Locke, Eddie 1930–
Eddie Locke 1930–
Jazz drummer Eddie Locke, the famed critic Nat Hentoff once wrote in Jazz Times, “embodies the resilience of the jazz life.” Never a major star as a soloist, he led his own band only at the very end of his career. But that career spanned well over 50 years and intersected with much of the music’s history since the swing era. Locke could play in many styles; he could take a stage and entertain almost any audience. Eddie Locke, in short, was one of those musicians who serve as crucial cogs in a vital scene, and he was an astute observer of the many great jazz figures with whom he worked.
Locke was born in Detroit, Michigan, on February 8, 1930. He attended Miller High School and there met Oliver Jackson, another youngster who was interested in playing the drums and performing. Well under legal age, Locke played his first club date at age 14. He attended Detroit’s Wayne University (now Wayne State University), playing in jazz clubs when he could. But his first taste of professional success came on the fringes of jazz: he and Jackson formed a vaudeville duo called Bop and Lock (Bop was Jackson’s nickname). Joining forces around 1948, they appeared on and off in Detroit’s theaters for five years with an act that included singing and dancing as well as instrumental performances.
Around 1953 the pair was spotted by jazz drummer Cozy Cole, then touring with trumpeter Louis Armstrong and pianist Earl Hines. Cole encouraged them to make the move to New York City and its much larger jazz scene. Locke and Jackson soon landed a spot on an Apollo Theater bill in Harlem not long after they arrived, and they decided to stay on. The two musicians eventually went their separate ways (no band needed more than one percussionist), but they remained friends, and each continued to direct work the other’s way. Locke did well from the start in New York’s vigorous 1950s music scene, landing jobs with various groups that appeared at the city’s Metropole club.
At first he played in low-profile afternoon slots, but other musicians began to notice him soon enough. The musician who most influenced the young Locke in New York was drummer Jo Jones, with whom Locke served as a kind of apprentice. He moved Jones’s drums from studio to studio for recording sessions, and he soaked up Jones’s style. “He was the most creative drummer I ever saw,” Locke was quoted as saying by Hentoff. “He could create things I never saw anybody else do. And I’d never seen anybody play brushes the way he could…. The Basie rhythm section was just like the wind. It was so smooth.”
By 1958 Locke was well enough regarded to be taken on board by a top-flight jazz artist, trumpeter Roy Eldridge. Locke also credited Eldridge with helping to shape his own style. The trumpeter “taught me a whole lot about drumming, and helped me build that solo I do on Caravan, ” Locke explained to World of Swing author Stanley Dance. The intensely competitive Eldridge was quite a taskmaster and may well have honed Locke’s instincts for survival in the jazz world. One time, Locke recalled to London (England) Sunday Telegraph writer Martin Gayford, he was dressed down
Born on February 8, 1930, in Detroit, Ml; married. Education: Attended Wayne University (now Wayne State University), Detroit, 1940s-1950s.
Career: Jazz drummer, 1944-; Bop & Lock, Detroit, founder and performer, ca. 1948-1953; Metropole Club, New York City, drummer, 1950s; Roy Eldridge Band, drummer, 1958-1970s; Coleman Hawkins Band, drummer, 1959-1960s; Ryan’s club, New York, drummer, c. 1969-84; High School of the Performing Arts, New York, teacher, 1990s.
Addresses: Home— 929 West End Ave., New York, NY 10025.
by Eldridge for playing a lackadaisical solo in a completely empty club. “There’s nobody here, man,” Locke protested, whereupon the trumpeter leaned close to Locke’s face and said, “I’m here!” “That was a great lesson,” Locke told Gayford.
Locke’s first recording was made with Eldridge, pianist Ronnie Ball, and bassist Benny Moten; Swingin’ on the Town appeared in 1960. Locke toured widely with Eldridge, ending up in such unlikely venues as a military officers’ club in Maine. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s he was a fairly frequent contributor to jazz recordings, and he was comfortable in a variety of styles ranging from the swing of the generation before his own to the post-bop of younger players. He appeared on several recordings with guitarist Kenny Burrell, but his most frequent bandleader, along with Eldridge, was the legendary tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins.
