We are back with season three’s artist feature. This time around we highlight Sonny Payne (Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Erskine Hawkins). Payne is simultaneously one of the most influential yet underrated big band drummers in jazz history. When asked to list the most influential big band drummers a typical response might be: Buddy Rich, Papa Jo Jones, Gene Krupa, Louie Bellson, Mel Lewis, Ed Shaughnessy, Chick Webb, etc. However, when many musicians, including some of the aforementioned drumming greats, are asked to name influential drummers Payne is at the top of the list.
Combining innate musicality with bombastic setups and unparalleled showmanship Payne became the blueprint for which all future Basie drummers were compared. Harold Jones, who replaced Payne after his departure in 1965, unapologetically said that he took everything he could from Sonny during his time with the Basie band. Butch Miles, a fifteen-year Basie veteran, echoed that all drummers were told to emulate Payne’s playing as the definitive versions of the Basie catalogue.
Phil and Jon discuss Payne’s playing style, his sound, his gear, and then listen to excerpts from their favorite recordings.
Shiny Stockings from Ella and Basie!
Cute – from Basie Plays Hefti
Whirlybird – from The Dynamic Basie Orchestra
One O’Clock Jump – from Breakfast Dance and BBQ
Jumpin at the Woodside – Live at the Sands (Before Frank)
I’ve Got You Under My Skin – Sinatra at the Sands
All of Me – Sinatra at the Sands
One O’clock Jump – Sinatra at the Sands
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