Wednesday, May 28, 2014


“On ‘IT’S A RAGGY WALTZ’, particularly, I feel all of us achieved the goal of playing polyrhythmically and polytonally in a swinging groove that was as natural as if we were in 4/4. ... I play best when Gene is happy, when Desmond is determined – and,” [he smiled] “Morello is recovering from the flu!”
~ Dave Brubeck

Joe Morello may have been just one pocket protector short of being classified as an A-list nerd, but NO ONE played the drums better!

I was raised on three things: Rock music, and the shouted demands, “Turn it down!” and “Comb your hair!”

In my day, in my musical era, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin was considered a beast when it came to drumming. A little later, Neil Peart of the band Rush came to be thought of as Rock music’s premier drummer. ...*YAWN*

I usually drop right off to sleep, but I have trouble staying asleep. Maybe I should keep a tape loop of John Bonham’s drumming playing next to my bed. That just might keep me asleep.

I’ve only owned one Rush album in my life. As a teenager, I purchased their 1977 release ‘A Farewell To Kings’ but I really couldn’t stand Donald Duck’s vocals, so I never bought another Rush record. I’ve heard some of their later songs on radio and I kept hearing how great Neil Peart was on drums, but... I just couldn’t hear it.

So one night, several years ago, I asked my buddy LC to loan me a compact disc with what he considered to be Neil Peart’s best drumming. He gave me (I think) a ‘Live’ recording and told me which track to play. I played it. It was OK – better than I expected, but it still wasn’t enough to convince me that Neil Peart was all that great.

The problem was that in 1981, I discovered Jazz and began to realize how weak and underdeveloped most of the Rock music I’d been raised on really was.

I had already been exposed to Jazz from my childhood because my parents liked some of it: From Pa I got Louis Prima; from Ma I got Cannonball Adderley. But it didn’t really stick, because there were no electric guitars.

So what happened in 1981? I went to see the movie ‘AMERICAN POP’ with my buddy Marty. We both dug it, and shortly afterwards I bought the movie soundtrack LP:
Included on that album was an instrumental titled ‘TAKE FIVE’ by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The more I played that album, the more I began to notice the peculiar drum solo in ‘Take Five’. After awhile it became my favorite cut on that album because the drum solo was so unique. In fact, there was one particular place in it that always made me laugh out loud... for real! I could scarcely believe it, as this was the first time I’d ever found “humor” in an instrumental music piece!

Even though I had heard some fairly decent drum solos up to that point (most notably on a Santana album I’d owned for a number of years), I always felt the drums were meant to keep time and add a little texture to a song, but I had never fully embraced the idea that drums could or should be considered solo instruments. That was until I discovered JOE MORELLO and his legendary solo in The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s hit ‘Take Five’.

It was ‘Take Five’ on the ‘American Pop’ soundtrack album that really opened my ears to Jazz and drums. As I began to explore more types of Jazz and the master musicians of that form, I came to truly appreciate drumming that went well beyond the rather boring hammering-away-at-the-skins that I had previously encountered in the Rock genre.

I discovered Buddy Rich, Shelly Manne, Billy Cobham, Jimmy Cobb, Wynton Kelly*, Steve Gadd, Art Blakey, and Gene Krupa. But ultra-quirky Joe Morello has remained my all-time favorite.

The other day, my friend LC and I were discussing some favorite record albums recorded “Live”. You’ll find that commentary HERE. 
Earlier today, I listened to both discs from ‘THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET AT CARNEGIE HALL’, and I can say that without a shred of doubt, this album would HAVE to make any list of ‘Favorite Live Albums’ that I composed.

It’s not entertaining in the way a Todd Snider album is because Todd says a lot of funny things between songs. And it’s not high-octane electric like Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live And Dangerous’ is.

