Friday, February 20, 2009

Louie Bellson (1924-2009)

I am late in noting the death last Saturday of an all-time great jazz drummer – Luigi Balassoni, or Louie Bellson.

The L.A. Times obituary is here.

Before leading his own bands, Bellson played with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Duke Ellington.

Mr. Bellson for decades was Pearl Bailey’s husband and musical director.

Click here to hear his 1977 recording of the Ellington standard “Cotton Tail.” It starts with a characteristically splendiferous drum solo.

Speaking of splendiferous drum solos, feast your peepers:


David Garrett said...

Glad you noted his passing. Didn't see the LAT's obituary, but I read both the WashPost's and the NYTimes.

The Post noted that he'd been married to Pearl Bailey. The Times noted that they were married in 1952 (15 years before Loving vs. Virginia), that he was her bandleader, and that "their high visibility was significant at a time when interracial relationships were far from common."

Thanks for posting.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Cheers, David.

Sam said...

One of the greats.

M.Chavez said...

Notable, for me personally, for being a truly generous spirit. As a frustrated rock drummer growing up in NYC back in the 80's, I'd attend drum clinics and the like to sit and ogle these masters of 4/4 time. At one session in strides Mr. Bellson, this old man that holds his sticks all 'weird' and what the heck is he doing here? At first I grow bored of his jazz drumming but at the end when all the drummers trade a few bars of solo time, I see him struggling with 4/4; the man can't stay away from triplet time, yet he hits a groove that I can appreciate and I rock out to his solo.

As I dwell on this the following day, I realize here was a guy, a legend in his own circle of Jazz, that could've surrounded himself with folks that grok'd his style, but instead he walked the walk and truly loved drumming, in all forms, as a great bridge that lets different generations celebrate together. In retrospect, I realized I had witnessed a very blessed thing.

When you compare him to other big name drummers of his generation like Buddy Rich, Mr. Bellson is a unique individual for not being so temperamental but instead embracing. When I read about his passing I sighed heavily and my wife wondered what was up. "This drummer died." I said, without offering more details. "That's too bad. What group was he with?" I had to explain he wasn't my traditional rock drummer that I worshiped, but one of only two Jazz drummers (Max Roach was the other) that I had met in my life and felt a true admiration for.

RIP Mr. Bellson, much love to you brutha.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Great comment, M. Thank you.