The 10 best session/solo drummers of 2021, as voted for by you

Ash Soan
(Image credit: Future)

Session drummers are some of the most respected in the game, hired by the cream of the pop crop for their skills, sound and feel. This rock 'n' roll elite get picked to bring a specific flavour to the table, but it's not just the session guys. This category also celebrates the solo efforts of drummers too with some heavyweight competition across the board.

1. Ash Soan

Ash Soan is exactly what we imagine a studio session player to be in 2021 - masterful groove, engineering prowess and the ability to play exactly what is right for the song. Since this time last year, everyone’s favourite windmill recording artist has featured on records by Gary Barlow, Julian Lennon, Sam Smith, and even found time to collaborate with modern funksters/influencers Cory Wong and Ariel Posen. All of this and more has bagged him your top spot in the battleground that is the session/solo drummer category. 

2. Marco Minnemann

Marco Minnemann is a one-off. Seemingly able to find an interesting pulse in anything that contains a syllable, he’s equally as prolific in his output. Amongst the regular updates of his new compositions, he’s found time to put out a live album with The Aristocrats, perform with the Mohini Dey Collective and contribute to Jess Lewiss’ album, and much more!

3. Steve Gadd

Is your Amazon delivery late? That’s probably because Dr Gadd’s first self-penned tutorial book, Gaddiments is keeping them busy, with drummers everywhere lapping it up. Steve also released At The Blue Note Tokyo with The Steve Gadd Band and of course, checked in with his old pals Eric Clapton and Paul Simon for some much-missed live dates.

4. Nate Smith

Nate Smith returned this year with Kinfolk 2: See the Birds, proving in the process that a drummer’s solo album can contain some incredible playing and irresistible grooves without needing to be confined to the Instrumental Jazz/Fusion category (although he’s thrown some moments in there for good measure too!). It’s all tastefully done, kudos, Mr Smith. 

5. Josh Freese

For a time, you could throw a drum stick in a record shop and hit a brand new release featuring Josh Freese, and probably hit some more on the rebound. Josh has slowed his output in recent years, while holding down day jobs with upstarts, Sting, Devo and others (he’s currently on tour with The Offspring). 

But this year Josh Freese put out his own album too, Just a Minute Vol.1, a 20-song collection of 60-second(ish) tunes. It’s chameleonic, just like it’s creator and there’s a second album coming soon!

6. Matt Chamberlain

Matt Chamberlain once again teamed up with Tori Amos this year, adding his inventive parts and varied sonics to latest album, Ocean to Ocean. As well as this, he undertook a series of live performances with composer, Danny Elfman, bringing The Nightmare Before Christmas to life on stage, rattled through Joni Mitchell's Blue with Brandi Carlile and the California Symphony orchestra, and managed to put out his Foundry EP too!

7. Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan had the honourable task of filling in for Charlie Watts this year. Originally announced prior to Charlie’s passing, the gig took on a whole new level of emotion and presumably pressure, but Steve has proved why he’s been in the upper echelons of the session world for decades, taking it in his stride and bringing his own style to Charlie Watts’ parts. We can’t think of anyone better for the job.

8. Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave

When he wasn’t making hilarious video memes on a Sunday, or releasing not one but two EPs (Thine People Vol.1 & 2), Chris Dave tracked drums with Pino Paladino and Blake Mills. Oh yeah, he’s also on four tracks of pop megastar Adele’s new album, 30. 

9. Kaz Rodriguez

It’s hard to keep up with Kaz Rodriguez! By the time you begin to comprehend the level of sheer technical ability and perhaps even figure some of it out, he’s already journeying down the rabbit hole of his next album. Certainly one of the most talented drummers of his generation, he’s also a masterful composer, and you can learn from him via his role as a Drumeo coach!

10. Keith Carlock

The groove machine kept himself busy this year with his stunning signature snare from Gretsch, gigs with TOXIC MONKEY and Oz Noy, as well as live releases from Steely Dan and and star-studded project with Jeremy Green. Catch him out on the road with Steely Dan in 2022!

MusicRadar Team

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