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by Seth Colter Walls

August 15, 2014

Rip | Jazz

Idris Muhammad RIP

by Seth Colter Walls  |  August 15, 2014

The great drummer born Leo Morris died earlier this month at the age of 74. Perhaps no percussionist can claim as wide a stylistic discography as the man who, midcareer, changed his name to Idris Muhammad. Click play on our memorial playlist, and the first thing you'll hear is his funk-drenched soul-jazz treatment of the traditional song "House of the Rising Sun."

Given the indelible groove on that cut, is it any surprise that Muhammad was sought out to provide the soulful support for a run of key albums in the soul-jazz era, on albums from Prestige to Blue Note? (He even helped avant-gardist Andrew Hill get funky.) Keep listening, and you'll hear the Idris beat on classics like Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin Love", Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" and the original cast recording of Hair.

But before his late-'60s and early-'70s career developments, the young Leo Morris also played a role in early rock, on the Fats Domino cut "Blueberry Hill." And as befits a legend from New Orleans, he also had a part in The Hawketts' "Mardi Gras Mambo." From there, our playlist shifts to his late-career collaboration with free jazz saxophone powerhouse Pharoah Sanders. From sideman appearances on albums by Grant Green and Lou Donaldson to Muhammad's own Power of Soul album, we've gathered 30 key tracks from a career that otherwise defies summary. Enjoy!

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