The Drummer Loves Ballads is the debut album of John Armato. It is a unique full-album listening experience featuring extraordinary music, musicians, and moods, produced and engineered by some of the industrys top talent.

The album was designed to be a fresh soundtrack for Sunday afternoons, romantic evenings, and melancholy midnights, but to feel like a long-loved jazz favorite. It features more than 25 musicians, including the legends Houston Person and Warren Vach. From intimate quartet settings to sweeping orchestral arrangements, The Drummer Loves Ballads (TDLB) is as rewarding to listen to closely as it is relaxing to listen to casually.

TDLB includes tributes to two beloved Kansas City musicians, the late Steve Patke and the late Kerry Strayer. It debuts an original tune commemorating the Trocadero, a now-forgotten jazz club in Kansas City that was a favorite destination for Armatos parents when they were dating. Three spoken-word tracks provide a narrative arc that brings alive the backstory that set the album in motion nearly 40 years ago.
The song list includes music written or made famous by Henry Mancini, Benny Goodman, Horace Silver, Ahmad Jamal, Gerry Mulligan, John Williams, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and other greats. At the core is a quartet that is occasionally complemented by lush string and wind arrangements courtesy Paul Roberts. Wayne Hawkins is on piano, Rod Fleeman is on guitar, Gerald Spaits is on bass, and Armato is the drummer who loves ballads.

Houston Person and Warren Vach headline a guest artist line-up that includes vocalist and Monk Institute veteran/International Jazz
Ambassador Lisa Henry, renowned clarinetist Lynn Zimmer, the late Jeff Lisenby (American Accordion Hall of Fame), Ron Gutierrez in a vocal duet with the late Molly Hammer, the warm baritone sax of Brett Jackson, the cashmere tenor of Doug Talley, the gypsy-jazz viola of Steffen Drabek, and the stirring new vocal talent of Lucy Wijnands, 2021 winner of the prestigious Ella Fitzgerald Vocal Competition.

TDLB was produced by veteran touring and recording artist (and fellow drummer), John Cushon. It was recorded by Justin Wilson of Sound81. Additional tracking was engineered by Pete Millrose (with legendary vocalist Anne Phillips overseeing the Person/Vach session), and Keaton Comiskey. It was mixed and co-produced by six-time Grammy Award winner Howard Lindeman and mastered by another master with multiple Grammys in tow, Greg Calbi of Sterling Sound.

Traditional in-studio recording techniques, combined with some of the finest ears on earth, results in an album with the warmth of a classic jazz LP but with contemporary clarity and depth.

The drums have always been there
From Christmas toy drums to first lessons, from his first pro gig with the Ink Spots to a tour of Russia, drums have been John Armatos constant companion. He has played clubs and concerts from New York City to Napa Valley and was a member of the trio behind Lisa Henry, a winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute Vocal Jazz Competition.

While the beat and burst of high-energy drums captured his attention early on, it was the swish and sizzle of ballads that captured his heart. It was always about the beauty, not just the bang. (As a kid, after seeing Buddy Rich repeatedly on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Armato asked his parents for an album by the drum legend for his birthday, but one with a whole band playing, not just a bunch of drum solos.)

Forty years ago, Armato played one of his first jam sessions. Thats where the story of The Drummer Loves Ballads and the album itself begins.
A Kansas City native, New York City ex-pat, and now a Sacramento resident, Armato appears on the CDs Claudette, by Sacramento vocalist Claudette Stone, Comfort by Texas praise singer Lisa Bloecher, Hepcats Holadaze! by Peter Petty, the digital EP Pick Up The Pieces by Tony Underwood, and various singles by the Colorado-based song-writing collective, Barnyards and Bungalows. The Drummer Loves Ballads is Armatos first release as leader.

Drawn to drums and impatient to play
Armato had to wait until his eighth birthday before a teacher would agree to take him on. A week after the magic day, he took his first lesson. Years of private study followed as well as stints in nationally recognized school and university programs: He spent a season with the Kansas City Youth Symphony and was a member of the Winnetonka High School music program in the early 80s, led by the renowned music educator, Dr. Charles T. Menghini.

College saw Armato performing with the rhythm sections of well-known vocal jazz educator Kirby Shaw at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as well as the jazz band under Dr. Michael Parkinson, and other ensembles. In 1986 Armato earned a coveted spot with the Disneyland All-American College Band, a summer-long, 35-show-a-week, professional experience for 20 musicians from the countrys top music schools.

