James Dreier is a drum set-Latin percussion specialist, educator, clinician, and performer. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) and a Master of Arts degree in music theory from the University of Iowa. He has studied with such master drummers as, Michael Spiro, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Jose Eladio Amat, Bobby Sanabria, Giovani Hildalgo, Daniel Alphonso, Pascoal Meirelles, Joe Hunt and Alan Dawson.
For 50+ years and counting James has engaged all aspects of popular (and sometimes un-popular) music styles, including jazz, rock and roll, blues, Latin, big band, funk and many others. This diversity of styles continues to enrich and inform his musical vocabulary.
In the pursuit of jazz, James has performed with such notables as George Garzone, Phil Wilson, Jimmy Mosher, John Carlson, Tim Haggens, Steve Swallow, Carla Bley, Bobby Shew, Victor Mendoza, Anthony Cox, Willie Pickens, Robin Eubanks, Benny Wallace, Kenny Wheeler, Ray Anderson, Ben Allison, Felipe Salles, David Sanborn, Mark Walker, and many more.
Since hearing his first Santana record in 1968, James has had a passion and strong interest in Latin music. His life-long road of discovery started in earnest at Berklee College of Music when he studied with NYC Latin percussionist Ritchie (Pablo) Laundrum. Later as a graduate student at the University of Iowa, he performed and traveled with Brazilian pianist Rafael Dos Santos, including a residency at the Conservatorio Pernambucano de Musica in Refice, Brazil. Since then Dreier has traveled to Cuba four times and studied with the legendary Rumba group Los Munequitos de Matanzas and master drummer Jesus Alphonso, Daniel Alphonso and others.
Mr. Dreier was a founding member of the Iowa based-Latin/jazz group Orquesta Alto Maiz who released eight CDs over a 26 year life span. They were a featured group at the 1997 International Association of Jazz Educators Conference (Chicago, IL), performed at the 1998 Montreux Jazz Festival, the 2002 daVinci Days Art and Technology Fair (Corvallis, OR), the 2005 Midwest Music Festival (Chicago, IL).
Dreier now leads his own Latin jazz band Ritmocano and is scheduled to play the main stage at the 2015 Iowa City Jazz Festival.His album “Familia, A Latin Jazz Journey” with this group and others was released in the spring of 2014 on Realtown Records. In 2020 Dreier, along with Ritmocano and numerous Iowa musicians, released “Iowa Friends, Cuban Music.” Both CDs are available through CDbaby.
Mr. Dreier also performs with the Beaker Brothers, the UI Faculty Jazz Group and others.
Other recording credits include “A fungus Among Us,” “Odds and Ends” and “Lost Art Cafe” with his jazz group Odd Bar Trio; John Rapson’s “Water and Blood, The Billy Higgens’ Improvisations” (9Winds, Beverly Hills, CA) and “Mafficked Simularcrum” (MoMu Records, Iowa City, IA). Dreier also appeared on Tim O’Dell’s “Before My Life” and Dreams of Pangea (Southport Records, Chicago, IL).
An Associate Professor of Instruction in Jazz Studies at the University of Iowa, Mr. Dreier teaches Jazz Improvisation for Drum Set, Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Cultures in America and Abroad. He also directs the Latin Jazz Ensemble.
Dreier is an educational artist for Sabian Cymbals.