Personalities | Gene Krupa | Thirties | Jazz & Blues

(Drums, 1909–73)

Possibly the most famous jazz drummer, Gene Krupa played in the ‘press roll’ style of Chicago, where he first recorded in 1927. He was a traditionalist and kept time largely on the snare, with either sticks or brushes, playing two-beat on bass drum. He joined Benny Goodman in 1934 and became a key factor in the band’s historic success. Krupa could ‘kick’ a band in a way that few white drummers had managed before him.

As a soloist, he combined technique, imagination and flash that made him the centre of attention. Much of that technique infused Goodman’s trio and quartet pieces. But his tour de force would forever be ‘Sing Sing Sing’, a nine-minute collage of riffs linked by Krupa’s rock-solid tom-toms and recurring solo interludes. He left Goodman in 1938 to form his own band, which became a great success in the 1940s with Roy Eldridge and Anita O’Day. Krupa scaled back to a trio in 1951 and worked in that format for the next 20 years.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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