Coming up in Kansas City
Armato began his professional work backing 50s acts such as The Ink Spots, The Drifters and The Platters as well as swing and dance legends such as The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and the Guy Lombardo Orchestra. He played musical theater mainstays such as A Chorus Line, Godspell, and Nunsense and performed the world premiere of Dragons, working directly with composer/director Sheldon Harnick of Fiddler on the Roof fame. For one football season, Sundays found Armato in the end zone at Arrowhead Stadium as a member of the Kansas City Chief’s Pack Band.
Armato was an early member of Kerry Strayer’s groups and the Kansas City Boulevard Big Band, as well as an occasional sideman for jazz and tap dance duo, the McFadden Brothers. In 1994 he performed with a 40-member cast of musicians, singers, and dancers representing the state of Kansas in a tour of St. Petersburg, Russia.

East to New York
After moving to New York City in 2004, Armato played with noted tenor saxophonist Bob Kindred, vocalist Anne Phillips, and cornet legend Warren Vach, among others. He was one of the many volunteer jazz musicians who performed in the annual city-wide “September Concert” to promote post-9/11 healing through music. He had begun studying with Joe Morello shortly before the legendary drummers death.

then West to California
Armato relocated to Sacramento, California, in 2008 where he has worked with Virginia Ayers-Dawson, Greg Willett, Cecil Ramirez, Jim Martinez, Dennis Johnson, Peter Petty, and a 10-piece horn band called Funkengruven. He has backed touring smooth jazz headliners such as Paul Brown, Darren Rahn, Steve Oliver, and Dean James, and singer-songwriter Spencer Day. In recent years he has traveled the Northern California region with the Dean-O-Holics Rat Pack tribute show.

Combined loves
Armato served on the Board of Trustees at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago for 12 years. Since graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1987 with a degree in communications and nearly as many hours in music, Armato has had parallel careers as a communications executive and creative strategist as well as a musician. The Drummer Loves Ballads combines his talents as a jazz drummer with his skills as a writer, designer, and speaker to create a uniquely personal project.

Primary Credits
The TDLB Quartet is John Armato (drums and narration), Rod Fleeman (guitar), Wayne Hawkins (piano), Gerald Spaits (bass). Produced by John Cushon. Recorded by Justin Wilson, Sound81. Additional recording by Pete Millrose and Keaton Comiskey. Mixed and co-produced by Howie Lindeman, Howies Mix House. Mastered by Greg Calbi, Sterling Sound. Strings and winds arranged, contracted, and conducted by Paul Roberts. Special assistance and oversight of Houston Person and Warren Vach session by Anne Phillips. At the Trocadero 2018, lyrics by John Armato (ASCAP), music by Wayne Hawkins (ASCAP).

Guest Artists
Carol Bar (French spoken word); Steffen Drabek (solo viola); Ron Gutierrez, Molly Hammer, Lisa Henry, and Lucy Wijnands (vocals); Brett Jackson (baritone sax); Jeff Lisenby (accordion); Houston Person and Doug Talley (tenor sax); Warren Vach (cornet); Lynn Zimmer (clarinet).

Matt Bennett, Carmen Dieker, Zsolt Eder, and Filip Lazovski (violin); Alyssa Bell and Christine Grossman (viola); Ezgi Karakus and Susie Yang (cello).

David Chael (alto sax and flute), Mark Cohick (alto flute), Paul Roberts (trombone), Brandon Wilkins (tenor sax and flute).

Creative, Technical, and Marketing Support
Main photography by Andy Amyx, Joshua Liberman, and Thomas Blackburn (courtesy Roseville Jazz Festival). CD cover design by John Armato with Tricia Juanitas. All other design by Tricia Juanitas. Animated Prelude by Sam Hrabko. Video liner notes shot and edited by Daniel Stanush. Memories of You behind-the-scenes video shot by Justin Wilson. Web design by Ruben Young and Tricia Juanitas.

Recording History
TDLB was recorded in 10 sessions in four cities over three years. Most tracks were recorded in Kansas City (Sept. 24-25 and Oct. 10, 2018, and Mar. 26-27, July 29-30, Aug. 24, and Sept. 19, 2019). Some guest artist tracks were recorded in New York (Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, 2018), Nashville (Jan. 20, 2019), and Bremen, Germany, (April 14, 2021). Mixing and mastering took place late 2020/early 2021.

TDLB was released May 27, 2021 and is available anywhere you buy, download, or stream your music, including Amazon, iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Qobuz, Napster, YouTube Music, Deezer, Bandcamp, and the album website. Distribution provided by CD Baby.

TDLB is dedicated to the memory of John Armatos parents, Frank and Millie Armato.


