Category Archives: Obituaries

Darryl R. Brown, M.D.

Today, November 24, is the fourth anniversary of Darryl Brown’s death. He was 64 years old. In the pantheon of Weather Report drummers, Brown is not well known despite being the band’s full-time drummer from July 1974 to the end of that year. Actually, Brown isn’t well-known as a drummer at all, even though he toured with the likes of Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Natalie Cole, and Grover Washington, Jr.

If you do a Google search you won’t turn up any articles or interviews about his musical career. The primary reason for this is that Brown left professional music behind in his late twenties to pursue his education, eventually obtaining a medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine. He subsequently practiced medicine until his death, with music relegated to a hobby.

When I was doing interviews for my book Elegant People: A History of the Band Weather Report, I knew that Darryl was someone I wanted to talk to, but his lack of internet presence and his retirement from music made it difficult to track him down. However, I also knew that he had become a medical doctor and some sleuthing led me to a Darryl R. Brown, M.D., in Casa Grande, Arizona. On a hunch, I called his medical office and sure enough Dr. Brown was also a drummer who once played with Weather Report.

I think I was the first person to explore Brown’s Weather Report days in depth. Darryl was an intelligent, articulate man whose recollections greatly enriched my book. Five years later, I tried to get back in touch with him and found out that he had passed away. Such a gentleman. I was—and am—sad that he is no longer with us. Since little has been published about Darryl’s background and musical career, I want to use this post to fill in some of those details, most of which did not make it into my book.

Darryl was born and raised in Germantown, a neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia with a rich cultural history. A number of musicians come from Germantown, including Weather Report’s second drummer, Eric Gravatt. Brown was a childhood friend of Stanley Clarke’s and there’s a photo at Clarke’s website of the two as teenagers with saxophonist Byard Lancaster, another Germantown resident who was ten years their senior. Here is what Darryl told me about his childhood and early professional career:

I started playing the drums when I was about seven, and I had a very diverse musical experience. On the one hand, I had a teacher by the name of Harry “Skeets” Marsh who used to play with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. At another time I studied with a guy by the name of Jake Hoffman, who was with the Philadelphia Orchestra. So because of that, I was exposed to a wide variety of music. Of course, in school I played in the band—the concert band, the orchestra, etc.—and in my house my mother played the organ and piano, and also played violin and sang in church.

I grew up in a part of Philadelphia called Germantown, and there were a lot of talented people living in Germantown. My mother and dad met the great organist Jimmy Smith at a car repair place and got to be friends with him. Jimmy Smith used to come over to our house and he would bring his latest recording on a reel-to-reel tape, with Wes Montgomery and Grady Tate. He would get on the organ and he’d sit me down at the drums. He got me started in jazz and basically showed me how to play. And actually, when I was thirteen I was featured in a concert with him out in New Jersey.

Larry Young—you probably remember him from John McLaughlin and Tony Williams—came to the house a few times to jam. And there was a local saxophonist, Byard Lancaster, who had gone to Juilliard and at one point played with McCoy Tyner. He encouraged me to get better and to play and explore all avenues of music.

There was a club in downtown Philadelphia called the Showboat. They had matinees in the afternoon. My mother and father got to know the owner there, and he allowed me to come into the matinees. And there I had an audition with Mongo Santamaría. I once sat in with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. As a matter of fact, he gave me a little cymbal that day, which was really cool. And there was a bagpipe player you may have heard of named Rufus Harley; he played there and let me sit in.

When I was fourteen I formed a band called the Latin Unit. Some of the guys were older than me. One was Arthur Webb, a flute player from West Philadelphia who was known for recording and playing with Ray Barretto. And there was a local percussionist named Peachy German, a bassist you may have heard of named Charles Fambrough, and a young piano player by the name of Stanley Clarke.

A little later—in high school or right after—I joined a band called Andy Aaron and the Mean Machine, and Stanley was the bass player; he had made the transition from piano. We used to do these cabarets, and Grover Washington, Jr. played with us at the cabarets and things like that. In the meantime, my parents were pounding on me to go college, but because I had these fortunate experiences while I was still in high school, they saw my talent and ability, and my burning desire to play music, and I think they kind of understood.

