Baby Dodds

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Warren "Baby" Dodds (December 24, 1898 – February 14, 1959) was a jazz drummer born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

"Baby" Dodds (pronounced "dots") was the younger brother of clarinetist Johnny Dodds. He is regarded as one of the very best jazz drummers of the pre-big band era, and one of the most important early jazz drummers. Dodds was among the first drummers who improvised while performing to be recorded. He varied his drum patterns with accents and flourishes, and he generally kept the beat with the bass drum while playing buzz rolls on the snare. Some of his early influences include Louis Cottrell, Harry Zeno, Henry Martin, and Tubby Hall.

Dodds gained reputation as a top young drummer in New Orleans, then worked on Mississippi River steamship bands with young Louis Armstrong. He moved to California in 1921 to work with Joe "King" Oliver there, and followed Oliver to Chicago, which would be his base of operations.

Dodds recorded with Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Art Hodes, and his brother Johnny Dodds. In the late 1940s he worked at Jimmy Ryan's in New York City. On some of his trips back to New Orleans, he recorded with Bunk Johnson. After three strokes in 1949 and 1950, Dodds tutored and played in public irregularly, though he was unable to complete entire performances. In 1954 he played for a Natty Dominique recording session which also featured bassman Israel Crosby and pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong.[1]

Dodds continues to be admired for the creativity of his playing. He believed in playing something different for every chorus of every tune. Additionally Dodds is perhaps the first jazz drummer to record unaccompanied: in 1945 he recorded two solos for Circle Records, and the next year recorded a series of solos and reminiscences for Folkways Records.[2]


Inventor of the modern ride cymbal pattern

Most of his contemporaries would play a short buzz or press roll on the back beats (the 2nd and 4th beats), but Dodds would play a long roll that lasted till the following beat, which created a smoother time feel that he later developed into the jazz ride pattern most commonly used ever since.(see the PAS reference below)


Further reading

  • The Baby Dodds Story, a biography by Larry Gara based on extensive interviews with Dodds, first published in 1959, ISBN 978-1888408089.

External links

The Percussive Arts Society (PAS)

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