Throughout this 1937 swing classic, Krupa’s drums appear to be having a dialogue with Benny Goodman’s clarinet and Harry James’ trumpet. Note the tom-driven “solo-ettes” (one features cowbell) that crop up throughout the seven-minute song.
Did Rich outshine his aging idol in this epic 1952 contest at Jazz At The Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, which laid the groundwork for drums as blood sport? The drummers’ approaches are so intrinsically different you can’t call one better than the other.
Although Cole recorded a notable drum solo with Jelly Roll Morton (“Load Of Cole”) as early as 1930, it’s the recording of the Benny Goodman tune “Topsy” that earned the drummer/bandleader lasting fame. “Topsy, Part 2” landed at #3 on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1958.
This cut from Miles Davis’ 1958 album Porgy And Bess — an adaption of George Gershwin’s opera — is actually a Gil Evans tune. While Jimmy Cobb played on most of Porgy, the track “Gone” is all Philly Joe. He solos in musical, non-obnoxious ways throughout its 3:40 length.
Despite its name, it’s likely audiences weren’t even aware of Morello’s tricky 5/4 time in this 1959 single from The Dave Brubeck Quartet (part of its genius), but the unconventional use of space in the two-minute solo got their attention. Sometimes live it was partially played barehanded and include a one-handed roll.
A staple in all Rich’s later performances, the medley made this list because it’s evidence of the drummer’s ability to blend beats into his band’s musical chart. If Rich couldn’t read, he made up for it with an infallible hear-it-once memory.