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Published: 2014/07/31

Idris Muhammad, Legendary New Orleans Drummer, 1939-2014

Idris Muhammad, the influential jazz musician previously known as Leo Morris, passed away yesterday in New Orleans. Muhammad was a highly regarded funk drummer whose career spanned over 5 decades, with one of his earliest sessions being for the Fats Domino recording “Blueberry Hill.”

He developed a reputation for being able to adapt a New Orleans-style pulse to a wide variety of styles, and is featured on thousands of recordings. While the majority of his work had been in the jazz idiom, his talents made their way in to the pop sphere via artists such as Roberta Flack and Curtis Mayfield, and his drumming has been sampled countless times, most notably in the Beastie Boys “B-Boy Bouillabaisse.” While he recorded 13 albums as a bandleader between 1970 and 1998, he is best known as a sideman, being the drummer of choice for extended stints with Lou Donaldson, Pharaoh Sanders, and most recently Ahmad Jamal. He was a particular favorite of funky jazz guitarists, having played behind John Scofield, Melvin Sparks, Grant Green and George Benson on some of those artists finest recorded works.

Muhammad retired from the business in 2008 and moved back to New Orleans from New York City. In 2012 he released an autobiography, Inside The Music: The Life of Idris Muhammad, co-written with Britt Anderson, also a drummer.

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