lessons

Jeff Clemens: Tribute To Alan Dawson

Hey gang. I was in Australia playing at a festival recently, and had a chance to hang out with Adam Topel, who drums for Jack Johnson. We discovered that we both had the privilege to study with the legendary jazz master, Alan Dawson, who was born in Marietta, Pennsylvania in 1929, and raised in my hometown, Roxbury, Massachusetts, near Boston.

His performance and recording credits are too long to list here, but to name a few: Clifford Brown, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Earl Hines, and a million more. Interestingly, unlike a lot of famous bebop drummers, Alan’s legacy was also as an educator, instructor, and mentor to players like Tony Williams, Steve Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Harvey Mason, and even li’l ol’ me!

Alan Dawson was responsible for a 72-rudiment program, formally known as “The Ritual.” I will talk more about this in future lessons, so stay tuned. Play the following rudiments very slowly at first, and then gradually build up to a comfortable speed, just below your top speed, where you can play them without losing it! You don’t want to miss these lessons, so if you don’t understand them, now is your chance to bite the bullet and get a teacher to help you.

Your pal, Jeffrey Clemens.

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  • I can only say that I greatly appreciate that Alan Dawson is remembered and that his teachings are being passed on to others from his former students. Being a former student myself, I was absolutely awestruck at the way he would make a simple practice pad sound. These excercises we’re played from slow to fast, always tapping your foot and with great attention to a balanced sound and articulation. Eventually, the ritual was played on a kit as well. But the ruff, the flam… It was a complete sight and sound to behold with him. These rudiments would totally sing in his hands. I honestly never saw or heard anything like it in my life. Thank you Jeff for helping to keep Alan’s legacy alive!