From Congo Square to Times Square: A Short History of Drums in Jazz Some Jazz Recordings To Listen To

Sidebar: Some Jazz Recordings To Listen To

Many recordings are referenced in the main text of this article, in the mini-biographies of particular musicians. Here are some more, for your edification and listening pleasure, a few by drummers not mentioned elsewhere in this feature. Most of these recordings are available at the major streaming services. The drummer, of course, is listed first.

1930s and '40s
Paul Barbarin with Louis Armstrong, "Cuban Pete," A Chronological Study of the Louis Armstrong Orchestra 1935–41, Volume 3 (Swaggie)
Chick Webb and His Orchestra, Spinning the Webb (Coral)
Zutty Singleton with Jelly Roll Morton, Jelly Roll Morton (Jazztone)
Baby Dodds, Talking and Drum Solos (Folkways)
Sid Catlett with Louis Armstrong, Satchmo at Symphony Hall (Vinyl Passion)
Dave Tough with Bud Freeman, From Austin High: Comes Jazz (Columbia)


Sonny Greer with Duke Ellington, Masterpieces by Ellington (Columbia)
Louis Bellson with Duke Ellington, Ellington Uptown (Columbia)
Shadow Wilson with Thad Jones, Detroit–New York Junction (Blue Note)
Sam Woodyard with Duke Ellington, Ellington at Newport (Columbia)
George Wettling with Bud Freeman, Chicago/Austin High School Jazz in Hi-Fi (RCA)
Buddy Rich, This One's for Basie (Verve)
Vernell Fournier with Ahmad Jamal, But Not for Me (Argo)
Gene Krupa, Gene Krupa Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements (Verve)
Max Roach, Deeds, Not Words (Riverside)
Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck, Time Out (Columbia)
Kenny Clarke with Miles Davis All Stars, Walkin' (Prestige)
Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers, Holiday for Skins (Blue Note)


"Philly Joe" Jones with Wynton Kelly, Kelly at Midnight (Vee Jay)
Art Taylor, A.T.'s Delight (Blue Note)
Jimmy Cobb with Miles Davis and Sonny Stitt, Olympia–Oct. 11th, 1960 (LaserLight)
Mel Lewis with Art Pepper, Art Pepper + 11 (Contemporary)
Shelly Manne, 2-3-4 (Impulse!)
Dannie Richmond with Charles Mingus, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse!) Pete La Roca, Basra (Blue Note) Milford Graves, Percussion Ensemble (ESP) Sonny Murray, Sonny's Time Now (Jihad) Mickey Roker with Stanley Turrentine, Easy Walker (Blue Note) Sonny Payne with Frank Sinatra, Sinatra at the Sands (Reprise) Ed Thigpen, Out of the Storm (Verve) Grady Tate with Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery, Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo (Verve)
Frankie Dunlop with Sonny Rollins, Alfie (Impulse!)
Jack DeJohnette with Jackie Mclean, Demon's Dance (Blue Note)
Joe Chambers with Bobby Hutcherson, Oblique (Blue Note)
Rashied Ali with John Coltrane, Interstellar Space (Impulse)
Elvin Jones, The Ultimate (Blue Note)
Roy Haynes with Chick Corea, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (Solid State)
Tony Williams with Miles Davis, Filles de Kilimanjaro (Columbia)
Lenny White with Andrew Hill, Passing Ships (Blue Note)


Billy Hart with Herbie Hancock, Mwandishi (Columbia)
Billy Cobham, Spectrum (Atlantic)
Jon Christensen with Ralph Towner, Solstice (ECM)
Jo Jones, The Drums (Jazz Odyssey)
Famoudou Don Moye with Don Pullen and Joseph Jarman, The Magic Triangle (Black Saint)


Billy Higgins with Tete Montoliu, Live at the Keystone Corner (Timeless)
Peter Erskine with Marc Johnson, Bass Desires (ECM)
Jeff "Tain" Watts with Wynton Marsalis, Black Codes (From the Underground) (Columbia)
Marvin "Smitty" Smith with the Dave Holland Quintet, The Razor's Edge (ECM)
Paul Motian, Monk in Motian (JMT)
Kenny Washington with Tommy Flanagan, Jazz Poet (Timeless)


Ralph Peterson Jr., Presents the Fo'tet (EMI)
Lewis Nash with Mulgrew Miller, Hand in Hand (Novus)
Al Foster with Joe Henderson, State of the Tenor, Volumes 1 and 2 (Blue Note)
Victor Lewis, Three Way Conversations (Red)
Brian Blade, Fellowship (Blue Note)


Han Bennink, Nerve Beats (Atavistic)


Andrew Cyrille with Bill McHenry, Proximity (Sunnyside)
Bill Stewart, Band Menu (Stewed Music)


The Engine Room: A History of Jazz Drumming From Storyville to 52nd Street (Proper)
The Drums (Impulse!)

