What I didn't realize at the time was that he was teaching music, not drum set. He emphasized
musicianship, history and swing, not technique. like many great masters, he knew his limitations and made the most of them. He did not have great chops but his musicality and his infallible ear were of the highest level. This was the gift he passed on to his students.
One of Mel's greatest achievements was turning the Stan Kenton Orchestra into a swinging dynamic organization. He was nearly fired for being unable to control the band. Mel refused to play the traditional "over the top" style ala Buddy Rich. His insistent "under the table" pulse and use of dynamics changed the sound of Kenton's band.
He would also have a critical effect on Terry Gibbs Big band, but it was the band that he co-led with Thad Jones that catapulted him into the drummers hall of fame. Many drummers have filled that chair since his passing and you still hear Mel, now thats personality with a capital "P".
If Mel had a major fault, it was that he talked and criticized too much. I and many others have always felt that it hurt his career and his standing among many major musicians. He was a very giving man who always had time to help you, if you needed it. I wish more people had known that about him. I owe him a great deal and I will never forget.