Sonny Igoe, who played drums with a succession of prominent leaders, died this week at the age of 88. In 1939 when Igoe was 16, he won the first Gene Krupadrum competition. After four years in the United States Marine Corps in World War Two, he worked briefly in a band of former Marines, then began a career that included work with Les Elgart, Ina Ray Hutton, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Chuck Wayne and Charlie Ventura. Herman’s featuring Igoe on “New Golden Wedding” in 1951 brought the drummer considerable attention. Two years earlier, his drive energized Benny Goodman’s big band and sextet. You can feel the swing intensify when Igoe switches from brushes to sticks on cymbals behind Wardell Gray’s tenor saxophone solo on “Blue Lou.” The other players are trumpeter Doug Mettome, pianist Buddy Greco, bassist Clyde Lombardi, rhythm guitarist Francis Beecher and Goodman on clarinet.
In recent years, Igoe co-led a big band with saxophonist Dick Meldonian, another musician respected among his peers but not widely known to the public. In this concert performance of “Just in Time,” Meldonian gives his partner the tempo assignment.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.