"Big" Sid Catlett

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Tea For Two Esquire Bounce

Steak Face Tiger Rag

Shake it and Break It
Sidney Bechet
and his New Orleans Feetwarmers
Louis Armstrong

Thanks Michael Gimino for choosing the music!

Big Sid Catlett...
Big Sid Catlett
born 17 January 1910, Evansville, Indiana, USA, died 25 March 1951.

After briefly trying piano, Catlett switched to drums and received formal tuition when his family settled in Chicago. After working with Darnell Howard, Catlett moved to New York where he played with Elmer Snowden and Benny Carter, following these sessions by drumming with McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman. Catlett happily switched from big bands to small groups, such as those led by Eddie Condon and Lionel Hampton, without any discernible difficulty. In 1941 he joined Benny Goodman, giving that band an overwhelming plangency it never received from any other drummer. In the late '30s and early '40s Catlett worked and played endlessly, appearing on countless recording sessions with a staggeringly wide variety of musicians.

The advent of bebop appeared not to trouble him and if he never fully adapted his style he certainly gave his front-line colleagues few problems. In the early '40s Catlett was a member of the superb Teddy Wilson Sextet; when this engagement ended he led his own bands until he joined Louis Armstrong's All Stars in 1947. He remained with Armstrong until 1949 when the years of all-night jam sessions began to catch up with him. Ill or not, Catlett continued to work, but on 25 March 1951 he collapsed and died while visiting friends backstage at a Oran ‘Hot Lips’ Page benefit concert at the Chicago Opera House.

Although a brilliant technician, Catlett chose to play in a deceptively simple style. With the fleet, smoothly-swinging Wilson sextet he was discreet and self-effacing; with Goodman he rolled the band remorselessly onward, with Armstrong he gave each of his fellow musicians an individualized accompaniment that defied them not to swing. Instantly identifiable, especially through his thundercrack rimshots, Catlett always swung mightily. On stage, he was a spectacular showman, clothing his massive frame in green plaid suits, tossing his sticks high in the air during solos and generally enjoying himself.
Source: centrohd.com

Though "Big Sid" only lived a scant 41 years, he was remarkably flexible stylistically, and his playing spanned at least three eras. He was among the few drummers in history, with perhaps only Roy Haynes being the other, who played with both Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. Catlett's most significant work in the swing era came with the Louis Armstrong big band of 1938 to 1941. Though the band was really notable only for the presence of the leader and Catlett, their outings are always well worth hearing, especially on the Armstrong series for Jazz Chronological Classics (three Classics' volumes cover the years 1938 to 1939, 1939 to 1940 and 1940 to 1942).

One of the most curious stories in jazz history was Catlett's four-month association with Benny Goodman in 1941. Catlett was, perhaps, the best drummer The King ever had, but as was usual with Benny, the drummer was likely "too good" and was unceremoniously canned. These sides are now out on a number of small labels. After leaving Goodman, Catlett was a fixture on 52nd Street, and his stint there is well-documented on "Sid Catlett: 1944 to 1946 (Jazz Chronological Classics label). The drummer rejoined Armstrong again, but this time it was with Armstrong's small group of All-Stars.

Their 1947 live recording, "Satchmo At Symphony Hall" (UNI / GRP label) remains a classic. Catlett's singular ability to evolve is very much in evidence on his recordings with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, out on "Dizzy Gillespie 1945 to 1946" (Jazz Chronological Classics), where Big Sid nails down the famed "Salt Peanuts" like no other drummer.

performed with:

Darnell Howard
Benny Carter
Louis Armstrong
Benny Goodman
Sidney Bechet
Sandy Williams
Cliff Jackson
Bernard Addison
Wellman Braud
Meil Powell
Sid Weiss
Vito Musso
Clint Neagley
George Berg
Chuck Gentry
Al Davis
Tommy Morgan
Don Redman
Roy Eldridge
Eddie Condon

...and many more

Louie Bellson:
Let me say this:
Anyone today who does not say they were influenced by Big Sid, must not play the drums

Freddy Webster, Sidney Catlett, Scoops Carry, Trummy Young, Leonard Gaskin,
Budd Johnson, Snags Allen, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc West

Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Big Sid Catlett, Louis Armstrong