Briandrumzilla's picture

I apologize in advance if I missed his mention, did Joe Morello make the list?

ken mac's picture

Morello made a big splash with Brubeck but had little impact on jazz drumming as a whole.

John A's picture

Saying Morello "had little impact on jazz drumming as a whole" is as clueless as it is naive.

Joe was a master technician. Buddy Rich recognized Morello's technique as equal to his own.

As an innovator, he was fluently comping and soloing in 5/4 when the majority were struggling just to not get lost in it. I think that was the "big splash" you referred to with Brubeck.

There isn't a drummer on the list who doesn't admire Joe Morello.

Milford Graves?? Get real.

ednazarko's picture

Bernie is a studio powerhouse, and only recently did I realize how often he was the drummer on cuts where I'd loved the drumming. He's got three albums out under his own big band name. All of them released not just as CDs, but in Blu-Ray 5.1 and 9.1 surround. The 5.1 surround made me feel like I was back in the big band I toured the midwest with 45 years ago. I took the live Blu-Ray to an audio store to hear it in 9.1, and everyone who came into that place stayed in the room listening to his band, and, his drumming, which is front and center. All of the band are studio stars, all are amazing. But his lead trombone... WOW. But, back to drummers...

Bernie is a phenomenally complex drummer. In his career, he's been great at playing to match his clients' sound and style. Hearing him in his own band is like hearing him freed. I'm a huge fan of several current jazz drummers, a few of whom are personal friends. They turned me on to Bernie.

ednazarko's picture

I saw him several times with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, including on the tour with Carlos Santana. I think he played more beats per second than any drummer I've ever heard. And a couple times in every concert, someone would come from backstage with a bucket of ice cubes and water, and pour it over him. Unbelievably, his speed would triple, he'd grin at the sky (and we'd all feel cold), and then steam would rise from him for the next half hour... until his next ice bath.

MattJ's picture

Papa Jo was just amazing. IIRC, Buddy Rich mentioned him as an influence. I think they also missed Dennis Chambers. I met him briefly when taking jazz lessons in Baltimore. Nice guy and incredible drummer.

tonykaz's picture

I'm sitting here listening to Daniel Barenboim playing his new Piano and reading about Drums and drummers wondering what site I drifted into ??

What, this is Stereophile and it's Mr.KM teaching the history of Jazz, hmm.

It could only be you or the wonderful Jazz Shepherd, who else thinks about this ?

You widen the scope of focus for Stereophile and we readership, I always feel like I'm learning something after reading your writings. Thank You!

Tony in Florida

ken mac's picture

has his area of expertise, I have mine. Thanks as always Tony

mmole's picture

...enjoyed Bob Moses with the early Gary Burton Quartet with Steve Swallow and Larry Coryell. Then one night Bob was ill and Roy Haynes sat in and my mind was blown.

Also I want to give a shout out to Thurman Barker, a personal favorite.

JoeE SP9's picture

Whenever I read a poll from Rolling Stone about the best drummer or guitar player, I'm tempted to write them and mention any number of drummers mentioned in this article. The same applies to guitarists.

While there are some pretty good rock drummers IMO most can't hold a candle to the drummers mentioned. That includes Geddy Lee. His most published accolades all seem to revolve around the number of drums in his kit. Who cares how many drums are in your kit?

I feel the same about their best guitarist polls. Think of John McLoughlan and Al Dimeola for starters.

If Rolling Stone would say best rock drummer or best rock guitarist I would be on board. However, saying "best" while restricted to rock musicians means nothing in the big picture of all music.

funambulistic's picture

Geddy Lee is a bassist. I am not a Peart (or rock drummers in general) apologist but if you do not think Neil could hold a candle to some of the best jazz drummers, you really don't know anything about him (including his name).

Case in point, Peart performing at a Buddy Rich tribute (notice the size - or lack thereof - of his drumkit):

ken mac's picture

Peart was a prog rock drummer.

airdronian's picture

Nice to read the input from the drummers. There is one thing in the list of drummers of the future - instead of Jason Faulkner, did you mean Justin Faulkner ?

I've seen him perform as part of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, and he is very very good. Excellent really.

ken mac's picture

You're right and we all missed that! Thanks for the correction, sir.

airdronian's picture

No problem, that happens to the best of us. You should see what I do with restaurant menus. ;>)

John Atkinson's picture
airdronian wrote:
There is one thing in the list of drummers of the future - instead of Jason Faulkner, did you mean Justin Faulkner?


John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Allen Fant's picture

Outstanding! article- KM.
Keep up the strong work.

ken mac's picture

Thank you sir.

TNtransplant's picture

Well done, great overview and commentary.

Was a bit alarmed when you seemed to quickly jump from New Orleans to Swing but glad to see you gave props to the Chicago scene by mentioning Dave Tough and George Wettling as well as including them among the selected recordings.

