My folks were war babies, and my dad always felt more in tune with the Beats than the hippies. That meant that he was fond of folk music, but his favorite genre of music was jazz. This meant that when I started to play drums, along with Ringo, Keith Moon, and Neil Peart, I also got to hear a lot of players like Gene Krupa, Shelly Manne, and my dad’s favorite, Joe Morello’s work with Dave Brubeck. In fact, it was Brubeck’s Time Further Out album that really introduced me to odd time signatures, which meant that progressive rock wasn’t a mindblower for me. What most impressed me, though, was his musicality, combining his timekeeping with almost singable parts. This may have been a consequence of the fact that he was something of a violin prodigy before he switched to drums.
It wasn’t until years later, however, that I learned Morello had done his great work while essentially blind. The drumming was great enough, but playing his parts basically by feel verged on the preternatural.
Later in his career, Morello became a top-flight clinician and teacher, with students including Danny Gottleib and Max Weinberg. His career and life came to an end today, as he died at the age of 82, among the last of a generation of drummers that also included Louis Bellson, who died just over two years ago. The music world will miss him, but we’re lucky to have had him, and when I hear pieces like the one below, I’ll think both of the great drumming, and of the inspiration he brought to me through my dad. Thanks, Mr. Morello.