Thursday, May 14, 2020

A Drum Is A Woman

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

In the lexicon of Jazz, the phrase “A Drum is a Woman” was made famous by Kenny Clarke, the father of modern Jazz drumming, who was affectionately known as “Klook.”

Although many have heard the phrase, here’s Michael Carvin’s explanation as to its more precise meaning as told to Ingrid Monson, author, Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp.64-65]. Michael is an excellent drum instructor based in NYC.

“It is a family. That's why you say a drum is a woman. That's what Klook [drummer Kenny Clarke] was talkin' about. That's what Prez [tenor saxophonist Lester Young] was talking about. He say, "Man, the drum is a woman, man." And I say, "Klook, what you mean by that?" He say, "Well, you take a woman that has four kids, and all four of them come home from school together.

One of them made an A; he's very happy. One made an F; he's very sad. One caught a cold today; he's upset. And one lost his jacket and he's very upset. Now when they hit the house, all four of them is hittin' the mother at the same time. The one that got an A'll say, "Mommy, look I got an A," and he's excited; and the one that got an F, say [crying tone of voice], "Oh mommy, I got an F"; the one that got a cold, "Mommy, I'm catching a cold," but she have to, at the same time, deal with all of them at the same time and cool each one of them out for the energy level that they are dealing with. And that's why they say the drum is a woman . . . cause that's the same thing a drummer has to do.

You come to the gig, [pace of speaking increases] the trumpet player's up, boy he feel like playing it. The saxo­phone, you know, he don't feel too good. The piano player say, "Aw, man, I shouldn't have ate so much, man, I'm feel­ing a little sluggish." It's the same thing. And . . . they all coming to you at the same time, so you're getting the news from all four of them at the same time. Right? Cause you're the bandleader, right? And you have to say, "Aw, man, damn you ate too much? [high tone of voice] Why, man, you big as a house." And you got to try to get him happy and the other guy that's already stretching, then you want to kind of cool him down, cause he's stretching too much. He got too much energy. And then the guy that is not feelin' so good, then you got to [give him] a pep talk ... before you go play.

And they never ask you, "How do you feel?" But when the four kids came in the house, they didn't ask mommy. Right? . . . But mommy had to go right into her motherhood and cool them out. That's why Klook said a drum is a woman.24 (Carvin 1990).”

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