Bang the Drum Slowly

In a further example of what is becoming a depressing trend, another musical friend has left the building. Percussionist Don Alias was only 66.

Don cut a tremendous swath through the jazz world; he started off with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra at Newport in 1957, and never looked back. To recall just one highlight of his enormous discography (seriously, Don was everywhere), he played on the immensely important Miles Davis album Bitches Brew, which was a watershed in my own appreciation and understanding of music, as it was for countless others. He also played, and recorded, with just about everybody else; Don was one of the busiest session percussionists in the world, and a ubiquitous sight in the studios and clubs of New York, for many, many years.

I first got to know Don when I was a young assistant engineer at Power Station back in the late 1970s; I went on to work with him on innumerable sessions in the years to come. Unflappably cheerful, he was always a pleasure to have on a record date, especially the long, weary ones: even deep in the trenches, he’d be the one bantering and joking to lift everyone’s tired spirits for another take. His playing was always exactly right; he knew just what to put where, and unlike so many lesser percussionists, his tracks always added groove and never added clutter.

It’s shocking to think that I won’t be seeing him any more. Peace to you, brother.


  1. Gus says

    Wow, I love Bitches Brew. Sad to hear he is gone. That was some amazing music they made.

    Fascinating that you know that guy…

    Posted April 5, 2006 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Gus,

    Don will be missed by a great many people. He was quite a character.

    Posted April 5, 2006 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

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