The Drummer Loves Ballads … and you will, too

Forty years ago, John Armato played one of his first jam sessions. That’s where the story behind The Drummer Loves Ballads — and the album itself — begins. This debut project by Armato is a fresh soundtrack for Sunday afternoons, romantic evenings, and melancholy midnights, but it plays like a long-loved jazz favorite. It features more than 25 musicians, including the legends Houston Person and Warren Vaché. Together they’ve created an album that ranges from intimate quartet settings to sweeping orchestral arrangements. It’s a unique full-album listening experience and you’ll find The Drummer Loves Ballads is as rewarding to listen to closely as it is relaxing to listen to casually.

CD cover design by John Armato and Tricia Juanitas.
Photo credit: Andy Amyx

Boy Meets Drum

John Armato with his cherished 1964 Ludwig “Symphony” model snare drum. Part of the set used in the teaching studio of Eddie Oyer, Armato’s first drum teacher, it was the first “real” drum Armato ever played, at his first lesson in 1972 when he was just eight years old. In 2012 Armato paid a visit to the retired Oyer and casually asked whatever became of those old drums, thinking they were long gone. They weren’t. They were just upstairs. Armato now owns the drums and used the snare in the recording of The Drummer Loves Ballads. “That drum is special,” said Armato. “We were both ‘born’ the same year. But it’s not only a priceless memento of the start of my journey as a musician,” he said. “It’s also an exquisite instrument and my favorite snare for jazz.”

Photo credit: Andy Amyx

John Armato – the drummer who loves ballads – in session

John Armato, behind the scenes during a tracking session for The Drummer Loves Ballads. The album was recorded by more than 25 musicians in 10 sessions across four cities over three years. Most tracks were recorded in Kansas City, Missouri. Some guest artist tracks were recorded in New York, Nashville, and Bremen, Germany. Producer: John Cushon. Primary recording engineer: Justin Wilson. Mixing engineer and co-producer: Howie Lindeman. Mastering engineer: Greg Calbi.

Photo courtesy John Armato

Three-fourths of the TDLB quartet

John Armato confers with (L to R) Rod Fleeman, guitar, and Wayne Hawkins, piano, before recording a take for The Drummer Loves Ballads. Not pictured is bassist Gerald Spaits.

Photo courtesy John Armato

John Armato, loving ballads live

John Armato plays the 2019 Roseville Jazz Festival in a set with vocalist Rebecca Hardiman, her husband Ray Hardiman on piano, and Diana Krall alum Paul Keller on bass. Rebecca called Armato “top-shelf… one of THE best around!”

Photo credit: Thomas Blackburn, courtesy Roseville Jazz Festival


Click to download all high resolution images from our EPK


"Your new CD is fantastic! It's a thing of beauty!"

Paul Keller, Diana Krall recording and touring bassist

"What a sweet, sweet, beautiful album. It's just what we need to hear today!"

Anne Phillips, Singer and recording artist, composer, conductor, creator of the Jazz Nativity

"What a joy to hear your treatment of these beautiful tunes. From your very tasty brushwork to the swinging band, its a wonderful CD I look forward to hearing again and again."

Allen Goodman, Retired NBC staff drummer, touring and recording artist (Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli)

""Each song is a beautiful experience. This is an album you'll play over and over for its breadth of talent.""

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Basketball legend, writer, and jazz aficionado

"John Armatos new album is a gem. Get it. Its tasty, soulful, straight-ahead jazz. Its sultry, its playful, its melodic; and it swings."

Jazz Ambassadors Magazine

"The pleasing music of The Drummer Loves Ballads is easily recommended."

Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Scene

"Drummer John Armato gives an intimate and personal album on this intriguing musical journey. A nice evening by the fireside with some drums. And bring a bottle of wine."

George Harris, JazzWeekly

"There is such a level of astute attention to detail going on all the way throughout this record. Its clean and powerful. And it tells a story."

Joe Dimino, Host of Neon Jazz

"The elaborate packaging and website (including an animated video) reflects Armatos abundant talents. He considers the album a showcase of all his skills. It also represents a true exhibition of the citys signature sound."

Jon Niccum, The Kansas City Star

And More..

“A breath of fresh air!”
“It is something really special!”
“Interludes are pure genius”
“I truly dug everything about it.”
“A creative and unique project!”
“A musical reminder of what’s really important”
“Drumming is so damned compellingly tasteful!”

Subscribe To the TDLB Newsletter

Subscribe To the TDLB Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates about 'The Drummer Loves Ballads' album.

Thank You for subscribing