Alan Dawson

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Alan Dawson
Born(1929-07-14)July 14, 1929
Marietta, Pennsylvania, United States
OriginRoxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
DiedFebruary 23, 1996(1996-02-23) (aged 66)
Occupation(s)Musician, teacher
Years active1951–1996

Alan Dawson (July 14, 1929 – February 23, 1996) was an American jazz drummer and percussion teacher based in Boston.


He was born in Marietta, Pennsylvania, and raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Serving in the Army during the Korean War, Dawson played with the Army Dance Band while stationed at Fort Dix from 1951–1953. During his tenure, Alan explored the post-bop era by performing with pianist Sabby Lewis. After being discharged from the Army, Alan toured Europe with Lionel Hampton.

Dawson was an early teacher of drummers Tony Williams and Joseph Smyth, known for his work with the Sawyer Brown country music group. Other students included Terri Lyne Carrington, Julian Vaughn, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Smith, Kenwood Dennard, Gerry Hemingway, Jeff Sipe, Billy Kilson, and many others. He began teaching at Berklee College of Music in 1957. Dawson suffered a ruptured disc in 1975 which led to him halting his touring schedule, to leave Berklee and limit his teaching to his home in Lexington, Massachusetts.

His teaching style emphasized the music as a whole rather than concentrate on percussion alone. He stressed the importance of learning the melody and structure of the tune to better fulfill the role of accompaniment. For this purpose, he had students play over standards while also singing the melody out loud. He constantly strived for balance between musical ideas and strict technique. He was big on rudiments and wrote extensive exercises intended to be practiced with brushes. He believed using brushes with his "Rudimental Ritual" would reduce stick rebound allowing the sense of "picking up" the sticks. While teaching, Alan also maintained a prolific performing and recording career.

Dawson was the house drummer for Lennie's on the Turnpike in Peabody, Massachusetts, from 1963 through to 1970. This gig allowed him to perform with a diverse group of jazz artists. Around this time, Dawson was Boston's premier jazz drummer for local acts as well as bigger name touring artists.

Throughout the 1960s Dawson recorded almost exclusively with saxophonist Booker Ervin on Prestige Records. In 1968, Dawson replaced Joe Morello in the Dave Brubeck Quartet and continued until 1972. His performance credits also included stints with Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Jaki Byard, Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Lee Konitz, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Tal Farlow and many other jazz artists.

Dawson's teaching methods have been passed on by many of his former students. Books on his approach have been written by John Ramsay, Osami Mizuno, and Marcelo Gueblón, all of them former students. Alan Dawson died of leukemia on February 23, 1996.[1]


As leader[edit]

As a sideman[edit]

With Dave Brubeck

With Jaki Byard

With Arnett Cobb

With Al Cohn

With Sonny Criss

With Booker Ervin

With Frank Foster

With Terry Gibbs

With Dexter Gordon

With Gigi Gryce & Clifford Brown

With Lionel Hampton

With Illinois Jacquet

With Hank Jones

With Quincy Jones

With Eric Kloss

With Junior Mance

With Charles McPherson

With James Moody

With Houston Person

With Jimmy Raney

With Sonny Rollins

With Sonny Stitt

With Buddy Tate

With The Cryan Shames

With Warren Vaché Jr.

  • Iridescence (Concord Jazz, 1981 [1999])

With Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson

With Phil Woods


  1. ^ Anderson, Dean. "Alan Dawson". Drummerworld. Retrieved October 11, 2011.

External links[edit]