But speaking strictly about the music the album contains... nothing is better! I mean, we are talking about some of the most accomplished, creative, and gifted musicians on the planet. They improvise so creatively that even the band’s frontman, Dave Brubeck, listening to the recording years later, is mystified about how he and his 3 band companions managed to transcend the tunes, the esteemed forum, and Joe Morello’s flu bug, and took these tunes, and the audience that heard them that night, to some new, undiscovered territory of the mind. It’s not loud, it’s not flashy and colorful; there are no smoke bombs and strobe lights but, in my opinion, ‘THE DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET AT CARNEGIE HALL’ is as good and complex as instrumental music can get! It also includes what I consider the best drum solo I’ve ever heard.

Take it away, Joe!...

CASTILIAN DRUMS’ (Disc 2; Track 4)

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Doggtor of Jazzological Studies, 
Bourbon Street University

POSTSCRIPT: In my opinion, Rock music’s most underrated drummer is probably TONY BROCK of ‘The Babys’. Brock never overplayed, but he hit hard, had a great beat, and always used the perfect amount of cowbell!

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


  1. Not too shabby, even though as you know, jazz is not my thing. Plus, it needs more cowbell.

    I still have to say that having seen Peart live, the drum solo I saw was pretty amazing.

    Here's a link to a more recent solo...

    I don't expect it will make you run right out and become a Rush groupie, but I thought it would be worth the viewing...

    1. LC ~

      "Not too shabby"?

      As understatements go, I'd say that is right up there with the "underest". However, I do agree that it needed more cowbell.

      Bear in mind that compared to these modern drum sets that are the size of studio apartments, Joe Morello's drum kit looked like a kid's toy.

      Also, I very nearly decided NOT to post this video because the sound, when heard emanating from tiny computer speakers is nothing like it is when coming even just from my little ghetto blaster CD player. There are so many different tones that Morello gets on those drums that can't be appreciated through little computer speakers.

      What I like so much about Morello's playing is that he finds all these interesting little rhythms and he's constantly shifting from rhythm to rhythm, unlike Rock drummers who are mostly just slamming away at the skins and seem to think that fastest is "bestest".

      You say that Jazz is not your thing, but I'll bet if you heard this same drum solo being played by Keith Moon on a live WHO album, you'd rave about it.

      Or as Dave Brubeck himself said about this particular Morello drum solo:

      "This was actually a whole series of drum solos. Joe builds up from one climax to another. And what's so amazing about all this is that he's playing mostly in 5/4. You know, a lot of drummers are going to learn a lot of things from that solo for a lot of years!"

      Alright, I'm off now to listen to this newer solo by Neil Peart, but I seriously doubt I'll find it as rhythmically interesting as any Joe Morello solo. I mean, Morello actually plays solos that seem to have 'personality' and sometimes even a sense of humor.

      But you're right, whatever I hear in this next Neil Peart solo, it's not going to make me a Rush groupie - I just can't stand Donald Duck's singing voice. I'd become a U2 fan before becoming a Rush fan, and you already KNOW how I feel about U2.

      Anyway, LC, I have definitely made up my mind that any 'All-Time Favorite Live Albums' short list I composed for myself would absolutely include 'The Dave Brubeck Quartet At Carnegie Hall'. In fact, that would be the very FIRST album I'd put on my list, Bro.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

    2. LC ~
      Alright, I'm back. Thanks for the link!

      First off, this was definitely better than the solo you had me listen to on one of your CDs.

      The first half I did not find particularly interesting, except for that little cowbell bit he did - it was short but sweet!

      Once he shifted over the other drum set (pretty neat little trick that) my interest increased because I thought he was playing more unique rhythms. And that weird synthesizer vibes thing he was playing is pretty wild. I liked that.

      And then, I know you realize of course, that the last 2-3 minutes with the horns piped in over the sound system, that was strictly Jazz, and I enjoyed that.

      He's a good drummer, there's no question about that, but he still doesn't have anything on Joe Morello, and I can barely even imagine what Joe would have come up with if he could have had similar "toys" in '63.

