Denzil DaCosta Best (April 27, 1917 – May 24, 1965) was an American jazz percussionist and composer born in New York City. He was a prominent bebop drummer in the 1950's and early '60s.
Best, who was trained on piano, trumpet, and bass, concentrated on the drums starting in 1943. Between 1943 and 1944 he worked with Ben Webster, and subsequently with Coleman Hawkins (1944-1945), Illinois Jacquet (1946) and Chubby Jackson. He took part in a recording with George Shearing in 1948 and was a founding member of his Quartet, remaining there until 1952. In 1949 he played on a recording with Lennie Tristano and also recorded later with Lee Konitz. After a car accident he played in 1954 with Artie Shaw, and then in a trio with Erroll Garner (1955-1957). Following this he played with Phineas Newborn, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday and Tyree Glenn. In 1962 he appeared on the first release by Sheila Jordan. He suffered from paralysis after this and was no longer able to play; he died after falling down a staircase in a New York Subway station.
Unlike many bebop percussionists, who loaded the musical space with accents against the prevailing meter and thus created rhythmic intensity, Best resumed the legato development of Jo Jones. He played on the beat and rarely used loud accents. Playing in this way he was not only a model for cool jazz but also influenced countless bar combos.
Best composed several well-known bebop tunes, such as "Move", "Wee", and "Dee Dee's Dance", as well as (possibly) Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing". His composition "45 Degree Angel" was recorded by Herbie Nichols and Mary Lou Williams.