Before & After: Terri Lyne Carrington

Drummer, composer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington established her reputation as a pre-teen prodigy jamming with giants and receiving a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music at age 11. She has since collaborated on the road and in studios with Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Wayne Shorter, Clark Terry and many other luminaries, and she received mainstream attention on television as the house drummer on the Arsenio Hall Show and Vibe. In addition to her various projects and production credits, Carrington is Artistic Director of the Beantown Jazz Festival in Boston and professor at the Berklee College of Music. Her latest recording is The Mosaic Project on Concord Jazz. She joined us for this interview last year, just three days after Hank Jones passed.

1. The Great Jazz Trio

“Rhythm-A-Ning (from Autumn Leaves, 441). Hank Jones, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Elvin Jones, drums. Recorded in 2002. Continue reading


Before & After: Billy Cobham

Drummer, composer, producer and bandleader Billy Cobham has played every style of music, from military marches and mainstream jazz to Afro-Cuban and the Grateful Dead. Best known for his jazz-rock innovations through his work with Dreams, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and his own groups, Cobham has spent the past 29 years living in Switzerland, which he values for its peaceful lifestyle and as a convenient jumping off point for world tours. Cobham’s legendarily strong technique is matched by his strong opinions about music, which he was not shy about sharing.

1. Gil Evans

“Las Vegas Tango” (from The Individualism of Gil Evans, Verve). Evans, arranger, piano; Johnny Coles, Bernie Glow, trumpets; Jimmy Cleveland, Tony Studd, trombones; Ray Alonge, French horn; Bill Barber, tuba; Garvin Bushell, Eric Dolphy, Bob Tricarico, Steve Lacy, saxophones; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, bass; Elvin Jones, drums. Recorded in 1964.

Before: Gil. Nobody writes like that, the chords and the phrasing. [as drums enter] That’s Elvin. What’s really funny about this is that Elvin has a way of playing in 3 while the rest of the band is feeling 2. Gil told me he likes to write and play on the edge of chaos but without falling in. He had this freedom and his using Elvin provides a looseness that could not happen with any other player. So Gil would match the music with the musician. I haven’t mentioned the bass player because the bass player is not listening to what’s going on. The bass player’s in his own world. I can feel that he’s reading what’s on the paper, and it’s correct. Now we have an oboe or English horn player in the mix, which means that everything’s being played very softly. That could be Kenny Burrell. This sounds like early to mid-1960s. You can tell by the quality of the recording that a lot of concessions were made, the technology wasn’t there. And if they did two or three takes of that, it was a lot. These guys know exactly what’s going on, they know how Gil likes to phrase. It’s beautiful. Continue reading

Before & After: Ed Thigpen


This B&A was done for JazzTimes just after the drummer’s performance at the 2005 Toronto Jazz Festival (pictured above). If anyone wants a deeper insight into how Thigpen thought about himself and his music, I’d recommend Don McGlynn’s aptly named documentary film, Ed Thigpen: Master of Time, Rhythm & Taste.


I’ve been waiting many years to meet and hear drummer Ed Thigpen in person. This master of the brushes has been living in Copenhagen since 1972, and because he rarely tours the U.S., I’ve had to get my Thigpen fix by listening to his 1966 Verve session “Before The Storm” and various recordings with Oscar Peterson, Dinah Washington, Ben Webster, Lennie Tristano, Ella Fitzgerald and others. Born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles, Edmund Thigpen was inspired by his father Ben Thigpen, who played drums with Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy. He gained early experience with Cootie Williams, Bud Powell, and Johnny Hodges, and appeared on the groundbreaking NBC television series “The Subject Is Jazz” with a band led by Billy Taylor.

Since relocating to Denmark, Thigpen has taught, written several instructional books, and recorded his various groups on the Danish Stunt label. His latest “Ed Thigpen Scantet #1” features five original compositions by Thigpen, including a lovely tune written for his daughter Denise. We finally caught up in Toronto where he was appearing with the Scantet. An airline snafu meant he and the group had to come right from the airport and hit the stage. People expecting a set of subtle brushwork must have been surprised to hear the band roar. It was worth the wait.

1. Jo Jones

“I Got Rhythm Pt. II” (from Jo Jones The Everest Years, Empire). Jo Jones, drums; Ray Bryant, piano; Tom Bryant, bass. Recorded in 1958/re-issued 2005.

Before: [immediately] Jonathan. Everything about him is wonderful. Nobody has as clean a sound. Is that with Ray Bryant? That’s a classic recording. You hear the clarity, the touch. It’s just so perfect. I don’t know if he’s the first to play brushes like this but as far as I’m concerned he’s the best. The way he played music. He knew music. And the effect he had on the musicians he played with. All this was very inspiring to me. What he brought out in the music. [listens closely to the breaks] He’s a dancer. He’s so happy. It’s classic. It’s an example of taking a small unit and making it sound like a full band.

After: Jo was my mentor. I didn’t take formal lessons from him. The way you learned from Jo Jones was by listening to him. And I learned from him about life and how to take care of yourself as a man. We didn’t talk that much about drums per se, we talked about music and life. But after I’d talk with him I’d play better that night, because you play life. We talk about all types of things; the children, the grandchildren, and his experiences with the people he knew. Never negative. He was very concerned about humanity. The things that made him unhappy were the people who were not respectful to one another. He had virtue, let’s put it that way. People like Jo Jones and Milt Hinton were our leaders and our mentors.

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