      But that was pretty fun to watch, so thanks again for pointing me to it, LC.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

  2. The CD I lent you years ago was what a lot of fans raved about as the best drum solo ever-the link was from a tour I saw (maybe in 2008?) where, like you, I thought the second half of the solo was pretty interesting.

    For Morello solo, I liked it fine-the understatement was intentional, but meant in jest.

    The music leading up to it did not grab me, but I'd have found the different drum rhythms interesting in any setting.

    Even the drum kit for Peart has evolved from the 70's to present-a modern drum kit might scare the crap out of Morello! It's probably bigger than his apartment was back then!

    A live album list would be tricky, because as you know, I favor the stuido albums. A live album would really have to convey something extra-that's why Frampton Comes Alive is a no-brainer for me-the songs come off better in the live setting in almost every way imaginable.

    I will have to revisit "Live And Dangerous" to see what I think there-the studio albums from Thin Lizzy were pretty good, and I remember liking the live album but not being bowled over by it.


    1. Ahh, gotcha, LC.

      Yes, like you, I'm not generally a big fan of 'Live' albums, but the ones that stand out seem to REALLY stand out.

      Certainly 'The Last Waltz', Van Morrison's 'It's Too Late To Stop Now', Todd Snider's first, and this Dave Brubeck Quartet are, in my opinion, Live albums that are very notable.

      The Thin Lizzy album is one I probably couldn't get all the way through now, but I sure played it a lot when I was a teenager.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

  3. If I may step in, I would just like to say two things.
    One, the video is very good. The great thing in Jazz is that you can't cover lack of talent with loudness. The other thing? Donald Duck? lol!!!!!

      You have an open invitation to step in any ol' time.

      I love Jazz. I consider Jazz to be the Classical music of our times.

      And many, many years ago I read where a Rock music journalist described Geddy Lee's voice as "Donald Duck on Helium". It was so spot-on that I've never forgotten it, although I sometimes just shorten it to Donald Duck.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

  4. Sheboyganboy SixMay 29, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    I've been thinking about our musical divide again, and have an observation. It may have been obvious to you, but to me it was a new discovery: I believe (at least in my case with YOU) is that I have little trouble with who you like, musically. It is who you don't like that I see the biggest divide.

    The only two exceptions I can think of are Karen Carpenter and Johnny Mathis... and I can see WHY you like them, I just don't like them myself. What bothers me most are your take-no-prisoners condemnations of music or musicians that clearly don't deserve such loathing.

    I totally agree with you about Morello. He is on the short list of greatest drummers of all time, and he is my personal favorite. (Is favorite the equivalent of greatest? Not necessarily.)

    I sent you this link before but here it is again for any of your friends that want to laugh out load at the cool and interesting solo on "Short' nin' Bread" by Morello (and Dave Brubeck):

    Man, that high hat keeps a rock solid time and allows him to play a bunch of variations on the MELODY with his drums. Freakin' awesome!

    But then ya gots to go and dis Peart. I have no trouble with you liking other drummers more, but it is simply incorrect to deem Peart so-so! I know you don't like Rush, but their musicianship is superb. I have watched a couple of live concert vids of them and think Peart is truly excellent, and incorporates much jazz technique in his "game."

    Also, he is an Ayn Rand fan... and that adds to his greatness! Yes, it is a big drum kit. Is that a bad thing? No, it is not. It is just a different style, and he is a master!

    Donald Duck? Yea, his voice sucks. The worst thing about the band. The bass work is great, though.

  5. Part 1 Of 2:

    Did you know Jackie Mason was born in Sheboygan? I just learned that about 90 minutes ago. (He's my favorite stand-up comedian.)

    >>... I've been thinking about our musical divide

    What "divide"?
    (Imagine that sounding like "What hump?", and me with bulging eyeballs.)

    Do you remember that old song 'Bette Davis Eyes'? I think I'm going to write a spoof... "He's got Marty Feldman Eyes".

