Joe Morello: I Couldn't Play Jo Jone's Bass Drum

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
Joe Morello: I Couldn't Play Jo Jone's Bass Drum
by Scott K Fish



[SKF NOTE: An excerpt from the full transcript of my Modern Drummer interview with Joe Morello. My questions here reflect an interest I had at the time in how the drummers who came in during or soon after BeBop interacted with the great drummers who preceded them. Were there friendships? Mentoring relationships? Or no contact at all?

Joe Morello's story about playing Papa Jo Jones's bass drum has always been a favorite. I didn't expect to hear that Morello - who was 49 years old at the time of this interview - would have a challenge playing ANY drum!]

Joe Morello: One of my favorite drummers was Davey Tough. 'Cause he could keep a nice rhythm with a band and he kept good time. He didn't hardly do anything with his left hand. He was just straight ahead on the big cymbal, but he got it cookin' real good.

Sidney Catlett I used to listen to.

Scott K Fish: Did you ever get to meet those guys?

JM: Sid Catlett I met once. One time in New York.

J.C. Heard was another fine drummer. I don't know if you've ever heard of him.

And then Jo Jones, who is still a good friend of mine. He's still here. Old man Jo Jones. Jonathan Jones to you. [Morello mimics Jo Jone's raspy voice.] Boy, that guy taught me a lot, because I played opposite him for about six or seven weeks at the Embers. He was working with Tyree Glenn and Hank Jones. He use to play his bass drum open, see. He had a little 20-inch bass drum, and a snare drum, cymbal, and a hi-hat cymbal. That's all he had. Oh, and he had one little floor tom. And he'd get up on the drums with brushes and he'd get that bass drum going. [JM taps drum stick on leather sofa cushion, imitating the sound Jo Jones' would get from this bass drum at the Embers].

SKF: When you say "open," you mean he had no felt strips at all?

JM: Not at all. [Keeps tapping stick on couch] and he'd get a sound just like that. A good sound.

I'd get up there and I'd play something and it would go BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. And I'd say to him, "Jo, how do you do...?" And he wouldn't talk to me for the first two or three days. He just sort of flugged me off, you see.

But I sat down and I watched that f***in' bass drum, and I said, "I'm doing something wrong." 'Cause he sounds tap tap tap tap, and when I hit it, it goes BOOM BOOM. I couldn't play it.

The only way you could play it, I found out, was by pressing the beater into the head. He'd play up on his foot like that, but he's been playing it like that for so long that he can control it, see. Jo was always playing....

SKF: Toes down.

JM: Yeah. With his heels up.

And I learned a lot about hi-hats from Jo, because Jo would really get a breathing sound from hi-hats. Just a nice full.... Then we became good friends.

-end-

Scott K Fish Life Beyond the Cymbals
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
When I first started playing an open bass drum I couldn't make any sense out of it either. I had played without any front head at all during the 70's. I then went to a ported head and later a completely open head. I now can play any bass drum head set up. I like to use different variations for different sounds.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
When I first started playing an open bass drum I couldn't make any sense out of it either. I had played without any front head at all during the 70's. I then went to a ported head and later a completely open head. I now can play any bass drum head set up. I like to use different variations for different sounds.

Scratches head...so an open drum is one where the drum is closed off by the resonant head?

(Newish drummer - there is a genuine question lurking in there.)
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Scratches head...so an open drum is one where the drum is closed off by the resonant head?

(Newish drummer - there is a genuine question lurking in there.)
Yep!

There's nothing in it, so it's "wide open". Usually, with a ported head, or no front head at all, people put all kinds of strange things in their bass drums, so those are "not open". Get it?
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Agree. I hate bass drums stuffed with pillows etc. Why do some pay extra and demand an un drilled bass drum, then fill it full of rubbish to deaden the extra resonance you asked for in the first place?

As Joe says there is a lot you can do with an open BD by using different techniques.
 

rogue_drummer

Gold Member
Awe come on! Don't you like a kick stuffed like a suitcase? Dude plays a 3 piece and a suitcase. Ha!

Learn something everyday. Never knew open meant not stuffed with junk.
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
My father in-law and I shared my kit on a gig once. The bass drum is a 24x14 tuned high and wide open, PS3 batter and a coated single ply reso with a felt strip.

He had a bit of trouble with the bass drum, I noticed he was laying back on the kick throughout his set. The rebound from an wide open, cranked bass drum can be a bit much if you're new to it.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
When I first started playing an open bass drum I couldn't make any sense out of it either. I had played without any front head at all during the 70's. I then went to a ported head and later a completely open head.
Scratches head...so an open drum is one where the drum is closed off by the resonant head?
I've never heard the word open used that way. Usually it means an unmuffled drum; and usually people say "wide open." It doesn't have anything to do with whether there's a hole in the head or not.

Great post, Scott-- you should be blogging this stuff!
 
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Liebe zeit

Silver Member
Usually it means an unmuffled drum; and usually people say "wide open." It doesn't have anything to do with whether there's a hole in the head or not.
That's how I understand it. "Open" as in resonant, not closed or choked off by a lack of reso head, hole in the reso head or stuff inside the drum.
 

WhoIsTony?

Member
wide open means nothing inside the bass drum (towels, pillows etc. )
... and nothing touching either head ( felt strip, rolled towel, emad ring etc.)

thats it
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
wide open means nothing inside the bass drum (towels, pillows etc. )
... and nothing touching either head ( felt strip, rolled towel, emad ring etc.)

thats it
So in true DW fashion, I'm sure someone here will come up with "six degrees of openess". I say a true wide-open head combination would be tympani heads on both sides of the drum ;)
 

Starship Krupa

Senior Member
Awe come on! Don't you like a kick stuffed like a suitcase? Dude plays a 3 piece and a suitcase. Ha!

Learn something everyday. Never knew open meant not stuffed with junk.
Ugh, when I bought my Slingerland kit, the bass drum was packed SOLID, with a pillow and an entire sheet and pillowcase set (and the guy had been using the toms "concert style" with reso hoops long gone).

The good thing is that the sheet and pillowcase set was of high quality, and complete. I use it on my guest bed.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
Ugh, when I bought my Slingerland kit, the bass drum was packed SOLID, with a pillow and an entire sheet and pillowcase set (and the guy had been using the toms "concert style" with reso hoops long gone).

The good thing is that the sheet and pillowcase set was of high quality, and complete. I use it on my guest bed.
That's a result, is it not? Did you have to change the decor in the guest room to suit or was it already a match? I am currently in the market for a Yamaha 20" bass drum with some nice Laura Ashley curtains inside. 60" drop would be perfect.
 
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