Billy DrummondAs a leader, Billy Drummond has recorded three albums that exemplify his past-meets-future approach, a style marked by an allegiance to yesterday’s jazz masters, but with a forward-thinking bent. The Gift, Dubai, and Native Colours show Drummond to be an inspired soloist and a timekeeper whose main focus, like all great jazz players, is his ride cymbal.

“The first thing that goes for me when I haven’t been playing for a while is my touch, my sound,” Drummond admits. “If my cymbal beat doesn’t feel right, then it all feels wrong. So I work on just playing the ride cymbal at every tempo, at every volume, and away from the drums. Playing the ride cymbal is an art unto itself.”

In addition to work with Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano, and Archie Shepp, Drummond’s latest recordings include Carla Bley’s Find Paolo Fresu, Steve Kuhn’s Pastoral, and Larry Willis’s Blue Fable. Drummond can burn a straight-ahead gig, but he also attracts esoteric bandleaders like Bley.

“Carla writes through-composed music,” Drummond reports, “which requires reading eight-page charts that need a different mindset than just counting things off. She knows what she wants, and within that I have to be able to interject my personality.”

Currently an adjunct jazz drum professor at The Juilliard School and New York University, Drummond values his sound as the primary substance of his style.

Ken Micallef