Billy Drummond was born in Newport News, Virginia, and began to play the drums at the age of four, influenced by his father who was also a drummer. His love affair with jazz began through his father's record collection, which included many of the classic recordings of Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones.
He started playing in bands from the age of eight, and began teaching privately (employed by his drum teacher) at the age of 14, before going on to study at Shenandoah Conservatory. He moved to New York at the behest of Al Foster in 1986, when his first major break on the circuit was to join the young band, "Out of the Blue" (OTB), with whom he recorded the group's final CD for Blue Note Records. Soon after, Drummond joined piano master Horace Silver's Sextet and toured with them extensively. He later joined J.J. Johnson and subsequently Sonny Rollins, with whom he toured for three years.
Since then, many of the world's greatest jazz artists have called upon Billy to tour and/or record with them, including Eddie Gomez, Joe Henderson, J.J. Johnson, Nat Adderley, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Lovano, Buster Williams, Lee Konitz, James Moody, Tony Malaby, Andrew Hill, Freddie Hubbard, Marty Ehrlich, Charles Tolliver, Sheila Jordan, Toots Thielemans, Jon Faddis, Walt Weiskopf, Charles Tolliver, Javon Jackson, Hank Jones, Vincent Herring, Chris Potter, David Hazeltine, Joe Locke, Eddie Henderson, Larry Willis, and Archie Shepp, among many others. He is also a long-time member of Carla Bley and the Lost Chords, as well as the Steve Kuhn Trio, and has toured and recorded extensively with both bands.
In addition to being one of the most sought-after sidemen, who has recorded over 250 CDs in all genres of jazz, Billy Drummond has released three CDs as a leader: Native Colours, The Gift, and Dubai, his third solo release, which was voted Number 1 on the New York Times Best of 1996 list by jazz critic Peter Watrous. He has also made six CDs as a co-leader (see discography), and more as a band member.
Influences include Tony Williams, Max Roach, Billy Higgins, Philly Joe Jones, Al Foster, Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart, among others. He also leads a New York-based band called Freedom of Ideas. In addition to conducting a busy touring schedule, he is currently Professor of Jazz Drums at the Juilliard School of Music and NYU in New York.
"One of the hippest band leaders now at work." DOWNBEAT
"One of the most crisp, popping, and sensitive straight-ahead drummers around." MODERN DRUMMER
"Taste and empathy are the hallmarks of Drummond's playing..." THE STAR LEDGER NEWARK
"Spins jazz on the head of a pin with stunning results." JAZZTIMES