Drumsville at the New Orleans Jazz Museum

New Orleans Jazz Museum Drumsville

Some good news for jazz fans and drummers traveling through New Orleans this winter. Below is some info from the New Orleans Jazz Museum website.

The New Orleans Jazz Museum presents

New Exhibition at the Jazz Museum Celebrating the Development of the Drum Set and Evolution of Drumming Traditions in New Orleans opened on November 8, 2018 and runs through March 15, 2019.

The New Orleans Jazz Museum will debuted a new exhibition, Drumsville!: Evolution of the New Orleans Beat on November 8, 2018. The exhibit will celebrate both the New Orleans Tricentennial and International Drum Month, along with the development of the drum kit in New Orleans and the ongoing evolution of rich local drumming traditions.

“We have such an incredible collection of drum kits from some of the most talented and influential New Orleans drummers,” said Greg Lambousy, New Orleans Jazz Museum Director.  “One of the most significant is Baby Dodds’ white-pearl Ludwig kit. We acquired the drums in 2000 and are excited to display them along with the kits of other New Orleans rhythmic trailblazers.”

Drumming reaches back to the eighteenth-century foundations of New Orleans—in terms of both the Africans who performed throughout the region, eventually organizing drum circles in Congo Square, and the European marching bands of the colonial militias, operas, concerts, and balls.

Drumming plays a central role in the evolution of African American and local music traditions. Brass bands, which included multiple percussionists performing on bass and snare drums and cymbals, have flourished in the city throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to today.

A crucial transition in the development of the drum kit was the development of the bass drum pedal, which enabled a single drummer to simultaneously perform on multiple drums and cymbals. One of the earliest bass pedals was used by New Orleans drummer Edward “Dee Dee” Chandler. The only extant photograph of Chandler, dated 1896, shows his rudimentary bass pedal in the lower left corner of a band portrait.

“Drumsville! The Evolution of the New Orleans Beat coincides perfectly with the city’s Tricentennial,” added Robert H. Cataliotti, Music Critic and Guest Curator of Drumsville! “The exhibit traces the essential and innovative role that drumming has played from the Sunday gathering of people of African descent in nineteenth century Congo Square to today’s thriving music scene.

New Orleans drummers were central to the development of the drum set, and the beats they created and continue to create are definitive in jazz — traditional to modern, R&B, rock ‘n roll and funk.”

In 1909, The Ludwig Company patented a bass drum pedal, and that, along with the invention of a snare drum stand, launched the development of the drum kit, perfectly in sync with the blossoming of jazz. New Orleans drummers were at the forefront in defining what it means to play this new, distinctively American, instrument.

Probably the most renowned aspect of New Orleans rhythmic legacy is the “second line” rhythm that emerged from brass band parades. New Orleans drummers adapted this distinct rhythm to many musical contexts, including brass bands, traditional and modern jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and funk. The second line tradition continues to this day in the Crescent City.

“New Orleans is a Beat town, whether it’s the backbeat, front beat, second line, drop 4, triggerman, or stanky funk,” said David Kunian, New Orleans Jazz Museum Music Curator. “This exhibit demonstrates how that evolved from Congo Square and First Peoples to whatever you are hearing tonight on Oak Street, N. White Street, or St. Claude Avenue.  You can see the first run of bass pedals, Baby Dodds’ drum set, and many other examples that make it as easy to see as the metal on your cymbals: In New Orleans, drums are Queen!”

Drumsville! will begin with the legacy of Congo Square, including traditional African percussion instruments from the Southern University at New Orleans African Art Collection, and move through the brass band tradition to the introduction of the bass drum pedal and development of the drum kit and the extensive legacy of drummers to emerge in New Orleans over the past century.

