not recognize.
One of the more adventurous selections, Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” with drummer Milford Graves, mystified me. Rather than playing a steady beat to accompany the music, Mr. Graves was reacting independently with sounds. At first I thought the band was not playing together because there was no defined central pulse. But the more I listened, the more I realized they were very together. The band allowed the music to move and be very flexible and elastic. Mr. Graves was free to dance around and connect with the melody where he chose. I loved the freedom, joy and feeling in the sound.