In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Idris Muhammad

Drummer Idris Muhammad died July 29, 2014 at age 74. Born Leo Morris in New Orleans, he began playing professionally at age 12. From 1962–65 he played with soul singers Sam Cooke and Jerry Butler and the group the Impressions. He also worked with singer Betty Carter and played with saxophonist Lou Donaldson from 1965–67, during which time he took the Muslim name Idris Muhammad. He played drums for the musical Hair from 1969–73 and also served as house drummer for Prestige Records, where he recorded with such artists as Harold Maeburn, Houston Person, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt and others. He also recorded with singer Roberta Flack and led his own group.

He concentrated on jazz beginning in 1978 when he began playing with Johnny Griffin, and in 1980 he started working with Pharoah Sanders. He was based in Europe in the mid- to late-1980s. In the 1990s, after moving to New York, he worked with John Hicks, Lonnie Smith, Ahmad Jamal, John Scofield, and Monty Alexander. He moved back to New Orleans to retire in 2011.

In Memoriam: Dr. Mark E. Sunkett

Dr. Mark E. Sunkett died on June 26, 2014. He was a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Temple University in Philadelphia where he received his undergraduate and masters degrees. Dr. Sunkett also held a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh. He became a member of the performance faculty at Arizona State University in the fall of 1976. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Percussive Arts Society. 

Dr. Sunkett performed with numerous professional organizations including the Philadelphia Ballet and Opera Orchestras, Penn Contemporary Players, United States Marine Band, Arizona Ballet, and Arizona Opera Orchestras. During the 1975–76 season, Sunkett was an extra "on call" with the world Philadelphia Orchestra. From 1978 to 1982 Sunkett was principal timpanist with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. He has also served as percussionist with jazz, rock, and other popular artists touring the country. 

As an ethnomusicologist, Sunkett's principal areas of research were African American and African music, percussion performance practices and aesthetics. From 1984 to 1996 Sunkett was director of the Kawambe Drum and Dance Ensemble. He had recently stepped out of this position to pursue research in Senegal, West Africa. Since 1994 he was principal investigator on the "Drums of Sénégal Project." This project seeks to document rhythms, history and performance practices among the various ethnic groups in Senegal. 

His publications include Mandiani Drum and Dance: Djimbe Performance and Black Aesthetics from Africa to the New World (White Cliffs Media), the compact disk Mandiani Drum and Dance (White Cliffs Media). A video to accompany these titles was completed in January, 1997. He also published a compact disc featuring Omar Thiam and Jam Bugum titled Sabar, the Soul of Senegal in 1997. His video Drum Making in Senegal can be viewed on Facebook:

In MemoriamWendell R. Jones 

Wendell R. Jones, Bowling Green State University's first full-time percussion faculty member, died June 17, 2014 at age 82. He was widely known throughout Ohio as an advocate for music education, particularly percussion instruments. He excelled at playing marimba and vibraphone and performed as a soloist with several ensembles as well as his own Wendell Jones Trio. After he retired from BGSU in 1992, he enjoyed asecond career as a lawyer, having earned a law degree from the University of Toledo in 1985. 

Jones earned his bachelor's degree in music education at Ohio State as OSU's first percussion graduate. He was especially proud of his association with the Ohio State Marching band. After graduation, he taught and was a free-lance musician in the Columbus area, including a stint as staff musician with WCMH-TV. He also was the featured marimba player with the Xavier Cugat band, a legendary Latin American ensemble. He performed with many touring musical groups, including Melissa Manchester, Frankie Laine, Bob Hope, Glen Campbell, John Davidson and Harry Belafonte. He also was a long-time member of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. In 2001, Jones recorded a CD of his music with bassist Jeff Halsey and Chris Buzzelli on guitar. 

