The jazz, arguably the most technically demanding type of popular music, a drummer’s role is often more challenging than those in the fields of pop and rock. In its infancy at the start of the 20th Century, the drummers gave jazz its heartbeat using an intoxicating, eminently danceable groove.
But while the music evolved, its prerequisites altered. Following the bebop era, when jazz became more cerebral, the very best jazz drum sets were anticipated to coincide with the other soloists from the group with their virtuosity. No more was their function solely focused on providing a constant rhythmic pulse.
The very best jazz drummer, subsequently, from the very intricate nature of the music, must get achieved technicians, and if you’ve noticed the award-winning 2014 film Whiplash, then you will understand they don’t have a simple ride.
The criteria are exacting. Nevertheless, in all its various manifestations and colors, jazz has produced a profusion of sensational “tub thumpers” over the decades. They have helped transform jazz drumming into a high art form. Keep reading Fidlar’s post to see the best list of Jazz drummers of all time.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Jazz Drummers Of All Time
- 1.1 1. Elvin Jones
- 1.2 2. Max Roach
- 1.3 3. Tony Williams (1945-1997)
- 1.4 4. Art Blakey
- 1.5 5. Gene Krupa
- 1.6 6. Louie Bellson
- 1.7 7. Roy Haynes
- 1.8 8. Philly Joe Jones
- 1.9 9. Brian Blade
- 1.10 10. Paul Motian
- 1.11 11. Omar Hakim
- 1.12 12. Dave Weckl
- 1.13 13. Tony Oxley
- 1.14 14. Pete La Roca
- 1.15 15. Jeff Ballard
- 1.16 16. Rashied Ali
- 1.17 17. Norman Connors
- 1.18 18. Terri Lyne Carrington
- 1.19 19. Billy Hart
- 1.20 20. Eric Gravatt
Best Jazz Drummers Of All Time
1. Elvin Jones
Rising to prominence at the post-bop jazz age Elvin Jones is also quite rightly, famous for his work on among the most well-known jazz records ever: John Coltrane’s Love Supreme combined with Jimmy Garrison on bass and McCoy Tyner on piano.
But this spell with all the saxophone great from the 60s was one of only several phases of jazz history that Elvin Jones led.
The late 50s watched him working with Miles Davis (Blue Moods, Sketches of Spain) and Sonny Rollins (the Superb Night at the Village Vanguard).
Throughout the 60s, he also played on a number of the Finest Wayne Shorter albums (JuJu, Speak No Evil), Ornette Coleman’s New York Is Now! And again, with McCoy Tyner.
Together with his releases, which lasted up until the late 90s, he played in later years using more jazz greats such as Art Pepper, Ray Brown, Pharoah Sanders & Michael Brecker.
The musician’s opinion: Elvin Jones was the drummer who played one of the most influential musicians of 20the 20thentury:: John Coltrane.
His elastic defeat and positive flow made the instrument sound like never before. His awareness of polyrhythm and legato phrasing introduced a new age on how the drums have been played in the area of jazz.
2. Max Roach
Since the pioneering jazz drummer throughout the Bebop era, Max Roach played and recorded, among other people, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis & Duke Ellington.
The Max Roach discography features a number of the fantastic bebop records of the era, including the legendary “Jazz at Massey Hall” that he co-released using Charles Mingus in their tag Debut Records.
The artist’s opinion: Max Roach is the father of modern drumming!
He formed bebop drumming along with his elegance, intellectuality, and musicality. One of the first great group leaders included a much more political approach to his songs, hoping to handle social problems such as racism, violence, and discrimination.
A True innovator about the jazz drumming by attracting the Principal swing conquer the cymbal Rather than the bass drum and Hi-Hat Billy Pod, Greek jazz drummer & bandleader
3. Tony Williams (1945-1997)
As mentioned in our in-depth manual to the profession of Tony Williams, he had been a child prodigy who became the drummer at Miles Davis Second Great Quintet’ aged only 17! With this group, he listed, among others, Seven Steps To Heaven, E.S.P, Four More, and Nefertiti.
Together with his role within this jazz band, he was also integral to other records that can readily maintain a spot in the listing of the best jazz drummer solo in the background: Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage & Sam Rivers’ Fuchsia Swing Song, to mention only three.
