Denzil Best

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Denzil Best
Denzil Best.jpg
Background information
Birth name Denzil DaCosta Best
Born April 27, 1917
New York City, New York, USA
Died May 24, 1965(1965-05-24) (aged 48)
New York City, New York, USA
Genres Bebop
Occupations Percussionist, composer

Denzil DaCosta Best (April 27, 1917 – May 24, 1965) was an American jazz percussionist and composer born in New York City. He was a prominent bebop drummer in the 1950s and early '60s.

Biography[edit]

Best, who was trained on piano, trumpet, and bass, concentrated on the drums starting in 1943. Between 1943 and 1944 he worked with Ben Webster, and subsequently with Coleman Hawkins (1944–1945), Illinois Jacquet (1946) and Chubby Jackson. The drummer was known to sit in at Minton's Playhouse.[1] He took part in a recording with George Shearing in 1948 and was a founding member of his Quartet, remaining there until 1952. In 1949 he played on a recording with Lennie Tristano and also recorded later with Lee Konitz. After a car accident he played in 1954 with Artie Shaw, and then in a trio with Erroll Garner (1955–1957). Following this he played with Phineas Newborn, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Tyree Glenn. In 1962 he appeared on the first release by Sheila Jordan. He suffered from paralysis after this and was no longer able to play; he died after falling down a staircase in a New York City Subway station.

Compositions[edit]

Best composed several well-known bebop tunes, such as "Move", "Wee", and "Dee Dee's Dance", as well as (possibly) Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing". His composition "45 Degree Angle" was recorded by Herbie Nichols and Mary Lou Williams.

Influence[edit]

Unlike many bebop percussionists, who loaded the musical space with accents against the prevailing meter and thus created rhythmic intensity, Best resumed the legato development of Jo Jones. He played on the beat and rarely used loud accents. Playing in this way he was not only a model for cool jazz but also influenced countless bar combos. Best was renowned for his brush work: fellow drummer Jake Hanna said that he "might be the best brush player of all drummers",[2]:117 and Elvin Jones listed Best in his top three.[2]:123 He was the drummer on the very popular Erroll Garner "Concert by the Sea" recording, along with bassist Eddie Calhoun.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rosenthal, David, H. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505869-0. 
  2. ^ a b Falzerano, Chet (1995) Gretsch Drums: The Legacy of "That Great Gretsch Sound", Hal Leonard Corporation.