Saturday, June 25, 2011



July 17, 1928 – March 12, 2011

I was informed last week by my friend Mr. Sheboyganboy Six that my favorite drummer Joe Morello passed away recently. Sad to say, but I hadn’t even been assuming that he was still with us. Some fan I am!

Anyway, Sheboyganboy Six – who is very intelligent, a sharp businessman, a fine judge of good writing, a good judge of fine friends, and who can sometimes tell excellent music from crap - sent me some Xeroxed stuffs about Morello.

These were published tributes to Morello, and I’ll post some quotes from them after this word from our sponsor, Wikipedia:

Wikipedia Sez:

Joseph Albert Morello was a jazz drummer best known for his 12½-year stint with The Dave Brubeck Quartet. He was frequently noted for playing in the unusual time signatures employed by that group in such pieces as "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo à la Turk".

Morello later became an in-demand clinician, teacher and bandleader whose former students include Danny Gottlieb (‘The Pat Metheny Group’), Max Weinberg (Bruce Springsteen’s ‘E Street Band’), and ‘Phish’ drummer Jon Fishman…

Morello was the recipient of many awards, including Playboy magazine's best drummer award for seven years in a row, and Down Beat magazine's best drummer award five years in a row. He was elected to the Modern Drummer magazine Hall of Fame in 1988, the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1993…

As I stated in my recent blog bit ‘Swing Is In The Air’ (Or, ‘You Go, Joe!’), I credit Morello’s memorable drum solo in “Take Five”, the best selling Jazz song ever recorded, with initiating my interest in Jazz, which eventually became my very favorite musical form.

In Stan Hall’s lovely single-page tribute to Joe Morello, he wrote:

Morello “displayed a remarkable combination of astonishing technical refinement and astute musical judgement.

“In contrast to others who seemed to equate the quality of their playing with the amount of gratuitous notes with which they could clutter the air, Joe’s solos were well-constructed musical statements that could be elegantly simple or stunningly complex, as occasion demanded. Combining musical solos with sensitive and creative timekeeping made Morello one of the greatest drummers of all time.

“Brubeck Quartet saxophonist Paul Desmond once noted that the only way you could follow a Joe Morello drum solo was by firing off a cannon.

“Keith Moon … told Rolling Stone magazine in a 1972 interview that, ‘Technically, Joe Morello is perfect’.”

Let’s pause now, just long enough to listen to the master drummer drum. Unless I miss my guess, this two and a half minute excerpted solo comes from the tune “Far More Drums” in 5/4 time. Kinda makes you wanna burn your old John “Boring” Bonham records, doesn’t it?

The following quotes come from a tribute to Joe Morello printed in the July 2011 edition of Modern Drummer magazine:

Stan Hall: “Humor was a big part of Morello’s personality.”

Rick Van Horn: “Joe was a gentle and witty man.”

Doug Kassel: “He made the impossible look easy and fun, with immense amounts of technique, taste, musicality, and humor. One of the all-time legendary masters of the instrument.

John Riley: “His playing was infused with a unique sense of melodic development, drama, and wit.”

I find it interesting that so many people who knew Joe mention his wit and sense of humor because THAT is precisely what made me first take notice of his drumming upon hearing “Take Five” for the first time so many years ago. As I stated in ‘Swing Is In The Air’ (Or, ‘You Go, Joe!’), there is a four-combo drumroll he does in that solo that made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it.

And to this day, when I really concentrate on Joe’s drumming, I will still sometimes laugh, but at the very least I will find a big smile coming involuntarily to my face because his quirky rhythms are just so witty, funny, and fun! In other words, Joe Morello’s humorous personality comes across even in the licks with sticks he plays. Listen closely sometime and see if you don’t hear the humor in his solos.

Rick Mattingly: “The first image of Joe Morello that comes to my mind is of him sitting on his sofa playing on the RealFeel pad that was always perched on his coffee table. Sometimes he would be listening to his TV, sometimes he would be having a conversation with his wife, Jean, or with a visitor or caller, but the sticks would always be going. For many years, his guide dog, Matthew, would be asleep at his feet, oblivious to the polyrhythmic wonders going on a few inches above his head.”

Carl Palmer: “Joe was one of the very first to deal with odd time signatures, “Take Five” by Paul Desmond being the first of many for JM to tackle… Listen to the hi-hats on “Take Five” and you will see what I mean. The solo itself is devastating to this day.”

