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Drummers & Percussionists: What Makes Their Unions Work?

Rhythm squared

Congas
Gretsch drum kit
Chano Pozo with Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra's "Manteca" album
Bobby Sanabria (left) with percussionist Candido, 2014
Sangam: Zakir Hussain, Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland
Airto Moreira
Giovanni Hidalgo, Umbria Jazz Festival, July 2014
Daniel Sadownick (l.) and Marcus Gilmore
Antonio Sanchez (l.) and Daniel Sadownick
VIc Firth American Jazz Hickory drumsticks

In his useful book What Jazz Is, published in 1997, Jonny King writes, “Drums have an intrinsic physical magnetism. … Maybe the draw is rhythm itself, the most innate of musical elements.” Think of the last time you heard live jazz. What got the loudest crowd reaction? Right. The drum solos. One reason the Bad Plus is popular is that drummer Dave King essentially never stops soloing. As Jonny King (no relation) points out, “Drummers themselves are, like the rest of us, victims of drum appeal.”

For victims whose appetite for drums is insatiable, there are percussion ensembles. M’Boom, founded by Max Roach, made six records between 1973 and 1992. Art Blakey’s imposing Drum Suite, recorded in 1956 and ’57, was finally reissued on Columbia in 2005. Blakey, Papa Jo Jones, Specs Wright, Candido Camero and Sabu Martinez drown the world in a sublime deluge of beats.

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Originally Published