Top 10 Jazz Drum Performances

Note: stay tuned over the coming months each of these “plain” lists is replaced with a full blog post with commentary on the items on the list (and, in some cases, the items that didn’t make the cut).

To me, it all comes back to the drums. As such, this was a hard one to narrow down (hence the honorable mentions). Note that this category is not strictly limited to drum solos.

  1. Max Roach: “For Big Sid” from Drums Unlimited
  2. Art Blakey: “The Core” from The Big Beat
  3. Roy Haynes: “Pumpkin” from Black Fire by Andrew Hill
  4. Papa Jo Jones: “Old Man River” from Jo Jones Trio
  5. Philly Joe Jones: “Billy Boy” from Milestones by Miles Davis
  6. Billy Higgins: “Una Muy Bonita” from Change of the Century by Ornette Coleman
  7. Elvin Jones: “Pursuance” from A Love Supreme by John Coltrane
  8. Mickey Roker: “Riot” from Speak Like a Child by Herbie Hancock
  9. Victor Lewis: “Big Girls” from Quickstep by Kenny Barron
  10. Joe Chambers: “El Gaucho” from Adam’s Apple by Wayne Shorter

Vernell Fournier: “Poinciana” from But Not For Me by Ahmad Jamal
Jack DeJohnette: “Isotope” from Power to the People by Joe Henderson
Dannie Richmond: “Fables of Faubus” from The Great Concert of Charles Mingus by Charles Mingus
Tony Williams: “Freedom Jazz Dance” from Miles Smiles by Miles Davis
Grady Tate: “Organ Grinder Swing” from Organ Grinder Swing by Jimmy Smith
Roy Brooks: “Filthy McNasty” from Doin’ the Thing at the Village Gate by Horace Silver
Louis Hayes: “Unit 7″ from Jazz Workshop Revisited by Cannonball Adderley
Andrew Cyrille: “Tales (8 Whisps)” from Unit Structures by Cecil Taylor
Ben Riley: “Boo Boo’s Birthday” from Underground by Thelonious Monk
Gene Krupa: “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Benny Goodman (reissued on various compilations)
and on and on and on . . .

8 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. hello,there was a jazz track that ends up with a different drum solo in every measure,i know this is insane and very difficult,but it continues the same melody,4 notes max,its a progressive i am sure,i really hope someone could help,thanks.

  2. kakarot

     /  May 19, 2015

    nommo by max roach?

  3. K3R@

     /  April 15, 2016


  4. Jaime Robles

     /  August 29, 2016

    Excellent choice!

  5. fish

     /  October 30, 2016

    I think it impossible to let Jo Morello aside : Take five.

  6. Gustavo

     /  March 2, 2017

    Excellent but I would like to know what songs the drummer plays a whole solo, not in accompaniment, for example, Joe Morello in Take Five by Dave Brubeck.

  7. steve

     /  May 28, 2017

    A few that great drummers that don’t get enough of a a mention on great drummers is Charlie Persip, Jo Jones and Ed Blackwell, of course all the others are great too. Just love Persip on the Roland Kirk’s ‘I talk with the Spirits’ and Mal Waldron’s the Quest.

  8. Justin Levitt

     /  April 30, 2018

    Great list! only thing is I’d add Buddy rich in there somewhere. Even if just the honorable mentions. But that is just personal preferance as he’s my best jazz drummer :) Max Roach is amazing though, the things he does with those drumsticks amazes me.

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