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Dave Brubeck Remembers Joe Morello

The legendary pianist on his longtime drummer, who died last March

Dave Brubeck Quartet with Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wright
Dave Brubeck Quartet with Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello and Eugene Wright
Joe Morello

The first thing that comes to mind in thinking about Joe is that he was the greatest drummer in the world. He had students and people that he taught who were in awe of him. His drum solos were musical. Most people don’t realize that when he was 12 years old he played a violin concerto with the Boston Philharmonic. That’s what made him so aware musically of what was going on. I did a lot of things with symphony orchestras all across the country and in Europe, and Joe was the perfect jazz drummer to play classical music too. He understood it better than most people in jazz. He was just beyond most drummers.

I first met Joe when he was playing with Marian McPartland at the Hickory House on 52nd Street. I just knew right away that this guy was fantastic, even though Marian didn’t feature him in her trio. Later on she went to England for some reason and Joe was left with very little to do until she got back. That’s when I talked to him. I said, “Well, until she gets back maybe you would want to play with my trio?” And Joe said, “You know, Dave, I would go with you, but only if you feature me.” And I said, “Fine, let’s try it out this way and see what happens.” And when Marian returned she understood that it was a good move for Joe to make. She understood thoroughly that Joe should be featured more. And, of course, I featured him in my group for more than 10 years.

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