Denzil Best – Most Innovative Drummer

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Denzil Best never ceases to amuse with his unique approach to drums. He was born in New York City to a West Indian musical family from Barbados. This laid a proper foundation for a home to follow the path of a musical career. Since birth, Denzil has been living in a musical environment. He trained on piano, trumpet, and bass. But it was not until 1943 that he found his passion for drums and set his foot there.

Denzil has, over the years, working with a wide range of known artists who have encouraged him to become the best drummer. Denzil Best worked with Ben Webster in 1943 and 1944 before joining Coleman Hawkins for several projects between 1944 and 1945. In 1946 he was with Illinois Jacquet and then with Chubby Jackson.

Denzil Best Drumming
denzil best drumming

All these are performers who are widely known even today for their devotion to the world of music. It laid a great foundation for Denzil to make his mark as one of the best drummers of the modern era. Apart from these works, he was also a frequent visitor at the Minton’s Playhouse. 

He found time to participate in recordings with George Shearing in 1948 and was part of the team that founded his Quartet. He remained here until 1952 when he decided to pursue better deals. In 19498, the drummer was with Lennie Tristano, with whom they recorded several albums. At the same time, he was working on a record with Lee Konitz.

Denzel was always in excellent health and loved drumming until he fractured his legs in a car accident in 1953. That compelled him into temporary retirement. But he came back in 1954 to play with Artie Shaw. Later, he drummed for the trip with Erroll Garner for two years from 1955. Denzel was always an innovative drummer who never gave up. 

His talents and ambitions fueled his career, creating a drummer that the world would admire. He played with Phineas Newborn, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Tyree Glenn. He appeared on the initial release by Sheila Jordan in 1962. Denzel was loved for his innovative drumming. Music was flowing in his blood, and he would take it directly to his set, allowing every listener to feel its warmth as it rang through the mix. 

Denzil Best
denzil best

He was an energetic drummer who mastered speed and efficiency. Perhaps he could have done more, but his health may not have been good again after the accident. Best suffered paralysis after his stint with Jordan. That means he was never able to play again. In 1965, he fell down a staircase in a New York City Subway Station and died at 48 years.

During his life, the drummer composed famous bebop tunes like “Move,” which featured on the seminal Miles Davis album in 1957 as an arrangement by John Lewis, “Wee,” “Nothing But D. Best,” and “Dee Dee’s Dance.”  He worked with many artists then, including Thelonious Monk on “Bemsha Swing.” His work continues to live on today, inspiring both experienced and upcoming drummers.

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