Jump to content

Alan Dawson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alan Dawson
Dawson in a 1972 DownBeat advertisement
Dawson in a 1972 DownBeat advertisement
Background information
Born(1929-07-14)July 14, 1929
Marietta, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OriginRoxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedFebruary 23, 1996(1996-02-23) (aged 66)
Occupation(s)Musician, teacher
Years active1951–1996

Alan Dawson (July 14, 1929[1] – February 23, 1996)[2] was an American jazz drummer and percussion teacher based in Boston.


Dawson was born in Marietta, Pennsylvania[1] and raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he played with the Army Dance Band while stationed at Fort Dix from 1951 to 1953. During his tenure, Dawson explored the post-bop era by performing with pianist Sabby Lewis.[1] After being discharged from the army, Dawson toured Europe with Lionel Hampton.[1]

In early 1960, he was based in Boston for a regular engagement with John Neves, bass, and Leroy Flander, piano.[3]

Dawson was an early teacher of drummers Tony Williams[1] 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, Joe Farnsworth, Bob Gullotti, and many others. Dawson began teaching at Berklee College of Music in 1957.[1] He 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.

Dawson's teaching style emphasized the music as a whole, rather than concentrating 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, Dawson 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 1970. This gig allowed him to perform with a diverse group of jazz artists.[1] 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, and Tal Farlow.[1]

Dawson died of leukemia on February 23, 1996.[2]


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

  • Momentum (MPS, 1975)

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. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b Anderson, Dean. "Alan Dawson". Drummerworld.com. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  3. ^ Down Beat, 1960/03/31 issue

External links[edit]