Joe Morello

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Joe Morello
Morello in a 1960 advertisement
Morello in a 1960 advertisement
Background information
Birth nameJoseph Albert Morello
Born(1928-07-17)July 17, 1928
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 12, 2011(2011-03-12) (aged 82)
Irvington, New Jersey, U.S.
Years active1954–2011
Formerly ofThe Dave Brubeck Quartet

Joseph Albert Morello (July 17, 1928[1] – March 12, 2011)[2] was an American jazz drummer best known for serving as the drummer for pianist Dave Brubeck, as part of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, from 1957 to 1972, including during the quartet's "classic lineup" from 1958 to 1968, which also included alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and bassist Eugene Wright. Morello's facility for playing unusual time signatures and rhythms enabled that group to record a series of albums that explored them. The most notable of these was the first in the series, the 1959 album Time Out, which contained the hit songs "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo à la Turk". In fact, "Take Five", the album's biggest hit (and the first jazz single to sell more than one million copies) was specifically written by Desmond as a way to showcase Morello's ability to play in 5

Besides playing with Brubeck, Morello also served as an accompanist for other musicians, including Marian McPartland, Tal Farlow and Gary Burton, and recorded his own albums as well. He received numerous accolades during his life, including being named the best drummer by Down Beat magazine five years in a row.


He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States[1] to Joseph Morello and Lillian LaPalme. His father was a French emigrant from Nice and his mother hailed from French Canada.[4] Morello suffered from partial vision from birth,[5] and devoted himself to indoor activities. At six years old, he began studying the violin. Three years later, he was a featured soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, playing Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, and again three years later.

At the age of 15, Morello met the violinist Jascha Heifetz and decided that he would never be able to equal Heifetz's "sound". Therefore, he switched to drumming, first studying with a show drummer named Joe Sefcik and then George Lawrence Stone, author of the noted drum textbook Stick Control for the Snare Drummer. Stone was so impressed with Morello's ideas that he incorporated them into his next book, Accents & Rebounds, which is dedicated to Morello. Later, Morello studied with Radio City Music Hall percussionist, Billy Gladstone.

After moving to New York City, Morello worked with numerous notable jazz musicians including Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow, Stan Kenton, Phil Woods, Sal Salvador, Marian McPartland, Jay McShann, Art Pepper, and Howard McGhee.[1] After a period of playing in McPartland's trio, Morello declined invitations to join both Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey's bands, favoring a temporary two-month tour with the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1955.[1] Morello remained with Brubeck for well over a decade, departing in 1967.[1] Morello later became an in-demand clinician, teacher and bandleader, whose former students include Danny Gottlieb, TigerBill Meligari, Bruce Springsteen E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, Rich Galichon, Phish drummer Jon Fishman, Gary Feldman, Patrick Wante, Tony Woo, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons drummer Gerry Polci, Jerry Granelli, RIOT drummer Sandy Slavin, retired Army Blues drummer Steve Fidyk, Glenn Johnson, Pittsburgh drummer Bennett Carlise, Level System author and professional drummer Jeff W. Johnson,[6] Jazz drummer John B. Riley, and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres.

Morello appeared in many Brubeck performances and contributed to over 60 albums with Brubeck. On "Take Five", he plays an imaginative drum solo maintaining the 5/4 time signature throughout. Another example of soloing in odd time signatures can be heard on "Unsquare Dance", in which he solos using only sticks without drums in 7/4 time. At the end of the track, he can be heard laughing about the "trick" ending. He also features on "Blue Rondo à la Turk", "Strange Meadow Lark", "Pick-Up Sticks" and "Castilian Drums".

