Product Spotlight:The Evolution of Jazz Drumming, by Danny Gottlieb

By Mike Sorrentino

For many drummers born after 1970, the very mention of “jazz” can fill them with fear and apprehension.  There is a misconception that learning jazz must be very difficult, and that it will somehow make their rock playing sound less authentic.  While we all know nothing could be further from the truth, it remains a fact that jazz is no longer the popular music of the day.  Thus, it is often learned through mountains of method books – which are quite helpful in developing the skills necessary to play jazz, but too often do not provide an insight to the musical setting the skills should be applied in.  The result is often a very technically proficient drummer who has very little musicality.  As a student who is new to the art form, the jazz catalog can be a dauntingly huge place, and the newcomer is hard pressed to find a place to begin and a logical progression to follow.  Danny Gottlieb’s new book, The Evolution of Jazz Drumming, takes a 31 week step by step approach to solving this problem.

Aimed primarily at college level students, the book is designed to take approximately two semesters to complete.  As with all lists of this type, you can make arguments for inclusions and omissions, but the group of drummers included here represents an excellent cross section of players who helped shape the direction of the genre.  There are no “young guns”; the book focuses mostly on drummers who made their mark before 1970. In fact, the video footage on the included DVD is mainly in black and white.  It is interesting to note the beginnings of the trademarks of some of today’s most influential names.  In the Papa Jo Jones clip for example, one can see very clearly where techniques used by Benny Greb and Neil Peart originated.  One look at Buddy Rich’s left hand calls Jojo Mayer to mind.  The DVD contains footage pulled from several Hudson titles, and it is fun to watch just by itself.

In addition to the DVD Danny has also included a CD containing all of the exercises in the book both at full speed and slowed down.  One challenge to modern drummers is that jazz transcriptions are often written in straight eighths.  The slower speeds will help those students not quite adept at the swing interpretation of eighth notes.

The book itself is 216 pages of exercises, transcriptions and photos of the 31 drummers.  After a brief introduction, which includes some overall information about jazz as an art form, a basic timeline of the development of jazz drums is included.  Covering 1910 to 2009, it lists some of the key events in the development of the instrument.  Each drummer has a short biography that highlights key aspects of the player’s unique skills, and anecdotes from their lives.  Most of the information contained in the exercises focus on soling in the style of the drummer being studied, although there are several etudes that focus on time feel.

This book will find a place among the elite college texts in the area of jazz drumming.   Many of the etudes are perfectly suited for jury and end of semester exams.  For an historical perspective of the development of the instrument, The Evolution of Jazz Drumming is a great place to start.  For more information please visit

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