Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time

30th Nov 2012 | 12:48

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Max Roach
Hard bop legend

One of the coolest, most precise sticksmen you could ever hope to hear, it's said that what John Bonham was to hard rock, so Max Roach was to hard bop.

With just over 3% of the votes, unfortunately Max was not able to capitalise on his reputation. A legend, but no chance of being crowned champ this time.

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Gene Krupa
Gene genius

The legendary Big Band drummer was one of the first high-profile drummers, with his movie-star looks, incredible stage presence and time spent in chokey.

Krupa's tribal style playing with the Benny Goodman band set the template for showman drummers ever since. A poor showing in the Drummer's World Cup unfortunately, managing only eighth position with 3.7% of the votes.

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Tony Williams
True original and drumming innovator

Tony Williams was part of Miles Davis' 'second great quintet' when he was just a teenager. That's how good he was. He then went on to pre-empt Jazz-Rock-Fusion with his massively influential Lifetime bands.

Although he's still considered a massive influence - and a very cool cat indeed - Tony lost out to several other jazz greats to manage just 5.82% of your votes.

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Elvin Jones
Bop jazz drumming hero

Elvin Jones worked with John Coltrane, Charlie Mingus and Miles Davis, and became one of the most significant drummers of the post-bop era.

It's a funny old game. In this tough group and against some true giants of the drumset, even playing on John Coltrane's A Love Supreme isn't enough to get you the votes.

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Steve Smith
It's been a hell of a Journey for Steve

From massive stadium beats with Journey to his renaissance as one of the most exciting and brilliant jazz drummers playing today, Steve Smith continues to evolve as a player.

His work with Steps Ahead and Vital Information is essential listening for the modern jazz fan, and he's managed a respectable fourth place in the Rhythm Drummer's World Cup. But will his votes be enough to progress to the last 16?

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Joe Morello
Take Five? No, but he'll settle for Number Three

The man behind the solo in classic odd-time jazz hit 'Take Five' has influenced generations of drummers from jazz to rock both as a musician and a gifted drum educator.

With the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Joe wasn't going to settle for being the guy at the back without even a spotlight, and his insistence on being a true part of the quartet via his brilliant solos paved the way for the drummer as an equal participant in musical combos since.

Third placed in this tough group, Joe's only narrowly missed out on an automatic ticket to the last 16.

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Billy Cobham
Jazz and fusion pioneer

Jazz/rock fusion drummer whose work with Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and on his own Spectrum album has earned him a place in the last 16.

Massively influential, pioneering in his use of electronics and very, very funky, Billy is a worthy runner-up in the round, and he progresses to the last 16 where he'll be hoping to hold his own against some big hitters from other genres.

Drummer's World Cup: The 9 best Jazz drummers of all time
Buddy Rich
An easy victory for the Big Band legend

In the end, there was only going to be one winner here. The mighty Buddy Rich proves once again that he's the most enduringly popular jazz and big band drummer of all time, even a quarter-century since his passing.

He's no stranger to topping polls of course, but the man who made jazz and big band appealing to generations of rock fans in the '60s and '70s – and has remained massively influential since - collected a massive 41% of the overall votes. A landslide in anyone's language.

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