When we think of the great drummers that have walked this planet, several factors come into play when defining how greatness relates to that person. Of course, every drummer who can be referred to as “legendary” is undeniably skilled beyond what is typically achieved, however, there’s usually something else tied in that makes them truly extraordinary. With Louie Bellson, that something else is not just something, but a long list of achievements, values he held and contributions to the art of drumming and music.
The legacy that Louie left behind is one that effectively changed the game for anyone who picked up a pair of sticks after him. An inventor, composer, clinician, author, Bellson was a force that attracted so many great musical personalities. He played on over 200 records with the likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Mel Torme´, Joe Williams, Wayne Newton and Bellson’s first wife, Pearl Bailey. A master of swing and jazz, Bellson also composed orchestral suites and symphonic works. A recipient of the American Jazz Masters Award, and six-time Grammy nominee, it’s no wonder legends like Duke Ellington referred to Louie as: “Not only the world’s greatest drummer, [but also] the world’s greatest musician.”
One of my favorite things about Mr. Bellson, among others, is the sincerely gracious nature by which he operated on a daily basis. His patience as a player, educator, student and band leader is exemplified in every instance of his being. Pair patience with kindness, humility and the drive to never stop learning, and there’s Louie Bellson, a rare treasure in the annals of American music and artistic culture.