The following are selected biographies of American Muslim musicians continued from here.
Pianist Sadik Hakim (a.k.a. Argonne Thorton 1919-83) got his start with Ben Webster, and eventually went to New York with him. He stayed with Webster, and also played with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He toured with Lester Young from 1946-48, and recorded “Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid” in 1947. Around this time, he accepted Islam. From 1951-54 he toured with James Moody and from 1956-60 played with Bud Tate’s orchestra. In 1966 he moved to Montreal, Canada. After a time, he returned to New York, and toured Japan 1979-80.
The following are selected biographies of American Muslim musicians.
Art Blakey (a.k.a. Abdullah ibn Buhauna) was born in 1919, and became a full time musician in his teens. He switched from piano to drums in the early 1930s. He played with Chick Webb and Sid Catlett. In 1942 he joined Mary Lou Williams, and later played with Fletcher Henderson. Between 1944-47 he played with Billy Eckstine, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, etc. It was around this time that he accepted Islam, and took the name (Abdullah ibn Buhauna). In 1947 he traveled to Africa to learn about Islam and his African ancestry. His practice of Islam became central to his life and music. Blakey was reported to have hosted meetings of Muslims in his home. According to one account, Yusef Lateef had accepted Islam during one of these meetings. Blakey also used to hold a prayer session with the musicians in his group The Jazz Messengers before performances. In the 1950’s he performed with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Horace Silver, and Clifford Brown. In 1955 Blakey, Hank Mobley, and Silver formed a cooperative group, under the name The Jazz Messengers. This project continued into the late 1980s and served as a springboard for many musicians (e.g. Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Chuck Mangione, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, JoAnne Brakeen, Terance Blanchard, Branford Marsalis, etc).
In this part of the Jazz and Islam Series, I will provide a perspective on the growth of Islam among American jazz musicians.
Many of the earlier converts to Islam worked at raising money to bring Muslim / Sufi teachers to the USA. Talib Daoud and his wife, singer Dakota Staton (a.k.a. Aliyah Rabia) taught Islam in Philadelphia, PA. She also opened a store in New York City that sold African art and wares, and Islamic books and supplies. An Egyptian man named Sheikh Mahmoud Hassan Rabwan taught Islam and Arabic there. In the New York area a few Muslim owned venues, mostly restaurants, opened that featured musical performances. These included “The East” and “The House of Peace.” Mosques such as the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood used to hold benefit concerts, which featured performers such as Alice Coltrane, and others. Later, a performance venue opened by saxophonist, composer, bandleader, teacher, and mentor Muhammad Salahuddin (1930-2004) called “The University of the Streets” featured performances, workshops, and music instruction.
There exists little historical documentation of the music and musicians of Islamic culture indigenous to the United States of America. For this reason, I decided to write this series. While this is in no way comprehensive, it should serve as a brief introduction to the much neglected subject of Muslim’s contributions to jazz.