Top Drum Performances of 2013
Although it's impossible for me to hear all of the great material being published today, I'd like to share my favorite drum performances of 2013. Some of these are videos of concert footage, some are instructional DVDs, and some are albums which were released this year. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a suggestion which I have forgotten. I present these in no particular order.
Antoine Fafard: Occulitus Tramitis
Antoine Fafard released an incredible solo project this year. It features a full line up of top jazz fusion musicians, and different drummers on almost every track. The names include Terry Bozzio, Magella Cormier, Gavin Harrison, Martin Maheux, Simon Phillips, Chad Wackerman, Emmanuelle Caplette, and Dave Weckl.
I was surprised that I was not familiar with all of the drummers on this album. In particular, I have enjoyed tracing back through Magella Cormier's work and hearing his performances with other groups. The following song features Gavin Harrison.
Anthony Crawford: Urban Jazz My Story
I first heard Anthony play with Virgil Donati on the 2012 Allan Holdsworth tour. He is a beast of a bass player. This album highlights his ability to play as a virtuoso, but in a more mainstream style (R&B). It also highlights his great compositions and ability to collaborate with other great players.
Disperse: Living Mirrors
The much anticipated release of Living Mirrors finally arrived in 2013. This Polish progressive rock band really astonishes when you consider the band members are all in their early twenties. Although it's Jakub Żyteck's phenomenal work on the guitar which seems to grab people's attention, I really love Maciej Dzik's heavy drumming on this album, too. The parts are very structured and he has clearly done a lot of work to be able to incorporate such foot work into these songs. I think he is one of the top up-and-coming drummers of my generation. He also picked up a sponsorship from Meinl, which is very cool! They do very well in this style of music.
Check out for more great footage.
Dave Mackay Group: Flood
JP Bouvet performs on the latest Dave Mackay Group release, "Flood". Although it's only three tracks, I really dig Mackay's style as a composer. Again, another group of fantastic up-and-coming musicians we will see more of in the future.
Joe Satriani: Unstoppable Momentum
Satriani brought in Vinnie Colaiuta for his latest solo album. He brought Marco Minneman on the tour. I'm not going to bother saying anything more, other than I got to see their performance in Salem, Oregon this year, and it was outstanding.
Virgil Donati: In This Life
"In This Life" represents a significant piece of drumming history. Not many drummers ever reach the skill of Virgil Donati behind the drum set, and fewer still can compose such amazing masterpieces. Combine that with the outstanding production with the help of Alex Argento, and you start to have an idea of what this album really is.
However, that's just the beginning. Imagine all of the great musicians Virgil has worked with, and him choosing them very carefully to play on each of the songs he composed. Then, imagine Virgil forcing them to retrack until he's satisfied.
Virgil calls this his first "solo project", in the sense that this did not feature a band, but rather a studio project. Although, he has been a successful band leader in the past, as well.
I'm not going to do a full review here, but I will say that "In This Life" is my favorite album of 2013.
Aristocrats: Culture Clash
Marco Minnemann, Bryan Beller, and Guthrie Govan have established one of the great trio's of our age - The Aristocrats. In this second album, each musician composed three songs. Although the first album is also fantastic, the musicians are now much more familiar with each other, and have composed great songs to facilitate each member's performance.
If you decide to pick this up, be sure to get the deluxe edition as a hard copy, because it comes with a great 30 minute DVD documentary. In it, we learn more about the band's history, their future plans, and we get to see some incredible studio footage.
Richard Hallebeek: Richard Hallebeek Project II - Pain in the Jazz
While this may appear to be a guitar-centered project (it is), I can assure you that the drumming of Sebastiaan Cornelissen is fantastic on this album.I first heard of Hallebeek by searching for Alex Machacek and discovered this gem just a few months ago. Of course, that led to Sebastiaan Cornelissen, then onto Lalle Larsson. Since discovering this, I've found a whole new group of musicians who I really respect and look up to.
It's interesting to hear Hallebeek play alongside so many great guitarists. Each track features a different guitarist, selected by Hallebeek himself. Trust me, this is a treat.
James LaBrie: Impermanent Resonance
I first heard about Peter Wildoer during the Dream Theater auditions in 2012. I was (obviously) attracted to his technical ferocity and aggressive style. Soon, I discovered his performances on "Static Impulse" with James LaBrie - which happens to contain some of my favorite metal drumming of all time. Melodic metal is one of my favorite genres and LaBrie's solo albums are at the top of my playlist!
A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see Wildoer performing on Lalle Larsson's masterpiece "The Seven Deadly Pieces" (review forthcoming). As it turns out, Wildoer is also associated with *that* group of musicians. It seems like all of my players are intertwined in a massive community of skill and support. Below, I have attached some footage of Wildoer tracking the drums for "Impermanent Resonance."
Claus Hessler: Drum Kairos
Of all of the fantastic educational material available, I believe Hessler has some of the most thorough, organized, and *specific* systems available. I've been working from Open Handed Playing Volume 1 on and off for many years - in fact, it's probably the book I've spent the most time with out of my large collection of drum books. Because his playing is oriented around Moeller technique, it's very important that the motions are executed correctly and efficiently while practicing his material.
That's why the Drum Kairos DVD is so exciting. Hessler dives deep into Moeller method, with detailed videos, great camera angles, and clear explanations of how the motions ought to be executed. It also comes with an enormous ebook, and features some great performances.
Be sure to check out my review of Drum Kiaros by Claus Hessler for more details.
Antonio Sanchez: New Life
In between tours with the Pat Metheny Unity Band, Sanchez put together another great solo project. He is one of those drummers who is also an amazing composer. "New Life" is another treat from this amazing musician. He continues his trend of balancing calm, serene songs alongside energetic, uptempo pieces. I mention Sanchez regularly because his playing is exceptionally responsive to the musical environment he plays in, and his phrasing is very well suited. He plays very precisely without coming off as mechanical or robotic. Instead, it's effortless, smooth, natural, and clear.
I'm going to continue updating this as I discover more great music from 2013. Leave a comment if you have something I'd like!