Not that this album would have been included, but I need to get back and update the reissue list, there have been five or six reissues of Taylor-produced albums since the last update. However, I thought it worth getting out in front of this one. If you don’t have an original release or one of the numerous reissues on vinyl or CD, Idris Muhammad’s first leader album “Black Rhythm Revolution” is being reissued this month. Copies are already available on eBay, with one enthusiastic seller asking $131 on Discogs.

Idris MUHAMMAD
Black Rhythm Revolution!

Format: 180 gram vinyl LP
Cat: 724206 4
Released: 14 Jul 23
Genre: R&B Instrumental, Funk, Jazz

This pressing from Craft Records likely follows on from the 2020 limited edition Vinyl Me Please pressing of just 1,000. The 2023 pressing should be available from major stores and online for $34.99. Grab one!

There are no new tracks, it’s a straight re-issue.

The Van Gelder Black Rhythm Revolution

Idris Muhammad went into Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio in New Jersey in November 2nd 1970 to record “Black Rhythm Revolution!” He would later say that “Rudy made me a lot of money, his recording of music was so unusual and so clear that we became instant friends from the first recording that I made with him for Blue Note Records. [1]Muhammad, Idris. Inside the Music: the Life of Idris Muhammad: The Life of Idris Muhammad . Xlibris US. Kindle Edition.

Sidemen booked for the session included Jimmy Lewis(Fender bass), Buddy Caldwell(congas), Harold Mabern(electric piano), Melvin Sparks(guitar), Virgil Jones(trumpet), with Clarence Thomas(tenor/soprano saxophone) – Thomas also did the arrangements. Bob Porter was the producer [2](credited on the album as supervisor and liner notes. Some online websites and sellers are listing this album as featuring “Kenny Barron” and “Ron Carter”, they are not on this album.

The track list includes the Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band hit “Express yourself” – it’s a good cover that is true to the loose improvisational performance of the original minus the vocals, that sees both Thomas and Melvin Sparks solo; “Soulful Drums” was originally from McDuff’s 1963 album “Screamin'”. The track became the title track for a 1964 McDuff album “The Soulful Drums Of Joe Dukes With The Brother Jack McDuff Quartet” which includes George Benson, Idris solos and is stretched to keep the groove.

The cover of James Brown’s “Super Bad” is definitely one of the funkiest tracks. It’s worth noting that Muhammad would often say he didn’t need or use a metronome in recording sessions because he could keep perfect time. He does this perfectly on “Super Bad”, featuring solos again by Thomas and Sparks. For me, the best track on the album is the last track, “By The Red Sea”, which is a much more subtle, soulful Idris Muhammad than the album’s prior track “Wander”, also the longer track at 11:10, in which Muhammad solos for a few minutes.

I forget when Creed Taylor said it, but “no one needs to hear a 5-minute drum solo on record”. Virgil Jones is on top form with his voicing on “By The Red Sea” as well. Buy it, stream it, listen to it!

The Riddle Of Blueberry Hill

“I grew up in New Orleans. I started out with the Neville Brothers. That’s my family. Arthur Neville had a band when I was 14 or 15 [the Hawkettes]. They needed a drummer. All of my brothers are drummers. They just happened to grab a hold of me because everybody else was workin.’ That was the launching of my career, playin’ professionally,” says Muhammad [3]https://www.allaboutjazz.com/idris-muhammad-coming-to-grips-with-his-greatness-idris-muhammad-by-rj-deluke.

All About Jazz Interview from 2002 – R.J. DeLuke

Leo Morris moved to New York from New Orleans via Chicago. His time as a drummer for Sam Cooke is well documented, and he talks about it in numerous interviews. One oddity from many of the obituaries and biographies is that Morris is listed as the drummer for the legendary cover of “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino in 1956. It’s perfectly possible that Morris played on the track; after all, he had already played with the Hawkettes. Born in 1939, that would have made Morris 14 or 15 at the time of the Hawkettes’ recordings, add 2-years, he’d have been 16-17.

