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Louie Bellson: Rim Shots & Double Bass Drums

Wild Thing: Louie Bellson in an undated promotional photo from Remo
Instructional chart from 1946
Louie Bellson

Louie Belson was thrilled to see Verve reissue Soul on Top, his 1970 collaboration with James Brown, a week after his 80th birthday on July 6. The album features the drummer’s swinging big band backing the Godfather of Soul on a program of ballads and jazz standards. “When James Brown called me for that session I was delighted,” Bellson says. “James’ roots are in jazz and so we got along great. Oliver Nelson wrote all the arrangements, and we just swung, which made James sing at the top level. And the CD actually sounds better than the original record did.”

Still performing concerts, giving clinics and teaching master classes, Bellson isn’t fazed by turning 80: “I consider it only a number. As long as I can keep on hitting a rim shot I’m in great shape.” Bellson has been concentrating on large-scale projects over the past few years, and in 2000, he had his sacred music suite and jazz ballet performed by a combination big band and full orchestra with strings and choir at the University of Southern California. “I did a lot of sweating on that one,” he says, “but I had help on that project from one of my teachers, Jack Hayes, who is one of the great orchestraters in Hollywood. I played drums on some of it, and I conducted some of it.”

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