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
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing