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  The Big Beat Turned Upside Down  
  by Dustin Garlitz  

        February 2005:

       Three drummers who played inside and out were Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell and Charles Moffet.  If you want to hear them in full form, check out some of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s music from the 1960s.  Billy Higgins sounds best on tenor saxophonist's Joshua Redman’s album Wish (recorded with guitarist Pat Metheny).  Blackwell is in top form on trumpet player Don Cherry’s Complete Communion and tenor man Dewey Redman’s Red and Black (the latter of which is issued on the amazing Soul Note label from Europe.  Charles Gayle once told me that he would work for the Milan-based owner of Soul Note for almost no charge.)  Moffet is wonderful on Ornette’s Live at the Golden Circle Volume 1, recorded in Sweden in the 1960s. 

       If you are in search of strictly free jazz drumming, I would suggest you find Sunny Murray and Milford Graves' work.  If you are a student of the drums, you can study with Milford at Bennington College in Vermont (he lives in Jamaica, Queens in New York City and commutes to New England each week to teach music courses at the liberal arts college).  My fellow band-mate Mike Pride took lessons from him for quite some time and learned an awful lot.  He told me that Milford and him were using an EKG machine and making music out of it!  As wild as that sounds, it doesn’t surprise me -- I wouldn’t put anything past Milford.  The bassist from my band used to go over to his house and have some pretty interesting conversations.  At one time he was hosting concerts at the house: the band consisted of Milford on drums, Gayle on reeds and William Parker on bass.  Milford would have refreshments waiting for people downstairs and everyone would have a jolly old time at his crib.  If you want to hear a drummer who has absorbed what Graves has to offer, yet sounds like a mix between Billy Higgins and Elvin Jones, I suggest you check out the young Mississippi-based drummer Chad Anderson.  He is a student of AACM drummer Alvin Fielder.  Don’t miss him!