A native of Ft. Worth, Texas, Rudy Royston was raised in Denver, Colorado. He began playing drums and percussion as a toddler, often playing in church and along with an eclectic array of LPs at home. Rudy’s older siblings avidly listened to all genres of music. His mother strongly supported the arts and his father worked as the supervisor of shipping at a children’s percussion instrument company. His father would often bring home slightly damaged percussion instruments, resulting in a childhood surrounded by bongos, rhythm sticks, xylophones, recorders, metallophones, glockenspiels, and drums. In the fourth grade, Rudy began to study music formally as a result of his mother’s ceaseless support. He continued to study music through high school, studying percussion as well as the viola and tenor saxophone.

While a sophomore in high school, Rudy attended the Telluride Jazz Camp in Colorado on scholarship and studied jazz drum set with Duffy Jackson and Ed Soph. This experience inspired Rudy to pursue music for the rest of his life. He began studying classical and jazz repertoire, as well as marching band percussion, and achieved membership into elite city and state-wide high school ensembles. Rudy went on to study marching band percussion, classical percussion and jazz performance at the University of Northern Colorado, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and University of Denver. Rudy graduated with honors from Denver University, where he received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and Poetry. He later received K-12 teaching credentials from Metropolitan State College of Denver and taught music for 10 years in public schools before relocating to the east coast in 2006.

While in college, Rudy began playing with trumpeter Ron Miles, whom Rudy deems his greatest teacher and music mentor. Rudy also performed with artists in the gospel, alternative rock and jazz scenes including Fred Fuller, Dale Bruning, Laura Newman, Fred Hess, Dotsero, Leslie Drayton, Joe Keel, Nelson Rangell and Bill Frisell. In 2006, Rudy began his graduate studies in music at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, where he studied with jazz drummer Victor Lewis. He quickly integrated into New York’s creative music scene, and has since performed with world-renowned artists including Les McCann, Dave Douglas, Ben Allison, Jason Moran, JD Allen, Sean Jones, Greg Osby, Jennifer Holiday, Tia Fuller, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Bowen, Bruce Barth, George Colligan, Don Byron, Tom Harrell, John Ellis, John Patitucci, Jenny Scheinman and the Mingus Big Band, and many others. A lover of all genres of music, Rudy continues to expand his horizons as he gains increasing recognition in the world of jazz.

Rudy has released two albums as a leader for Greenleaf Music. 303, released in 2014, featured a unique ensemble of stellar New York musicians performing his engaging compositions along with dramatic interpretations of Mozart’s ‘Ave Verum Corpus’ and Radiohead’s ‘High and Dry.’ He released his second album, Rise of Orion, in 2016 featuring a chordless trio with saxophone standout and Thelonious Monk Competition Winner Jon Irabagon, and bass virtuoso Yasushi Nakamura. This 13 track record was Royston’s offering of “hope and love” with eleven originals and interpretations of Bill Withers’ ‘Make a Smile For Me’ and Henry Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament.’

In 2018 Rudy released Flatbed Buggy, an album featuring a chamber-like quintet that includes accordion, woodwinds, cello, bass, and drums performing twelve original Royston compositions. Downbeat said of the record, “The leader wields as much power from his dynamic and often delicate drumming as he does from his enticing compositions, which elicit a sepia-toned, cinematic allure.”

Rudy released PaNOptic, an album of solo drumming in support of the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund, on June 19, 2020.

Rudy’s second album with the Flatbed Buggy ensemble, DAY, was released on May 5, 2023.


Matt Merewitz
Fully Altered Media



A first-tier talent.” – Nate Chinen, New York Times

“A dynamo who can be feathery or wry as the situation warrants.” – JazzTimes

“Royston is quickly rising as a formidable power percussion source in New York City.” – Michael G. Nastos,

“Royston, a new name to me, is a remarkable player. To these ears, he is most reminiscent of the very underrated Cindy Blackman…In a way, he is to JD what Elvin was to Coltrane. High praise indeed, but richly deserved.” – Tony Hall, Jazzwise

“…a terrific drummer who knows how to shift and enrich rhythms through minimal means.” – Eyal Hareuveni, The Israel Festival

“Whether he’s pushing hard on the up-tempo burner or adding color on a ballad, he’s always musical and supportive.” – John Dworkin, All About jazz