The Top 10 Studio/Session Drummers of All Time
Session or studio drummers are drummers that bands, artists, and producers hire temporarily. Additionally, session drummers can work with a touring band or produce drum tracks for individual songs or albums.
Some of the best albums in the world are recorded by session drummers, and many artists rely on finding the perfect drummer for their tracks or albums. There have been some outstanding session drummers throughout the years with more than 900 tracks in their discography, ranging from all types of music and genres.
Even today, where programming is really easy, musicians and artists still want a session drummer to lay out their track as they can do it exactly how you would imagine it, and it’s always better to record real drums.
The following is a list of the top ten best studio drummers and all of them have played with the best artists in the world, whether on tour, in live sessions, or recording their tracks in the studio.
1. Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd, aside from his session work, is one of the most famous drummers in the world. Born in New York in 1945, he has played on more than 600 recordings and is one of the elite session musicians. Steve Gadd started his musical career when he was drafted into the United States Army, where he played the drums for United States Army Field Band.
Notable artists and tracks that he’s played on include Paul McCartney, Joe Cocker, Simon & Garfunkel, Chick Corea, Eric Clapton, Chet Baker, and the list goes on.
2. Vinnie Colaiuta
Vinnie Colaiuta is an American drummer, mostly known for his work with Frank Zappa. Born in Pennsylvania, Vinnie got his first drum set when he was 7 years old. His biggest influences were buddy rich and Tony Williams.
Other artists that Vinnie Colaiuta has played with, both on tour and in recording sessions include Joni Mitchell, Sting, Tom Scott, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, John McLaughlin, and many many more. An impressive list of artists, no doubt.
3. Abe Laboriel Jr.
Abe Laboriel Jr. was born in Los Angeles, California, and is one of the most well-known studio/session drummers. He’s mostly famous for his work with Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton, but he has played on a lot more tracks and tours.
Other notable artists that he has played with include Steve Winwood, Les Paul, B.B. King, Steve Vai, Seal, Shakira, and many more.
4. Anton Fig
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1952, Anton Fig is one of the best session musicians. He is mostly known for his work with Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band, Joe Bonamassa, and Kiss.
Throughout his career, Anton Fig has also worked with Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Cyndi Lauper, Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Winwood, and many more artists.
5. Jim Keltner
Jim Keltner is a studio/session drummer with more than a thousand records under his belt. He is by far, a drummer that has played on the most sessions and studio recordings ever. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1942, Jim is one of the most revered drummers in the world. Almost everyone in the music business has worked with Jim Keltner at some point in their career.
The most notable artists and bands that he has worked with are The Beatles, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Barbra Streisand, John Lennon, and the list goes on.
6. Matt Chamberlain
Matt Chamberlain is an American drummer, born in 1967 in San Pedro, California. He is mostly known as a session drummer for a lot of different bands and artists and has played in many studio sessions as well as live performances with the bands.
The most notable artists and bands that Matt has worked with include Pearl Jam, A Perfect Circle, Josh Groban, David Bowie, Elton John, The Wallflowers, and a lot of other artists.
7. John Robinson
John Robinson, born in Creston, Iowa in 1954, is mostly known for his work with the producer Quincy Jones. He has more than 500 records to his name, and countless live performances throughout his career, and has also played with a lot of different artists and bands.
The most notable artists he has worked with include Michael Jackson, Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Seal, and others.
8. Harvey Mason
Harvey Mason is a jazz drummer, and record producer and is mostly known as a drummer for the band Fourplay. Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1947, he also has more than 500 records that he has played on, and has made his name as one of the best session drummers.
Some important artists and bands that he has worked with are George Benson, The Brothers Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Rufus, Miles Davi, Grover Washington Jr., and a lot more.
9. Tony Williams
One of the most revered jazz drummers of all time is also on the list as one of the best studio and session drummers. Tony Williams, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1945 has played on more than 400 jazz records, and his jazz drumming skills have allowed him to work with amazing artists throughout the world.
The most notable artists that he has collaborated with include Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chet Baker, Ron Carter, Jackie McLean, and many more.
10. Jeff Porcaro
Jeff Porcaro is mostly known as a drummer for the band Toto but is also one of the most recorded session drummers of all time. Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1954, Jeff has worked with countless talented artists and bands throughout his career.
Some of the most notable artists that he has played with include Joe Cocker, Pink Floyd, Bee Gees, Elton John, Michael Jackson, George Benson, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and many more.
Studio and session drummers have always played a huge part in the music industry. Even today, when we have a lot of tools for producing drums, there is something that a session drummer can bring to the record, that programming and mixing skills cannot match.
Steve Gadd Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Henrik Dvergsdal, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Vinnie Colaiuta Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Mandy Hall, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Abe Laboriel Jr. Featured Image (Top-Left) by: Cecioka, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Tony Williams Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Fair use, Link