The artist’s point of view, Drums never seemed the same before and after Tony Williams.
His textures, dynamics, and circulation are changed not only the way drums were performed but also how the rhythm part interacts inside a group.
DefiDefinitely, landmark of today’s contemporary jazz drumming.
4. Art Blakey
Despite increasing prominence, during the bebop era of the 1940s (where he played both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie), jazz drummer Art Blakey will be famous for his part in the development of Hard Bop and, even more incredibly, his job with his Jazz Messengers band
Recording & touring for at least 30 decades, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers provided a launchpad for a lot of the most well-known jazz musicians at the moment, for example, to mention only a couple Freddie Hubbard (Mosaic), Woody Shaw (Child’s Dance), Wayne Shorter (The Big Beat), Lee Morgan & Benny Golson (Moanin’) and Wynton Marsalis (best jazz drum albums of the Year).
The musician’s opinion: Art Blakey attracted and integrated many African rhythms into his playing.
His beats and also his manner of playing solos were looking more like an early primitive ritual. He was also among the essential bandleaders as a drummer, highlighting 76 records with his group The Jazz Messengers.
5. Gene Krupa
Frequently considered the founding father of the contemporary drumming technique (and gear ), Gene Krupa was an excellent inspiration for countless drummers.
He also is the best jazz drum solos, getting the very first drummer to perform solos and indulge in extended virtuoso segments, precisely like a guitarist or a pianist could perform. This new approach came to life at the 1937 song Sing, Sing, Sing, that features a mesmerizing and exceptionally popular drum solo at the start and in various areas of the score.
Krupa also had a significant part in building the contemporary drummer set, cooperating with Slingerland to develop some brand new, radical pieces.
6. Louie Bellson
An accomplished musician, teacher, and entrepreneur, Louie Bellson needed a variegated and extreme life. A lifetime that somewhat resembled his drumming: vibrant, wealthy, and unapologetic.
Bellson left a significant mark in drumming, notably since he pioneered using two bass drums, later adopted by many pop and rock drummers.
7. Roy Haynes
Probably the most diverse drummer on this listing, Roy Haynes remains to groove today, after spending over seventy years on point with the best jazz drummer ever.
His expertise spans from bebop to fusion, from swing into avant-garde jazz. One of such distinct styles and sub-genres, Haynes consistently kept a personal and distinctive drumming approach, dependent on some revolutionary use of cymbals, used as strong rhythmical foundations instead of easy outcomes, and some rather snappy snare drums patterns.
Haynes manages to interpret the rhythmical intricacies of melodies into his tool, assigning a prominent role to the drums.
8. Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones is famous for his work from the Miles Davis’ first great quintet. He also performed and recorded prolifically for this project through the late 50s along with Red Garland on piano, John Coltrane on saxophone, and Paul Chambers on bass.
He moved on to capture over a dozen records as banda bandleader, which turned, among other people, Jimmy Garrison, Pepper Adams, Ron Carter, Nat Adderley, and Dexter Gordon.
9. Brian Blade
Born and raised in Louisiana, Brian Blade established himself as among those go-to jazz drummers of his creation, then an exciting bandleader.
His project The Fellowship Band has been publishing for at least 20 decades now, beginning with his self-titled Blue Note debut in 1998, and has showcased Myron Walden, Jon Cowherd, and Kurt Rosenwinkel (who we interviewed here) across the way.
He has performed on some of those Excellent jazz recordings of this 21st Century, such as those with Kenny Garrett, John Patitucci, Joshua Redman, Mark Turner, Chick Corea, and Joni Mitchell.
Maybe his high-profile job of recent decades, however, is his job as part of the Wayne Shorter quartet, together with whom he is and listed the critically acclaimed album’s prints Live! , Alegria, Beyond the Sound Barrier, with no Web and Emanon.
10. Paul Motian
Pennsylvanian-born Paul Motian needed a career that spanned nearly 60 years, something that describes the fact he’s worked with a very long line of jazz greats throughout history.
This jazz drum fantastic climbed to prominence in the late 1950s and Scott LaFaro in Bill Evans’ piano trio. He remained for five years before performing and recording with several West Coast legends such as Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, and Charlie Haden.
