The best session or solo drummers in the world right now, according to you

Sarah Jones
(Image credit: Cindy Ord / Getty)

The session and solo drummer category is one of the widest-sweeping in our annual polls. That's because it covers every genre from pop to virtuosic instrumentalists, and this year is no exception.

From old hands to contemporary pop, these are your favourite hired guns of 2022.

1. Sarah Jones - Harry Styles

As far as pop gigs go, they don’t come much bigger than Harry Styles, and Sarah Jones tops this poll thanks to her ability to supply the pop grooves, locked-in timekeeping and hybrid integration required for the world’s biggest stages. Congratulations, Sarah!

2. Karl Brazil - Robbie Williams

Karl Brazil is one of the hardest working drummers in the session scene, and this year he places highly thanks to a packed year of releases and touring with Robbie Williams, Feeder, James Blunt, King Herd and more!

3. Nigel Olsen - Elton John

As Elton takes his live band out for one last rodeo, long-term drummer Nigel Olsen remains behind the kit. Luckily for us, the farewell tour has still got a little way to go yet, with dates stretching into 2024. Catch it while you can to hear Nigel form the rhythmic backbone for some of the greatest songs ever written.

4. Vinnie Colaiuta - Steve Vai

You don’t need us to explain why this man places highly on the list. But in 2022 Vinnie reunited once again with his old Zappa bandmate, Steve Vai, to contribute drums for Vai’s Inviolate album (alongside Jeremy Colson and Terry Bozzio). You voted Vinnie highly, and we’re not going to argue! 

5. Steve Jordan - Rolling Stones

It’s been 60 years since the Rolling Stones first formed, and sadly they’re celebrating it without the beating heart that was Charlie Watts. But, since Watts’ passing, friend of the band and all-round session ace Steve Jordan has been providing the beats for the veteran rockers, and we can’t think of anyone who’d do it better.

6. Abe Laboriel Jr. - Paul McCartney

When Paul McCartney put in a marathon set at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, the only thing that could divert attention from the former Beatle was the guy at the back, Mr Abe Laboriel Jr. When he wasn’t backing Macca with expert precision, Abe also contributed drums to Kirk Hammett’s solo album on The Jinn, released earlier this year.

7. Josh Freese - Danny Elfman

It’s been another busy year for Josh Freese. Between tours with The Offspring, Billy Howerdel, The Vandals, Devo and more, Josh also played a number of shows bringing Danny Elfman’s compositions to life. Another highlight included his triumphant performances at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concerts, where he proved once again why he’s been rock’s first-call session player for over two decades.

8. Steve Gadd - James Taylor

Dr Gadd took to the road a lot in 2022 for dates celebrating Chick Corea with the Spirit of Chick Corea Band. He also managed to fit in some dates with his own Steve Gadd Band while also taking to the throne for one of his regular gigs backing the legendary James Taylor. We’re looking forward to plenty more from Steve Gadd in 2023!

9. Steve Ferrone - John Mayer

John Mayer can, and does have his pick of the greatest feel drummers on the planet, and that continued in 2022 when he recruited the Heartbreaker for his Sob Rock tour dates. Steve brought his unique sense of groove to Mayer’s mixed set of new material and older classics at some of the greatest venues on the planet.

10. Kenny Aronoff - Joe Satriani

Kenny was back behind the kit with his Chickenfoot bandmate, Satch this year. The Elephants of Mars is the second Satriani album in a row to feature Kenny on drums, and he’s just finished a tour of North America. Look out for a marathon run in Europe next spring!

Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.