Jazz Drummer Steve Reid Dead At 66

The prolific and versatile drummer Steve Reid has passed away at the age off 66 after battling cancer. A drumming prodigy, Reid landed his first professional gig at the age of 16, playing with the Apollo Theater house band under the leadership of Quincy Jones. After backing up Martha And The Vandellas at The Apollo, Reid accepted the permanent position with the vocal group and subsequently recorded one of their biggest hits, “Dancing In The Street.” After graduating from Adelphi University, he traveled to Africa where he played with many of the continent’s most influential musicians, including Fela Kuti, Guy Warren, The Alpha Jazz Band, and Black Star Tour. Upon his return to the United States, Reid was arrested by the FBI as a draft dodger, and was sentenced to four years in prison — although he managed to squeak in a recording date with James Brown prior to his incarceration, where he recorded the hit “Popcorn.” After his release, Reid seemed tireless, playing with a dizzying array of artists, including Jackie McLean, Fats Domino, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, Walter Davis, Henry Threadgill, Lester Bowie, Dexter Gordon, and even the Barnam & Baily Circus. Reid also became a productive solo artist, releasing nine albums under his own name, including the 2008 release Daxaar for the Domino label. He won the Jazziz Magazine percussionist of the year award in 1993 and ’95, and in recent years released four albums with Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet). News of Reid’s passing was revealed on Twitter by European DJ Gilles Peterson, who wrote: “Devastated by the news that my friend drummer Steve Reid passed away last night in New York -- a true inspiration who will be greatly missed.”