This continued series explores the relation between jazz and Islam. In this installment, I am continuing the presentation of the biographies of Muslim jazz artists.
Idris Muhammad was born Leo Morris in New Orleans (1939-2014). He began playing the drums at age 8. Before he reached the age of 21, he’d recorded with Sam Cooke and Jerry Butler, and was a respected session drummer for record labels such as Imperial, Specialty, and Ace. In the 1960s his music experienced a profound change due to the influence of John Coltrane. This led to a synthesis of R&B and jazz. He worked with Lou Donaldson 1965-67. In 1969-73 He worked as drummer for the Broadway musical “Hair” and 1970-72, he was the house drummer for Prestige Records. His releases as a leader include “Black Rhythm Revolution”, “Peace and Rhythm”, “Kabsha”, “My Turn”, and “Right Now”. Muhammad has performed or recorded with Larry Williams, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfeild, Sonny Stitt, Charles Earland, Gene Ammons, Pharoah Saunders, Roberta Flack, John Hicks, Randy Weston, Jamil Nassr, John Scofield, Roberta Flack, Johnny Griffin, George Coleman, Randy Brecker, his wife, vocalist Sakinah Muhammad, and countless others.
Interview by Jim Hoey – Photos by Marilyn Cvitanic ——————————This interview was conducted at TriBeCaStan’s West Side studio, with helicopters rising and falling along the riverside, and the three of us, John Kruth, Jeff Greene, and myself, surrounded by the instruments of their trade, culled from a lifetime of travel and exploration. Fresh from a sold-out CD release party at Joe’s Pub for their latest offering, 5 Star Cave, the two offered insight into how they go about re-imagining folk music from around the Middle East, Northern Africa, and other parts of the world. Based out of the crossroads of NYC, they have the advantage of hearing some of the traditional music they are inspired by pumping from cabs and bodegas, yet their embrace of the strange and foreign in music goes above and beyond mere curiosity or dabbling, and passes into the realm of living scholarship. Indeed, both have gone to the countries whose music they cherish, and have played with the masters, so they’ve got the authenticity down, and when you hear them grooving along with their top-notch Folklorkestra, you don’t doubt that what you’re hearing is the real thing.