Zutty Singleton • Icon of New Orleans Drumming • The Heartbeat of Jazz 1924-1969

This superb two-disc set honors drummer Arthur J. Singleton, known throughout the jazz world by the nickname “Zutty.” (Trevor Richards says in his liner notes, “Zutty” is Creole patois for “cute,” and John Petters, in his analysis of this set in Just Jazz magazine, the Nov. issue of 2021, says the same and adds that the sobriquet was applied to Singleton when he was a little kid by an aunt, after which it followed him for the rest of his days.) The album’s title points to two of Singleton’s attributes: he was, indeed, an icon of New Orleans drumming and the jazz heartbeat almost any time he was a member of the band, as this pair of discs illustrates. The New Orleans style of drumming is not flashy. The best exponents of the style, like Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton, do not play to the crowd—but having said that, I must admit that it sounds as if Singleton gets carried away somewhat by the audience’s reaction to “The Sheik of Araby.” While it is oversimplifying a bit, I would say the New Orleans style bands play mainly ensemble throughout, and the drummer and the rest of the rhythm section plays a supportive role beneath the front line. The drummer relies mainly on pressed roll work with accents, and this drives the band. He uses sticks for the most part—when he wishes to play really softly, he achieves this by lightening the stick pressure and/or moving awa
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Born in Dundee, Scotland, Bert Thompson came to the U.S. in 1956. After a two-year stint playing drums with the 101 st Airborne Division Band and making a number of parachute drops, he returned to civilian life in San Francisco, matriculating at San Francisco State University where he earned a B.A. and an M.A. He went on to matriculate at University of Oregon, where he earned a D.A. and a Ph.D., all of his degrees in English. Now retired, he is a professor emeritus of English at City College of San Francisco. He is also a retired traditional jazz drummer, having played with a number of San Francisco Bay Area bands, including And That’s Jazz, Professor Plum’s Jazz, the Jelly Roll Jazz Band, Mission Gold Jazz Band, and the Zenith New Orleans Parade band; he also played with some further afield, including Gremoli (Long Beach, CA) and the Phoenix Jazzers (Vancouver, B.C.) Today he reviews traditional jazz CDs and writes occasional articles for several publications.

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