Cultural Percussionist

Joe Morello Day

Joseph Albert Morello (July 17, 1928 – March 12, 2011) was a jazz drummer best known for his work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He was particularly noted for playing in the unusual time signatures employed by that group in such pieces as “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk“. Popular for its work on college campuses during the 1950s, Brubeck’s group reached new heights with Morello. In June 1959, Morello participated in a recording session with the quartet — completed by the alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and the bassist Eugene Wright — that yielded “Kathy’s Waltz” and “Three to Get Ready,” both of which intermingled 3/4 and 4/4 time signatures.

Morello suffered from partial vision from birth, and devoted himself to indoor activities. At six years old, he began studying the violin. Three years later, he was a featured soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and again three years later.

At the age of 15, Morello met the violinist Jascha Heifetz and decided that he would never be able to equal Heifetz’s “sound”. Therefore, he switched to drumming, first studying with a show drummer named Joe Sefcik and then George Lawrence Stone, author of the noted drum textbook Stick Control for the Snare Drummer. Stone was so impressed with Morello’s ideas that he incorporated them into his next book, Accents & Rebounds, which is dedicated to Morello. Later, Morello studied with Radio City Music Hall percussionist Billy Gladstone.

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