Best Drummers of All Time: Jazz edition

Explore the legends in "Best Drummers of All Time: Jazz Edition," featuring iconic jazz drummers, their styles, gear, and must-hear tracks.

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Jazz, with its intricate rhythms and nuanced performances, has given rise to some of the best drummers of all time. This article celebrates these icons, exploring their styles, preferred gear, and contributions that continue to inspire.

Our top 5 Best Drummers of all time Jazz edition

1. Buddy Rich (1917-1987)

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Band: Icon of the Buddy Rich Big Band

Style & Contribution: Rich’s unmatched speed, power, and technique made him a drumming legend. His aggressive yet smooth execution of complex solos, like those in “West Side Story Medley,” showcases his virtuosic skill.

Preferred Gear: Favored Slingerland drums for their dynamic range and Zildjian cymbals for their crisp sound, enhancing his explosive performances.

Must-hear tracks: “West Side Story Medley,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Channel One Suite”

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2. Max Roach (1924-2007)

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Band: Pillar of the Charlie Parker Quintet

Style & Contribution: Roach revolutionized bebop drumming with his melodic approach, emphasizing musicality over mere rhythm keeping. His work in “Drums Unlimited” is a testament to using drums for melody and narrative.

Preferred Gear: Chose Gretsch drums for their rich tones and Zildjian cymbals for their versatility, complementing his innovative style.

Must-hear tracks: “Joy Spring,” “Drums Unlimited,” “The Drum Also Waltzes”

3. Art Blakey (1919-1990)

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Band: Heartbeat of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

Style & Contribution: Blakey’s powerful, groove-oriented style fueled the hard bop movement. His use of the press roll in “A Night in Tunisia” highlighted his dynamic playing.

Preferred Gear: Opted for Gretsch drums for their deep, warm sound that matched his emphatic playing style, and Zildjian cymbals for their reliability.

Must-hear tracks: “Moanin’,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “Free For All”

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4. Elvin Jones (1927-2004)

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Band: Rhythmic Force behind the John Coltrane Quartet

Style & Contribution: Jones introduced a polyrhythmic, free-flowing style, as heard in “Resolution,” that pushed the boundaries of jazz drumming into new territories.

Preferred Gear: Selected Ludwig drums for their ability to produce both powerful and nuanced tones, essential for his innovative techniques.

Must-hear tracks: “A Love Supreme (Resolution),” “Three Card Molly,” “The Drum Thing”

5. Tony Williams (1945-1997)

Band: Innovator in the Miles Davis Quintet

Style & Contribution: Williams was known for his fiery intensity and revolutionary approach to jazz drumming, blending speed with a delicate sense of touch in “Nefertiti.”

Preferred Gear: Used Gretsch and later Drum Workshop (DW) drums for their superior craftsmanship and Zildjian cymbals for their distinctive sound, which suited his complex playing style.

Must-hear tracks: “Nefertiti,” “Agitation,” “Emergency!”

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The Influence on Practice and Gear Selection

For aspiring drummers, understanding these legends’ approaches offers a roadmap to developing one’s style. Their choice of gear, often selected for its ability to convey their unique sound and complement their playing style, underscores the importance of finding the right instruments for your musical voice.

Emulating the techniques and styles of these best drummers of all time can significantly enhance your skills. By practicing their iconic tracks, drummers can explore different rhythms, learn to express musicality through drums, and understand the symbiotic relationship between drummer and band.


The best drummers of all time in the jazz edition have left an indelible mark on the music world, inspiring generations of musicians with their groundbreaking techniques, unique sounds, and dynamic performances. By delving into their legacies, today’s drummers can draw endless inspiration and continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in jazz and beyond.

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Get ready to take your drumming to the next level. Get expert tips on coordination, drumming techniques, improvisation and more in the post titled “Charting Your Drumming Journey”. / Written by: Raul Rodrigues: CEO of Drumap, Drummer, Music School Director and Mariano Steimberg: Drum Professor at Berklee College of Music, Valencia Campus.

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