Idris Muhammad: A Most Unpredictable Career

Idris Muhammad

Drums Precision Drum Company, maple shells in a Natural Orange Finish
14" x 5.5" Snare
12” x 4” Snare
18" x 12" Bass Drum
12" x 7" Tom
12" x 7" Tom
14" x 14" Floor Tom
14" x 14" Floor Tom
Sticks Hot Sticks 5B/7A, wood-tip
Cymbals Istanbul Agop
15" Alchemy Sweet Hi-Hats
22" Prototype Ride 16" Sultan Crash
18" Sultan Crash
Heads Remo Fiberskyn (Batter) and Remo Clear Diplomat (Resonant)

Idris' Licks

Listening to these tunes, one hears how Muhammad creates great compositions out of simple elements. The rhythms aren’t complex, but each tune is a sophisticated little drum composition with contrasting cycles of two- and four-bar figures. They all have that inexpressible sense of time movement called groove.

“Feel Like Makin’ Love”
Muhammad was frequently called on to work with singers. He has a knack for staying out of the way of the vocals but making the groove recognizable at the same time. As with other tunes in the late ’60s and early ’70s such as “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green) and “Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Marvin Gaye), he’s keeping time on the floor tom.

“Power of Soul”
This is a very cool seven-minute track, and these two bars represent a balance between how he keeps steady time on some measures and changes it up on others. The sound of this record is spare, with plenty of room for soloists to come forward in the mix. It’s pure funk presented like a jazz recording.

“New Orleans Gumbo”
Right from the top he presents this four-bar composition with the right amount of New Orleans grease and swing on it. The groove varies slightly as he propels the tune — a perfect example of the drum groove as a mini-composition.

Here he plays the backbeat on the & of 4, and on 4 every other bar. It’s a little like the “Feel Like Makin’ Love” groove, but with an eighth-note rhythm on the bass drum.

“Keep On Pushing”
This groove starts as a boom-click-click waltz but then creates a call-and-response form in the second measure. It definitely keeps on pushing.

DRUM! Notation Guide

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