Grammy-winning drummer, producer, singer, and songwriter Ronald Bruner Jr. is one of today’s most electrifying performers. His exciting “no holds barred” approach has gained the respect of some of the industry’s top artists, and his genre-busting style is a combination of many influences, from straight-ahead jazz to speed metal. Regardless of what genre of music he’s playing, Ronald always delivers with style and swagger.

Bruner’s adventurous improvisational skills and remarkable speed and power have put him in a class with formidable legends Billy Cobham, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Dennis Chambers. And his deep pocket allows him to adapt to any musical situation he encounters. Bruner’s drum and cymbal sound often changes to fit the musical setting. His powerful technique draws a big sound from his drums, and his clean articulation communicates his ideas clearly. His ideas seem to flow freely from his hands and feet as soon as he hears them in his head.

Here we take a look at some highlights of Bruner’s recording career, from his early days as a jazz-fusion torchbearer up to his recent genre-defying debut solo album, Triumph.


“Shinjuku,” Scott Kinsey, Kinesthetics (2006)

On the intro of keyboardist Scott Kinsey’s “Shinjuku,” Bruner creates lots of turbulence with flurries of notes that pass right over the bar lines. At the end of the phrase, he plays a fast snare lick that sets up the groove. (0:00)

“Oh Really?,” George Duke, Déjà Vu (2010)

Bruner brings a fresh hip-hop lope to the laid-back tempo of George Duke’s “Oh Really?” by tightly compressing the kick
drum subdivisions. (0:15)

Oh Really? George Duke, Dèjà Vu (2010)

“Stupid Is as Stupid Does,” George Duke, Déjà Vu

On the funky “Stupid Is as Stupid Does,” Bruner uses sticking combinations between the hi-hat and ride to add a sense of motion without getting in the way of the groove. (1:11)

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Here’s a triplet fill that creatively integrates cymbal accents. (2:12)

“Bad Asses,” Stanley Clarke, The Toys of Men (2007)

Legendary bassist Stanley Clarke has a special rhythmic kinship with drummers, and some of the interplay on this bass-and-drum duet is downright telepathic. Ronald is locked in from the start, peppering the groove with syncopated snare accents along with funky hi-hat barks. (0:00)

Bad Asses

“Labyrinth,” Stanley Clarke, The Stanley Clarke Band (2010)

In the drum solo of this song, Ronald starts by stretching his phrasing to sound like he’s slowing down within the meter. As the intensity builds, he steps on the gas with some 32nd notes. (4:51)


“Larry Has Traveled 11 Miles…,” Stanley Clarke, The Stanley Clarke Band

In this passage, Bruner shifts into a drum ’n’ bass–type feel behind Hiromi’s piano solo, and then instigates a dialogue by connecting some longer 16th-note figures. (2:22)

Larry Has Traveled

“No Name, No Words,” Suicidal Tendencies, No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family (2010)

The following three examples spotlight Bruner’s wilder side. The intro pattern in this track is an interesting hybrid funk/Latin/metal creation that perfectly suits the guitar riff. (0:00)

No Name, No Words

After the band shifts to a faster thrash beat, Ronald throws down some ferocious fills. (0:26, 1:43)

No name fill 1

“Take the Time,” Ronald Bruner Jr., Triumph (2017)

Performing with his brother Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner on this song from his debut solo album, Ronald once again kicks the energy into high gear. Though the time signature is 4/4, the band plays phrases in three and six. (0:00)

“Geome Deome,” Ronald Bruner Jr., Triumph

Bruner’s playing on this track is a tip of the hat to ’70s fusion groups like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever. The drums play a heavy 13/8 pattern that can be split into measures of 7/8 and 6/8 time. (0:00)

Then Ronald puts his own spin on a fast Cobham-esque paradiddle groove that’s broken up between the snare and bass drum. (0:58)

By Ted Warren