There are so many influential jazz drummers and a comprehensive list depends very much on the preferences of the writer. Here are just a few jazz drummers from across a number of jazz styles that have left their trademark styles.
Buddy Rich is probably one of the most influential jazz drummers and very jazz few players could underestimate his influence from the 1930’s until his death in 1987. Buddy Rich was famous for his power, speed and honing his natural abilities from a young age. He practiced very little outside of playing with bands. He also didn’t read music and Rich saw learning music as something that happens on the job. This probably contributed to his experimentation which excited audiences.
Max Roach was prominent from the 1950’s to the 1990’s but his major contribution came in the 1940’s when he developed a new concept of musical time. He played the beat-by-beat pulse of standard 4/4 time on the ride cymbal as opposed the bass drum, Roach helped developed a freer rhythm that allowed soloists to play more expressively. The drummer also had more space to add accents on the snare drum, crash cymbal, and other parts of the set. his new rhythm allowed more expression and subtlety. Tone and surprise were also a feature of his drumming which other players tried to replicate.
Elvin Jones (1927–2004) was famous for joining saxophonist John Coltrane’s quartet. Expressionism and freedom were part of the free-jazz movement of the late ’60s. Elvin’s triplets, phrasing, and broken ride patterns were his trademark. He worked with a number of famous jazz musicians who praised him for opening up players to free Jazz.
These famous players only provide a snapshot of what a truly great jazz drummer can offer to other members of a group. Each player had a distinctive style which other players were influenced by.