John Densmore, Jazz Drummer

The coolly eloquent John Densmore, former drummer for The Doors, has penned an essay about his journey in jazz—from enthusiastic fan to accomplished pro.

On an off night from the Orbit, a Santa Monica bar gig I got with my very lame fake ID from Tijuana, I stumbled into the Renaissance Club on the Sunset Strip, where Lenny Bruce had performed. It was my first time in a jazz club, and I was ushered to a table in the back behind a pole. I was one of very few white people in the place, and the Renaissance Club was intimidatingly cool. It had an attitude. I hadn’t cultivated one yet.

Pretty soon I was hitting all the great haunts: The Lighthouse, the Bit, the Parisian Room and Melody Lane down on Adams Boulevard. Some teenagers were dragged to church by their parents to get a dose of religion….I found it with jazz.

This music has brought me back to these clubs, only this time I’m on stage! It is with great humility that I step onto the same stages that my early mentors commanded. Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Oscar Peterson. There probably isn’t a jazz musician you could name that I haven’t seen play live.

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