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Rhythm Section Session Players

Bass, drum, and percussion players on this page:

Alex Acuña - Ollie Brown - Lenny Castro - Ray Cooper - Paulinho Da Costa - Tim Drummond - Nathan East - Steve Ferrone - Sammy Figueroa - Steve Gadd - Bob Glaub - Jim Gordon - Omar Hakim - Bobbye Hall - Milt Holland - David Hood and Roger Hawkins - Anthony Jackson - Randy Jackson - Steve Jordan - Jim Keltner - Russ Kunkel - Abraham Laboriel - Joe Lala - Tony Levin - Ralph MacDonald - Pino Palladino - Simon Phillips - Jeff Porcaro - Chuck Rainey - Leland Sklar - Dallas Taylor - Joe Vitale - Willie Weeks

There are an awful lot of successful musicians out there who aren't substantial songwriters, don't produce, don't perform in public much, and never formally join a band - namely, session players. There are so many of them it's hard to keep track, but we thought we would document the careers of at least a few top-notch session musicians with a set of cool cross-references to their guest appearances on records we've reviewed. There undoubtedly are many other such appearances we simply don't know about, but it's a start... and the biggest session player of them all? Paulinho Da Costa, of course. (JA)

Alejandro "Alex" Acuña

Percussionist, sometime member of Weather Report.

Ollie Brown

Drums. (JA)

Lenny Castro


Ray Cooper

Although he's really an Elton John band member, having played percussion in the Elton John band off and on for two decades, I'm listing him separately because he's done some very notable session work outside of Elton's immediate circle. (JA)

Paulinho Da Costa

Da Costa is the ultimate session player, contributing various kinds of percussion to innumerable hit records but completely unknown outside industry circles. I don't know anything about him myself, except his name is on more albums in my collection than I can count. You can read all about it on his own site. (DBW)

Tim Drummond

Bassist of the Stray Gators. (JA)

Sly Dunbar

Legendary reggae drummer, often paired with Robbie Shakespeare. Not to be confused with Aynsley Dunbar.

Nathan East

R&B/soul producers don't use much live bass any more, but when they do they get either Randy Jackson or East. (DBW)

Steve Ferrone


Sammy Figueroa

A NYC-based percussionist in the 70s and 80s, Figueroa later moved to Miami and began leading Latin jazz combos. (DBW)

Steve Gadd

Drummer. There's a Steve Gadd page. (JA)

Bob Glaub

Another L.A. session bass player, not as prominent as Leland Sklar. (JA)

Jim Gordon

Jim Gordon was a successful L.A. studio drummer, rivalled only by Hal Blaine, years before his association with Eric Clapton propelled him to the spotlight - when Clapton's Dominos collapsed, he briefly joined Traffic, then went back to being a session star, playing on records by Gordon Lightfoot (four in a row from 1973 to 1976), Alice Cooper (in 1976 and 1977), and plenty others. He was debilitated by schizophrenia later in the 70s, then murdered his mother in 1983, and now is in prison. A sad end to one of the more interesting careers in rock drumming. (JA)

Omar Hakim

Drummer. (DBW)

Bobbye Hall

Usually referred to as Ms. Bobbye Hall, or Ms. Bobbye Hall Porter after her marriage, she's a percussionist, and one of the few women to break into the ranks of unsung session players. (DBW)

Milt Holland

A jazz drummer who played with every conceivable big-name act and many movie soundtracks, later working frequently as a percussionist on rock records. Became a serious student of the tabla well before any other Western recording artist did. Holland worked often with the Loggins & Messina band throughout the early and mid 70s, but cut many other sessions during the same period. (JA)
Played vibes fairly frequently. (DBW)

David Hood and Roger Hawkins

A Muscle Shoals, Alabama R & B rhythm section - Hood on bass, Hawkins on drums - that made some high-powered trans-Atlantic rock connections in the early 70s; they were even de facto members of Traffic for a while. In the 60s Hawkins was teamed with bassist Tommy Cogsbill, for example, on Aretha Franklin's early Atlantic records. (JA)

Anthony Jackson

Since cutting the famous bassline on the O'Jays' "For The Love Of Money," Jackson has gone on to play on countless records, though for some reason, very few of them are reviewed on this site. (DBW)

Randy Jackson

A very versatile session bass player, working lots of R&B dates but also with groups like Journey. This is the Randy Jackson who judges American Idol, not the one from the Jacksons. (DBW)

Steve Jordan

Drummer. (DBW)

Jim Keltner

Keltner has been kicking around since the late 60s, and through the years has become the default session drummer for British rock dinosaurs - but he's also worked with several American stars like Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson. (JA)

Russ Kunkel

Easily the most successful L.A. studio drummer of the 70s, although I don't know much else about him, and Joe Vitale is a close competitor. (JA)

Abraham Laboriel

Bass player. (JA)

Joe Lala

The default percussionist on L.A. soft rock records, closely associated with CSNY and Joe Vitale. (JA)

Tony Levin

Bass virtuoso, nowadays doing his thing with only three strings. (DBW)
Levin's main claim to fame is as a member of both the 80s and 90s versions of King Crimson. He's also a master of the multi-stringed "stick," which he used to great effect on all those Crimson records. (JA)

Ralph MacDonald

Who you get when you can't get Paulinho Da Costa? In addition to being the Second Banana of percussion, MacDonald also participated more substantially in some of Roberta Flack's best records. (DBW)

Pino Palladino

A bass player who can play a mean fretless, he's only been circulating in rock dinosaur circles since the mid-80s. (JA)

Simon Phillips

A drummer with really good English rock credentials, he joined Toto when Jeff Porcaro (an even more successful studio drummer) died.

Jeff Porcaro

Very big-deal session drummer and founding member of Toto who died in 1992. His full, lengthy resume is at the Toto web site. (JA)

Chuck Rainey

Legendary Atlantic Records bass player who did a pile of L.A. rock sessions in the 70s. (JA).

Leland Sklar

Russ Kunkel's bass-playing equivalent in the L.A. studio scene, often paired with him but not always. (JA)

Dallas Taylor

Drummer who was recruited to back CSN, then appeared on various CSN-related records, then faded into obscurity with a drug problem. He recently wrote an autobiography giving the whole sad story. (JA)

Joe Vitale

One of the biggest L.A. session drummers, working often with CSNY; but he's also a keyboard player and songwriter, for example, collaborating with Joe Walsh on the Eagles' "Pretty Maids All In A Row." (JA)

"Ready" Freddie Washington

Electric bass.

Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark

Willie Weeks is an extraordinarily nimble bass player who made a big splash in rock circles from 1973 to 1975 as he went from one big-name session to another. He's worked often with George Harrison, and the "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll" session in early 1974, with David Bowie and Ron Wood in attendance, seems to have been a catalyst for his career. His latest appearance on our site dates to 1981, but he's still around, having since guested on a Jimmy Buffett record (!) and joined the band on Janis Ian's latest album. On many early records he appears with drummer Andy Newmark, so we've listed them together. (JA)

It's only rock 'n' roll...

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