Later in his career, he recorded extensively for ECM and worked closely with a few of the very best jazz artists in the 80s and 90s at Keith Jarrett, Joe Lovano, Paul Bley & Bill Frisell.
11. Omar Hakim
Although his countless studio credits include playing pop documents by David Bowie, Sting, Kate Bush, and Céline Dion, this New York stickman musical base is suspended in jazz, as his 80s stints with Weather Report and Miles Davis prove.
Having ultimate flexibility, Hakim is a modern breed of multi-disciplined drummer who can play whatever he turns his palms to consummately well. He is one of the very best modern jazz drummers.
12. Dave Weckl
This Missouri drummer has played pop sessions for Madonna, Paul Simon, and Robert Palmer, but is the best jazz drum solo because of his job as part of Chick Corea’s Elektric Band through the years 1985-1991.
Technically brilliant in addition to capable of conjuring up controlling visceral electricity, Weckl is an accomplished bandleader in his own right who’s written books and produced movies that provide insight into what it takes to be among the world’s greatest jazz drummers.
13. Tony Oxley
As a former home drummer at Ronnie Scott’s in London, Sheffield-born Oxley is just one of the UK’s finest jazz drummers and has played a raft of all bona fide jazz giants, such as Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, and Joe Henderson.
He is also considered one of the primary exponents of free jazz, as his leading avant-garde work with Peter Brötzmann, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, and John Surman demo. Stylistically, Oxley never resorts to clichés and, in musical terms, always has something exciting and original to say.
14. Pete La Roca
Harlem-born Pete Sims adopted the stage name Pete La Roca when playing timbales in several Latin jazz bands throughout his childhood.
His first gig of notice was playing the Saxophone Colossus, Sonny Rollins, in 1957 at the Village Vanguard, and after he became an essential sideman, recording with the likes of Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, and Charles Lloyd.
Although he could swing wild abandon, La Roca was likewise a sympathetic accompanist and may be deliciously low-key on ballads.
15. Jeff Ballard
A long-time musical partner of noted modern jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, California-born Ballard has shown his unique ability in ensembles directed by Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, and Chick Corea. His style is radically dynamic, characterized by an infectious sense of brio and fizzing energy.
16. Rashied Ali
Recruited from John Coltrane in 1965, this Philly-born drummer showcased on the saxophonist’s most outré records, such as Interstellar Space.
He also brought a brand new avant-garde sensibility to jazz drumming, jettisoning swing along with a constant heartbeat in favor of abstract colorization along with the creation of ambiance and drama.
17. Norman Connors
At only 16, the precociously-gifted Connors, then at college, subbed for Elvin Jones in a Coltrane gig at Philly. For a moment, it appeared like spiritual jazz could be his calling, particularly following a stint playing Pharaoh Sanders in the early 70s.
Though Connors moved to the domain of R&B music and became famous as a hit-making producer and procurer of up-and-coming talent, he never forgot his jazz roots.
18. Terri Lyne Carrington
The area of jazz is mostly an all-male conserve. However, the Grammy-winning Carrington that can play jazz and R&B with élan, provides a persuasive exception for this rule, making her place one of the best jazz drum sets, male or female.
Presently a professor at Berklee College Of Music, Carrington was a child prodigy on the drums and immediately rose to fame playing the likes of Stan Getz and Herbie Hancock.
19. Billy Hart
Hart began out as an R&B drummer (backing Otis Redding and Sam & Dave) before working at the jazz area with Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz, and Wayne Shorter.
Hart’s eclecticism and capacity to play in many distinct manners (ranging from the r&b and bop to abstract modern jazz) marks him as a versatile performer not inhibited by musical boundaries.
20. Eric Gravatt
A Philly native, Gravatt took more than Alphonse Mouzon in Weather Report’s drum seat in 1972 and performed three of the group’s early LPs. His propulsive, polyrhythmic style imbued the band’s music using a psychedelic, emotional energy (particularly in their Live In Tokyo LP).
From the late 70s, Gravatt, unable to provide for his family for a musician, turned into a correctional officer for many decades. More recently, he’s played with McCoy Tyner.