So after I finished high school, I went on the road with some local bands and ended up in Connecticut. And I guess got lucky. Natalie Cole was in Hartford, Connecticut, and she decided coming out of college to pursue music and have a band. So I auditioned for her band and played for her for while I was up there in Connecticut. I was around eighteen, and one day I got a call while I was in Connecticut from Grover saying, “Hey man, I want you, I’d like to hire you for my band.” So I moved back to Philly and played with him for a couple of years. From what Joe Zawinul told me, that’s the first time he heard about this “young and talented drummer.” From there, I came back to Philly and played in some local bands, including Good God, which opened for Weather Report a few times.

Brown joined Weather Report in mid-1974, just weeks after his twenty-first birthday. He got the gig by auditioning at Bob Devere’s house (Devere was the band’s manager at the time), after which Joe told him, “Man, you’ve got some big ears.” You can see him in action playing “Boogie Woogie Waltz” in this clip, which was originally filmed for an episode of the television program Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert that aired on December 14, 1974.

Darryl was Weather Report’s regular drummer for the rest of the year, but Joe and Wayne would often bring in other drummers who would join Brown on the bandstand. At one point, Ishmael Wilburn, who recorded on Mysterious Traveller and toured with the band before Brown, came back for a few gigs. But none of the other drummers stuck, which served to motivate Brown.

“There was one time they brought in another drummer from Philly, Emmanuel Hakim,” Brown told me. “He was a very talented drummer, but he played in small jazz trios and things like that, and we were playing like a hard core rock band. In fact, we even opened one time for ZZ Top; somebody thought we could play for that kind of audience. But the bottom line is, I remember Emmanuel playing and doing what he could, but I don’t think he had ever played that loud and that hard. When he finished he just said, ‘Damn!’ [laughs] And it was nice because he was somebody that I had watched. He was older than me, and he was in the band Mean Machine before me. And of course, that didn’t work out.

“And then they got this guy from Africa, and they sent him over, and for some reason he was under the opinion that he actually had the job. So, same thing, that didn’t work out. He even came over with his family, and they sent him back. So these things were happening, and at one point I didn’t like it so much because it told me they had eyes for somebody else potentially. But at the same time, as these guys were being rejected, I kept saying, ‘Well, I must be doing something right,’ because they’ve got to be comparing them to me. And obviously, if a guy came along that they thought did a better job, then they would probably hire him.”

Given this, it’s surprising that Brown wasn’t retained for the Tale Spinnin’ recording sessions, which took place in January 1975. Evidently Joe and Wayne wanted to try something different, and Brown’s status with the band was left hanging. Although he was never told whether he was in or out, his Weather Report days were over. As a consequence of not recording with the band, Darryl’s stint with Weather Report remained relatively unknown until my book presented it in detail.

So what happened after Weather Report? Darryl tells the story:

There were a couple of things that happened. I played with some local bands, and I played with this one guy, Mike Pedicin, Jr., a great saxophone player who used to play with Maynard Ferguson and had some albums of his own. I did some studio work at Philadelphia International Records, and I also put a band together with some evolving great musicians-to-be, including Kevin Eubanks and Michael Wolff. And then Michael Wolff invited me to come to New York; he was putting a band together with Alex Foster called Answering Service. While I was in New York I got a call from Stanley Clarke for the School Days band. I toured with Stanley and did a record with him called I Wanna Play For You. Some of it was live, some in the studio. One of the nicest experiences I had with Stanley was playing at Madison Square Garden when we opened for Bob Marley. That was just amazing.

Somewhere after the Stanley Clarke tour I started taking some college courses. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do; I just felt that I wanted to further my education. I gravitated to science and was a biology major. That was kind of consistent with my household. My mother was a musician, while my father was a chemist. He initially had dreams of becoming a doctor, so he had pre-med books around the house. When I was little I I just looked at the pictures and diagrams. But as I got older I started reading through them, and I think there was an influence there.

When I was studying sciences in college, I had some professors take an interest in me. They thought it was interesting that I had a music background and they encouraged me to consider medical school. Initially, I wasn’t sure, but there was a saxophonist out of Philadelphia named Al Rutherford who was Chief of Cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania. We used to play at a place called Grendal’s Lair in South Philly. He would come down and talk to me about my college courses, and he suggested that I think about medicine.

So as time went on I got more interested in it and I took the medical entrance exams. I did well and I started getting interviewed for medical school. Since there was a time lapse from high school to college, I wondered how that was going to look. I was also thinking about the musician stereotypes and I didn’t know how that would look to medical schools. But Al Rutherford looked at me and said, “Tell them you were playing music. Trust me, they will find it very interesting.” And believe it or not, during my interviews pretty much all they asked about was my experiences with music—who I played with and how I got involved in it. You know, you have to have the grades, but there are a lot of very bright candidates that they’re choosing from. If you have done something unrelated to science—especially if you have accomplished something—that seemed to be something they wanted. So that’s kind of how it went.

