Monday, April 27, 2009

25 Favorite Drummers


Since I've been playing a lot of drums lately, I've decided to compile a little list of my 25 favorite drummers (well, give or take a few). Unfortunately, I haven't been listening to jazz and hindustani long enough to judge my favorites from this style (besides Blackwell and Higgins, who play simultaneously!). I could drop the big names into the list, but it wouldn't be truthful. As I delve more into percussion and otherwise evolve as a human being, these examples are likely to change. I'm also just posting a shell of a list at the moment, to which I will later add individual essays about the percussionists themselves. (Plus I have to squeeze Evelyn Glennie into the top 10). But uhm. Here we go.

1. Jaki Leibezeit (Can)

Who could have guessed that it would take a bunch of arty psychedelic krauts to suck the Blues out of R&B and, baring the almighty Beat of extraneous ornamental trappings, cause ripples of rhythm that would lead to the titanic gale of pulse-based musics that would lead the vanguard into the 21st century? Although the Can functioned in tandem as an autonomous unit (like a good German cuckoo clock), it was drummer Jaki Leibezeit whose mechanisms provided the resounding TICK-TOCK. One could almost be excused for mistaking his dexterous and seamless cyclical motions for the work of a jazz drummer, but to do so would be to overlook a critical facet of his playing: that however fluid and effortless his motions, his rhythms are not the loose syncopations of Africa or Spain but the firing of the pistons of a Mercedes-Benz. Kraftwerk, with the assistance of sequencers and electronic triggers, would take this robotic influence to a new scale of nihilistic beauty and accidentally provide fodder for a thousand classic breakbeats in the process. However, nobody but Jaki could ever make the machinery sound so damn human.


2. Levon Helm (The Band)

Whether providing the backbone for Bob Dylan's roughneck surrealist electrical flights or interpreting Robbie Robertson's bizarro-Sgt Pepper neo-traditionalist subversions, the Band's only REAL Southerner brought to rock 'n' roll a liquored-up and smoked-out drawl that was as evident in his bashing of the skins as in his ancient, creaky voice. His drums were deadened to a dull thud and he played his rhythms half-time to leave ample room for embellishment, pushing and pulling at the beat to suit his mood with staccato chicks on the hi-hat. It was a new, loose way of playing the drums that sounded as old and immovable as the Appalachians. Levon Helm is the quintessential singing drummer and, perhaps, the quintessential rock and roll drummer period.


3. Ringo Starr (The Beatles)

4. Lee Harris (Talk Talk)

5. Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello & the Attractions)

6. Terry Chambers (XTC)

7. Keith Moon (The Who)

8. Ginger Baker (Cream)

9. Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

10. Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown)

11. Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth, Cat Power)

12. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

13. Stewart Copeland (the Police)

14. Bill Bruford (Yes)

15. Phil Collins (Genesis, Brand X, Brian Eno)

16. John French (Captain Beefheart)

17. Chris Frantz (Talking Heads)

18. Ernest "Boom" Carter (Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band)

19. Reni (The Stone Roses)

20. Billy Higgins, Ed Blackwell (Ornette Coleman)

21. Mike Joyce (The Smiths)

22. Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac)

23. Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground)

24. Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones)

25. Ralph Molina (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

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