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Book cover: Rebelmusic

Jazz And Islam – A Retrospective Series (P.3/A)

The Musicians

Text by Dawoud Kringle

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).

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