Peter Erskine: Joe “taught us all a thing or two about music and about what was possible on the drumset. … His overwhelming technique never overwhelmed the music. … Joe was the thinking man’s drummer, but he made the the thinking man’s band swing.”

Bill Bruford: “Joe was one of the three pillars of the drum world that got me into it in the first place – the others being Max Roach and Art Blakey.”

Dan Brubeck: “His soloing was an incomparable mix of melodic phrases that he played with blazing chops combined with rhythmically explosive expression.”

Steve Fidyk: Joe had “masterful technique and impeccable taste.”

Rod Morgenstein: “Joe Morello opened my eyes to the world of jazz drumming, and odd times, and the realization that a drummer could be a musician too.

“As a young drummer, I remember hearing “Take Five”, “Blue Rondo A La Turk”, and “Unsquare Dance” and being completely mesmerized by how rhythm could be manipulated in so many interesting ways…

“Joe Morello brought a rare elegance to drumming – a classy, often understated (despite his incredible chops!) approach to playing music, which we can all learn a great deal from.”

And now here’s some music philosophy from the man himself:

Joe Morello: “When people use the word technique, they usually mean speed. But the ‘Take Five’ solo had very little speed involved. It was more about space and playing over the barline. It was conspicuous by being so different

“Technique is only a means to an end. The more control you have of the instrument, the more confidence you will get and the more you will be able to express your ideas. But just for technique alone – just to see how fast you can play so you can machine-gun everybody to death – that doesn’t make any sense. Technique is only good if you can use it musically.”

Thanks again to Mr. Sheboyganboy Six (and Modern Drummer magazine) for the fabulous articles.

Let’s close with a few videos of mo’ Morello mastery. This first one is Morello playing with Gary Burton’s band. The tune is “Just In Time” …[and now I’m gonna try to show off without looking anything up – hope I don’t fall flat on my face here]… which comes from the Broadway show and Hollywood movie “Bells Are Ringing” starring Judy Holliday. In the movie, the song was sung by Dean Martin. Woo-Hoo, do I know my stuffs, or what?! (If I’m mistaken in any of this, someone please correct me in the ‘Comment’ section.) It’s because of sounds found in this instrumental that I loves Jazz so much:

The classic Dave Brubeck Quartet sound - “Far More Blue”:

And now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The Brubeck Quartet's "Unsquare Dance":

Hey, y’all, don’t forget to check back in here at ‘Stuffs’ regularly for the “really big shoe” I’m workin’ on. See the coming attractions HERE [<-- Link].

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


DiscConnected said...

Stephen-I'm going to hijack your post a little, because Wiki's description of Joe Morello reminded me of my two uncles, who I'm pretty certain I've mentioned to you.

They were pretty well known in jazz circles at least on the east coast.

Adolph Sandole died in the early eighties, and I remember being amazed at the attendees at the services-a virtual who's who of music, although I pretty much only recognized the rock guitarists who attended.

Both brothers left the business and ended up teaching, and their list of students was quite impressive. Heaven help them if Dennis Sandole caught them with their thumb coming over the fretboard!

A couple links should you have an interest:


Stephen T. McCarthy said...

What a bonehead! Check that – I mean, "Bonehead" with a capital “B”.

Yes, you have mentioned your Jazz Uncles to me a few times over the years, and you told me they were instructors, but you NEVER told me the names of some of the musicians they were associated with:

Your Uncle was a mentor to John Coltrane?!

And he played in Big Bands led by Tommy Dorsey and Charlie Barnet? (You Rock ‘N’ Roll fool, I’ll bet you don’t even know who these people are!)

And he backed Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra?
(OK, I know you’re familiar with THOSE names.)

And other musicians he tutored included Michael Brecker, Jim Hall, and Pat Martino? (Again we’re back to excellent musicians you don’t know Bo Diddley about.)

These names are GIANTS in Jazz! Hokey-Smoke, man! I used to think you were smarter than the average bear but... seriously!... a guy who loves music as much as you do, a guy who owns like 10 to 15 thousand music compact discs – this guy was your flippin’ UNCLE? You could have studied music with him and you chose instead to be an... accountant with a massive CD collection?! To borrow from Foghorn Leghorn: "She--, ah say, Sheesh!"

And then your Uncle is a band leader who goes on to record an album titled "Modern Music From Philadelphia" and playing on that album are Art Farmer, Milt Hinton, and (are you kidding me?!) Teo Macero?!

