Stan Levey was two years younger than Kahn, but in 1944, at eighteen, was Dizzy Gillespie’s drummer and provided Kahn with lessons by example. Nearly a decade younger than Levey, Artt Frank was fifteen in 1948 when he frequented 52nd Street, convinced Levey that he was serious about learning to play and, for his sincerity, received instruction. Neither Levey, Kahn nor Frank had the almost supernatural technique of Max Roach, the reigning bop drum master. What they had in common was unerring time, intelligence, hearing keenly attuned to their bandmates and the flexibility to provide the contrasting rhythmic elements of steadiness and punctuation that bebop soloists needed for support and inspiration. Frank is not as well known as many modern drummers, but he is respected and admired by musicians as diverse as Dave Brubeck and Dave Liebman and has worked with a wide range of players. His longest association was with Chet Baker, who has often been quoted as saying that Frank was his favorite drummer.
Frank’s book, Essentials for the Bebop Drummer, is fundamentally an instruction book for drummers, but it has other values. Among them are his anecdotal story of evolving from a poor boy growing up in a little town in Maine into a drummer encouraged by Charlie Parker; explanations of bop rhythms that laymen can understand; and a CD in which he and fellow drummer Pete Swann illustrate the lessons. The CD also has tracks of Frank demonstrating the practical application of the patterns he teaches as he performs with colleagues in the Southwest. He makes his home in Tucson. On a couple of pieces, he also sings, an activity that he evidently intends to pursue further. I find the book entertaining and helpful. I think I’ll get out an old set of brushes that has been languishing in a drawer, sit down with a large piece of cardboard on my lap and see if I can master a couple of Frank’s basic left hand exercises.