Joe Morello, RIP

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.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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6 Responses to Joe Morello, RIP

  1. Rita K Barkey says:

    Thanks for letting us know of the loss of Morello. I’ve pulled out my Brubeck collection in his honor. –A saddened jazz fan

  2. Robert Kirby says:

    Are you hip to Don Ellis? A pioneer in odd tunings, rhythms and time signatures.
    I heard him some when we were in school via drum and bugle corps, but really came to appreciate him as an adult. Of course, I eventually learned that he’d done some of my favorite film work. Died tragically young.

  3. nightfly says:

    And Brubeck himself keeps going… 90 years old, bless him, and still performing.

  4. V.E.G. says:

    Joe Morello is like Chuck Klesath in a way. Apart from his (Morello) wife, he has no family of his own and so does Chuck.

  5. Bill Maginnis says:

    Thanks Joe. In 1959 I studied with Joe for three months. I owe what little technique I have to that few lessons back then. The real lessons were as much on the human level as the technical level. It is impossible to put a value on what I got out of that. At any price it would not be enough. At nine dollars an hour, which was never less than two hours, I owe what O have to Joe Morello.

    • profmondo says:

      When I was a teenager in Kentucky, I used to see Joe’s ads from time to time in the Modern Drummer classifieds. I always thought that would have been a blast. I’m glad to see that I was right. Thanks for dropping in, Bill — don’t be a stranger!

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