Jazz is the Underground


During his interviews, drumming wizard Max Roach would regularly mention that the drum kit as we know it today was purely an American invention. The word “American”, although important, detracts from the broader meaning of Roach’s statement, the fact that the modern drum kit was a significant invention in music history.

With the addition of the bass drum pedal as well as the hi hat pedal, drummers, at the time popularly known as trap players, could use all four limbs instead of just two. These innovations enabled drummers to build rhythmic layers, and to create an illusion of complexity.

Early blues and jazz drummers, building upon the soloing concepts of Louis Armstrong and his contemporaries, brought a new level of fluency to their instrument. This resulted in an explosion of new rhythmic styles which continues to this day.

Where would we be without jazz music and the modern kit?

When they were coming up in the industry, Max Roach and Alan Dawson, both cite Papa Jo Jones among others, as influences. Other larger-than-life drummers such as R&B/Rock progenitor, Earl Palmer, and Afrobeat creator, Tony Allen, both claimed to be focused on jazz drumming in their youth. These examples aren’t unique as there are countless examples of drummers who started out as aspiring jazz musicians.

Jazz is the underground. Along with blues, it’s the undercurrent of most music we listen to today, consisting of the tried-and-true bass and drum combo rhythm section. Jazz may not agree with everyone, but there are innumerable lessons to be gleaned for anyone who seeks inspiration.