Louie Bellson

Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni (known as Louie Bellson) was an American jazz drummer. He is one of few jazz drummers who can be considered as a worthy rival to Buddy Rich. Duke Ellington called Bellson “the greatest drummer in the world”. He was an arranger, composer, bandleader, and tireless jazz educator. Bellson is second only to Buddy Rich for total technical skill. Louie Bellson, who Leonard Feather calls “one of the greatest drummers in history”, has been playing the drums since the age of three. He was 15 when he invented the double bass-drum setup. He earned an A in high school art class for his detailed sketch. He won the Slingerland National Gene Krupa contest at 17 by beating 40,000 drummers. As an internationally-acclaimed artist, he performed in most of the major capitals around the world. Bellson, together with his wife Pearl Bailey, holds the record for the second most White House appearances. As a leader, coleader, or sideman with greats such as Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey as well as other musicians like Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Woody Herman, Harry James, Woody Herman and Norman Granz’ J.A.T.P, Norman Granz, Benny Carter and Sarah Vaughan, Bellson has recorded and/or performed scores of albums (approximately 20) and was a part of many legendary acts, including Shelly Manne, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Mel Torme and Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Mel Torme and Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams and Mel Torme, Mel Torme, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Williams, Mel Torme, Mel Torme, Mel Torme, Mel Torme, Mel Torme and Mel Torme Louie took several bandleaders’ holidays over the years to either play with other leaders or lead another band. He returned to Ellington in the 1960s for the Emancipation Proclamation Centennial stage production of “My People”, and for the Concerts of Sacred Music, which Ellington described as “the most important thing that I have ever done.” Louie was briefly on tour with Harry James and Basie in 1966. A few years later, Buddy Rich paid Louie the supreme drummer-to-drummer/bandleader compliment. Rich asked Bellson for the role of his (Buddy) band leader while he was recovering from a back injury. Louie proudly accepted. He made his first film appearance in 1942 when he appeared with the Benny Goodman Band and Peggy Lee in “The Power Girl”. Louie, a 24-year-old veteran of the U.S. Army band, joined Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey and Charlie Barnett in “The Power Girl”. He was also a member of Kenny Carter, Mel Powell and Kenny Dorham for Howard Hawks'”A Song Is Born.” This show is still a popular choice on late night TV. His compositions and arrangements, which included hundreds of songs, were a result of his prolific creativity as a composer and arranger. Many people don’t know that Mr. Bellson was also an author and lyricist. He was an author and published over a dozen books about drums, percussion. Bellson has received numerous awards. Bellson was inducted into the Halls of Fame by Modern Drummer magazine as well as the Percussive Arts Society. In 1977, Yale University made him a Duke Ellington Fellow. In 1985, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Northern Illinois University. In 1993, he performed his first concert, Tomus I II, III, with the Washington Civic Symphony at historic Constitution Hall. In 1994, he was awarded the American Jazz Masters Award by the National Endowment for the Arts. Louie Bellson has been nominated for four Grammy Awards. The London Suite, which Louie Bellson recorded in his album Louie In London, was also performed before a record crowd at the Hollywood Pilgrimage Bowl. Bellson’s sensitive lyrics are sung by a 12-voice choir in the choral portion of the three-part work. Part one is the band’s energetic Carnaby Street, which was a collaboration with Jack Hayes. Leonard Feather, a critic, has said that Bellson is a drummer with no peer in technique, taste or originality. He also enjoys being a composer whose music is a consistent blend of melodic and rhythmic ideas. Bellson was the leader of his orchestra for nearly forty years. His Big Band Explosion was full of zest, humor and exultation. An ex-employer of his understands. Duke Ellington noted that Louie Bellson had all the necessary skills to excel in his trade. Bellson was awarded his Doctor of Humane Letters at Northern Illinois University in 1985. Bellson and Harold Farberman performed Concerto for Jazz drummer and full orchestra at the Percussive Arts Society convention, Washington, D.C., in 1987. This was the first ever piece written for a jazz drummer and full orchestra. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra recorded this work and it was released by B. I. S. Bellson, the Swedish label. He was inducted into the Halls Of Fame for Modern Drummer magazine as well as the Percussive Arts Society. He performed Tomus I, II and III in June 1993 with the Washington Civic Symphony at Constitution Hall. Tomus is a combination of full orchestra, big band ensemble, and 80-voice chorus. It was composed of Bellson’s music and Pearl Bailey’s lyrics. Bellson was awarded the prestigious American Jazz Masters Award by the federal Endowment for the Arts in January 1994. Jane Alexander, NEA chair, praised Bellson as one of three recipients. She said that Bellson’s “colossal talents” had helped to write jazz’s history in America. Bellson performed in a strict schedule of clinics and performances, no matter how big or small, at colleges, clubs, or concert halls. He continued to compose and record, with more than 100 albums and over 300 compositions. In June 1994, Bellson released his debut Telarc recording, Louie Bellson and His Big Band: Live from New York. Bellson was also a vice president of Remo, Inc., where he continued to develop new drum technology. Bellson was a performer with Harry James, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman between 1943 and 1952. He also wrote “Skin Deep” (for Duke Ellington), and “The Hawk Talks”. He married Pearl Bailey in 1952 and made Ellington her musical director. In the 1960s and 1950s, he played with Jazz at the Philharmonic. He also performed with Tommy, Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie. Louie Bellson, who was born in 2006, released “The Sacred Music Of Louie Bellson And The Jazz Ballet”. He died on February 14, 2009. 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