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Drummer Steve Reid Dies at 66

Drummer played with Miles, Fela, James Brown and Sun Ra and collaborated with Kieran Hebden

Steve Reid

Drummer and percussionist Steve Reid died Monday, April 12, according to an announcement from Domino Records, which released several of his recordings. Reid was 66 and had been suffering from cancer. He resided in Lugano, Switzerland, though also spent some time in the Bronx, N.Y.

Reid was just 17 when he was hired by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, with whom he recorded the hits “Heat Wave” and “Dancing in the Streets.” He later became the drummer in the house band at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. That band was led by Quincy Jones.

Reid went on to record and perform with a diverse set of soul and jazz artists during the ’60s and ’70s: straight-ahead jazz with Jackie McLean, Horace Silver and Freddie Hubbard; avant-garde jazz with Sun Ra and Charles Tyler; pop sessions and shows with artists like Dionne Warwick.

He eventually drifted away from the American music scene, although Reid attributed this more to his own eclectic nature rather than to any sort of intentional separation. John Murph profiled Reid in the 2008 January/February edition of JazzTimes. In that article, Reid says, “My thing has always been kind of weird. That’s probably why I’m not as established on the jazz map, because I was going to different places for years. Some people thought that I had disappeared or something.” Indeed, Reid had not disappeared. He merely was exploring different musical genres. In his later years, Reid investigated African music in all its complexity, with an emphasis on the music of Senegal.

Although Reid had a long career as a sideman for various African, soul and jazz artists, and occasionally led his own groups, he most recently came into the public eye because of a collaboration with electronica artist Kieran Hebden. Their recordings had crossover success not only in the avant-jazz community, but also in the electronic field. In a statement posted on the Domino Records site, Hebden said of Reid: “Steve was one of my great friends and the most wonderful musician I have ever encountered. The music and adventures we shared have been some of the most happy and meaningful experiences I’ve ever had. A true inspiration. He lived a great life and gave us incredible music. I’ll miss him forever.”

For more information about Reid and his life in music, read John Murph’s in-depth profile for JT two years ago.

Originally Published