The youngest Heath Brother – Albert (better known as ‘Tootie’) was in our area at the end of April (Jazz Appreciation Month). As most everyone knows, Tootie – who turned 81 this spring, is a drummer. Seeing and hearing him twice (Skagit Valley College on Thursday and the Majestic on Friday – April 28 and 29) set me to thinking about the place of drums in Jazz.

There are very, very few Jazz groups of three or more that do NOT include someone behind the drum set; I’ve only been present for one – The New West Guitar Group – all guitars. There are others out there; here are a few:

Various Oscar Peterson Trios – OP, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis; OP, Ray Brown and Irving Ashby; OP, Joe Pass and Orsted Pederson.

However, it is nearly impossible to find other recordings of jazz in the trio form (or larger, for that matter) that do not include drummers.

Drums were an integral part of jazz from the beginning – usually limited to the bass and snares. As the music progressed, other items were added – virtually anything that could make a sound – cowbells, blocks, cymbals, and more.

It wasn’t until bebop developed that we began to see what has become the ’standard’ jazz drum setup – bass, snare, rack tom or two, floor tom, two or three cymbals, plus hihat cymbals. Some jazz drummers include other items – When I saw Dan Brubeck in action, he included a cowbell and some blocks.

Next time you attend a Jazz performance – soon I hope, take note of the drummer and what he is using and doing – they are all different.