The obituary in the UK Independent Newspaper by Brian Morton describes Morris and Fats Domino as “an association he remained wryly proud of” [4]https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/idris-muhammad-new-orleans-jazz-drummer-who-played-as-a-teenager-on-fats-domino-s-hit-single-blueberry-hill-9658186.html. Reference to Morris playing on “Blueberry Hill” is also made in R. Anthony Kugler’s “Contemporary Black Biography”. However, in Rick Coleman’s first ever biography of Antoine Fats Domino “Blue Monday : Fats Domino and the lost dawn of rock ‘n’ roll” [5]First Da Capo Press edition 2006 10-ISBN 0-306-81491-9 seems quite clear the track was recorded with Cornelius “Tenoo” Coleman [6]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_%22Tenoo%22_Coleman [7]https://tims.blackcat.nl/messages/cornelius_coleman.htm, Domino’s drummer for 15-years both in the studio and on tour. It is surprising then that there is no explanation why Morris did the session instead of Coleman.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 27, Fats tried to play the old standard “Blueberry Hill” at Master Recorders in Hollywood. Fats had heard Louis Armstrong’s version and was determined to one day record the song. But he couldn’t remember all of the words, so Harrison Verret played it through on the piano, once again teaching him chord changes. Domino devised a beautiful piano introduction ending with a trill and sang with a honey-toned drawl. Walter “Papoose” Nelson added a mellow guitar riff that dominated the rhythm section, including Lawrence Guyton on bass and Cornelius Coleman on drums.

Bartholomew instructed the sax players—Buddy Hagans, Wendell Duconge, and Eddie Silvers (a new band member from East St. Louis)—to gently roll the song along in unison. But after the session, he listened to the tapes and shook his head. He didn’t get a full take of “Blueberry Hill”; they had only completed the hard-riffing “Honey Chile.” He put the tape on Chudd’s desk and went out to dinner. At the restaurant, Bartholomew told his boss, “Lew, I don’t think I have nothin’.”

Domino’s new recording would ensure that rock and roll music was hear to stay and a massive crossover hit. It was initially released as a b-side, with “Honey Chile” as the a-side. Domino’s partner Dave Bartholomew warned that “Blueberry Hill“ – edited together from half-finished takes by engineer Bunny Robyn—would “ruin” Domino. Robyn would say “We never got a full good take.” “I took his first chorus and repeated it because it was so damned good.”

“Blue Monday : Fats Domino and the lost dawn of rock ‘n’ roll – Rick Coleman – First Da Capo Press edition 2006 10-ISBN 0-306-81491-9

The 2014 film, “The Big Beat: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll” by Joe Lauro also identifies Coleman as the drummer. This is understandable since the film leans heavily on Rick Coleman’s research [8]https://www.jerryjazzmusician.com/rick-coleman-author-of-blue-monday-fats-domino-and-the-lost-dawn-of-rock-n-roll/. The film is a great look at the life of Fats Domino, who only died in 2017 (age 89). It also features Dave Bartholomew Fat’s co-creator. The film maybe available via your local PBS station at pbs.org [9]https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/fats-domino-and-the-birth-of-rock-n-roll/6230/. It’s also available on other streaming platforms.

While Morris does say he worked with Domino, even in his own biography he doesn’t mention playing on “Blueberry Hill” [10]details from fellow drummer Britt Alexander with whom Idris Muhammed recorded a number of interviews that were transcribed into the 2012 “Inside the Music: the Life of Idris Muhammad: The Life of … Continue reading.

There were apparently three versions of “Blueberry Hill” after the master used for the original 78RPM pressing, as discussed was subject to a lot of editing. However, all three versions of the track were from the same master tape with some physical editing [11]http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.com/2015/02/fats-domino-part-1.html.

It’s clearly an issue that is subject to claim and counter claim. In the 2008 book “The Commandments Of Early Rhythm And Blues Drumming A Guided Tour Through The Musical Era That Birthed Rock N Roll Soul Funk And Hiphop” page-59, lists Earl Parmer as the drummer on “Blueberry Hill” [12]Zoro & Daniel Glass ISBN-10: 0-7390-5399-X

Any information or detail please leave a comment or CONTACT US (aka me).

Jazz In New York

Some of his earliest New York recordings were a series of albums as drummer to sax man Lou Donaldson[13]https://www.discogs.com/search/?q=leo+morris+lou+donaldson&type=master&format_exact=LP&country_exact=US. Morris recorded on his 1967 albums “Alligator Boogaloo”, “Mr. Shing-A-Ling” and “Blowing In The Wind”; also 1968’s “Midnight Creeper” and 1969’s “Say It Loud”. He also appears on Donaldson’s “Lou Donaldson: Live Fried Buzzard”. A live album from a weekend of live recording (Friday and Saturday nights, August 6 & 7, 1965 at the Bon Ton in Buffalo, N.Y.). At the end of the title track, Donaldson introduces the band and says “the young man on the drums, making his first appearance in the United States, so lets give him a nice welcome, from New Orleans Louisiana, Mr Leo Morris.”

Two of the Donaldson albums featured George Benson and Lonnie Smith. Morris would appear on two 1969 Benson albums “Tell It Like It Is”, and “Shape of Things To Come”. He was also a sideman on CTI/A&M albums by Paul Desmond and JJ Johnson and Kai Winding.

On Broadway

Morris worked for 4 years in the Broadway musical “Hair” at the Biltmore Theater, working as a drummer and composer. Morris appeared on stage playing with the band on the flatbed of a truck. He also played on the cast album and published a book titled “Drum Arrangements From Hair”. The book came about after Morris was sick and couldn’t perform for a week, other drummers were unable to adequately fiill-in for him. Among others, “Hair” included Keith Carradine who went on to play the lead in the TV series “Kung Fu” and singer Melba Moore who would have a string of hit songs in the 1970’s.

At the same time as Morris was performing for “Hair”, across Broadway, he worked as the percussion consultant in “The Indians”. Morris was, as he put it, “burning the candle at both ends” and recording for Prestige, CTI, and Blue Note.

Burnout, Blackness and Islam

Morris said he needed to get out of “Hair”, away from Broadway, and out of New York City [14]details from fellow drummer Britt Alexander with whom Idris Muhammed recorded a number of interviews that were transcribed into the 2012 “Inside the Music: the Life of Idris Muhammad: The Life of … Continue reading. He quit to go on tour with Roberta Flack to join her band and toured, playing on her hit “Killing Me Softly.” He also spent time in India [15]https://64parishes.org/the-power-of-soul.

Among the recordings in the 1969-1972 period were a series of albums based around the theme of “Blackness”, including “Black Out” (Fats Theus, CT), “Black Talk!” (Charles Earland, Prestige), “The Black Cat!” (Gene Ammons, Prestige), and “Black Vibrations” (Sonny Stitt, Prestige), and of course, his own Prestige album “Black Rhythm Revolution”. All these albums and many others from that time were aimed at the increasingly socially and racially important African American audiences. In some ways these recordings paralleled the “blaxploitation” movies of the same period.

It was during the mid’ to late 1960’s that he opened his life to the Muslim faith, becoming Idris Muhammad. He was part of a movement among African Americans seeking greater awareness and connectivity. Idris Muhammad did his first of five pilgrimages to Mecca during the حَجّ / Hajj [16]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj in February 1970, to cement his place in the Islamic religion. He would later say: “Every time I go to Mecca, it seems like the first recording I do upon my return is a hit record for them. Whoever I come into contact with, they have a hit record”.

20 May 1993, Paris, France — American jazz drummer Idris Muhammad. He was born Leo Morris before changing his name in the 1960s upon his conversion to Islam. He is known for his funky playing style. — Image by © Philippe Levy-Stab/Corbis

Angela

Idris Muhammad would also tour with the CTI All-Stars before going on to record his own leader albums for KUDU; I plan to come back and discuss those at a later date. Perhaps least known but most heard, he played drums for Bob James studio recording of the theme for the TV show “Taxi”. You can hear Idris’ hi-hat right after the George Marge lead-in.

References

References
1 Muhammad, Idris. Inside the Music: the Life of Idris Muhammad: The Life of Idris Muhammad . Xlibris US. Kindle Edition.
2 (credited on the album as supervisor and liner notes
3 https://www.allaboutjazz.com/idris-muhammad-coming-to-grips-with-his-greatness-idris-muhammad-by-rj-deluke
4 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/idris-muhammad-new-orleans-jazz-drummer-who-played-as-a-teenager-on-fats-domino-s-hit-single-blueberry-hill-9658186.html
5 First Da Capo Press edition 2006 10-ISBN 0-306-81491-9
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_%22Tenoo%22_Coleman
7 https://tims.blackcat.nl/messages/cornelius_coleman.htm
8 https://www.jerryjazzmusician.com/rick-coleman-author-of-blue-monday-fats-domino-and-the-lost-dawn-of-rock-n-roll/
9 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/fats-domino-and-the-birth-of-rock-n-roll/6230/
10, 14 details from fellow drummer Britt Alexander with whom Idris Muhammed recorded a number of interviews that were transcribed into the 2012 “Inside the Music: the Life of Idris Muhammad: The Life of Idris Muhammad” biography. ISBN: Hardcover 978-1-4691-9217-8 ASIN ‏: ‎B079K1ZG98
11 http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.com/2015/02/fats-domino-part-1.html
12 Zoro & Daniel Glass ISBN-10: 0-7390-5399-X
13 https://www.discogs.com/search/?q=leo+morris+lou+donaldson&type=master&format_exact=LP&country_exact=US
15 https://64parishes.org/the-power-of-soul
16 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj

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