Transcription. When anyone asks me how to learn more about ‘twenties jazz drumming, I always say it comes down to three things: transcription, transcription, transcription. It doesn’t have to be on posh music-notation software, it could be with pencil on manuscript paper, or even (with the right discipline), in your head. What matters is listening – REALLY listening – to what’s going on, and trying to get as close as you can to it. Rather like learning to speak a foreign language, the first step is to become completely familiar with all the parts of the vocabulary, the second to mimic others’ usage of it to understand which parts of it are appropriate at what times, and lastly – and most importantly – to coherently synthesise everything you have heard in order to express yourself in a style that’s your own.
Money-where-mouth-is time: here’s a transcription of mine from a few years ago, of good old Zutty playing with Jelly Roll Morton’s trio in 1929, free and gratis. You can hear the original record here.
[NB: Whenever a cymbal is marked, it’s a medium-sized Turkish-style cymbal (what these days would be called a ‘crash’) unless otherwise marked. Zutty used neither hi-hat nor ride cymbal, though he does play a ‘Hand Sock Cymbal’ at letter ‘C’.]