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March 14, 2011

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Jery Rowan

When I first met Joe Morello, it was the early '60s and I was a young drum teacher working at Ford Music, the place for percussion in Seattle.

Joe, who was doing clinics for Ludwig drums, flew in to put in an appearance at the store. Being the newest teacher, I was assigned to pick him up at the airport. Other than his regular luggage, the only percussion stuff he carried with him was his cymbal bag.

The moment he stepped off the plane, peering cautiously from behind those coke-bottle glasses, he dumped his cymbal bag on me with a, “Carry this, will ya?”. For the rest of the week I was expected to be at his side, cymbal bag in hand, passing it over at his command. It got to where I really believed he thought my name was "Cymbals".

That's what I remember about Joe Morello. That, and an incredibly fine player who took some time one day to introduce me to the Morello method of 'finger control' -- a new technique in drumming that he helped refine.

Hope your cymbal bag is close by, Joe. 5/4 and out.

Bruce Lea

My freshman year at UNC in the mid sixties I went to see the Dave Brubeck quartet on campus, my first live exposure to great jazz. Brubeck and Desmond were great, of course, but Joe Morello was the musician I talked about all night after the show. His playing on the drums is what gave real life and energy to the music. He made music out of percussion as opposed to just keeping the beat as most rock and roll drummers I heard at that time. He pulled me into jazz.

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  • Marc Myers writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (Univ. of California Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year" winner.
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