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Overdue Ovation: Doug Hammond

A little-known lodestar

Doug Hammond

“Doug is the first person I mention to anybody in my circle,” says Steve Coleman, referring to the 69-year-old drummer-composer Doug Hammond. Alto saxophonist Coleman, one of the most influential figures of jazz’s past three decades, has frequently credited him as a lodestar figure for his rhythmic and improvisational concepts. But Hammond, who lives in Linz, Austria, remains, in Coleman’s words, “one of these cats that nobody knows.”

Coleman is far from the only endorser of Hammond’s bona fides. Hammond was 31 when Charles Mingus recorded his composition “Moves,” the title track of Mingus’ first date with his singular Don Pullen-George Adams band. In 1987, Dave Holland used Hammond’s “Brother Ty” and “Figit Time” to bookend The Razor’s Edge, which debuted his important ’80s unit with Coleman, trombonist Robin Eubanks and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. By then, Hammond had recorded two little-heard masterpieces, Perspicuity and Spaces, with his own trio featuring Coleman and cellist Muneer Abdul Fataah. “I was bringing Dave music with very particular rhythms which he hadn’t played before, and he asked me where they came from,” Coleman recalls. “To me, the things that drummers like Marcus Gilmore and Tyshawn Sorey are doing today are an updated version of what Doug was doing then.”

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