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 Muñequitos 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. His interest in helping musicians and educators understand and perform Latin music and Latin jazz led him to author his first book “Latin Jazz Guide, A Path to Authentic Percussion and Ensemble Performance” (Hal Leonard, 2015), along with the companion web site, www.latinjazzguide.com
In 2021, Dreier authored his second book, “Standard Tune Learning Sequence, A Musical Approach to Improvisation for Jazz Drummers” (self published, KDP, 2021), which provides drummers an organized and sequential method for learning jazz standards and soloing in a more musical way.
Dreier now leads his own Latin jazz band Ritmocano, 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. Dreier also performs with the Beaker Brothers, 3 Dawgs and a Bone, and The Fabulous Trutones (based out of Waterloo/Cedar Falls, IA).
In 2020 Dreier was inducted into the Iowa Jazz Educators Hall of Fame.
An Emeritus professor (having retired from teaching in 2022) at the University of Iowa, Dreier taught Jazz Improvisation for Drum Set, Jazz Ensembles and Jazz Cultures in America and Abroad. He also directed the Latin Jazz Ensemble from 2001 – 2022.
Dreier is an educational artist for Sabian Cymbals.