Locke became close to Hawkins and often chauffeured the great musician around in his Chrysler, for Hawkins had lost his license so many times that his driving privileges had been permanently revoked. “I think I was as close to him as anyone towards the end, even closer than some who had known him much longer,” Locke told Dance. Locke and his wife entertained Hawkins in their apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan, and Hawkins provided Locke with steady employment until his death in 1969. The drummer heard on many of Hawkins’s final recordings is Locke.
Well enough known that he appeared in the widely reprinted photograph “A Great Day in Harlem” (the picture showed a who’s who of New York jazz standing on the steps of a Harlem brownstone), Locke made appearances on the Tonight show, the Mike Douglas Show, and other television programs. He continued to find work with Eldridge and other musicians in the 1970s and 1980s, and he recorded with bebop saxophonist Lee Konitz in 1975 on Konitz’s Chicago ‘n’ All That Jazz LP. Eldridge had an ongoing relationship with the Ryan’s club in New York during this period, and Locke took the stage with him on and off for 15 years. In the 1980s he performed in a trio with pianist Roland Hanna, and for a time, finally, he led a small group of his own. In the 1990s Locke was a fixture at New York’s JVC jazz festival.
In his later years, Locke supplemented his income by teaching at New York’s High School of the Performing Arts and at the Day School. But he never called a halt to his performing career. He made an appearance in 1997 at an event honoring a film based on the “Great Day in Harlem” photograph. In 2000 he appeared on the To Bags with Love tribute CD honoring vibraphonist Milt Jackson. The year 2003 saw Locke, well into his 70s, performing with bassist Earl May at Newark, New Jersey’s Shea Center. Locke, Dance observed, was “unusual in his ability to comprehend and adjust to the requirements of two of [swing jazz’s] greatest figures, Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins.” Not so much a survivor as simply a linchpin of jazz, Eddie Locke continued to find a place at the heart of the tradition that nurtured him.
(With Roy Eldridge) Swingin’ on the Town, Verve, 1960.
(With Coleman Hawkins) In a Mellow Tone, Prestige, 1960.
(With Hawkins) Alive!, Verve, 1962.
(With Hawkins) Desafinado: Bossa Nova and Jazz, Japanese, 1962.
(With Hawkins) Good Old Broadway, JVC, 1962.
(With Hawkins) Plays Make Someone Happy, Moodsville, 1962.
(With Hawkins) On Broadway, Prestige, 1962.
(With Kenny Burrell) Bluesy Burrell, Original Jazz, 1962.
(With Burrell) Out of This World, Prestige, 1962.
(With Hawkins) Today and Now, Universal, 1963.
(With Hawkins) Wrapped Tight, Impulse, 1965.
(With Hawkins) Sirius, Original Jazz, 1966.
(With Eldridge) Happy Time, Original Jazz, 1975.
(With Eldridge) Little Jazz and the Jimmy Ryan All-Stars, Original Jazz, 1975.
(With Eldridge) What’s It All About, Original Jazz, 1976.
(With Eldridge) Little Jazz: The Best of Verve Records, Jazz Archives, 1994.
(With Eldridge) 1950-1960: Little Jazz, Giants of Jazz, 1994.
(With Eldridge) Complete Verve Roy Eldridge: Studio Recordings, Mosaic/Verve, 2003.
Dance, Stanley, The World of Swing, Scribner’s, 1974.
Feather, Leonard, The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, Oxford, 1999.
Feather, Leonard, and Ira Gitler, The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, Horizon Press, 1976.
Kernfeld, Barry, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Macmillan, 1988.
Daily News (New York), February 28, 1997, p. Suburban-4.
New York Times, June 17, 1998, p. E3.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), July 18, 2003, p. 20.
Sunday Telegraph (London, England), October 6, 2002, p. 13.
“The Man Who Played Like the Wind: ‘Papa Jo Jones,’” Jazz Times, http://jazztimes.com/final_chorus/finalchorus_jojones.cfm? (February 9, 2004).
—James M. Manheim
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