    >>... I believe (at least in my case with YOU) is that I have little trouble with who you like, musically. ... The only two exceptions I can think of are Karen Carpenter and Johnny Mathis...

    Whom I like A LOT!

    Waylon Jennings
    Brenda Lee
    Mahalia Jackson
    The Beach Boys
    The 5ifth Dimension
    Spanky And Our Gang
    Willie Nelson
    Robert Johnson
    Glen Campbell
    Pink Floyd
    The Doors
    Rickie Lee Jones
    Eddie Cochran
    Kenny Loggins
    Pat Metheny
    Tiny Tim
    Tom Pett--, I guess I'll stop here.

    Now, I don't really know where you stand on some of those (e.g., I don't believe Chicago and Cochran have ever been mentioned by either of us) but since I like ALL the artists on that list, I'm guessing you probably don't. Or, at least not most of them, anyway (some I recall you saying you didn’t care for in years back).

    We agree on a few good ones though, like Petty and Prima. And I think we are in agreement much more in Jazz than any other genre.

    >>... What bothers me most are your take-no-prisoners condemnations of music or musicians that clearly don't deserve such loathing.

    Well, in all honesty, I don't know how I could take any other position on some of them. For example, the two I've mentioned on this thread - RUSH and U2 - I have never heard even one single song by either of them that I liked even a little bit. Not one. So, from my perspective, they stink, and I think they've earned my loathing.

    I'm not saying that they aren't good musicians, that they don't play their instruments well (...well, yes, I AM in the case of U2), but I don't like what they play so... they stink.

    Of course, you could say the same about some of MY favorites.

    Continued Below...

    1. Part 2 Of 2:

      >>... Morello my personal favorite. (Is favorite the equivalent of greatest? Not necessarily.)

      No, not necessarily, indeed. But in Morello's case, I don't think anyone was ever any better. And his solos had a certain creative quirkiness about them that I don't find in the solos of other drummers - even the great ones. So that's why he's my favorite.

      A few musicians become such masters that I conclude no one could better them (match them maybe, but not better them). On that list would be Joe Morello (drums) and Danny Gatton (guitar).

      >>... I sent you this link before but here it is again for any of your friends that want to laugh out loud at the cool and interesting solo on "Shortnin' Bread"...


      He plays with JOY and HUMOR. I think the “humor” aspect comes from the unexpected. He will be bopping along with some cool-sounding rhythm but then SUDDENLY he shifts into something completely unexpected, and the surprise of it makes me laugh as I think: Ha! I sure didn’t see THAT coming!

      It’s sort of like... instead of saying “Bada Bing”, Joe Morello goes, “Bada (pause and a half) BING!” And I’ll laugh because NO ONE says [drums] it THAT way!

      Here’s another one for you... very short (about 2 minutes) but dig all the interesting rhythms and variations he comes up with, just tapping on the edge of his drums:

      He was truly a drumming genius!

      >>... But then ya gots to go and dis Peart. I have no trouble with you liking other drummers more, but it is simply incorrect to deem Peart so-so!

      I didn’t say or even imply that Peart was “so-so”. It’s true I was disrespecting John Bonham (that’s who the “*YAWN*” was really directed at. Notice in the next paragraph I talk about “sleeping” and how Bonham could help me with that problem.

      But here’s what I said in this Comment Section about Peart:

      “He's a good drummer, there's no question about that, but he still doesn't have anything on Joe Morello...”

      I do, however, think Peart is overrated. The Rock musicians almost always get overrated because so few people know about the Jazz masters who played far more intricate, demanding, and subtly varied stuffs, and were thus usually the better musicians.

      I agree that Peart is a good drummer. I even agree that Donald Duck is a good bass player. Unfortunately though, Donald Duck’s singing makes Bob Dylan seem like a cross between Caruso and Barry White. Lyrically, Rush’s songs are totally pedestrian (I could knock out lyrics like that in 10 to 15 minutes) and the melodies – such as they are – do not entice me in any way, shape, or form.

