Skip to comments.Legendary Jazz drummer Joe Morello dies at 82
Posted on 03/13/2011 11:14:22 AM PDT by My Favorite Headache
IRVINGTON, N.J. One of the most famous drummers in jazz music history has died.
Family members say Joe Morello died Saturday at his home in northern New Jersey. A cause of death was not immediately available.
Morello, who was 82, was best known for his work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He was a member of the group for more than 12 years and was featured on such jazz classics as "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk."
Morello also played with many leading jazz musicians over the years, including pianist Marian McPartland's Hickory House Trio in the early `50s.
After Brubeck disbanded the quartet in 1968, Morello turned to teaching and writing instructional books.
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Joe Morello was my drum teacher back in the early ‘80s. He was a brilliant drummer and a great guy. Despite being legally blind he could play drums just out of this world. Rest in Peace Joe and thanks.
Wow what an honor that is! I was taught by Russ Miller and Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden...Russ before he was a really heavy hired gun and Nicko when he was doing down time from Maiden in Boca Raton...used to get lessons from both at Drum Design which was in Coral Springs.
Those days are long long gone.
Joe Morello is on the very short list of the greatest drummers who ever picked up a pair of sticks. RIP Joe.
Did he not just do something with McCoy Tyner?
I was taught by Russ Miller and Nicko McBrain
The number of of talented FReepers never fails to amaze me.
Rest in Peace Joe, you taught us all.
At the time he was giving lessons at a Dorn&Kircshner shop in Union NJ. This was around ‘83. He was a great guy. He told me I should’ve had more confidence in myself because he felt I was a good drummer but was holding myself back. Guess he was right, I didn’t stick with it. I saw him with his band in NY a couple of times. He once did the drum solo from “Take Five’’ for me in the D&K studio, just for me! Awesome doesn’t begin to describe it! He was a funny guy too. Blind as he was he always loved flirting with the girlfriend I had at the time, a beautiful blond. But he was always a gentleman about it.
A very humble thank you to you.
I was listening to him play this morning and had no idea he had passed. The great jazz misicians I’ve been listening to for fifty years will all be gone in a few years, but their music will live on for generations.
Legends were made or extended in the era: Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Louie Bellson, Roy Haynes, Shelly Manne, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette, among many others, were playing great music all over the place.
Jazz songs were climbing up the pop charts and musicians were personalities. Music magazines around the world chronicled the comings and goings of the bands and published annual popularity polls of musicians just like Entertainment Tonight does today for movie and music stars.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet was the most popular jazz group of that time. "Take Five," featuring a drum solo by Joe Morello, was a million-seller. This group toured the world playing concerts instead of location club gigs. I cant think of one jazz group today that approaches the level of worldwide recognition that Brubecks quartet enjoyed in their day. To a great extent, people went especially to hear the virtuosic and musical drumming of Joe Morello. Joe achieved the unprecedented when he won all of the international jazz pollsand repeated the feat several years in a row.
The Brubeck quartet disbanded in 1967, a time when popular music was in a great transition. Since then Joe has kept a lower performance profile but has been a very active teacher, sought out by professionals and beginners alike from around the world. Joes amazing execution, thorough, proven methodsbased on the teachings of George Lawrence Stone, Sanford Moeller, and Billy Gladstoneand engaging personality make him a font of knowledge and a joy to study with.
Today, at age seventy-eight, Joe is still playing great. Hes also still growing. His new book, Master Studies II, points the way to the drumming innovations of tomorrow. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Joe, my old teacher, and discuss where it all came from and where his new book is taking it. John: You studied with George Lawrence Stone. Can you give me a synopsis of his approach to teaching? Joe: Stone taught that everything should involve natural body movements. You have to learn the way your body works. Everybody else had some cockamamie story that the hands should be up in the air, or the elbows should be in, or the elbows should be out. But Stone said your playing should be natural, as if you brought your hands up from hanging at your side.
Sefcik [Joes first teacher] gave me a good start, but Stone took me a little further. We went through the rudiments and Stick Control, Podemski, and a book by Simon Sternberg. I remember Joe Raiche and I used to go together to study with Stone. The trouble with Stones Stick Control is that theres not one accent in the book, and it never tells you what to play or how to play it, so people get bored.
When I was studying with Stone, I started to add accents and make variations based on the swinging phrases I heard Krupa play. One time on the bus to Boston, I showed Joe Raiche the stuff I was doing, like playing these vamps with accents in one hand and playing with the right hand against it. Joe said, Oh man, the old man [Stone] is not going to like that. Later Stone came out with his book, Accents And Rebounds, where hes doing all of that stuff. Stone said, I wrote this because this is the material you like to play.
Stone was a great teacher and the nicest man to work with. If I did something dumb hed say, You know um did you notice something wrong? I knew Id done something wrong, but he had a great way of teaching. It was worth the three-hour bus trip down to Boston.
You know, because of my poor vision, I didn't think that I ever could do anything with drumming. I couldn't drive or get around that easily, so I used to stay home and practice a lot. I couldn't go out and play football, baseball, and such, so I'd practice. The more I got into it, and started listening .
I'll never forget this one time, Gene Krupa was playing at the Hartford Theater, and afterwards I came home and said, "Gee, I can do that same thing." So I went and did a single stroke. [sings] You know when you're a kid, "I can do that."
And then I heard Buddy Rich. I thought that it was interesting the way he played "Opus One." He did a thing with his left hand and I thought, "Geez, how does that work?" So I figured that out myself. I thought that was brilliant.
Anyway, I knew Phil Woods and Sal Salvador from Springfield, and they had moved down to New York. They said, "You've got to come down to the Apple, man." So I said, "Fine." I'd been working in hotel bands. I became pretty well-known in Springfield when I was sixteen or seventeen. It came easy to me.
John: As you moved to New York, what was your dream? Joe: When I started playing professionally, I always liked to play with dynamics, and not do the world's fastest thing. That was intriguing, but I was always into playing more melodically. That's why I was influenced by Max Roach. Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa were raising hell on the drums. But to me, sometimes that's like going to the circus. I wanted to do something else.
Stone killer once a week!
Dave Bruebeck was my introduction to jazz and I met him personally at the stage door of the Boston Symphony.
I was leaving a bank across the street when I saw him walking alone towards the rear of Symphony Hall. I went over to him and had to stop myself from offering to shake his priceless hands, but I told him how he had been my favorite jazz pianist and composer since I was a kid. I asked I asked if we would sign my program, but neither of us had a pen. Dave Bruebeck actually went through the stage door and borrowed a pen from a receptionist and came back and signed my program. What a graceful gentleman.
I took a Jazz class at Univ. of Pittsburgh many moons ago....didn’t know a thing about it, I was into prog rock at the time. Turned out that our lecturer for the class was old-time jazz drummer Kenny Clark - his “lectures” were mostly rambling stories about his days playing with the great names of jazz. Man, that class was a blast! Also found out that be-bop was sort of similar to the music I was into at the time, just horns instead of synthesizers, so I bought a bunch of jazz records and a fan was born.
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