Monday, December 28, 2009
Louie Bellson - Gone But Not Forgotten
Drummer Louie Bellson, who sadly passed away earlier this year, was one of my first early influences as a jazz drummer. In my early teens I would often listen to a late night jazz program on CBC Radio entitled "Easy Street" hosted by Margaret Pacsu. This program was a great introduction into the world of jazz music. The format of the program would often focus on retrospectives of specific jazz artists, usually from the swing & big band era. I still have many of the cassette tapes I used to dub those programs in real time ! One such episode that had a profound impact on me featured the career of drummer Louie Bellson.
I was lucky to see Bellson play in person, with his L.A. big band, at the 1995 IAJE conference in Anaheim, California. His drumming was impeccable and he drove his band with taste and an uncompromising sense of swing and musicality. I was also to witness a tour-de-force drum feature that lasted well over 15 minutes ! Louie pulled out all the stops and I'll always remember that concert. Afterwards I met Louie outside the theatre where he was signing autographs and posing for photos at his merchandise table (!) I still have my autographed Louie Bellson "dish towel" around here somewhere (yes, I am serious!) Bellson was a complete gentlemen as I shook his hand and he thanked me for my kind words.
Here are a few of my favorite clips of Bellson doing this thing:
Bellson featured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra:
And here, with his own big band from the Cork Jazz Festival circa. 1980:
A couple of nice clips showing Bellson soloing in the studio:
And here's another EPIC Louie Bellson drum solo that features him with brushes, sticks, "jingle" sticks and, at one point, four sticks (two in each hand!):
Here's one from a 1957 date in Europe with saxophonists Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins:
Thanks Louie !