The Collective is celebrating its 10th Anniversary by highlighting their greatest arrangements and original compositions. This "best of" performance includes material from many of the Collective's past and present members along with the tribute composers including Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder, and Chick Corea.
Barrett Deems was born in Springfield, Illinois on March 1, 1914. Best known for his role as drummer for jazz icon Louis Armstrong, Deems also worked with other household names in jazz like Duke Ellington, Jimmy Dorsey, Beardstown native Red Norvo, Muggsy Spanier, Woody Herman, Joe Venuti, Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden. He also collaborated with the Dukes of Dixieland and Joe Kelly’s Gaslight Band. Deems recorded music with jazz pianist Art Hodes and toured with several Louis Armstrong tribute bands. His drumming inspirations included Gene Krupa, Dave Tough and Baby Dodds.
Up until his death at the age of 84, Deems was performing regularly with his 18-piece Big Band, which included trumpeters Brad Goode and Mike McLaughlin, trombonist Audrey Morrison, and reedmen Barry Winograd and Richie Corpolongo.
Dubbed “the world’s fastest drummer,” Deems was known to be hyperactive. In fact, Armstrong once said, “Barrett, you’re the only guy in the world that makes coffee nervous”.
Other anecdotes of Deems are telling of his bold and unpredictable character. Stephen Voce stated that when meeting newly elected Chicago mayor Jane Byrne at the inaugural city jazz festival in 1979, Deems reportedly said to her, "You know, I don't care what they say about you. You’re not a bad looking broad. And you've got great legs, too." The mayor smiled in response and said, "Thank you very much."
When trombonist Jack Teagarden died from an alcohol addiction, Deems said he “never cared for the stuff.” Deems spent the majority of his life sober.
And when he first started playing drums, he did not learn to read music – and never got to it during his career. Deems said, “Who cares? Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa couldn't read too well either, but they could play. Guess what? That's what counts."
In a recent article published in the Illinois Times, James Krohe, Jr. wrote it was widely believed that white musicians were ahead on the beat by a few milliseconds – referring to it as the “honky offset.” Maybe that’s why some of the most revered African American jazz bands brought in white drummers like Deems in all-black bands, said Krohe. Deems joins Quad-Cities native Louie Bellson here, who worked for Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
Deem’s music can be heard on Louis Armstrong’s Satch Plays Fats: The Music of Fats Waller, Ambassador Satch, Louis Armstrong at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Satchmo: A Musical Autobiography, and Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy. Deems also performed “Now You Has Jazz” with Armstrong and Bing Crosby in the 1956 movie, High Society.