At BGSU he introduced the study and performance of jazz, which at that time was not commonly a part of collegiate music curricula. He was a founding member of the BGSU Jazz Ensemble as well as several student groups including the Marimba Sextet. He brought many jazz artists to BGSU starting in the early 1970s, and in 1980 he was instrumental in starting Jazz Week at BGSU. He often played the vibes with the visiting performers, including Marion McPartland, Clark Terry, Jiggs Wigham, Art Van Damme and Urbie Green. He also received several grants to support jazz on campus. His work was rewarded in 1988 when the College of Musical Arts announced it was offering a bachelor of music degree with an emphasis in jazz. He retired from the University in 1992 as a Professor Emeritus of Performance Studies.

In Memoriam: James L. Moore

Dr. James L. Moore, who founded Percussive Notes magazine and served as its editor from 1962–80, died on June 12, 2014. Born May 2, 1934, Moore held degrees from the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University.

From 1964–92 Dr. Moore was head of percussion studies at The Ohio State University School of Music. He had previously taught at Butler University in Indianapolis and the U.S. Armed Forces School of Music in Washington, D.C. His summer music camp teaching included the National Music Camp at Interlochen, the International Music Camp at the International Peace Garden in North Dakota/Manitoba, and the OSU Marimba/Vibe Camp, which he founded and directed for 13 years. In 2005, he received the PAS Lifetime Achievement in Education Award.

He served as principal percussionist with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (1964–81), and was percussionist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for four years in the early 1960s.

Moore served as consultant and clinician for the Musser Division of Ludwig Industries and for the Hal Leonard Publishing Company. In 1976 he founded and served as editor of Per-Mus Publications, which specialized in music for percussion.

In Memoriam: Chuck Silverman

Noted musician, author and educator Chuck Silverman died on May 1, 2014. 

After studying musicology at UCLA, Silverman became known as a specialist in applying Afro-Caribbean rhythms to the drumset, and he organized many trips to Cuba at which drummers and percussionists could study Cuban music first-hand. Three of his books, Practical Applications 1, 2 and 3, were named to Modern Drummer magazine’s all time best drum books. Other books he wrote include The Latin Rudiments, The Latin Funk Connection, and Afro-Carribean Drum Grooves, and he co-wrote books with Poncho Sanchez, Changuito, and Dave Lombardo, and made an educational video, also titled Practical Applications. Silverman wrote for and/or was featured in many magazines worldwide including Talking Drums, Modern Drummer, Slagwerkkrant (The Netherlands), Rhythm (UK), Batteur (France), Drums and Percussion (Germany), Sticks (Germany) and Percussioni (Italy). He also contributed articles to Percussive Notes and presented clinics at several PASICs.

In Memoriam: Steve Weiss

Steve Weiss, who served the percussion community for over 50 years as owner of Steve Weiss Music, a shop that specialized in percussion instruments and music, died on April 21, 2014, after a long illness. 

His shop became known for its extensive inventory of hard-to-find world percussion instruments and percussion music, as well as for its quick service to those needing to rent or purchase instruments or mallets on short notice. His booth was a popular destination on the PASIC exhibit floor every year, and in the age of self-publishing, Weiss’s business served as a central source for locating music, CDs and videos by many composers and artists. 

Weiss received the PAS President’s Industry Award in 2013. PAS President John R. Beck said at that time, “Steve Weiss Music has been an invaluable resource for helping percussionists raise their level of performance for six decades, providing instruments, music, and mallets to thousands of professionals, students, educators, and enthusiasts.” 

In Memoriam: Theodore Frazeur

We are saddened to report the death of Theodore Frazeur, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Professor Frazeur, or "Ted," was Professor of Percussion at SUNY Fredonia from 1960 until his retirement in 1993. The family has asked that those wishing to honor Ted please consider making a donation to the Frazeur Percussion Scholarship held at the Fredonia College Foundation, 272 Central Avenue, Fredonia, NY 14063. 

In Memoriam: Jim Preiss

James Lee Preiss, a long-time member and principal percussionist of the American Composers Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and a founding member of the Westchester Philharmonic, died on Jan. 21, 2014 at age 72. He also performed with the Riverside Symphony, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and the American Symphony Orchestra. A founding member of the Parnassus Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, he had been a member of the Steve Reich Ensemble since 1971, and was also a member of the Manhattan Marimba Quartet. Preiss held degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music and was on the faculty of the Mannes College of Music.

