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*Sidney Catlett was born on this date in 1910. He was a Black jazz drummer.
Sidney "Big Sid" Catlett was born in Evansville, Indiana and at an early age he was instructed in the rudiments of piano and drums under the tutelage of a music teacher hired by his mother. When he and his family relocated to Chicago, Catlett received his first drum kit, and immersed himself in the diverse styles and techniques of Zutty Singleton, Warren "Baby" Dodds, and Jimmy Bertrand, among others. In 1928, Catlett began playing with violinist and clarinet player Darnell Howard, before joining pianist Sammy Stewart's Orchestra in New York City and making appearances at the Savoy Ballroom.
After performing for several lesser established musical acts, Catlett began recording and performing with multiple musicians including Benny Carter, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Fletcher Henderson, and Don Redman throughout the 1930s. Between 1938 and 1942, Catlett was Louis Armstrong's drummer of choice as he was regularly featured in Armstrong's big band, while also periodically joining Benny Goodman's group. Following a brief stint in collaboration with Duke Ellington in 1945, Catlett led some of his own bands through the remainder of the 1940s and was involved in Armstrong's All-Stars between 1947 and 1949. Catlett was one of the few drummers to successively transition into bebop, appearing on Dizzy Gillespie's progressive recordings in 1945.
Catlett is heard on two tracks of the Gillespie-Charlie Parker segment of a New Jazz Foundation concert at New York's Town Hall, recorded in June 1945. In 1950 he performed with Hoagy Carmichael at the Copley Plaza Hotel. In early 1951, he began to suffer from pneumonia. In that same year on March 25, 1951 he died of a heart attack while visiting friends backstage at a Hot Lips Page benefit concert in Chicago, Illinois.Catlett was one of the most versatile drummers of his era, adapting with the changing music scene as it progressed toward bebop. In 1996, he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
Image: William P. Gottlieb