There is a heritage that is traced, followed and respected by New Orleans drummers. They consider themselves part of a living continuum, musicians of a tradition which dates back to Congo Square, to the source of the African rhythms. There is a definitive drumming style that has evolved, yet has remained firmly rooted in the past, to the turn of the last century, and a drummer who established the jazz fundamentals of the instrument. This is his story.
Warren “Baby” Dodds was born in New Orleans on Christmas Eve in 1894. His grandfather was a drummer at Congo Square, and his brother Johnny Dodds was a clarinetist. Baby as he was always called, was naturally drawn to the drums, and absorbed all he could from the city around him. He liked the street parades, marching bands, dance music, and saw Buddy Bolden playing at Lincoln Park. He also took formal studies, and was taught percussion rudiments, and how to read music.
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“When a man is playing, it’s up to the drummer to give him something to make him feel the music and make him work. That’s the drummer’s job. The drummer should give the music expression, shading, and the right accompaniment. It’s not just to beat and make a noise”. Baby Dodds