In Memoriam: Chico Hamilton

Foreststorm ”Chico” Hamilton, who played an integral role in the formation of the West-Coast-based “cool jazz” style of the 1950s, died on November 25, 2013 at age 92. Born in 1921, Hamilton began working professionally with such musicians as Dexter Gordon, Illinois Jacquet, and Charles Mingus while still in high school. He toured with Lionel Hampton before serving in the army during World War II, and then worked with Jimmy Mundy, Charlie Barnet, and Count Basie before becoming the house drummer at an L.A. nightclub in 1946. He then toured with singer Lena Horne before becoming an original member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, which many credit with starting the “cool jazz” movement. Hamilton then formed his own “chamber jazz” group with the instrumentation of guitar, flute, cello, bass, and drums. Hamilton became known as a leader who could nurture young talent, and over the years, such prominent players as bassist Ron Carter, saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Charles Lloyd, and guitarists Jim Hall, Gabor Szabo, and Larry Coryell got their starts with Hamilton. Hamilton is credited by many as being the first jazz drummer to use single-headed toms.

In the mid-1960s Hamilton became active as a composer for advertising jingles and movie and TV soundtracks. In the mid-1970s he went back on the road as a bandleader. He expanded from the cool jazz sound and incorporated elements of free jazz, hardbop, and jazz-rock fusion into his group’s style. He continued leading bands until shortly before his death.

Hamilton received a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award in 2004 and a Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend Award in 2007. He also became involved in education, teaching at the Parsons New School of Jazz in New York City and the Mannes College of Music at the New School University.

In Memoriam: Sam Ulano

Drummer, teacher, and author Sam Ulano died on January 2, 2014 at age 93. Ulano started playing drums at age 13 and studied with Alfred Freize and Fred Albright. By age 17 Ulano was teaching drums. He spent four years playing in an Army band and then attended the Manhattan School of Music. He began working clubs in New York City and the Catskills, and played in jazz, swing, Dixieland and show bands throughout his career, including 15 years at the Gaslight Club. He was also a prolific author of instructional books, and he published various drum-oriented newsletters and newspapers over the years while running his own drum studio in New York. Calling himself “Mr. Rhythm,” he did music-instruction shows for the New York City public schools, and he also made recordings of nursery rhymes told over drum backgrounds.

In Memoriam: Jerry Steinholtz

Percussionist and educator Jerry Steinholtz died on Dec. 7,2013 at age 76.

Steinholtz played live and recorded with such studiodrummers and percussionists as Emil Richards, Harvey Mason, Peter Erskine, JohnGuerin, Joe Porcaro, Steve Schaeffer, Larry Londin, Ralph Humphrey, EarlPalmer, Louie Bellson, Chester Thompson, Roy McCurdy, Buddy Rich, and MelLewis, just to name a few.

He toured and recorded with Lee Ritenour Diana Ross, and theFour Tops, and spent eight years free-lance recording for Motown Records. His creditsalso include Lani Hall, The Carpenters, Gladys Knight, Paul Anka, SteveLawrence and Eydie Gorme, Freda Payne, Phyllis Hyman, and Michael Franks.

He was also active as an educator. He made a video, Essenceof Playing Conga, for Interworld Music, and taught Latinand Brazillian hand percussion at California State University, Northridge(CSUN). He started the percussion program at Dick Grove's School of Music inVan Nuys, California, and ran the program for five years. He was also onfaculty at Hamilton High School Academy of the Arts in Los Angeles, andCo-Director of Percussion at the Los Angeles Music Academy (LAMA) in Pasadena,California. He gave clinics and master classes throughout the world, includingconventions for such associations as the National Association of MusicMerchants (NAMM), Texas Band Director's Association (TBA), the Music Educator'sNational Convention (MENC), the Percussive Arts Society (PAS), theInternational Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE), the Musik Messe inFrankfurt, Germany, and the British Music Fair in London, England. He was aconsultant in product development and design for numerous percussionmanufacturers, including Toca, Remo, and Calato.