Farmer and Hinton alone are Jazz giants, but do you even know who Macero was? He only produced practically every great Jazz album ever released on Columbia, that’s all!

Hell, to bring this back to Joe Morello: Teo Macero produced the Dave Brubeck Quartet album “Time Out” which included the ultra-classic track “Take Five” with Joe Morello’s most famous drum solo - the drum solo I credit for really giving birth to my interest in Jazz.

In other words, the bloke who produced the biggest selling Jazz song of ALL FREAKIN’ TIME – the song that I have often called “The Stairway To Heaven” of Jazz – was a musician on YOUR UNCLE’S album!

If those had been MY uncles, I would have become a world-class saxophonist. That’s what I wanted to play in 5th grade but my school’s band didn’t include saxophones, so I wound up on acoustic bass instead.

DiscConnected, you coulda been somebody! You coulda been a contenduh! Instead of a bigger bonehead than even I am!


Man, do you have a copy of your Uncle’s album “Modern Music From Philadelphia”? I wanna hear it!

~ D-FensDogg
‘Loyal American Underground’

DiscConnected said...

Growing up, I would have loved to study under my uncles, but they split time between Philly and NYC for the longest time, and their Philly school was deep inna harta South Philly and not real close to where I loved. And I think my mother was hesitant to ask him-normally he would not take on a beginner student.

Quite frankly, though, I do not think I have the apitutude they do, as my thumb was ALWAYS coming over the neck of the guitar.

I probably still would be an accountant with a massive CD collection, but my guitar would be a little nicer.

Maybe I'd know a little more about jazz.

I'm surprised I never told you they were in Dorsey's band. I do not know Barnet, but of course knew Dorsey.

Anyway, I've got the CD I describe in my post and will be happy to lend it to you. I did find another disc last night (insomnia has its perks sometimes) and ordered it-if it shows up by the weekend I'll leave that as well.


Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks! Very cool!

I can hardly believe that, considering the times you have mentioned your Uncles to me, you failed to "name the names" that they knew, taught, and recorded with.

Also, that you never mentioned having a CD of their music that you could let me hear. You never even played a track or two from it during our "Listening Sessions". WTF?!

Did you not realize that I would have been VERY, VERY INTERESTED in hearing that?

Yes, if you receive the second disc before next Friday, please do leave that one for me as well. If not, perhaps you could leave it for me the following Friday?

Thanks, DiscDude.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Arlee Bird said...

Didn't recall the name Joe Morello, but I do know the drumming, having listened to a good bit of Brubeck. I'll agree that he was darn good. I'm just real bad with names.

Tossing It Out

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

"Joe" who?

Wait! What's your name again?

Where do I know you from? Didn't I date yer parakeet once?

Man, it's hell to get ol--

...Where was I? Musta drifted off.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American UndergrZZZzzzzz...'

Sheboyganboy 6 said...

Stephen -

Thanks for the post, and I'm very pleased that the stuff(s) I sent got another excellent blog bit outta you. HEY! That's how to keep you bloggin! I'll have to keep the copier working overtime.

Morello was one of my absolute favorites also. I am especially taken with his use of the high hat. I usually don't think much about them... but with Morello they take on a huge and fantastic element.

Thanks for the wonderful links.

And DiscConnected: WOW! I agree with Stephen: if I'd have had that resource of your uncles, I would'a gone into music instead of accountancy! I can't believe the chain of personages they were involved with!

Then again, maybe I would not have made it into music. As Stephen knows, my own grandfather won two Oscars for film editing, and - though retired - still had many contacts in Hollywood when I was a teen and heading to college. It was only AFTER I got my rather useless degree in Journalism that I thought: "HEY! I forgot to ask him to help me become a film editor! DOH!"

Or, as Stephen would say: Uhp! I'm an idiot.

"Hello. This is two-time Academy Award winner Conrad Nervig. I'd like to ask a favor of you. Would you take my young, intelligent grandson under your wing at the studio? He'd like to follow in my footsteps as a film editor."

Bonehead with a capital B.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

No, sir! I thank YOU for the excellent material you sent.

I like the fact that I discovered Joe Morello's drumming on my own - just listened to "Take Five" over and over and recognized, even as a young man, that what I was hearing was very unique and creative - only to find years later that the guy was idolized by great drummers everywhere.

Your mention of the hi-hat is interesting because in his tribute to Joe, Carl Palmer also zeroed in on that.

