Manny Albam

The Drum Suite

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No doubt written to exploit the hi-fi craze in full swing during Ike's presidency, Manny Albams' and Ernie Wilkins' The Drum Suite took the unprecedented step of including parts for four drummers. Inevitably, Albams and Wilkins abandoned the anarchic idea of turning all four drummers loose at the same time; thus these six movements -- divided equally between the two composers -- feature carefully written-out parts for each drummer to follow. The featured stick-twirlers are Osie Johnson, Gus Johnson, Don Lamond and Teddy Sommer -- with Johnson mostly assigned to lay down the time -- and they all stay out of each other's way, never soloing more than eight bars apiece. Far from being mere novelties, though, the Albams/Wilkins charts are erudite progressive and musical extensions of their work for the likes of Woody Herman and Count Basie, the most intriguing being Albams' rhumba-like "Chant of the Witch Doctors." Star big band soloists like tenorman Al Cohn, alto Hal McKusick and trumpeters Joe Newman and Conte Candoli make pertinent contributions throughout the suite. By keeping things free of gimmickry, Albams/Wilkins created a viable piece of music that, if truth be told, could have been performed acceptably by one drummer.

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