by Dr. Colleen Clark

installment FOUR:

In this lesson series, Zildjian artist Colleen Clark provides a historiographical and musical analysis examining the jazz ride cymbal pattern, from its inception on woodblock, small accessory cymbals, hand cymbal mechanisms and brushes through what becomes known as the modern-day ride cymbal pattern. This research examines a wide array of drummers and bandleaders, with the objective of identifying the earliest recordings of this important addition to jazz drumming, and popular music history while analyzing the ride cymbal pattern’s evolution through definitive recordings.


My research took a different path when I realized that the pattern was being played on the cymbal much earlier than I had anticipated, and that the cymbal was being choked with the left hand. This realization occurred when I witnessed Oliver Tines playing the pattern on the small splash-sized cymbal, which was probably 10 or 12 inches in diameter, but simultaneously choking beats two and four and releasing the cymbal on beats one and three. The release of the cymbal on one and three allow the cymbal to vibrate on those beats.

The examples in the following section are representative recordings of pattern playing on a small cymbal. The drummer played the pattern on the small cymbal while choking the cymbal on beats two and four with the left hand. This screen shot from Oliver Tines’s performance with Louis Armstrong shows the placement of the left hand underneath the cymbal and the right hand in a position that shows the right stick ready to attack the cymbal.

Examples of Small Cymbal Playing

According to this research, the earliest example of the pattern being played on a small cymbal can be heard on “Clarinet Marmalade.” This track was recorded on 2/4/1927 with Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra with Chauncey Morehouse on drums. Morehouse can be heard playing behind the trombone solo from 0:43-0:48 and 0:50-0:55. Morehouse again plays the pattern from 3:01-3:04 and 3:07-3:12, which is the end of the track.

Franie Trumbauer and his Orchestra “Clarinet Marmalade” 1927: Chauncey Morehouse, Drums

On 3/17/1927, Oliver Tines played the pattern on a recording of “Hot Lips” with Bill Brown and His Brownies. Tines can be heard playing the pattern beginning at 2:10- 2:23. He re-enters with the pattern at 2:25 and plays until 2:34 and again at 2:38-2:40.

This is one of the earliest representative recordings of the pattern on a small cymbal being choked by the left hand. It is interesting that Tines played the same pattern with Armstrong on “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Dinah” which became staples in this research (show below).

Bill Brown and his Brownies “Hot Lips” 1927: Oliver Tines, Drums

Baby Dodds’s playing on “Wolverine Blues” with the Jelly Roll Morton Trio is another example of the use of the pattern on a small cymbal (this track was previously analyzed but regarding Dodds’s brush playing).

Dodds can be heard playing the pattern on the cymbal from 3:00-3:12, which is right before the end of the tune. Dodds played two and four on the cymbal at 1:35 behind the clarinet solo and continued to play various rhythms behind him until 2:10 where Dodds began playing the pattern with brushes.

Beginning at 2:59, Dodds played the pattern on the small cymbal until the end of the tune. Recorded on June 10, 1927 in Chicago and under leader Jelly Roll Morton, this is one of the earlier representations of the pattern being played on the cymbal in this fashion.

Jelly Roll Morton “Woverine Blues” 1927: Baby Dodds, Drums

Tommy Benford’s playing behind Jelly Roll Morton on “Shreveport” is another example of pattern playing on the small cymbal.

Benford plays the pattern throughout a lot of the track with brushes on the snare drum. Benford then plays the pattern on a small cymbal while choking it with the left hand. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the pattern when Benford plays on the snare drum with brushes. There is a heavy emphasis on quarter notes and the backbeat, but for this reason, I only count the moments that Benford played the cymbal with the brush as seconds towards the total duration of the pattern played.

Benford first plays the brush on the cymbal from 0:42- 0:56. This is most clearly heard behind the clarinet solo from 1:33-1:47 and 1:49-2:04. The cymbal can be heard again from 2:40-3:14. This is a clear representation of how the orchestration of the pattern was increasing in popularity. The recording is easy to hear, even though the pattern was played with a brush on the cymbal as opposed to a stick.

Jelly Roll Morton “Shreveport” 1928: Tommy Benford, Drums

In Louis Armstrong’s 1933 live performance of “I Cover the Waterfront,” Oliver Tines uses a mallet to play the pattern on the cymbal, as opposed to a drum stick. Either way, this requires the same technique. The pattern is being played at 1:32. Tines plays the pattern with a brush on the small cymbal and chokes the cymbal with his left hand. The duration of the pattern played on the small cymbal with a brush is as follows: 1:32-1:57 and 1:58-2:10. Tines then switches to a mallet at 2:28 and plays the pattern until the beginning of Armstrong’s cadenza at 3:12.

Interested in learning more about the evolution of the ride pattern?

You can view or download a copy of Colleen Clarks’ Doctoral Dissertation from U. North Texas HERE!

Drummer, composer and educator Colleen Clark is vibrant on the scenes in NYC and the southeastern United States. Clark has guest performed with the 8G Band on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and can most recently be heard playing on the co-led project with Sharel Cassity, ALLIANCE, which received a 4-star DOWNBEAT review, Michael Dease’s “The Other Shoe” (Origin), and upcoming releases by CC+ The Adelitas, The Southern Pines, Michael Dease and Matt White.

She has shared the stage with jazz luminaries including: Branford Marsalis, Rodney Whitaker, Catherine Russell, Camille Thurman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and Mimi Jones. Clark has been featured in DOWNBEAT magazine and is also an ASCAP winning composer. Clark was invited by the ASCAP Foundation to lead her band at the Kennedy Center. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the University of South Carolina’s Jazz Girls Day. Dr. Clark is the first woman and only drummer to earn a doctoral degree in jazz from the University of North Texas. 

Connect with Colleen!
IG @ colleendrums

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