Art Blakey Playing Drums

10 Best Jazz Drummers of All Time

Disclaimer: Links throughout the article may be affiliated. If you click and make a purchase, I get a small commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
I’m GIVING AWAY an Alesis Nitro Mesh electronic drum set. Head over to the description of this video for more information!

There are a lot of great jazz drummers out there. But who are the ten best? In no particular order, here’s our list. Remember that this is highly subjective, so don’t get mad if your favorite drummer didn’t make the list. Let us know who you think should have been included in the comments!

1) Art Blakey

Art Blakey was a well-known jazz drummer who founded the Jazz Messengers. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1919 and died in New York City in 1990. Art Blakey was an influence on many other jazz drummers, and he is considered to be one of the most important figures in the history of jazz. 

He played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Art Blakey’s style was unique, and he is remembered for his energy and creativity. In addition, he was a talented musician and a great bandleader. 

Art Blakey made a lasting contribution to jazz, and he will be remembered as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time. If you’re a drummer, his parts are worth studying, as he’s contributed to some of the best drum songs jazz has to offer.

2) Philly Joe Jones

Philly Joe Jones was one of the most prominent jazz drummers of his generation. A Philly native, he got his start playing in local clubs before making his way to New York, where he quickly became a fixture on the scene. 

He played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and was known for his hard-driving style and inventive technique. 

Philly Joe was also a gifted composer, and his tunes “Mojo” and “Philly Mignon” are staples of the jazz repertoire. Though he passed away in 1985, Philly Joe Jones remains one of the most influential drummers in jazz history.

3) Roy Haynes

Roy Haynes is one of the most respected and celebrated jazz drummers. A true pioneer, he has helped shape jazz’s sound for over five decades. His distinctive style is characterized by its lightness, precision, and swing. 

Roy Haynes first became prominent in the 1940s, when he played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He has since played with a who’s who of jazz greats, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. 

Today, at 97, Roy Haynes is still going strong. He is truly an inspiration to all aspiring jazz drummers.

4) Elvin Jones

Elvin Jones was one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time. A versatile and powerful player, he was a vital member of the John Coltrane Quartet and helped define the group’s signature sound. 

Jones was known for using polyrhythms and his ability to create a wide range of textures on the drums. He was also an accomplished bandleader, leading his own groups throughout his career. Jones left a lasting mark on the jazz world, and his influence can still be heard in today’s music.

5) Jo Jones

Jo Jones was a jazz drummer who was born in Chicago in 1911. He got his start playing in speakeasies and nightclubs during the Prohibition era. He eventually made his way to New York, where he played with some of the most famous jazz musicians of the time, including Lester Young, Ben Webster, and Coleman Hawkins. 

Jo Jones was known for his light touch and ability to keep a steady beat. He was also known for his sense of humor; he was nicknamed “Papa Jo” because he was always joking around. Jo Jones remained active in the jazz world until he died in 1985.

6) Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich was a jazz drummer known for his incredible technique and speed. He was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1917 and began playing drums when he was eighteen. His father, who was also a musician, encouraged him to pursue his talents, and by the age of four Buddy was already appearing on stage. 

He quickly developed a reputation as a prodigy, and by the time he was in his teens, he was touring with well-known bands. Buddy Rich went on to have a successful career as a solo artist and bandleader, and he recorded many popular albums. He died in 1987, but his legacy as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time lives on.

7) Max Roach

Max Roach was one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time. A bebop pioneer, Roach helped redefine the drummer’s role in jazz. His distinct style was characterized by his use of independent linear rhythms, polyrhythms, and complex improvisation. 

Roach was also a talented composer, and his best-known composition is “Freedom Now Suite,” a musical statement against racial injustice. Throughout his career, Roach continued to push the boundaries of jazz drumming, and his influence can be heard in the music of generations of drummers who came after him. 

Max Roach was a true pioneer in the world of jazz, and his legacy will continue to inspire musicians for years to come.

8) Tony Williams

Tony Williams was one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time. A prodigy who started playing with Miles Davis at 17, Williams helped redefine the role of the drums in jazz. 

His approach was characterized by a light touch and a focus on groove rather than flash or firepower. This allowed him to create a new kind of rhythmic conversation that was more about interaction and dialogue than soloing or showboating. 

As a result, Tony Williams became one of the most in-demand drummers of his generation, playing with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Wayne Shorter. While his career spanned many different genres, Tony Williams will always be remembered as one of the great innovators of jazz.

9) Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa was one of the most influential jazz drummers of all time. A virtuoso performer, he was known for his flashy style and technical prowess. He also played an essential role in popularizing jazz drumming, appearing in films, radio, and television. 

In addition, Krupa’s work with Benny Goodman’s orchestra helped make the drums a more prominent part of jazz music. He also recorded several solo albums and wrote a bestselling autobiography, Gene Krupa: His Life and Times. 

Though he died in 1973, Gene Krupa’s impact on jazz drumming is still felt today. Thanks to his skill, showmanship, and innovations, he remains one of the most revered musicians in the history of jazz.

10) Jimmy Cobb

Jimmy Cobb is best known for his work as a jazz drummer, but his musical career has been anything but ordinary. Cobb began playing the drums at an early age, and by the time he was a teenager, he was already gigging with some of the biggest names in the business. 

He quickly established himself as a versatile and skilled musician, able to adapt his style to any genre. In the early 1950s, he joined Miles Davis’s legendary band, and over the next decade, he became one of the most in-demand session drummers in New York. 

His work can be heard on hundreds of recordings, including classics like John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue.” Jimmy Cobb is a true legend of jazz drumming, and his unique style has influenced generations of musicians.

Drumming is one of the most important aspects of jazz music, and these ten drummers are some of the best ever to do it. Of course, there are many other great jazz drummers out there, so this list is by no means exhaustive. 

If your favorite drummer isn’t on this list, let us know in the comments below. Maybe they made our list of the top 50 drummers of all time!

Featured image: Philippe Gras / Alamy Stock Photo

Leave a Reply