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Big Band Recordings Every Drummer Should Own

Big Band

Blasting horns. Lots of them – in perfect unison. A driving rhythm section. Up-tempo instrumentals. And couples exhibiting a new form of personal expression – swing dancing.

It was the 1930s, and the floor at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom, Cotton Club, and Apollo Theater was the place to jive, lindy, jitterbug, push, whip, and shag to big bands led by such luminaries as Chick Webb, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, and Lionel Hampton.

The big band format proved to be a fertile field for the art of drumming. It was during this era in music that the drummer moved from the background into the spotlight. Hallelujah!

Though the heyday of swing was relatively short-lived (the ’30s, ’40s, and into the ’50s), it left an indelible mark on jazz lovers, dancers and musicians the world over.

If your CD collection is seriously devoid of swing music, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a list of recordings that are really squawking. Enjoy! And remember, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

Big Band

Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman and His Orchestra (Bluebird)
Gene Krupa, drums

The great Benny Goodman has to top the list simply because he was, well, “The King of Swing.” This LP is a phenomenal collection of Goodman’s most memorable recordings. As they used to say back in the day, “Hey Gate, ain’t nothing icky here. This is in the groove.” Arrangements by Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Mundy, Gordon Jenkins, Mary Lou Williams, Edgar Sampson, and Bill Basie shine thanks to a band full of brilliant players, especially drummer Gene Krupa. His tom-tom solo on “Sing, Sing, Sing” is still considered by many to be one of the most exciting solos ever played.

Big Band

Count Basie Orchestra
Prime Time (Pablo)
Butch Miles, drums

Without question, Count Basie was the force in jazz. Prime Time offers up a wealth of stellar performances and solos. And check out the Sammy Nestico arrangements. If you’ve ever played in a high school or college big band, you’ve no doubt played Sammy’s killer charts. And then there’s drummer Butch Miles. Listen closely and you’re apt to hear a little bit of Sonny Payne combined with Buddy. Too cool.

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