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Idris Muhammad, Drummer Who Crossed Genre Lines, Dies at 74

For more than 50 years, a New Orleans fixture

Idris Muhammad
Idris Muhammad

Idris Muhammad, an all-purpose New Orleans-born drummer whose career found him working both as leader and in-demand collaborator, with artists falling into the jazz, funk and R&B camps, died July 29, according to several news sources. The cause and location of death were not reported, but Muhammad was known to have been living in New Orleans since 2011, undergoing dialysis treatment.

Born Leo Morris on November 13, 1939, the musician changed his name in the 1960s upon converting to Islam. By that time he had already logged countless hours in New Orleans studios, beginning at age 16 when he played on Fats Domino’s iconic R&B hit “Blueberry Hill.” He also played with the Hawketts (including Art Neville) and toured with soul music pioneer Sam Cooke during that period.

In 1966, he married Dolores “LaLa” Brooks of the rock and roll girl group the Crystals; they separated in 1999.

Muhammad’s long list of sideman credits includes work with such jazz headliners as Pharoah Sanders, Lou Donaldson, Grover Washington Jr., Nat Adderley, Gene Ammons, Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal, Andrew Hill, Roberta Flack, John Scofield, Sonny Stitt, George Benson, Randy Weston, Melvin Sparks, Joe Lovano and many others. In 1970, Muhammad released his debut album as a leader, Black Rhythm Revolution!, on the Prestige label. He subsequently recorded more than a dozen albums under his own name.

Muhammad published his autobiography, Inside The Music: The Life of Idris Muhammad, in 2012.

Originally Published