      I will say though that I can get about 2/3rds of the way through ‘Tom Sawyer’ before changing the radio station. That’s about the very best thing I can say about any Rush song I’ve ever heard.

      >>... Yes, it is a big drum kit. Is that a bad thing? No, it is not. It is just a different style

      It’s a GOOD THING... if size matters.

      Me, I must necessarily argue against that belief.

      Incidentally, I finally figured out what my work Email system was objecting to in that E I tried sending you. I’ve got it here at the house now (minus the excerpts from Wikipedia) and I expect to have it reconfigured and sent before I go to bed for the... day.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      ‘Loyal American Underground’

  6. Well, this post fits right in with the series upon which I am about to embark including my BOTB post on Sunday.

    I'm going to be exploring the topic of preferences--why we like what we like. It's a huge topic that I'll only touch upon in a blog series.

    You and your commenters have hit on a lot of the questions here and raised more questions. I love it (and sometimes hate it) when someone says "such and such is the best ever" and then goes on to tell why. They have to tell why in order for their statement to have much validity with me since I like what I like and other people like what they like.

    Drum solos are often an annoyance with me. It seems like every live concert album has to have its obligatory drum solo. I understand why, but often it's my least favorite part of a live recording.

    Favorite is hard for me to say since they are usually unmemorable for me. One of my favorites remains Ginger Baker's oft-maligned solo on "Do What You Like" from the Blind Faith album. I get a kick out of it--what else can I say. Another favorite is the sadly unknown solo from the live album from The Good Rats. Why this group is so contained to a small region of the country and not more widely recognized is beyond me. My cassette copy of the concert album is long gone so I haven't heard the drum solo in many years, but I recall liking it a great deal to the point that I used to declare it as my favorite drum solo.

    I'll agree about Morello's solo on "Take 5" and I'll attribute it's greatness not only to the drummer but to the composition itself and a time signature that lent itself well to some creative drumming.

    I can appreciate good drumming technique and flashy style, but often for me it gets to be somewhat monotonous and grating. Drumming is usually something to be more appreciated when we see it and not as much when we just hear it. When the hearing grabs the attention as something unique then that's when the drumming is most outstanding.

    Glad you've posted this now as it seems like we're doing a sort of series together.

    What is the best short story ever written?
    Tossing It Out

    1. BOIDMAN ~
      I agree with a good amount of what you've written here.

      Yes, every "Live" album has to have its drum solo, doesn't it? And as I wrote above, I likewise do not find that many drum solos very interesting and worth my time to listen to.

      Unless the drummer is REALLY a creative stand-out, I think they should just stick to keeping the time and adding little fills for texture.

      Joe Morello was almost in another realm when it came to creatively crafting drum solos. I also find Gene Krupa pretty exciting - he had a booming sound and got into a great groove.

      When it comes to the Rock drummers, most of them tend to bore me - a lot of banging away that doesn't really "say" much of anything. There's certainly no "humor" in a Rock music drum solo like there is organically in some of the stuffs that came from Morello's brain and hands.

      I've never even heard of The Good Rats, and although I know I've heard the Ginger Baker solo you mentioned, it's been too long for me to recall it. I may check it out on YouTube, but I must say that Ginger Baker, in general, is another one of those drummers everyone praised to the hills but whom I didn't find all that compelling. Dunbar is another. Lots of them in Rock do not measure up for me. Steve Gadd I like a lot though; he often seems to have something uniquely creative to say with his drum kit.

      I read your blog bit about an hour ago, but I didn't leave a comment because nothing came immediately to mind. I've not read a ton of short stories, but of those I've read by the "classic" writers (e.g., Hemingway, Steinbeck), nothing jumped into my mind.

      The last collection of short stories I read were by Bryan and Brandon, the "Beer For The Shower" boys. It's a collection of E. A. POE-like short stories and a number of them were damned good! Right up there with Poe hisself.

      I'll give it some more thought and maybe get back to you on that a wee bit o' later.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'


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