I think when I went back to college my parents were a little surprised. And then when I went to medical school, my dad didn’t know what to say. And actually I did play at the medical school, made some money there, which helped me pay for my tuition and all that.

After finishing his residency and passing his board exams, Brown moved to the Phoenix metro area where he practiced internal medicine for over two decades. Although you will find little about Brown’s musical career on the internet, you will find plenty about his character. Just read the comments about him from his friends and patients at legacy.com. He was well-known throughout the community, and many of his former patients posted online testimonials upon his death.

“He was an amazing doctor, musician and person and will be greatly missed,” one commenter posted.

“We had great conversations about the trials of parenting, music, and his generous spirit,” wrote another. “He was a wonderful physician and cared deeply for each and every patient including many of my family members. I loved his laugh and the smile he wore on his face every day.”

“Darryl was not only an amazing musician, he was also one of the finest men I’ve had the pleasure of knowing,” wrote a third. “He was always professional, both as a doctor, and, as I knew him best, as a musician. He carried his joy around with him and shared it with the world. What a smile. I’ll never forget him. If there is a Heaven, Darryl’s drumming with the band… and making them sound better than they are.”

George Wein, 1925–2021

George Wein in 2014. Credit: digboston, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
George Wein, the legendary impresario who virtually invented the concept of the contemporary music festival, died on September 13. He was 95 years old. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, Wein “may have presented more musicians to more people than anyone else in history. He launched the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, the folk festival in 1959 and later developed the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, and dozens of others across Europe, Asia and North America.”

Joe and Wayne performed at many Wein productions over the years. Weather Report’s first time at Newport was to be in 1971, but that appearance was canceled in the wake of a riot the previous night. Later that year, Weather Report participated in a concert in Boston to benefit Wein, who suffered significant financial losses because of the festival’s cancelation. When the festival was moved to New York City the following year, Weather Report took part, as it did in 1973.

Wein inaugurated the Playboy Jazz Festival in 1979, where Weather Report was the headliner. When the band returned in 1981, it put on a stellar performance that prompted journalist Leonard Feather to call them “the unquestioned crowd killers of the festival.” Wein booked Weather Report for yet another appearance in 1982. Given their strong showing the previous year, Wein asked Joe if the band could do “something special”—something that could top the previous year’s gig. He suggested a guest musician, which led to Zawinul inviting the Manhattan Transfer to perform “Birdland” with Weather Report—a surprise, unannounced encore that brought down the house.

Aside from appearances at Wein’s festivals, there are a couple of stories that involve Wein and Zawinul that are of interest. It is well-known that Joe came to the United States in 1959 thanks to a partial scholarship to the Berklee School of Music. Less well-known is that Wein almost brought Zawinul to the States in 1958 as part of the International Youth Band, which Wein organized with Marshall Brown for a performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. As Wein describes in his autobiography, Myself Among Others, he and Brown were intent on including musicians from across Europe, but finding one from Switzerland proved difficult.

“We could find no suitable musicians in Switzerland, one of our target countries,” Wein wrote. “Fortunately, we did find a good Swiss pianist by the name of George Gruntz—in Milan. Our problem seemed to have been solved, but another arose when we discovered a more desirable pianist in Austria, a young man by the name of Josef Zawinul. What could we do? There were a number of good musicians in Austria, but only one capable player from Switzerland. And so it was that we chose George Gruntz over Joey Zawinul for the International Youth Band.”

The other story takes place shortly after Joe arrived at the Berklee School of Music in January 1959. Joe was older and quite a bit more experienced than most of the Berklee students, and he found the curriculum to be well-beneath his abilities. However, there was an advantage in being the best piano student in school. Wein owned and operated the Storyville jazz club, located not far from Berklee in Boston. About two weeks into the semester, Ella Fitzgerald was scheduled to appear there. The pianist for the house band was ill that night, so Wein called Berklee for a substitute. Ray Santisi, a legendary piano teacher at the school, sent Joe. He impressed the drummer, Jake Hanna, who called his former employer, trumpet player and bandleader Maynard Ferguson, whose pianist was going into the Army. On Hanna’s recommendation, Joe to auditioned with the Ferguson band the next day. The rest, as they say, is history.

