By chance, the March 2012 issue of the NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD has an intriguing concentration on drummers — or improvising percussionists. And I was delighted to see two portraits of my hero Sidney Catlett in the opening pages.
The French jazz drummer Pierre Favre, who will turn 75 this April, writes: “Big Sid Catlett . . . was my biggest influence. He was like a sorcerer. He was precise and fluent when he played time and when he played the melody his unexpected rim shots shaped it and made it swing. I was talking to Tony Williams and he told me: ‘Big Sid Catlett was my biggest influence too.'”
Jazz journalist and blogger Clifford Allen hears Sidney in these ways: “There’s dynamism in Catlett’s swing, his brushwork weighty yet particulate, deft and muscular pushed up against the velvety wall of [Ben] Webster’s tenor . . . . Catlett’s pared-down, seemingly effortless swing was a far dry from drummer-showman contemporaries and helped knit together the rhythm section . . . . His work . . . may have paved the way for what would become a penchant for traditional and early bebop sides, since most of the . . . musicians played with one foot in ‘the new thing.’ Very few drummers traversed the eras of ragtime / Dixieland, Swing and bebop, but Catlett is one who was broad-minded and creative enough to do so.”
Sidney Catlett, so substantial, lends himself to a variety of empathic interpretations. Listen!