Jazz is a music genre that emerged in the southern states of the United States during the latter part of the 19th century. It broke through internationally in the 1920s and is characterized by, among other things, improvisation and harmonics.
With the release of a new Beginners Jazz Course we wanted to highlight the beginnings of famous jazz drummers such as Karriem Riggins, Art Blakey, and Janne “Loffe” Carlsson.
If you're a drummer, there's a good chance you've heard the work of Karriem Riggins. The Detroit-born drummer and producer have been an influence on hip-hop, jazz, and soul music for over twenty years. From his start in Betty Carter's band to producing songs for Common and Kanye West. Riggins has been at the forefront of a generation of drummers who have transformed what it means to be a musician today.
In the video below is Kariem Riggins doing a solo performance.
As a child, Karriem Riggins would often watch his father, Emmanuel Riggins, a keyboardist perform with jazz musicians Grant Green, Marcus Belgrave, and others. In elementary school, Riggins spent time in the school band as a trumpeter, studying with Belgrave. He played the trumpet for two years in addition to drumming until he devoted himself to drumming full-time in eighth grade.
By high school, Riggins was a DJ, music producer, and a member of three different school bands. At 19, he joined the American jazz vocalist Betty Carter's band Jazz Ahead in New York where he would develop his unique skills as a drummer. He pursued major achievements in his musical career as a drummer and joined other bands throughout the years and worked with bigger artists such as Common, Paul McCartney, and The Roots.
Art Blakey started on the piano, but it was his work on the drums that earned him the title of "The Jazz Messenger." Blakey was born in 1919 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied piano from early childhood and became a professional pianist in his teens. His first try as a drummer came about when he was forced at gunpoint to move from piano to drums by a club owner, to allow the jazz pianist Erroll Garner to take over on piano. This turned out to be a good move as Blakey's career skyrocketed from there.
Blakey's career in jazz began when he joined jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams' band in 1937. His first big break came when he landed a gig with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra a few years later. He would go on to play with many other jazz legends during his time in New York City in the 1940s, including Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
Here is Art Blakey with The Jazz Messengers performing in 1959.
Today, Blakey is remembered as a legend who helped shape bebop jazz music, especially as it developed in New York City during the 1940s and 50s. He's also known for forming The Jazz Messengers in which he would mentor and help many other musicians develop their styles. It became a training ground for many musicians who would come to define their own genres, from hard bop to free jazz.
Janne ”Loffe” Carlsson
Born in 1937, Janne ”Loffe” Carlsson was an actor and music composer for theater and film. As one of the country's best drummers, he p layed in groups such as Hansson & Karlsson and with artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Dexter Gordon.
At three, Carlsson received his first musical instrument, an accordion. He played it until he was 4-5 years old when it broke and later got a drum kit when he turned six. In addition to the drums, he also played the valve trumpet in the school orchestra.
As a young grownup, he had a passion for painting and struggled to live on it. To make a living he mostly worked in sales by selling blinds and other things. He got back into drumming by realizing one day that if he wanted to paint full-time he should drum at night in restaurants and bars to make money. His drumming career would later begin when he joined the jazz musicians Lennart Wärmells and Kettil Olsson's band.
In the video below is Carlsson performing in Sweden, Liseberg, 2012.
Carlsson worked for several bands throughout the years, and once got a chance to play a gig with the American jazz musician Dexter Gordon. In the late 1960s, he started the jazz-rock band, Hansson & Karlsson, together with composer Bo Hansson. Their music was mostly improvised and their live shows changed over time. They got in touch with the American artist Jimi Hendrix and became the opening act for his shows in Sweden. As Hendrix became interested in their music he recorded their song "Tax-Free" which he would play during his live shows.
Throughout this course, you will learn the basics of jazz drumming and work to develop both your swing feel and jazz vocabulary. The focus will be on learning the swing pattern with the right feel and timing, as well as some basic comping exercises along the way.
The 4 jazz songs in this selection are built from the basic swing pattern to a swing snare comping. Starting with a basic swing in 8th notes and followed by additional hi-hats and kicks, the challenging version ends with some upbeat and downbeat combinations and more hi-toms.
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