In Memoriam: Layne Redmond 

by Rick Mattingly

Frame drummer Layne Redmond died on October 28, 2013. She was known for her virtuoso abilities on tambourine and her authorship of the influential book When the Drummers Were Women, and she also produced a number of recordings and instructional videos.

Born in 1952 in Florida, Redmond attended art school, first at the University of Florida in Gainsville and then at Rutgers in Newark, New Jersey, before studying painting with Joyce Kozloff at the Brooklyn Museum as a Max Beckmann scholarship student. She became a member of a performance art/dance collective located in lower Manhattan and began to create performance art pieces.

In 1981 she attended a Glen Velez concert and subsequently began studying frame drumming with Velez. As she helped organize a collection of images of frame drummers that Velez had collected, she became intrigued by the fact that most of the images depicted women playing frame drums. She began researching the ancient playing styles and history of the frame drum in religious and cultural rituals.

Redmond appeared on Velez’s recordings Handdance (Music of the World label) and Internal Combustion (CMP), and then she and Velez formed a trio with bansuri flutist Steve Gorn, which was known as the Handdance ensemble. That trio recorded Seven Heaven (1987) and Assyrian Rose (1989) for CMP. 

Layne left Handdance and started an all-female frame drumming group, The Mob of Angels. In 1991 they released Since The Beginning, featuring guest artists Gorn and violinist Vicki Richards.

After an editor at Random House saw a Redmond performance and slide lecture, Layne signed a contract to write When The Drummers Were Women, which was published in 1997. A review in Percussive Notes hailed the book, saying in part, “By searching out the lost, early history of the frame drum, Layne Redmond has uncovered an important missing chapter in the history of humanity—a chapter in which goddesses ruled beside gods and in which women’s spirituality, wisdom, and sexuality were affirmed through rituals involving drumming. In an age where people are rediscovering the communal and healing powers of rhythm, When the Drummers were Women establishes the link between ancient knowledge and the contemporary emphasis on the importance of passion and soulfulness to life.”

Meanwhile, Remo, Inc. created a Layne Redmond Signature Series of frame drums, and Interworld Music invited Layne to make an instructional video. First released as Ritual Drumming, the video was renamed Rhythmic Wisdom when it was released on DVD.

In 1995, Layne met drummer Tommy Brunjes (aka Tommy Be), who became her collaborator on several CDs including Trance Union, Chanting the Chakras, Chakra Breathing Meditation, Invoking the Muse, and Heart Chakra. In 2004, Layne wrote the book Chakra Meditation for Sounds True.

In 2006, she volunteered to teach percussion at UFBA, the university in Salvador, Brazil, and Escola Pracatum, Carlinhos Brown’s music school in Candeal. She met Rosangela Silvestre, and they produced a CD of traditional candomble´ songs and shot footage of six orixás, the gods and goddesses of Afro Brazilian legacy, which led to Layne’s interest in making music videos and short films. Redmond also met Tadeu Mascarenhas, a young musician and engineer who became a collaborator on her next four projects: Flowers of Fire, Wave of Bliss, Invoking Aphrodite, and Hymns From the Hive.

She moved to Brazil in 2007 and then came back to the U.S. and settled in Asheville, N.C. in 2009. She launched Golden Seed Films, which released the 6-DVD set Frame Drum Intensive Training Program in 2010 as well as the Trance Union Series of instructional DVDs. She also created an archive of materials related to When the Drummers Were Women, and an expanded e-book edition was being prepared at the time of her death, along with the film Axé Orixá, Dreaming Awake the Gods and Goddesses of Brazil.

The February 2000 issue of DRUM! magazine listed Redmond as one of the “53 Heavyweight Drummers Who Made a Difference in the ’90s.” She was the only woman on the list. Redmond performed and lectured at colleges, universities, and music conferences around the world, including several appearances at PASIC, the last of which was in 2009. She also contributed articles to several journals, including several for Percussive Notes.

Read “Frame Drums and History” by Layne Redmond. Percussive Notes, Vol. 50, No. 1, January 2012

In Memoriam: John Bergamo