Drummers Over-Publicized, Over-Featured, Over-Praised?

Scott K Fish

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Drummers Over-Publicized, Over-Featured, Over-Praised?

SKF NOTE: From Down Beat's March 20, 1958 issue comes this brief history of jazz drummers; an excerpt from Leonard Feather's The Book of Jazz. Feather was a prolific jazz writer, perhaps best known for his Encyclopedia of Jazz. Through his writings -- his books, his liner notes, his album reviews, and his classic Down Beat musician Blindfold Tests -- Mr. Feather was a key part of my knowledge of jazz.

I've had this 1958 issue in my possession since the early 1970's. The underlined sections are mine. I'm sure I used them as a source in one or more of my published writings. It's interesting to read Feather's take on where jazz drummer's and drumming were as of 1958 --- 57 years ago! But I'm willing to bet not many drummers today will agree with Feather's conclusion: Admittedly the drummer today is over-publicized, over-featured, and over-praised in proportion to the role he should play as a member of an ensemble....



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psalty

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Notice he did not say, "overpaid."

Don't know what to think of his assessment since it is time sensitive, but surely any musical offering is a balancing act wherein everyone knows their respective job and its limitations.
 

JDA

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right drums should be Seen and not Heard; wait that's kids right.
Must been from the Felt but Not Herd school.
some merit to that..
 

tommykat1

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That curious final paragraph has me concluding that Feather wasn't a musician, and his appreciation came from listening to something he loved enough to write about, but couldn't actually do.
 

flamaqueII

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Aah 58 what a great year. I was born that year. Is there anything else in that issue someone born in 58 and a drummer would love to have? I would love to have it. :)
 

K.O.

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Every March between 1957 and 1973 or so Down Beat did an annual "drum" issue. Given the date I'm guessing this article was in that year's issue. So Feather was taking about too much attention being paid to drummers in a special magazine issue that was devoted to them.
 

Scott K Fish

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K.O. - I don't think Leonard Feather's comments had anything to do with Down Beat's drummer issue. The piece is, as you can see on the first page, excerpted from Mr. Feather's Book of Jazz.

Best,
skf
 

dcrigger

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tommykat1 said:
That curious final paragraph has me concluding that Feather wasn't a musician, and his appreciation came from listening to something he loved enough to write about, but couldn't actually do.
No, actually Leonard made a pretty good name of himself as a pianist, jazz composer, record producer - releasing a slew of recordings from the late 30's through the end of the 50's as a jazz artist - before settling into being predominantly an author and critic.

Having lived the early years of my jazz fandom and then the bulk of my career in Los Angeles, getting pretty familiar with jazz likes and dislikes of Leonard (as well as his various artistic personality quirks) was pretty much unavoidable. His presence as the chief jazz critic for the LA Times from the 60's through 80's (possibly beyond) insured that.

And that last paragraph, I think is really typical of one of his writing quirks. Leonard was quite capable of writing intelligently and remarkably insightfully about jazz idioms that laid well outside of his personal likes and dislikes. In other words, he was able to appreciate (pros and cons) in mode separate from whether he liked or disliked something personally.

So while it's not hard for me to imagine that Leonard's personal tastes ran more towards the "drummer's should be more felt and in the background than anything else" school of thought. He was still able to write a pretty decent overview of the state of jazz drumming at that time - sure with parts that could be quibbled over - but still a nice article focused on drummers and nothing but drummers.

Which of course would be the rub... "why make such fuss over drummers?" "They really aren't that important in the big jazz scheme of things". Thus stuck on the end of an insightful, near scholarly piece on the state of jazz drumming and drummers, is this single unsupported statement reflecting Leonard's personal worldview - that has nothing to do with the rest of the article.

It's just one of things he would often do - which I always felt was a shame, because IMO it always detracted from his writing's critical legitimacy. Which again so often, was really quite good.

LOL - It's just funny remembering how many times after some particularly bizarre, or loud, really avante garde, or extremely fusion-y concert someone would always ask "Hmm, I wonder what Leonard's going to say about that?" :)
 

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K.O.

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Stretsch said:
SKF - but that book excerpt did show up in a very drum centric issue:
Downbeat March 20, 1958.jpg

I think that may be the irony the K.O. saw. :)
Exactly.

I have that issue's cover art blown up poster size in my living room.
Funny - I thought when I saw that that it would make a great poster for a drum room. Nice call! Did you do a hi res scan and take it to a printer?



Yes I scanned it, cleaned it up in photoshop, altered the color a bit and then had it printed on canvas. I did the same with the cover of the '62 drum issue. Both are great examples of drum related art.
 

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rondrums51

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I know Leonard Feather was a musician himself, but I always found him kind of snotty and pedantic. I prefer Gary Giddins and Whitney Balliett. Giddins is knowledgeable and down to earth, and Balliett has a poetic prose style.
 


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