During his career, Morello appeared on over 120 albums. He authored several drum books, including Master Studies, published by Modern Drummer Publications, and also made instructional videos. Morello was the recipient of many awards, including Playboy magazine's best drummer award for seven years in a row, and Down Beat magazine's best drummer award five years in a row. He was elected to the Modern Drummer magazine Hall of Fame in 1988, the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1993, and was the recipient of Hudson Music's first TIP (Teacher Integration Program) Lifetime Achievement award in June, 2010.[7] [3][8]

Morello died at his home in Irvington, New Jersey, on March 12, 2011, aged 82, and is interred at Saint Michael's Cemetery, Springfield, Massachusetts.[2]

Upon his death, Morello's wife Jean gave control of Joe Morello's memorabilia and collections to Marvin Burock, one of Joe's students, who had toured extensively with Morello and who was tasked with transcribing Morello's Modern Drummer articles for ten years.[9][10][11]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

  • Collections (Intro, 1957) with Red Norvo, Art Pepper and Gerry Wiggins
  • Joe Morello (RCA Bluebird, 1961-62) (Issued in 1989 - Partially reissues It's About Time)
  • It's About Time (RCA, 1962)
  • Another Step Forward (Ovation, 1969)
  • Percussive Jazz (Ovation, 1977)
  • Going Places (DMP, 1993)
  • Morello Standard Time (DMP, 1994)

As sideman[edit]

With Dave Brubeck

With Gary Burton

With Tal Farlow

  • 1954 Tal Farlow Quartet
  • 1955 The Tal Farlow Album

With Marian McPartland

  • 1952 Lullaby of Birdland
  • 1955 Marian McPartland in Concert
  • 1955 Live At the Hickory House
  • 1956 After Dark
  • 1957 The Marian McPartland Trio
  • 2002 Live at Shanghai Jazz
  • 2003 All My Life

With Gil Mellé

With Sal Salvador

  • 1956 Shades of Sal Salvador
  • Juicy Lucy (Bee Hive, 1978)

With Chuck Wayne

With others


  • Joe Morello – Drum Method 1: The Natural approach to Technique (DVD) Hot Licks 2006
  • Joe Morello – Drum Method 2: Around the Kit (DVD) Hot Licks 2006
  • Joe Morello, Danny Gottlieb: Natural Drumming Lessons 1&2 (DVD) Mel Bay Publications, Inc. 2005
  • Joe Morello, Danny Gottlieb: Natural Drumming Lessons 3&4 (DVD) Mel Bay Publications, Inc. 2006
  • Joe Morello, Danny Gottlieb: Natural Drumming Lessons 5&6 (DVD) Mel Bay Publications, Inc. 2006
  • The Art of Playing with Brushes (DVD) Hudson Music LLC 2007


  • New Directions in Rhythm: Studies in 3/4 and 5/4 Time 1963
  • Off the Record: A Collection of Famous Drum Solos 1966
  • Rudimental Jazz: A Modern Application of Rudiments to the Drum Outfit 1967
  • Master Studies: Exercises for the Development of Control and Technique Modern Drummer Publications, Inc. 1983
  • Master Studies II: More Exercises for the Development of Control and Technique Modern Drummer Publications, Inc. 2006
  • Rudimental Jazz: A Musical Application of Rudiments to the Drumset including CD, Modern Drummer Publications, Classics Series 2010


  1. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 292. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b "Joe Morello". Drummer World. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Steve (March 13, 2011). "Joe Morello, Drummer with Dave Brubeck Quartet, Dies at 82". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Massachusetts State Vital Records, 1841-1920". FamilySearch. September 1, 2021.
  5. ^ "Joe Morello". The Daily Telegraph. London. March 13, 2011.
  6. ^ The level system: natural method for developing control of accents and dynamics. July 30, 2012. OCLC 937838623. Retrieved July 30, 2021 – via Open WorldCat.
  7. ^ "Joe Morello: TIP Lifetime Achievement Award" June 3, 2010 Hudson Music News, June 15, 2010. Retrieved March 13, 2010
  8. ^ Jarenwattananon, Patrick (March 12, 2011). "Jazz Drummer Joe Morello, Of 'Take Five' Fame, Dies At 82". NPR.
  9. ^ Morello, Joe; Burock, Marvin. "Finger Control in Modern Drummer (May 2003)" (PDF). Modern Drummer. p. 82. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Vander Vliet, Guy. "CNJ NCRS Newsletter January 2018" (PDF). National Corvette's Restorer's Society – Central New Jersey Chapter. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  11. ^ Morello, Joe; Burock, Marvin. "Developing the Musical Phrase in Modern Drummer (May 1993)" (PDF). Modern Drummer. p. 113. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  12. ^ "Joe Morello | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved June 2, 2017.

External links[edit]