Most startling oversight was not including any recordings of Papa Jo Jones. Paul Wells acknowledged his importance in the evolution of drumming styles; Jones was the driving force behind the greatest swing era rhythm section. Even if you wanted to avoid his 78 era recordings with Count Basie along w/bassist Walter Page and guitarist Freddie Green, there's plenty of wonderful Verve sessions featuring Papa Jo's artistry. Or the John Hammond produced Vanguard sessions led by Jones. [edit: Oops, never mind, my bad - wasn't expecting to find him represented in the "70's" but better late than never...]

And if you're talking about drumming in jazz, I'd say Chano Pozo deserves a mention - but yeah that's straying beyond the drum kit.

ken mac's picture

I thought we'd included Papa Jo Jones' master class, "The Drums," but it appears to have been mistakenly deleted.
Our timeline was based on history and recordings.
Chano Pozo was a percussionist, not a trap set drummer.

TNtransplant's picture

Hey Ken - sorry, realized my mistake after posting comment and immediately edited to note my oversight -- wasn't expecting Papa Jo to show up among "the 70's" recordings! But of course, his wonderful The Drums album was the obvious choice.

And I'd never heard of the James Lent recording before, thank you very much. Not quite sure I'd describe it as "jass" - predominantly martial rhythm to my ears -- but certainly a fascinating recording of nascent jazz drumming nonetheless.

So, how about a follow-up history on the role of the bass in jazz? (Actually, would probably need to start with a tuba...)


JoeE SP9's picture

While I don't pay much attention to rock or the musicians, 9-year-old Yokoko did impress me. I wonder what she'll be doing in 10 years.

Anton's picture

Each entry I read made me stop and think about that drummer's sound and where I've heard them. Nice trip along memory lane!

tonykaz's picture

I'm hearing wonderfulls about the PS30 loudspeaker system that costs less than $30,000 !!

I hope you will share your opinions about this Transducer development.

Listen & Tell, pleeeeeezzzzzeeeeee

Tony in Florida

Laurence Svirchev's picture

There are gazzillions of amazing drummers in the jazz art form and inevitably some will be missed in a review article. It's too bad the author didn't mention Morello. The Brubeck Quartet as a whole is generally by-passed, but a listen to their Carnegie Hall concert shows Morello on "Castilian Drums" as an extended composition that is one of the great recorded drum soloes, not about chops but akin to a suite.
With the exception of Han Bennink, this reveiw appears to be americo-centrictric. If I were to suggest one other European, it would be Paul Lovens. He is an improviser all the way but an improviser who is always "in the pocket", as sophisticated and subtle as the seemingly opposite MJQ drummer Connie Kay. Lovens also plays musical saw.
There is the refined composer Gerry Hemingway who now teaches and plays out of Switzerland: check his "Perfect World" if you can find it.
None of this suggests fault with Ken Micallef's essay. It's really good as a review. No writer can say it all, even in book length.

Fleschler's picture

Missing Morello is a big mistake. Missing Hal Blaine is a HUGE MISTAKE. With over 42,000 LPs/78s/CDs/R2R, he was one of the best and most dependable. I prefer Shelly Manne but I've heard Blaine more often. It is estimated that he was the most recorded studio drummers in the history of the music industry, claiming over 35,000 sessions and 6,000 singles. His drumming is featured on 150 US top 10 hits, 40 of which went to number one. How could he NOT be mentioned for his 70 year career? One of the Wrecking Crew, of which this group was among the best in their instruments.

TNtransplant's picture

Don't always agree with Ken, but in the case of Joe Morello -- yeah, a fine drummer and well schooled technically but in the grand scheme of things nowhere near as influential as most of the drummers cited. My guess is that if not for the success of Brubeck's Time Out (and continued easy listening jazz audiophile warhorse) we would not be having this conversation...

As for the poster above who derided inclusion of Milford Graves while calling Ken clueless -- first, note that it was Billy Drummond who cited Graves, and unless your real name is Roy Haynes I'm thinking he's a considerably more respected commentator than you are. Second, Graves was a highly influential "pioneer" in the music and recognized as such with a Guggenheim Fellowship -- an honor very few jazz-oriented musicians achieve.

Laurence Svirchev's picture

No one article or list can capture the range of influential drummers, and thank goodness that Han Bennink is mentioned. There are four others that I would like to mention because like Mr Bennink, they have unique improvisational styles.
-Paul Lovens of Europe, who powered multiple early free jazz of the '60s & '70s including the Globe Unity Orchestra.
-Louis Moholo-Noholo of South Africa from the Brotherhood of Breath and the Dedication Orchestra.
-Jim Black, originally from New York City, too may bands to mention just one.
-Gerry Hemingway, originally of New Jersey, now of Switzerland. A composer, try and find his "Perfect World" for its slam-a-dam virtuosity,
Some commentator slagged Joe Morello for not being influential; it's simply not a good idea to say nasty things about an artist the caliber of Joe Morello.
Try listening his extended solo on the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Carnegie Hall. Be it hand-drumming, the wet finger across the skins, surprises with bombs and stop-time, the rapid accelerations that jaw-drop into sudden silence, and the logic of the composition.
Morello is one of the greats.