Being an ex-drummer myself, I love reading about unsung heroes of the drum throne, and two were recently featured in the NYTimes (if you can call an obituary a “feature,” in one case). The obit was for Uriel Jones, a member of the Motown session band The Funk Brothers (check out the DVD). The other feature article was about the one and only Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, veteran of some 4000 recording sessions and currently holding down one serious rhythm section (with Wilbur Bascomb on bass) as house drummer in the revival of Hair.

Purdie — like other session pros such as Benny Benjamin, Jim Keltner, or Russ Kunkel, just to pick 3 at random — is one of those guys everyone has heard but most have never heard of. Library cataloging doesn’t do justice to this type of musician. A search of MIDCAT reveals that the Music Library has 7 CDs with Purdie, ranging from discs by the Fugs (!) to discs by Branford Marsalis, Larry Coryell, and Miles Davis. But I’d venture to guess we have at least a two dozen more with Purdie. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the way these things are described and cataloged, these will never show up in a search for Purdie because his name is not recorded in the catalog records. Such is the life of the session musician.

For example, Purdie plays on Aretha Franklin’s Young, Gifted And Black and Steely Dan’s Aja but you wouldn’t know it from the catalog records. To figure it out, you’d have to go to an online discography such as Allmusic.com or a print discography such as The Great Rock Discography. So, what began as a simple homage to 2 great drummers winds up as a little lesson in searching for information in the music library!

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