Whiplash - The Branford Marsalis Quartet

from the album Four MFs Playin' Tunes (2012)

Most of the drummers I know are pretty strange dudes or dudettes. Why should I expect anything different?  After all, they make a living by beating a skin with a stick.  Pretty primitive stuff.

That said, there are few things that I find more exciting than watching or listening to a great drummer.  They have an ability to lift a band to a higher level, making every other player that much better. It is an incredible gift and whenever a great, new drummer emerges, it is time to celebrate.

Today, we celebrate Justin Faulkner.  As an eighteen year old high school senior,  he was selected as the new drummer for the Branford Marsalis Quartet, one of the finest jazz quartets in the world today.  Three years later, he makes his recording debut on Four MFs Playin' Tunes, my favorite jazz record of 2012.

On a record packed with outstanding performances by the long standing quartet members, it is Justin Faulkner's drumming that draws me in and holds me tight.  His performance that strikes me most is on the song Whiplash.

The drumming on this song is relentless, hitting you with one combination after another, reminiscent of a young Sugar Ray Robinson in the ring.  It is amazing, no two combinations are quite the same, although the groove remains intact.  By the time the piano solo takes center stage, you are punch drunk, still the combinations keep coming stronger than ever.  This is followed by a drum solo that delivers the knock out blow.

I'm guessing that Justin Faulkner is not as strange as the drummers I know.  He is a musician on a whole other level.  I would love to know what is going on in his mind as he plays.  This dude is awesome.  Do yourself a favor and listen to him loud with good speakers.  Better yet, make it a priority to catch him live.  I sure will.

Click Here to watch a video captured from a take during the actual recording session.  Powerful stuff.

Click Here to watch Justin Faulkner conducting a drum clinic at the Seattle Drum School.  It is a great opportunity to hear a world-class drummer discuss his craft.  The lessons apply far beyond drumming.


  1. I think I got it- groove, 2 and 4, analyze, bass player is my BFF- off I go to my tom toms.

  2. You left out one thing: If you lose the groove, you lose the gig.

  3. oh yeah!! Sorry- I really don't want to lose the gig- I've lost enough gigs.

  4. No worries. If the bass player is your BFF, you should not lose the gig.

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