Personalities | Kenny Clarke | Forties | Jazz & Blues

(Drums, 1914–85)

Kenny ‘Klook’ Clarke was a native of Pittsburgh, but made his primary contribution to jazz in New York in the early flowerings of bebop. Clarke, who adopted the Muslim faith as Liaquat Ali Salaam in 1946, is widely credited with developing the new rhythmic concepts that fuelled bebop. His work with Dizzy Gillespie and especially Thelonious Monk at Minton’s in Harlem in the early 1940s laid the foundation for the move away from the persistently stated two- and four-beat emphasis on the bass drum.

Swing era drummers had already experimented with a lighter and more fluid approach to rhythmic accents, but Clarke developed that concept to new heights, using crisp punctuations on bass drum – known as ‘dropping bombs’ – to accent his rolling ride cymbal. He was drafted to serve in Europe in 1943–46, and eventually settled in Paris in 1956, where his many associations included the acclaimed Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band.

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


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