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Joe Morello’s Drum Kit Through The Ages

By Andy Doerschuk
Published March 13, 2011

Joe Morello liked to buck trends when it came to his gear. As his international reputation grew through his work with The Dave Brubeck Quartet in the late ’50s/early ’60s, he passed over Gretsch drums, the brand favored by many of his jazz drumming contemporaries, and chose instead to play a Ludwig Super Classic kit, an outfit more closely associated with rock drummers of the day.

By that point, jazz drummers had transitioned from big band to small combo jazz, and in the process scaled down their kits with diminutive 18" bass drums. In contrast, Morello outfitted his 4-piece kit with a booming 22" kick, as well as a 13" mounted tom and 16" floor (both finished in a bold silver sparkle), with a 14" x 5" Ludwig Black Beauty or Super Sensitive snare drum. He clearly wanted to make a statement.

Morello played Zildjian from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s (including a set of As during the recording of “Take Five”). He would later endorse Paiste, and showed a particular fondness for the company’s 602 line. In the ’60s, he even played an instrumental role in developing the very first flat ride – Paiste’s Formula 602 model.

In recent years, the respected East Coast drum shop owner Steve Maxwell put a large selection of Morello’s cymbals on sale. The offering revealed the drummer’s taste for variety, mixing Paiste 602s, 3000s, and prototype rides and crashes with a smattering of Zildjian New Beat hi-hats and Ks from the ’80s. We’re certain they weren’t sold cheaply.

Later in life, Morello changed his palette and turned heads by endorsing DW Drums and Sabian cymbals. He chose a DW Collector Series set in a custom Desert Sand finish with a 13" x 9" mounted tom, 16" x 16" floor tom, 22" x 16" bass drum, and 14" x 5" Edge snare – all fitted with DW heads. His Sabian setup included 13" Brilliant Finish AAX Studio hi-hats, a 19" Brilliant Finish AA Medium crash, a 17" AA Brilliant Finish Medium-Thin crash, and a 21" prototype ride.

Morello used Ludwig 11A drum sticks in the early years, but later switched to Pro-Mark, which made the drummer his own Signature 11A hickory stick in both wood- and nylon-tip models. Morello was fond of tuning his snare drum fairly tight and crisp, with the batter head about a fourth lower than the snare side. He played all drums wide open, with the only muffling being a 2" felt strip on the batter head of the bass drum, running from top to bottom about 3" off the center of the head.

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