Carl Palmer: "...Listen to the hi-hats on “Take Five” and you will see what I mean. The solo itself is devastating to this day.”

I'll be honest with ya, I ain't really a cymbal fan; I would probably be perfectly content if a drummer never once banged a gong. They're just too clangy and noisy to my ears. They must be used sparingly for me to tolerate them (another reason I dislike really hard Rock and Prog-Rock - those dudes probably hit their cymbals as often as they do their drums!)

I don't like cymbals in the same way I don't like jangly Rock music. Just say "No!" to the Byrds and to the Beatles' sitar stuffs. The only dudes I can think of who can get away with some jangly stuffs and not lose me are Dylan and Petty.

So... I have never really paid that much attention to what Morello was doing with the hi-hats. But the very next time I listen to him (which will be tomorrow while at work), I will try to focus on his hi-hat use and see if I can "get" what you and Carl Palmer dig so much.

>>..."Or, as Stephen would say: Uhp! I'm an idiot."

Ha! I see you are mastering Leaguespeak. Bravo!

That was a major phrase with The League Of Soul Crusaders. One would use it often to chide other members whenever they did or said something really stupid. And if it was yourself who said or did something really stupid, you would try to apply the remark to yourself before someone else could use it against ya; beat 'em to the punch by self-inflicting it.

Other popular phrases were: "Up with this I will not put!" - "Out the way, move it!" - "Why he wanna do that for, anyhow, anyway, what for, I don't know?"

Aww, man, we were insane, and there were many, many more original expressions we used daily in our conversations.

But probably the big dog - the most often used form of Leaguespeak - was stating something forcefully but in the form of a question and always beginning with the words "Thinkin' maybe..."

It was a twisted way of speaking which always began with "Thinkin' maybe" and ended with a question mark. For example: "Thinkin' maybe I won't?" - "Thinkin' maybe he didn't go to the liquor store?" - "Thinkin' maybe we don't lead the league?" - "Thinkin' maybe we won't get ALLLLL fu#ked up TONIGHT?!"

OK, work on that one, McFriend, and once you've mastered it, I will submit your name for consideration of full membership in The League Of Soul Crusaders. (But... "Thinkin' maybe you won't have to hit the bottle too?")

~ Moody McMe

DiscConnected said...

Mr. Sheboyganboy Six-

There were several reasons my mother had for not approaching her brother, some financial, some logistical and some personal.

I doubt I'd have been the next great guitarist anyway.

I am, I think, a pretty good lyricist, and I do regret not having asked him to put me in touch with industry folk who might have been able to help me pursue a career there.

He would have already been in his late sixties when I got out of high school, but I'm sure his name still could have opened a door or two.

Buy ya know what?

There's no knowing what would have happned taking the other road (to misquote Mr. Frost).

I'm pretty content with my life the way it's unfolded.

My only regret has nothing to do with their indsutry cred.

I have never heard my uncles play live.

That's the one thing I wish I could change.

The Sentimental Bonehead

Sheboyganboy VI said...

DiscConnected ~

I surely hope you weren't offended in any way by my rather overly-familiar cheekiness about your life path! Truth be told, I, too, am happy with the path I took, and I didn't mean to imply you took the wrong one.

I just am aware how very much you LOVE and know about music, and guessed that there might be a bit of introspection about what you chose to pursue.

I'm happy with what I did, yet I am introspective. I'd have loved to have been a musician, or a film editor, or an architect. The family owned newspapers, so that is what I ended up doing. It was fun and made for a great business, but did not always completely fulfill my creative side.

It would indeed have been fantastic for you to have heard your uncles play. I'm sorry it wasn't to be.

A bit of trivia as an aside: accountants as a group possess the highest average I.Q. of any profession... so I can stick THAT in my pipe and smoke it!

Stephen ~

Thinkin maybe that was then and this is now? Thinkin maybe my refusal to drink might disqualify me? Thinkin maybe I might be lucky to be sort 'o the d'Artagnan of the League?

Thinkin maybe I don't know to do this "thinkin' maybe" stuff?

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thinkin' maybe you couldn't use a little practice? (It always flows best after a few too many gin and tonics and you've let the force be with you.)

Don't worry about offending DiscConnected. I've tried offending him numerous times and it simply can't be done. He just shouts, "I can't heeeeear you!" and turns the volume up to eleven. It's very frustrating!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'