Martin Drew: Jazz drummer who played with Oscar Peterson, Ronnie Scott and Dizzy Gillespie

The most demanding job that any drummer could have was to play drums in the Oscar Peterson Trio and it was a testimony to Martin Drew's ranking amongst the best in the world that Peterson chose the Englishman for his group. A huge man who was unusually passionate about his music, Martin Drew would never compromise.

"He had the biggest drum kit in the world," said his friend, the bassist Dave Green, "and no matter how big or small the job, he always took all the drums, cymbals and trappings with him. So to assemble it he arrived at the gig hours before anyone else and he was there for hours afterwards taking it all apart again.

"The tenor player Tommy Smith recorded an album of ballads with an American rhythm section in New York. The ceremonial launch of the album in London was to take the form of a week of nights at the Pizza Express featuring Tommy Smith. They couldn't afford to bring the Americans over here, so instead Martin and I backed Tommy. Martin had his huge kit there every night, but because we played nothing but ballads from the album all week he had to play with just brushes on cymbals. The only thing we played at even medium tempo was a very sedate version of Duke Ellington's 'Cotton Tail', which is normally played very fast.

"On the last night Martin could stand it no more and during 'Cotton Tail' he started to increase the tempo bar by bar. It got faster and faster until in the end I had to give up and drop out, so it was just Martin and Tommy flying."

As Peterson knew, Drew, a totally committed jazz fan, was the ideal accompanist, always taking a back seat where the music was concerned. "I'm not very interested in drum solos, mine or anybody else's," he said. "Think of your favourite drummer, right? Tell me honestly, how long could you stand listening to just him?"

Playing the drums from the age of six, Drew had his first professional job when he was 13. Unusually, he didn't turn fully professional until he was 29 when he appeared at Ronnie Scott's Club in London, backing the American trombonist Frank Rosolino. He eventually became the house drummer at the club in 1974 after working for a couple of years with Bill Le Sage's Bebop Preservation Society. He then joined pianist John Critchinson in Scott's own quartet. It was while he was with saxophonist Barbara Thompson's band that the call came from Oscar Peterson.

The size of the drum kit – and of Drew himself – made the travelling around the world that ensued very difficult, but Drew never flinched or complained. Peterson's promoter was Norman Granz, and Drew was soon drawn into the Granz orbit, where he found himself working and recording with musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Buddy DeFranco and Milt Jackson. He accompanied Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Milt Jackson, Benny Carter, Joe Pass and Zoot Sims. He recorded more than a dozen albums with Peterson.

"Oscar's trio was one of the very first influences on me," he said. "For me he's one of the greatest musicians ever. But every night there's a challenge when it comes to working with him. One night I found that he was deliberately stomping his foot fractionally slower than the true tempo of the music, trying to catch me out following his foot rather than the real beat."

He worked under the batons of Michel Legrand and Gil Evans and was so much in demand that the list of jazz greats that he played with is endless. During the parts of the years when Peterson was not touring he led his own group and worked with the bands of Tony Lee and Dick Morrissey/Jim Mullen. Having begun in 1975, he continued to work with Ronnie Scott until Scott's death in 1996. His association with Peterson continued from 1974 to 2003.

Latterly Drew freelanced and led a band called The New Couriers, a tribute to The Jazz Couriers that in earlier years had had a front line of Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. The original Couriers had specialised in energetic and speedy articulation and the new band emulated them through a series of the original arrangements of Hayes, which made up a large part of Drew's repertoire.

Steve Voce

Martin Drew, drummer, bandleader: born Northampton 11 February 1944; married 1965 Tessa Rose (two daughters, one son); died London 27 July 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?