Chick Corea, 1941-2021

In a Facebook post today, Chick Corea’s family announced that he died on Tuesday, February 9. The news came as a shock. His death was due to rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently. He was 79 years old.

Corea enjoyed one of the most distinguished careers in jazz. As Ted Panken wrote for his Downbeat obituary of Corea:

It’s quite possible that no jazz musician ever conceived, composed and/or performed with more top-notch bands than pianist-keyboardist-composer Armando Anthony “Chick” Corea, who was born on June 12, 1941. An NEA Jazz Master who won 23 Grammy awards, and a treasure trove of Downbeat Readers and Critics poll honors, Corea’s conception of jazz was, as he told Downbeat in 2017, “a spirit of creativity.” He continued: “Great art is made when the artist is free to try whatever techniques he wants, and combine things any way he wants. That makes life interesting and a joy. I try to live that way as best I can. I don’t always succeed. I would like others to acknowledge my freedom to be myself and try new things any time I want to, and I try to treat other people that way.”

Chick Corea was one of the musicians I gravitated to when I was a teenager. Among the first LPs I bought was Return to Forever’s Where Have I Known You Before, which was released in 1974. And one of the first concerts I attended was Return to Forever’s performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles for the Romantic Warrior tour. That show left an impression, that’s for sure. This was the classic RTF lineup, with Lenny White, Al Di Meola and Stanley Clarke, at the height of its powers and popularity. I remember walking out of the hall in awe, asking my music teacher, “Do you think they are the best musicians on their instruments?!” My teacher offered me a gentle response. “They are some of the best, yes.”

In 1981 I had the pleasure of sitting right next to Chick when he performed a benefit show at Pasquale’s, a tiny jazz club in Malibu. I could have reached over and touched the piano keys. That was a cool vantage point to watch a master at work. A few years later I saw Chick’s band at Disneyland, where I sat in the front row of a sparsely attended theater. (I wonder if he got annoyed with me taking photos during the show. I wish I could find those slides now!) There were other shows—the duets with Herbie Hancock and the first RTF reunion tour, among others—but the Dorothy Chandler performance stands out as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen by any band.

Although he was several years younger than Joe and Wayne, Chick came up in much the same musical environment. Around 1968 Chick replaced Herbie Hancock in Miles Davis’s band, joining Wayne on the bandstand. It was a time of experimentation for Davis, leading to the albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, which are largely credited with launching the jazz-rock movement of the 1970s. Along with Corea and Wayne, Zawinul was a major contributor to those albums, too, composing “In a Silent Way” and “Pharaoh’s Dance,” the latter of which consumed the entire first side of the Bitches Brew double-LP.

In addition to the piano, Corea was an excellent drummer. At one point early in his career he more or less gave up the piano in favor of the drums because he grew tired of having to play on pianos that were in poor condition. That changed in 1967 when he got the gig with Stan Getz, whose stature afforded high caliber instruments. Chick was one of the musicians Wayne called upon for his 1969 album Super Nova, where Wayne asked him to play drums and marimba. Airto Moreira, who later played on Weather Report’s first album, was also on the Super Nova sessions.

“I got to the studio early and when I walked in there was a guy practicing drums and he was playing some incredible stuff,” Airto remembered. He asked producer Duke Pearson if it was Jack DeJohnette, who was also in the studio. “No, that’s Chick Corea,” Pearson replied. Having just arrived in New York from Brazil, Airto thought if the piano players in New York are this good on drums, imagine what the real drummers must be like! “I said, ’Oh my God, I’m going home!'” Airto recalled. “‘I left the studio and started walking down the street, but Flora [Purim, Airto’s wife] had come with me and she said, ’You have to go back and play.’ So I went back and did the session and it ended up being an incredible session with some beautiful music.”

At around the same time, Corea called upon Weather Report’s third co-founder Miroslav Vitous for his album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, which is now considered an essential work in the jazz piano trio cannon. Miroslav’s participation came about from living at Walter Booker’s apartment in New York, where Corea came by to jam, along with many others. “I had just met Miroslav,” Corea remembered, “and we were doing some more free kind of stuff together, me and Miroslav.” As a result, Corea called him for the date.

Chick’s band Return to Forever was one of the jazz-rock heavyweights back when jazz-rock was the dominant force in jazz. For a handful of years RTF was right up there with Weather Report in terms of popularity, and the bands shared a handful of gigs in 1973 and 1974. At the earlier shows, Weather Report opened for Return to Forever. Bradie Speller, a percussionist who sat in with the band for a November 1973 gig in Ohio, remembers it being “a disaster.” Return to Forever “knocked the ball out of the park, and then we came on and Butch [Ishmael Wilburn] was playing so strong that he pushed a hole into the kick drum itself. Fortunately, Dom Um [Romão] had a drum set on stage and he jumped off the percussion and onto the drums. It was not the same, so we had trouble.”

By the fall of 1974, Mysterious Traveller had been released and Weather Report didn’t want to take second billing anymore. They abruptly pulled out of a concert in Lewiston, New York (near Buffalo), complaining that newspaper ads failed to give them equal billing to Return to Forever. According to Variety, the audience was told of the no-show just before showtime. Return to Forever played for an extra hour to make up for Weather Report’s absence, while about 100 of the 1200 attendees requested refunds. (A few days later Weather Report was listed first in ads for their joint Cleveland concert.)

In June of last year, Chick posted this photo on his Facebook page. It was taken in June 1984.

Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Wayne ShorterJoe Zawinul, Chick Corea, and Wayne Shorter, June 1984.

“Joe Zawinul—what a monster!” Chick wrote. “He was a mad scientist with the electric keyboards; he could really make them talk. And Wayne Shorter, my God–two of my heroes. They were co-leaders of Weather Report during the ‘Fusion Era’ in the 70s. Weather Report, Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra were 3 of the big touring groups at that time. Amazing musicians and great friends.”

Rest in peace, Chick. Thanks for all the great music.

Andrew Nathaniel White III, 1942–2020

Andrew White

Andrew White—saxophonist, oboist, bassist, educator and scholar—passed away on Wednesday, November 11. He was 78 years old. White is best known to Weather Report fans for playing electric bass on Weather Report’s third album, Sweetnighter. He also played English horn on the band’s previous LP, I Sing the Body Electric.

When I think of Andrew White, the first phrase that comes to mind is “one of a kind.” There truly was no one quite like him in the jazz world, if not the world at large.

For nearly fifty years he ran Andrew’s Music from the same unassuming house in Washington, D.C. He never entered the computer age, never had an email address, and didn’t use a cell phone. If you wanted to contact him, you either had to call his home (which invariably resulted in getting his answer machine, one of his few nods to the modern age), or you had to write him a letter and send it via postal mail.

Whenever I wrote him, I addressed him as:

Mr. Andrew White
President, executive producer, producer, editor, collaborator, transcriber, copyist, recording supervisor, arranger, accountant, publicist, typist, engineer, composer, performer, author, manager, booking agent, package handler, mail boy and janitor

I got these titles from his books. It’s how he described the various roles he undertook while running the one-man shop that he used to produce and sell his own records and publications. He billed himself as “the most voluminously self-published artist in the history of the music business (so I’ve been told),” and his catalog listed thousands of items for sale from Andrew’s Music.

White was recruited by Joe and Wayne to play electric bass on Sweetnighter because Joe had seen him with the Fifth Dimension on television. Zawinul thought White could provide the funky underpinnings that he wanted for Weather Report’s new music. Before the Fifth Dimension, White played bass in Stevie Wonder’s band. These gigs paid well, and they bankrolled his other activities, including making his own records and faithfully transcribing hundreds of John Coltrane solos.

He also sold a transcription of his bass part on “125th Street Congress.” “That’s one of my biggest bass transcriptions in terms of sales,” he told me in 2017. “And every time Columbia puts that record out, people look on there to see who the bass player is, and it’s me. And then they start calling me. And I say, well, if you want to play like me, you buy that transcription. I’ve been selling that transcription for thirty years.”

White was a music scholar, graduating cum laude from Howard University in 1964 with a major in music theory and a minor in the oboe. He continued his academic career at the Paris Conservatory of Music, Dartmouth College, and the State University of New York, and became the principal oboist for the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra in 1968. But he also had a bawdy sense of humor that was unfiltered by the norms of polite society. One of the forty-odd LPs he self-produced was Far Out Flatulence: A Concerto for Flatulaphone, which consists of 56 minutes of White farting into a microphone.

While jazz was White’s primary love, he was never fully accepted as a jazz artist of stature. In a 2019 Jazz Times profile, White said, “My whole career started out, even in 1960 when I came to Washington, with a severe handicap, which is, I was told very early on that I had no commercial viability,” he says. “My saxophone sound has too much resonance in it, and I was told it would not register well on recording tape, so I couldn’t make good records-and they wouldn’t even know what to do with the records anyway. So I’ve been off in the corner ever since. But nobody ever said I couldn’t play.

“Nobody was knockin’ on my door, so I knocked on my own door, because I had the resources from [professionally performing] rock ‘n’ roll. There are other fellas in my ilk like Coltrane and Eric Dolphy and Ornette [Coleman], they probably didn’t have the resources to do it themselves, and if they did who knows what we could have had from those cats, because they were working under what they call professional supervision. I’ve done all this myself, so I’ve never had anyone tell me what won’t sell,” he laughs in his deep, distinctive guffaw. “I put it all out myself and it’s done well for me, but then I’m not ambitious either. I’m happy with the sales I get, which wouldn’t impress somebody else who would tell me what won’t sell and who probably wouldn’t put it on the record. And who knows how much music that Coltrane had, and all those cats, who never got to even play it in the studio because somebody told them, ‘Well, we don’t need this.’

“I was considered an oddball just like they were. I think Coltrane and Eric and Ornette, to a lesser degree, they didn’t have so much resonance in their sound that it wouldn’t register well on tape.”

If that lack of acceptance hurt Andrew, you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. He was a cheerful man with a big, hearty laugh. He conducted himself with the satisfaction of having done things on his own terms. I will miss him.

Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, RIP

Leon “Ndugu” Chancler passed away last night after a battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

Of course, Weather Report fans know Ndugu as the drummer on the band’s fifth studio LP, Tale Spinnin’. His involvement was pure serendipity. The band was rehearsing for the album at the same time that Ndugu was recording a Jean-Luc Ponty album just down the street. One day they all emerged from their respective studios at the same time and met up on the sidewalk. “Ndugu, what are you doing in the next two days?” Zawinul asked. Chancler said he was wrapping up his session with Ponty, but would be free the following week. “Come and do a session with Weather Report,” Joe suggested. It went so well that Zawinul wanted to hire him in the band, but Chancler was committed to Santana and turned him down.

Ironically, his initial reaction upon hearing Tale Spinnin’ was that he didn’t like it. “I didn’t like the drum sound,” he told me in an interview. “That was my first reaction. The reason being is, I didn’t feel like, at that point, I didn’t have the Weather Report drum sound. I played great, but I thought I had the session sound versus the Weather Report sound. And all it was, I was used to hearing non-session drummers play with Weather Report, and I was used to that sound and not a more polished studio sound. I really liked it, but at the time I thought it was very different from Weather Report.”

Like many fusion drummers of the 1970s, Ndugu was an extremely versatile drummer, well versed in all styles. He began his professional career as a teenager and toured Japan and Europe with Miles Davis when he was 19. After spending much of the ’70s on the road with the likes of Miles, Santana and George Duke, he began concentrating on studio and production work, playing on a diverse range of albums including Herbie Hancock’s Mr. Hands, Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad, Kenny Rogers’ We’ve Got Tonight, and Frank Sinatra’s L.A. Is My Lady. His production credits included work with Tina Turner, Santana, George Duke, The Bar Kays, and the Dazz Band. His credits are vast and include innumerable movie soundtracks and television shows.

Ndugu was a big proponent of music education and for many years was a professor at the University of Southern California’s Thorton School of Music. Peter Erskine, who is the Director of Drumset Studies at USC, posted a remembrance of Ndugu on Facebook. I don’t think he’ll mind if I reproduce it here.

Ndugu’s passing leaves the world a poorer place, with a giant hole at USC’s Thornton School of Music where he taught for so many years. I can’t think of anyone who made bigger musical marks and in so many different genres — George Duke, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Weather Report, Michael Jackson, Patrice Rushen, plus countless gigs as the drummer in jazz festival all-star bands … I know I’m leaving out many, many names. But it was in his work as an educator and advocate for technical achievement that set him apart. Ndugu was tireless in his insistence that drummers know their rudiments. That combination of old-school strictness with his open musical mind (plus experience) resulted in a steady stream of excellent players coming out of his studio, and a world-wide group of inspired drummers who benefitted from his gospel. He long-served as a vital conscience to our drumming world.

I’ll miss him on campus. I’ll miss him at PASIC. I’ll miss his exuberance, both on and off the drums. I’ve been a fan since his 1975 recording of George Duke’s “I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry” album … first time I ever heard such hip drumming like that. It was some new stuff. On second thought: Nudugu left the world a far greater place. We are all going to miss him. Condolences to his family, friends, and everyone who knew him. RIP, Ndugu, and thank you for all of the passion and the music.