The ultimate re-production of old Jazz kit by L.R.
L.R. is a jazz drummer from Pennsylvania, and he is probably the most knowledgeable person in the instruments which New York Jazz drummers used during the golden era of New York Jazz from late 40s through the 70s.
In 2013, when Rob Cook wrote a book, called The Gretsch Drum Book, he referred and experimented with L.R.’s collections of old Gretsch jazz kits, and the stories and information from L.R. were the main features in the very informative book of Gretsch drums and its history.
What L.R. loves is the Gretsch drums from the 40s through 70s. During that time, the Gretsch drum company took care of the musicians so well, that artists request and ideas were taken very seriously. Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Tony Williams all loved to use Gretsch 18” bass drum kits.
Even though this is not so well-known to people, some of the jazz drummers requested the Gretsch Co. to produce their special custom ordered 16” bass drum kit. Those kits consist of 12x16 bass drum, 8x12 tom-tom, and 14x14 floor-tom.
The reason why it was not well known to people was that the Gretsch Co. had never sold the 16” bass drum kit to the public. It was only custom made to musicians who had a privilege to directly place an order to the company. There are only a few 16” bass drum Gretsch sets from the 60s, that still exist today.
L.R. kept one of the very rare 16” bass drum Gretsch kits, until Miki Drum Centre purchased it from him in May 2018. For those who do not believe in the story of the 16” bass drum jazz kit, he kept the picture of Elvin Jones playing the 16” kit with John Coltrane. Lee also has photos of Art Blakey playing his Gretsch jazz kit with the 16” bass drum.
It is often very surprising to people how powerful the 16” bass drum sounds. It actually sounds huge, despite its small size. It has a very distinct projective sound. L.R. loves the sound of his 16” bass drum as well as its superior portability.
Because it was produced so little by Gretsch, it is very difficult to find 16” kick Gretsch set from the 60s. So, L.R. decided to make it by himself. In 1996, L.R. started the project. Later he named it JAZ Drum.
He started experimenting with wood materials for shells, bearing edges, sealer and wrap, lugs and hardware. It was not easy to produce the old Gretsch sound he was aiming for. He poured all his knowledge about the old Gretsch sound, along with his time and effort into re-producing the true sound that he always loved. After more than a decade of trial and error, between 2010 and 2012, he completed 6 kits, and he named them JAZ.
On the 6 kits he made, he chose the wrap to be Black Diamond Pearl, Gold Sparkle, Pink Champagne, Turquoise Sparkle, and White Marine Pearl. He produced 5 sets of 13x16 bass drum, 7 1/2x10 tom-tom and 13x13 floor-tom with 6x13 snare drum. He also made one set of 14x18, 8x12, and 14x14 with 5 1/2x14 snare drum in White Marine Pearl.
He made 2 White Marine Pearl kits, one with 16” bass drum and one with 18” bass drum. The 18" White Marine Pearl set was purchased by Miki Drum Centre together with the aforementioned old 16” Gretsch set in May 2018.
L.R. has no plans of making any more JAZ kits at this moment. He made the JAZ kits more for his personal artistic challenge to create that sound he always loved. Because JAZ is not a mass-produced drum, some of the hardware he used was generic, but he chose it carefully.