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Brushes History
Never Swat a Fly! (PDF format).
An in-depth look at how brush playing came about. 
What Swat  (PDF format).
A supporting guide to Never Swat a Fly, outlining the development of early wire brushes. 
A look at the first, universally-adopted styles of brush-playing. 
A short biography of the first notable suitcase drummer in the public eye.
A sample chapter from my book, The Richmond Assault: a short history of barber-musicians and their role in the development of brush-playing. Copies can be purchased by searching for the title at www.completelynovel.com.  Alternatively, use the following link:
This title is available in a number of countries, including the following:

United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago.
Brush Breaks
Land of Cotton Blues (PDF format).
To my knowledge, the first recording to feature brushes was the Georgians' 1923 side Land of Cotton Blues.  The above is a transcription of Chuancey Morehouse's drum breaks on that track, heard during the middle of the piece and played using brushes.  Each 8 bar segment features a 4 bar drum-solo followed by 4 bars of ensemble playing, during which Morehouse continues in a similar vein, making few concessions to the band.   This 'ricky-tick' approach to drumming - a leftover from ragtime - would eventually be superseded by the press-roll style, which provided a more solid beat to play against, although in fairness to Morehouse the accompaniment works on Land Of Cotton Blues because it isn't choppy in any way.  His breaks are also a delight to listen to, having the rhythm and sound of a tap dancer - which, according to William Ludwig (writing in the May 1922 edition of Metronome), was the aim of all early trap-drummers.  True or not, you certainly hear it on this recording. 
Land of Cotton Blues is featured on the album The Georgians 1922-1923 and is available as a download from numerous sites. 
Our next drum break is from a 1924 track by Art Hickman's Orchestra called If I Stay Away Too Long From Carolina. It's only two bars long but, similar to Land of Cotton Blues, the drummer - presumably Art Hickman himself - continues to develop the break when the band resumes, despite the clarinettist taking a solo. A stalwart of the late Ragtime period, Hickman adjusted to the jazz age successfully (in his own polite way), and this cluttered style of brushes accompaniment appears to have been the norm for the times as similar playing can be heard on his recording G'wan With It (also released in 1924).  For the sake of completeness, a transcription of the brush work on G'wan With It follows (the solo commences at bar 55 of the tune).  Thanks go to Eddie of YouTube's VictrolaJazz channel for making a clean copy available to me.
G'wan With It (PDF format).
There is less of the delicate feel of a tap dancer about the brush work on If I Stay Away Too Long From Carolina and more of the contrived sound of a drummer taking a solo.  However, the performance is musical and, along with G'wan With It, it is another early example of the use of brushes on record.  As far as I'm aware no current Art Hickman compilation albums feature either track, but low fidelity recordings of both tunes form part of the Library of Congress archive.  Because of the poor audio quality, I can't guarantee that either transcription is 100% accurate.  Alternative recordings of G'wan With It can also be found on YouTube.
Moving on a few years, we now find ourselves at the epoch of the Swing era with the track Chinnin' And Chattin' With May by Bubber Miley and his Milage Makers, recorded in 1930. The above drum-break forms part of the outro to the song and the drummer on the date was Tommy Benford. Although not notated, the first two bars almost certainly incorporated sweeps on the quarter-note backbeats.  It is possible that the remaining accents played by 'hand 1' - it's unclear which hand Benford swept with - also incorporated sweeps, but it is impossible to say for sure as the primitive recording methods of the day failed to pick up the full sound of Benford's brushes.  Things aren't aided by the break being played with the snares off: the duller sound makes any swish harder to hear.  We are left with the characteristic Benford 'pop' on the backbeats though, which graced many of Jelly Roll Morton's recordings.
Chinnin' And Chattin' With May can be heard on the album Classic Jazz from New Orleans to Harlem, Vol 44.  A low fidelity recording can also be accessed via redhotjazz.com 
Apologies (PDF format).

One drummer who epitomised the early Swing era was Chick Webb. For a 1934 recording date with Mezz Mezzrow and his Orchestra, Webb used brushes on the track Apologies. After the other band members took solos in turn, Webb played a short drum solo, almost exclusively triplet based. During the third bar of the break, he upped his game by playing loudly and with even strokes. Visually, this must have been dazzling - it's clear from listening to this drum break where Webb's reputation as a show drummer came from - although it's a little disorientating from just an aural standpoint. Especially since Webb cut the following bar of triplets short by one beat (he probably got carried away with himself) before resuming the basic comp, which is used as an unaccompanied outro, gradually fizzling out and stopping well short of the allotted 12 bars. Although not the best drum break in the world, it has its charm and it's nice to hear some of the 'explosive' energy that Chick Webb was renowned for (seeing as it's often missing from so many of his recordings).

The snare-drum part amalgamates both hands on one stave, making things easier to read on the whole. One consequence of doing this however, is the use of flams to indicate beats when both hands play together. Where this has been done, up-stems show stokes to be played by the time-keeping hand, and down-stems show strokes to be played by the hand that sweeps. Although somewhat crude, there is some precedent for this method of notation (see the Gene Krupa Drum Method). Which hand played what in Webb's case is unknown, but the break works well with the right-hand playing sweeps and also leading on the triplets (right-hand stroke on the first beat of each bar of triplets).

Apologies can be heard on volume 42 of the album collection Swing Time. A slightly poorer quality recording is also available for listening at the redhotjazz.com page for Mezz Mezzrow and his Orchestra.


Chick Webb with Artie Shaw and Duke Ellington