Drawing upon the Jazz Museum’s large and unique archive of historic instruments, drum kits and equipment will be featured from such New Orleans legends as Papa Jack Laine, Baby Dodds, Paul Barbarin, Louis Barbarin, Cie Frazier, Ray Bauduc, CoCoMo Joe Barthlemy, Earl Palmer, Idris Muhammad, Zigaboo Modeliste, and James Black. In addition, contemporary New Orleans drum masters Johnny Vidacovich, Herlin Riley, Shannon Powell, and Stanton Moore will generously equipment from their personal collections.

Drumsville! will also examine related traditions of improvised percussion instruments and the tambourine, and conclude with the next generation of drummers, testifying to the vibrancy of the city’s drumming tradition.

Drumsville! will be on display through March 15, 2019.

Daily admission to the Jazz Museum is $6.00 for adults; $5.00 for students with I.D., senior citizens (65+) and members of the military. School groups meeting required criteria and children 6 and under are admitted free. Located at 400 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116 with an additional entrance at 401 Barracks Street, the Museum resides at the intersection of Esplanade and Decatur Streets in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The New Orleans Jazz Museum is a Louisiana State Museum.

Founded in 1906, Louisiana State Museum is a system of National Historic Landmarks and architecturally significant structures housing a half-million artifacts that showcase the state’s history and culture. For more information, please call 504-568-2566 or visit www.nolajazzmuseum.org.

Johnny Vidacovich, New Orleans Drummer

I’ve been lucky to visit New Orleans a few times over the last year and since it’s Mardi Gras tomorrow, I wanted to give some love to Johnny Vidacovich.

Johnny is a legendary New Orleans musician and teacher, with students like Brian Blade and Stanton Moore. I was able to see him at the Maple Leaf over the holiday break and stand just a few feet from him while he grooved until 3am. He has a standing gig there every Thursday. Don’t miss it if you’re in New Orleans!

I was even fortunate enough to find a copy of the New Orleans Drumming DVD sealed and new at the Louisiana Music Factory. I couldn’t believe it!

This is a classic instructional DVD that features Johnny, Herlin Riley, Earl Palmer and Herman Ernest. A streaming version is available to purchase.

If you’re stuck on finding the DVD, it’s worth seeking out, though the New Orleans Jazz and Second Line Drumming book/cd is more affordable and contains a lot of the same info.

I will likely post more about Johnny in the future, but for now you should go check out his interview on Drummer’s Resource and then seek out the recordings he’s played on…and check him out live when you can.

The Engine Room: The History of Jazz Drumming

The Engine Room: The History of Jazz Drumming is a fantastic 4 CD box set released by Proper Records that covers the eras “from Storyville to 52nd Street” and includes 95 tracks recorded between 1923 and 1948.

I’m always surprised when I meet a jazz drummer who doesn’t know about this set of discs, so I decided it’s time to write a quick post about it.

The Engine Room: The History of Jazz Drumming

I first heard about this set during an interview with Kenny Washington on the Drummer’s Resource Podcast (a fantastic interview worth checking out). Kenny mentioned that Engine Room is out of print, so I got obsessed with finding a copy. Luckily, it’s still pretty easy to find, though the price of used copies can vary a bit. I’ve purchased a couple of copies off of Amazon and I’ve seen them range from $30 to $200, though I paid about $50 for each of my copies.

The booklet included with the set is around 50 pages and includes wonderful liner notes by Joop Visser. This alone makes it worth finding a physical copy.

The eras represented:

Disc 1: New Orleans & Chicago styles
Disc 2: Swing
Disc 3: Big Band
Disc 4: Modernism

It’s worth noting that there are two different versions of the packaging. The differences are trivial, but here’s a list if you’re curious:

  • The earlier 1999 set was thicker overall due to the use of plastic jewel cases
  • The latter 2005 release was thin and used cardboard sleeves
  • The UPC code is the same on both sets
  • The booklet is essentially the same in both sets, containing the same information and liner notes. One is a few pages longer than the other, but it’s just because there were added pages for record label promotion.
  • The 2005 set is listed as digitally re-mastered, though I’m unable to hear a difference between the two sets.

Finally, here are some photos of the two sets: