Louie Bellson, 1924 – 2009

It was a sad bit of awakening to the clock radio, tuned to NPR, as my first creaking hints of consciousness this morning were greeted by the news of the passing of Louie Bellson, widely regarded as among the jazz world’s finest drummers. He was 84.

My introduction to Bellson came during my 8th grade year. I was then early on both in my saxophone study as well as my development of a fondness for jazz, and on a lark, I purchased a used LP copy of Maxell Jazz Sampler from a bookstore in Brunswick, Maine. Among the cuts from Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, and others was a barn-burner of a big band arrangement from Louie Bellson titled “Quiet Riots.” I played this track nearly endlessly, in no small measure owing to the scream – in – your – face – ’til – it – melts – clean – off – yer – head tenor solo by Pete Christlieb (who I would later come to know through his holding lead tenor chair in the Johnny Carson-era NBC Orchestra, as well as through his magnificent studio contribution to Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” and “FM”).

Among the things that struck me about Bellson (apart from his jaw-dropping chops), through photographs and film clips, is that he looked like he was always having such a damned good time about it all. Huge smile. Joy unbridled. For real—go have a look and listen at Louie from 1957.

And if you care to take a few minutes for a big band break, head on over to Rhapsody and give a listen to Quiet Riots. As best as I can tell, this link, or perhaps this one, should work in getting you there.

One of the greats. Made it look fun, which no doubt he was having. Made it look easy, too, which musicianship at such a world-class level is certainly not.

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About dave bois

Freelance writer with a strong pull towards environmental matters (water issues especially) that remains fueled by my study of and early-career practice in geology and hydrology. Music, food, dogs, current/political events, and visual arts combine to command much of the portion of attention not ceded to ecological concerns. Also Monty Python. I've sold a few pieces of original art and have made cab fare home playing saxophone. Native Mainah

3 thoughts on “Louie Bellson, 1924 – 2009

  1. Very nice tribute. I had the good fortune of catching Louis at U. Maine Augusta in either ’89 or ’90. Witnessing in person his combination of musicianship and generosity of spirit was indeed a privilege.

    Thanks too for the links to Quiet Riot. I hadn’t heard that for many, many moons.

    [dmb edit: many thanks for the drop-by; thought you might drop a crumb or two into this one. appreciate the anecdote, too.

    and, yeah, isn’t that one hell of a cut? i mean, i’m admittedly predisposed to big band, but that one scorches. would need to look up the guitarist, iirc it’s blue mitchell on trumpet, but my, oh, two decades obsessing on that christlieb solo don’t blunt my love for those two preceding solos. they’re tonal and melodic gold. cheers, d]

  2. I was fortunate enough to have met Louis Bellson back when I was in High School. He was a guest conductor for our jazz band at an event and as a surprise to him we broke out with Quiet Riots. He was a great person and musician.

  3. howdy, hypa

    i’m really grateful for that anecdote. in addition to having the chance to meet a jazz great such as bellson as being totally cool thing, i can only presume that you had one hell of a solid high school music program. i’ve never seen the chart for quiet riots, but i’ve probably listened to it a few thousand times. not a toy.


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