Don’t get me wrong, these guys are popular and accomplished musicians. All of them are world class drummers.
It’s just that they are so good that in my opinion they are somewhat underrated and deserve more recognition. I believe that expanding our awareness of what’s going on in the drumming scene with new faces is a great way to keep evolving and staying inspired.
I’ve picked a few names with the intent of giving you great examples of amazing musicians who play the drums.
That’s what they all have in common. Some of them play simply, some have crazy chops. Some focus on one style while others are all around drummers. But they are all true masters of making music with the drums.
For each one of them I’ve include a brief description and a link to one of their videos, which you can access by clicking on their name.
But, by all means, go do some research and find out more about them. Also, try to identity the aspects of their playing that makes them so unique.
I was lucky enough to study with the first four names on this list when I lived in New York! And I am forever grateful to them for everything they taught me.
Mark Walker – He is the perfect example of the consummate pro who can play everything at the highest level. And his understanding of latin rhythms is unbelievable. He played with Michel Camilo, Paquito D’Rivera, Lyle Mays, Oregon and many more.
Martin Valihora – It’s impossible to put in words what Martin’s playing is like. Just a great human being who makes you fall in love with the drums over and over. Check out his playing with Hiromi Uehara, in any live video you can find, and you’ll know what I mean.
Marko Djordjevic – A true monster, unbelievably talented, technical and musical drummer. He is very personal in his sound and phrasing and his solos are explosive and irresistible. He has performed and recorded with a variety of artists, and also with his long-time band Sveti, for which he also writes the music.
Matt Johnson – He is known for having played with Jeff Buckley. His playing on ‘Grace’ is outstanding, just listen to the solo he did in ‘Dream Brother’ to get an idea of how incredible he is. He his enjoying a great career, playing with many excellent artists like Rufus Wainwright and more recently St.Vincent and Jade Bird.
Ari Hoenig – Now that’s a unique drummer. Everything he does, technically, musically, creatively, is never heard of before. Melodies, polyrhythms, insane independence, and lots of pure, raw expression.
Tyler Zarzeka – He is the kind of drummer that makes you move your body when you listen to him. Amazing groove and sound, he is strong, confident, has great taste and plays for the song. That’s why names like Charlie Puth, and Noah Cyrus want him on tour with them.
Earl Harvin – Equally comfortable in jazz and pop contexts he has recorded and toured with many great artists, like Seal, Jeff Beck, Damien Rice and Trevor Horn. He’s one-of-a-kind and tasteful, and it’s clear that he loves the song he is playing more than anything else.
Dave Mattacks – Not many people know it, but he has played with two of the Beatles and also with Elton John, Jimmy Page, XTC. He has a massive discography and you’ve probably unknowingly heard his beautiful groove in many songs.
Nir Z – When you have played with Genesis and in a John Mayer album, you need no presentation. He is a first-call session player, and he is the kind of drummer you want to listen to, to learn how to groove.
Deantoni Parks – Some guys play the drums and some are just reinventing what our instrument can do. He is different and unbelievable, his chops are out of control and he played with fantastic bands, including The Mars Volta.
Now, as a bonus, let me add a couple of Italian names. It’s amazing how many great musicians there are in all countries around the world, who get almost no international exposure. That’s a shame because we could all learn so much from them! I’m sure you could list a few drummers you know that are awesome, yet they are known only locally.
In Italy we have some unbelievable drummers, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy checking these out.
Alfredo Golino – He has been – and still is – the go-to guy for a few decades. Played in hundreds of records and toured the world with top Italian acts. And he deserves it all. He is just incredibly great, a true consummate musician who can play anything he wants, effortlessly.
Giovanni Giorgi – Amazing drummer, who showcases levels of technique unseen before, and complex, tasteful phrasing, beyond imagination. Gifted with outstanding musical skills, he played with top-notch jazz international artists.
Maxx Furian – One of the most musical drummer I’ve ever heard in my life, a unique combination of creativity, soul and bursts of pure emotion. He has played at the highest level both in pop and jazz.
I bet you feel like practicing more after watching these masters ;). Come back to this list anytime you need to hear something new and inspiring!
And if you decide to work on becoming a more musical drummer, check out these resources: