"Spooky Drums No. 1," so-titled for the relative unfamiliarity of a drummer finding a studio all to himself, is as good an introduction to this man's art as any, and I suggest you hear it. The first in line, chronologically, of the great jazz drummers, Baby Dodds, who played and recorded with King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton, is perhaps the most poorly served of all early jazz players by the primitive recording techniques of the twenties. On the recordings that constitute what there exists on record of Dodds in his prime, his drums are often difficult to discern, and harder to follow, a significant historical loss only slightly remedied with the enhancement of those 78s on CD. Talking and Drum
Solos, an essential document for jazz historian and drum aficionado alike, is simple in concept and, in every manner possible for a record, invaluable, presenting Dodds sans band in the studio, talking about his kit, and providing musical examples. As this particular sessionthe idea of Fred Ramsey, an Alan Lomax sort of jazz missionary/ preservationistdates from 1946, the fidelity, while rough, is plagued by none of the surface noise and overbalance of Dodd's earlier recordings. A key influence in extending the drummer's role from strict timekeepingshades of Tony Williams and Keith Moon forty years before the factDodds, along with his clarinet playing brother Johnny, was one of the principles in fashioning what one so often associates today with the classic style of New Orleans jazz, that music endemic of both fish frys and funeral processions. The excellent companion disc, Baby Dodds
, on the American Music label, features the drummer a few years later, a little gruffer, expounding more at length, on "Tiger Rag," marching bands, and his traps, but the music itself is intercut from early recordsa device that Talking and Drum Solos
resorts to for only two examples. As an extension of the work of Ramsey, rather than Dodds, the rest of this disc features field recordingsmade outdoors, at night, because it was cotton-planting seasonfrom 1954 by two, I must admit, horrible bands by any professional standard. But if we hear them for what they arethat is, men making music for the joy and shared spirit of making musicthey become that much easier to appreciate in the manner one appreciates folk art in the museum annex apart from the "proper artists." But if you seek out this record you are doing so for Baby Dodds and what amounts to a document of twentieth century drumming as significant as Who's Next
, or Elvin Jones' work with John Coltrane.
Copyright 2004 Goldmine / Krause Publications . Reprinted with permission.
Personnel: Baby Dodds, (d, talking)
The Laneville-Johnson Union Brass Band,
The Lapsey Band