Alan Dawson

Alan Dawson, born July 14, 1929 and died February 23, 1996 in Boston, was an influential jazz drummer and percussion teacher. Born in Marietta, Pennsylvania, Dawson was raised in Roxbury MA. Dawson was a Korean War veteran and served with the Army Dance Band from 1951-1953. Alan performed with Sabby Lewis, a pianist, during his tenure. Alan was released from the Army and toured Europe with Lionel Hampton. Tony Williams’s first teacher, Dawson is the most well-known name for Dawson. Terri Lyne Carrington and Vinnie Colaiuta were also former students. In 1957, he began to teach at Berklee College of Music. In 1975, Dawson broke his disc. He had to stop touring and he decided to quit Berklee College of Music to concentrate his teaching at his Lexington, MA home. His teaching style was more about the music than percussion. To better serve his role as an accompaniment, he stressed the importance learning the melody and structure. He had his students sing the melody loudly while he played over standard tunes. He was a firm believer in balancing musical ideas with precise technique. He was a big believer in rudiments, and wrote many exercises that could be used with brushes. His “Rudimental Ritual”, which he believed would decrease stick rebound, would allow him to feel “picking up” sticks. Alan was also a prolific performer and record producer while he taught. From 1963 to 1970, Dawson was Lennie’s On The Turnpike house drummer in Peabody MA. He was able to perform with many jazz musicians through this gig. Dawson was Boston’s most prominent jazz drummer at the time. He also recorded with larger-name touring artists. Dawson recorded almost exclusively with Booker Ervin, a saxophonist on Prestige Records, throughout the 1960s. Dawson took over the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1968 from Joe Morello. He continued to do so until 1975. He also performed with Bill Evans and Sonny Rollins, Jaki byard, Booker Ervin and Sonny Stitt. Many of his former students have passed down Dawson’s teaching methods. John Ramsay, Osami Mizuno, and Osami Mizuno wrote books on Dawson’s teaching methods. They were both his former students. From Wikipedia: Alan Dawson died from leukemia in February 1996.

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