SKF Blog: Kenny Clarke: The Magic Cymbal

Scott K Fish

Silver Member
SKF Blog: Kenny Clarke: The Magic Cymbal

Pianist Dick Katz said in an interview with Ira Gitler, "People don't know that [Kenny Clarke] had one cymbal. It wasn't very big, and we used to call it the magic cymbal, because when somebody would sit in on drums, and use [Clarke's] set, it would sound like the top of a garbage can. But when he played it, it was like fine crystal.

'He kept the cymbal level, like a plate, and he played with a short, side-to-side wrist motion, and here are these guys -- some people today -- who look like they're winding up to hit a home run to simulate the same effect.

"To play softly -- strong, but at a low-volume level -- is exceedingly difficult; particularly on drums. Most drummers can't play soft because they don't have the muscular control. Kenny Clarke used to say this: 'You don't beat the drums -- you play them.'"

Source: Ira Gitler, Jazz Masters of the Forties, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Col, Inc. 1966 p. 181-182

Scott K Fish Blog: Life Beyond the Cymbals


Senior Member
Didn't Papa Jo Jones often use just one cymbal also? I believe he called the sounds a single cymbal could make the 'orchestra' and he played on different parts of the cymbal depending on who was soloing or the general color of the music.