Drum Solos! – wait, come back! You don’t often hear people crying out for more drum solos, or any drum solos. Even a lot of drummers hate drum solos. But sometimes you see and hear something special. And sometimes the drum solo – or an extended break – is, I dunno, “musical”, and exciting. Well, I’m a sucker for hearing a great solo. Even though those ponderous, dinosaur rock, one-whole-side-of-a-live-album drum solos give me the shits. A great jazz solo, sure. An innovative, colourful bit of playing. Why not. And if it can happen in the middle of an actual song, a tune, something meaningful and worthwhile, well that’s even better…
I say all of that and probably I’ll still just scare you away on the first edition for 2018 of Five Songs For Friday. But that’s fine. It’s a nice day, I’ve been enjoying a lot of jazz lately, and so it’s time to Give The Drummer Some…
1. Jo Jones, Caravan
I had this compilation CD called “Jazz Club Drums” or something like that. I really miss it now – but it was a great intro to some of the best players. And it had this track. And it was easily one of the highlights.
2. Max Roach, The Drum Also Waltzes
Hard to pick an all-time favourite/best drummer but Max Roach is up there for me. One of the most musical and meaningful of the great jazzers – and his ability to create solos as ‘song’-pieces was both profound and influential. Here in waltz time he does so much colouring and offers huge creativity. And manages to swing still too.
3. Steely Dan, Aja
It’s on the list just in case you’re thinking this isn’t really all that song-based. It’s on the list, too, because of the legendary story that Steve Gadd sight-read the charted solo. It’s on the list, too, because it’s a great song by a great band with a great drum solo by a great drummer. So it’s ticking boxes all over the shop!
4. Midnight Oil, The Power And The Passion
I’m including this because it was possibly the first drum solo I was aware of – it’s also one of my all-time favourite songs from one of my all-time favourite bands. And as a singing, writing, producing drummer Rob Hirst is a legend. (He wrote a great book too). And was still in mesmerising form on the recent Midnight Oil tour. There aren’t many songs with drum solos in them that reach the charts too. For that reason alone perhaps this deserves its nod.
5. Buddy Rich Big Band, Bugle Call Rag
I first heard this – on Big Swing Face, the 1967 album that was my introduction to Buddy (and you can click here to hear that version) but I’m including this version from a 1980s TV appearance here because you get the false-start, and you can see how angered Buddy is by that. He was an arsehole for sure, everyone knows about his famous yelling at the band – but he was a technically flawless drum, particularly with his solos. Not my favourite drummer, but the one that got me hooked on looking out for drummers and hearing drums. And though you might think that there’s not a lot of soul in his playing he certainly played with all his heart. And was a consummate showman, a circus-act as a kid, he dedicated his life to precision-playing. In that sense at least, there was never anyone better.
And a bonus clip – I gave you five…and didn’t include Take Five and now I feel I really have to…because, again, this was so formative. For me. And for so many others…
Magic! So, in fact, take six…