Jazz Drummer Rashied Ali Has Died At The Age Of 76
Free-jazz drummer and John Coltrane sideman Rashied Ali has died in New York. His wife, Patricia Ali, says he died Wednesday afternoon at Bellevue Hospital of a blood clot in his lung. He was 76 years old.
Rashied Ali was born into a musical family; his mother had sung with Jimmie Lunceford. His brother, Muhammad Ali, is also a drummer, who played with Albert Ayler, among others. Ali moved to New York in 1963 and worked in groups with Bill Dixon and Paul Bley. He also recorded or performed with Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Arthur Rhames, James Blood Ulmer and many others.
In addition, Ali was scheduled to be the second drummer, alongside Elvin Jones, on John Coltrane’s landmark free jazz album Ascension, but he dropped out just before the recording was to take place. Coltrane did not replace him, and settled for one drummer. Ali joined John Coltrane’s group in the mid-1960s during the saxophonist’s late period of avant-garde jazz experimentation, and he began to record with Coltrane from Meditations in November 1965 onwards.
Among his credits are the last recorded work of John Coltrane’s life (The Olatunji Concert) and Interstellar Space, an album of duets with Coltrane recorded earlier in 1967. Ali “became important in stimulating the most avant-garde kinds of jazz activities”.
During the early 1970s, he ran an influential loft club in New York, called Ali’s Alley. Ali also briefly formed a non-jazz project called Purple Trap with Japanese experimental guitarist Keiji Haino and jazz-fusion bassist Bill Laswell. Their double-CD album, Decided – Already The Motionless Heart Of Tranquility, Tangling The Prayer Called I, was released on John Zorn’s Tzadik label in March of 1999.
Though most known for his work in the Jazz idiom, Rashied Ali has also made his contributions to other experimental art forms including multi-media performances with The Gift of Eagle Orchestra and Cosmic Legends. Performances such as Devachan and the Monads, Dwarf of Oblivion which took place at the Kitchen center for performance Art, and a special tribute to John Cage in Central Park, have taken Performance Art to new levels with the addition of fully improvised large scale performance pieces. Other artists of the orchestra and Cosmic Legends have included Hayes Greenfield (sax), Perry Robinson (clarinet), Wayne Lopes (guitar), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Gloria Tropp (vocals), director/pianist Sylvie Degiez along with Poets and actors, Ira Cohen, Taylor Mead, Judith Malina (Living Theater). More recently, Ali has played with Sonny Fortune.
Rashied Ali was recently playing with his own Quintet, The Rashied Ali Quintet. A double CD entitled Judgment Day was released on February 17, 2005 and features Jumaane Smith on Trumpet, Lawrence Clark on Tenor Sax, Greg Murphy on Piano, Joris Teepe on Bass and Rashied Ali on Drums. This album was recorded at Ali’s own Survival Studio, which has been running since the 1970s.
A sad day for the drummers as well as the entire jazz community, Ali will surely be missed.