That's what I ask new students fairly early on in the piece. I find that it's rare, however, to receive an answer that demonstrates an awareness that it's even possible to have some favourite players. I believe strongly that when someone asks any young musician who their favourite players are on their instrument, they should be able to come up with a quick and coherent answer. This little article is an attempt to help you get in touch with the great drumming that has gone before you in an effort to steer you toward being inspired by the music. I want to help you learn to get into the habit of consulting the literature, as it were. Let me start with a brief story about how inspiration became a staple part of my own development.
For many years, as a teenager growing up in the regional Australian city of Tamworth, I depended on my monthly purchase of Modern Drummer magazine to find out all I could about drums, drummers and drumming. The first edition I bought was June 1989 with Michael Shrieve on the cover. I soon went back to the store and bought the May edition with Dennis Chambers on the cover, and so it began. It was great to read new interviews each month, and to find out how some of the world's greatest players thought about music, and about drumming. I've since spent a small fortune buying second-hand back-issues, including right back to when Steve Gadd was on the cover of the second edition, which was published in the late 1970s.
One of the best things about reading Modern Drummer in my youth was that each major interview featured a sidebar that listed recordings the featured drummer found most inspirational during their development. There was also a sidebar listing the albums that they felt best represented their playing. With money saved from the paper run I used to do each day, I would go to the local record / tape / CD store and order as many of these as I could afford when not saving for some new piece of drum equipment. In those days, most of the albums listed were imports, and so they were expensive, and I had to wait for anywhere from six weeks to six months for them to arrive in the hope that I would love the way they sounded when they arrived. It was difficult, if not impossible, to preview anything before buying - I had to commit "blind". Whilst I did in fact love many of the albums when they arrived, I didn't necessarily love all of them, but this was also important for my development as it helped me to really distill my own tastes into what they are today.
Something that's difficult to convey to anyone who grew up already immersed in today's world with its instant, and mostly free accessibility to music recordings is just how difficult it was to acquire high quality recordings in regional Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I had to really search and enquire to finally find something good. I felt as though I was searching for a flower in the desert, whereas today it's as easy as searching for a flower in the flower garden.
YouTube and Spotify today represent two of the greatest tools a student could ever wish for, and a reality that I only ever dreamed of when I was growing up. I would read reviews and updates of tours that took place between what I thought to be obscure combinations of musicians, and I would try to dream up the way they might've sounded together. When people of my generation and older discovered YouTube in early 2006, our lives changed because it turns out that many of these tours were recorded and broadcast or telecast in America, Europe and / or Japan whilst not having been officially released. Many avid fans recorded these broadcasts, and YouTube provided the perfect platform for these to be published to the world for free! So, now, not only could I hear the truth of the sound, but I could also see it with professionally shot footage as though I were actually there - my dreams came true in vivid sound and in rich colour!
In talking about this, I don't condone infringements of intellectual property rights that occur when people illegally upload copies of officially released recordings, nor when they make and distribute recordings of artists without express permission from the artist. The nature of this is changing every day anyway, and, although I feel it is a long way off, hopefully, it will steer in a direction that will benefit the original content creators appropriately - perhaps even more appropriately than previously. But I digress...I excitedly started keeping playlists of my favourite clips categorised by drummers' names for myself on my own YouTube channel since I signed up in around 2008, and on Spotify since early 2019.
I've found that, despite the immediate and free access we're all able to enjoy by using today's incredibly advanced technology, many students are simply overwhelmed and overstimulated with information that may or may not be coming from a credible source as it seems that internet search engine optimisation trumps real world experience and credibility. In an effort to put impressionable young minds more directly in touch with the names and recordings of some of the truly great drummers of the present and the past, I've made these playlists on my YouTube and Spotify channels available to you here.
The playlists, therefore, are categorised by drummer names, and some by style too, in the hope that you might be able to one day name your favourite drummers if you can't already, and to be inspired by those great human beings who came before us and gave us so much. The playlists are always being updated, and what's there already is by no means exhaustive, but it's a start.
Before going on, however, let me give you a sidebar of my own that includes a list of recordings I've found to be most inspirational over the years so that you might search for them and find some inspiration in them yourself. Here they are in no particular order:
- Crescent by John Coltrane (Elvin Jones on drums)
- Living Space by John Coltrane (Elvin Jones on drums)
- Question and Answer by Pat Metheny (Roy Haynes on drums)
- Kind of Blue by Miles Davis (Jimmy Cobb on drums)
- Bye Bye Blackbird by Keith Jarrett (Jack DeJohnette on drums)
- Fleuve by Pierre Favre Ensemble (Pierre Favre on drums)
- Trio 81 by Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams (Tony Williams on drums)
- Modern Times by Steps Ahead (Peter Erskine on drums)
- While We're Young by John Abercrombie (Adam Nussbaum on drums)
- On The Mountain by Elvin Jones (Elvin Jones on drums)
- Homecoming by Roy Haynes (Roy Haynes on drums)
- John Abercrombie, Marc Johnson & Peter Erskine by John Abercrombie, Marc Johnson & Peter Erskine (Peter Erskine on drums)
- Live at the Blackhawk Vol. 1 & 2 by Miles Davis (Jimmy Cobb on drums)
Subscribe to my YouTube channel here to get updated automatically when I add to my playlists:
Visit the YouTube playlists here: https://www.youtube.com/c/DaveGoodman/playlists
Visit the Spotify playlists here: https://open.spotify.com/user/qxe7bmlhmbebze6swnuxkjd2m?si=7EspxGRwSMGIXw7ardVW3Q
Got any suggestions? Want to talk about the playlists? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment below, or send me an email.