Idris Muhammad: Kabsha

4 Aug


Idris Muhammad died last month at age 74 and the bassist Christian McBride asked shortly thereafter: “Does anyone realize what a true drum hero this man was?”

Apparently not, if the dearth of news — from points other than Muhammad’s native New Orleans — was any indication.

The careers of some jazz musicians, like Dave Brubeck and Charlie Haden, are appropriately celebrated. Others, like Muhammad, are barely acknowledged widely, the acclaim faint, like a note not played loudly enough.

Muhammad was 16, and still known as Leo Morris when he played with Fats Domino on Blueberry Hill. In the next half century he accompanied scores of jazz musicians, led his own band, delved into funk and R&B, produced Turn This Mutha Out and grew to appreciate hip-hop, according to an interview Muhammad did with waxpoetics.com.

“Even though hip-hop musicians appropriate your music? And you’re not necessarily getting paid for it?,” he was asked by interviewer Eothen Alapatt.

Answered Muhammad: “It don’t really belong to me, man; I’m only the creator. If you take something I create, and you do something with it, then someone else will take it and move it to another stage. And this is what happened with hip-hop. This is in my aura. I’m doing stuff for people to put out there so people can grab it. The gift the Creator has given me, I can’t be selfish with. If I keep it in my pocket, it’s not going to go anyplace. It doesn’t matter if a guy stole from me. I’d say, ‘Well, what did you do? Okay, let me show you this.’ This is how I live.”

The New Orleans radio host George Ingmire said he’d put Muhammad on his “Mount Rushmore of New Orleans drummers along with Smokey Johnson, Johnny Vidacovich and Herlin Riley,” according to nola.com

It might be worth checking the other three out, especially since New Orleans gave us Muhammad, and in no particular order Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, the Marsalises and Louis Armstrong. Muhammad said in the waxpoetics.com interview his father played his banjo with the latter.

Said Muhammad, in an interview with waxpoetics.com, on his music: “Well, you see, man, it don’t belong to us. Secretly, whatever you have is gonna come out anyhow. If you think you are hiding something—you have a private vault that you have stuff in—when you leave this world your wife is going to open it up and sell everything. She’s gonna sell everything in that vault! It’s gonna come out anyway. So why not be free with it while you’re here and share it with other people? ’Cause it don’t belong to you.”

Kabsha, the cut above, is from Muhammad’s 1980 album of the same name. From the review by allmusic.com’s Scott Yanow: “Muhammad, who had often been heard in funky or more commercial settings, really excels in this sparse setting, showing off what he learned from hearing bands in his native New Orleans.”

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