Legendary funky drummer Idris Muhammad, 74, has died
by Wax Poetics
The legendary New Orleans drummer Idris Muhammad, born Leo Morris, has died, the New Orleans Times-Picayune has confirmed.
This comes on the heels of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of Paul’s Boutique, the Beastie Boys album that famously sampled Muhammad’s “Loran’s Dance,” spotlighting the drummer’s solo work for a new generation of music lovers.
“Idris concentrates not so much on rhythm as on the beat—the actual four beats in the bar,” said Galt MacDermot in Wax Poetics Issue One, our debut issue that hit stands in December 2001. “And he generates a terrific momentum, like a train going down a hill. I don’t know anyone who does that better than Idris.”
Muhammad was one of those special drummers from New Orleans who was influenced by decades of musical history yet was able to leave his own mark on the city’s music; at just sixteen years of age, he played on Fats Domino’s most important song, 1956’s “Blueberry Hill.”
But Muhammad really made a mark on jazz, as his funky breakbreats laced some of the greatest soul-jazz to come out on Blue Note Records, among others—working side by side with Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Reuben Wilson, Charles Earland, Charles Kynard, Rusty Bryant, Melvin Sparks, Gene Ammons, Houston Persons, Sonny Stitt, Leon Spencer, Harold Mabern, and many more greats.
Through his solo albums in the 1970s, Muhammad would achieve rock-star status. “Turn This Mutha Out,” from the 1977 Kudu LP of the same name, hit number 21 on the Billboard R&B chart, and “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This” received heavy play in the clubs, including New York’s infamous Loft. His subsequent disco albums—while hated by jazz purists and critics—continued to find love on the dance floor, with 1980’s “For Your Love” as another stand-out track.
“I’m a natural drummer,” Idris told writer Eothen Alapatt in Issue One. “I have some special qualities that came from the Creator, which allow me to play all kinds of music.”
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