> > The greatest Yamaha drummers: Al Foster

Yamaha is one of the most renowned brands in the musical instruments market (and not only that), but also in drums. As the company celebrated its 50th year in the drumming world not so long ago, we thought it would be a good idea to present the profiles of those of its endorsers who have left their mark on music history and have contributed to the enrichment of the drumming art. The first one for you to read about is the magnificent Al Foster, who is regarded as one of the greatest drummers and innovators in modern Jazz music.

The greatest Yamaha drummers: Al Foster en.beatit.tv

Aloysius Tyrone Foster was born in Richmond, Virginia on January 18, 1943, but grew up in Harlem, New York, where his family moved when he was a child. There, he had the opportunity to live near and study the masters who lived in his neighborhood. For example Jazz drummer Art Taylor (Miles Davis, John Coltrane) lived in the same building as little Al’s aunt. Also, growing up in Harlem presented Al with the opportunity to hear many great shows at the legendary Apollo Theater, where he witnessed live performances from the likes of: Miles Davis Sextet (John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and the leader), Buddy Rich, Philly Joe Jones, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Lee Morgan, Dave Brubeck’s Quartet, and the John Coltrane quartet. Those events pretty much sealed young Al’s fate. He asked his father to buy him a set of drums him a set of drums, and he would practice every day after school from then on.

The first break in Al Foster‘s career took place in 1964, when he recorded the classic recording “The Thing To Do” with Blue Mitchell’s group for Blue Note Records (the band featured Chick Corea as the piano player). In the years to follow, Al quickly became a working musician on the Jazz scene in New York.

The next breakthrough came in 1972, when Miles Davis heard Foster play at the Cellar Club on 95th Street in Manhattan. In his 1989 autobiography, Davis described Foster in the following fashion: “He knocked me out because he had such a groove and he would just lay it right in there. That was the kind of thing I was looking for. AI could set it up for everybody else to play off and just keep the groove going forever. For what I wanted in a drummer, Al Foster had all of it.” An opinion like that had to result in a collaboration, which started upon Jack DeJohnette having left Miles and lasted until 1985, having produced 12 studio and live albums.

Throughout his incredible career, Al Foster has either performed with and/or recorded with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz, Bobby Hutcherson, Dexter Gordon, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Mike Stern, or Bobby McFerrin.

Apart from the drums, Al Foster‘s other great musical love is composing on the piano. Many top artists in Jazz have included his compositions in their repertoire. Pianist Hank Jones recorded three of Al’s compositions (Papa Joe, Just Before Dawn” and “Pauletta“) for his album “For My Father“. Eric Reed has recorded Al’s signature composition “Brandyn“, and Saxophonist Chris Potter recorded “Bonnie Rose” for his Verve album, “Pure“. Trumpeter Eddie Henderson recorded Al’s composition “Missing Miles“. Israeli saxophonist Eli DeGibri recorded Al’s song “Ooh, What You Do To Me” with an all-star band that also featured Ron Carter, and Brad Mehldau.

Al Foster debuted as a band leader in 1978 with the release of his solo album, titled “Mixed Roots“. More solo activities did not happen until 1995, when he decided to form his own group, Al Foster Quartet, which has since been performing at festivals and clubs throughout the world. In 1999 the guitarist John Scofield formed a group with saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Dave Holland and Al. They named their collaborative effort ScoLoHoFo. Their album released on Blue Note Records was titled “Oh!“. In total, Al Foster has appeared on about a hundred albums, be it as a leader, permanent drummer, composer, session player, or special guest.

As an endorser, Al Foster was valued enough by Yamaha that the company decided to release his signature drum kit, the Yamaha Hip Gig Senior Al Foster Signature.


From the author: In the case of inconsistencies in dates or quotes, depending on a given source, I decided to treat Al Foster’s official website as the conclusive one.