Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Downbeat Magazine-the Annual Percussion Issue

For many years, Downbeat was the magazine favored by jazz connoisseurs. On the other hand, there were some folks in the early 60's who thought it was a magazine for jazz snobs. But that's a story for another time. In any case, Downbeat published an Annual Percussion Issue. They also would publish an Annual Guitar issue, a Horn issue etc. The writers would focus on a particular instrument and analyze it in depth. There would be comment, interviews, and written musical examples.

The pictured cover is from the 1958 Annual Percussion Issue. As the reader can see, it's really quite eye catching and it features the great Max Roach. The magazine cost 35 cents. I was too young in 58 to buy it. Hell, I didn't even know it existed, but by the mid 60's, I was hopelessly hooked on drums, drummers, and drumming. I then started buying current issues and back issues.

What I found particularly informative, besides the interviews, was the analysis of drumming technique that graced the pages of the Percussion issue. One such article was written by Don DeMicheal in the March 30th 1961 Percussion Issue. It was called, " The Evolution of the Drum Solo." This article was a treasure trove of information. Mr DeMicheal analyzed the styles of 12 drummers. These included Baby Dodds, Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Cozy Cole, Sid Catlett, Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Frank Isola, and Art Blakey. He referenced recordings of each player. For example, with Big Sid Catlett, he transcribed the complete 12 bar solo from a tune called 1-2-3 Blues which Sid recorded in 1946.

In other sections of the article, Mr. DeMicheal compared and contrasted the styles of all the drummers. For me, to read, listen to, and compare the styles of say, Buddy Rich vs Chick Webb vs Gene Krupa vs Big Sid Catlett was absolutely captivating.

Nowadays, there are numerous publications that deal with jazz drumming, rock drumming, funk drumming, etc. There's so much information and so many publications that it's quite mind boggling. But for a young drummer in the mid 1960's, that was not the case. The Downbeat Annual Percussion Issue filled a void.

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