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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.


There are 3 comments associated with this post

Dick July 31, 2014, 18:50:54

Essential funk drummer who inspired crate-diggers in the 90’s when jazz/funk/soul/acid/boogaloo enjoyed a resurgence via MMW and the GBA. And people think Neal Peart is still the ultimate in drumming…sigh.

Mole August 2, 2014, 11:30:24

Well look at it this way, Dick, there are MANY ultimate drummers out there IMHO, everyone from Stanton Moore to Billy Martin, and that wide range does include lots of drummers with chops like Neil Peart. Idris was a master but we are just so fortunate to have so many awesome drummers playing these days. Just enjoy it! I’ve been playing drums in bands for 3 decades so I appreciate them all. Every one is unique in their own right.
‘Nuff said.

mccordo August 2, 2014, 22:06:04

Sad to hear of his death; Idris was an amazing drummer and is often cited by Stanton Moore as an influence. My favorite Idris memory was from a late nite show at the Blue Nile during JazzFest around 2008. Idris was playing in an all-star set that included among others Stanton on a 2nd kit, Will Bernard and Henry Butler, the blind piano player from NOLA. Henry was set up facing the rest of the band on the right side of the stage, and a little while into his lengthy solo, Idris decided Henry played enough and started to waive at him. Of course, Henry didn’t see him despite looking right at him and played on which got Idris even madder as he started frantically waiving both hands and scowling at him. Finally, Idris yelled over to Will Bernard (since he was closest to the still playing Henry) “tell that damn fool to shut the hell up!” Will leaned over to Henry and said something in his ear that got him to wrap up his solo, all the while with Idris staring him down from behind his kit on the other side of the stage.

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