Drumming from the bottom up
"Hard To Face The Music" (V. Simpson - N. Ashford)
Idris Muhammad, from House Of The Rising Sun, Kudu/CTI, 1976
It's not an overstatement: New Orleans drummers have profoundly influenced the world's groove. They are an elite breed of musical samurai…. Jonathan Tabak, Offbeat
New Orleans wouldn’t be the Home of the Groove if it weren’t way deep in drummers, past and present: Paul Barbarin, Zutty Singleton, Baby Dodds, Earl Palmer, Ed Blackwell, James Black, John Boudreaux, Smokey Johnson, Zig Modeliste, Herman Ernest. . . (somebody stop me!). You get the picture. But don’t let me leave out our featured skins man, Idris Muhammad, who started out life as Leo Morris in the 13th Ward, Uptown New Orleans, nearby to the Neville family, and engulfed by music. Starting with the neighborhood music outsiders call traditional jazz, he soon was in demand for R&B sessions, road work with the stars, stints at the Apollo and on Broadway, before being called to the contemporary jazz scene in the late 1960’s.
But, I’m going to let him tell the stories by linking you to a great interview at the end of this piece. He’s a fascinating cat, who’s attitude, chops and career sum up so well the roots of Crescent City funk that have spread into so many aspects of popular music and jazz here and around the planet.
I definitely need to get the import CD reissue of House Of The Rising Sun, becuse my LP is wearing out; and the CD has two bonus cuts. I’m not into everything on the record; but it has killer playing throughout. “Hard To Face The Music” sports a syncopated shuffle (love those tom-tom fills) that recalls the street parade second lines of Idris Muhammad’s hometown. Lending support to his statement in both interviews that he plays from the bottom up, it’s his kick that locks the groove and funks it up tight with the seemingly effortless skill and instinct of a master drummer. There’s hip horn work by George Young on sax and Fred Wesly on ‘bone. Joe Beck’s on guitar, and either Don Grolnick or Leon Pendarvis on keyboard. And, in a rare outing, Eric Gale pumps some tasty bass. Here’s a review of the LP version to give you more details on this Creed Taylor production.
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