Death metal bands could learn a thing or two about angst from Mahavishnu Orchestra. Billy Cobham’s powerful odd-meter double bass drumming made his reputation as a fusion drumming star and proved that this incredible band wasn’t afraid of the dark.
Ziggy uses both hands on his hi-hat to create his monstrously funky New Orleans—flavored groove on Cissy Strut. This groove has percolating accents and a swinging feel that made it a classic. Modeliste’s drumming has influenced countless other great funk drummers including David Garibaldi and Stanton Moore.
Mike Clark’s improvisational jam on this track looks and sounds a bit like a mosaic created from little pieces cut out of a linear funk book. It’s a fast and percolating groove with lots of dynamics. This song has stumped drummers trying to cop Clark’s unique and revolutionary approach for years.
It’s hard to narrow down Steve Gadd’s best grooves and fills because there are so many of them, but this New Orleans—flavored march elegantly encapsulates Gadd’s musical creativity and relaxed yet precise technique.
This is one of the greatest drum intros of all time. At the beginning Walden sounds out of sync with himself until he explodes, ripping single-stroke fills around his kit with precision and incredible ferocity.
Though not actually a drum beat, since it’s composed of foot stomps and handclaps, this unforgettable yet simple groove was created from body percussion, so it qualifies. And its simplicity is its claim to fame as it’s the only pattern on this list that’s still routinely performed by thousands of non-drummers in the stands at sporting events.