Leon (Ndugu) Chancler, Versatile Drummer, is actually Dead at 65

Mr. Chancler was born in Shreveport, La., on July 1, 1952, along with moved with his family to Los Angeles. At 13 he started off teaching himself to play drums, with advice via older musicians.

He started off playing Latin jazz with the percussionist Willie Bobo while still in high school, along with soon after graduation he joined Gerald Wilson’s big band. He performed with the trumpeter Hugh Masekela on weekends (he died on Jan. 23) while studying music education at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Mr. Chancler turned down an offer to join the keyboardist Herbie Hancock’s band, choosing to stay in college, however he was a guest percussionist on Mr. Hancock’s 1971 album, “Mwandishi.” His reputation spread as he performed with visiting musicians at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, a top Los Angeles jazz club.

Throughout his recording career, he billed himself as Leon (Ndugu) Chancler, or sometimes Ndugu Chancler. Ndugu is actually Swahili for “earth brother,” a family member or comrade.


Mr. Chancler in an undated photograph provided by his family.

Mr. Chancler was 19 when Mr. Davis asked him to join his group in 1971, along with he left college behind. A CD-length performance by in which group was released on the 2015 collection “Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4.”

Mr. Chancler worked widely along with steadily, inside studio along with on the road, inside 1970s. After a guest appearance on Santana’s 1974 album “Borboletta,” he joined Santana on tour along with on its 1976 album, “Amigos,” for which he was also one of the songwriters along with producers

The jazz-rock band Weather Report, led by Mr. Shorter along with Joe Zawinul, heard Mr. Chancler while working in a nearby studio along with invited him to sit in. The sessions stretched to a week along with yielded the 1975 album “Tale Spinnin’.” Mr. Chancler later played drums for a 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival collaboration between Carlos Santana along with Mr. Shorter.

As the 1970s ended, Mr. Chancler founded his own funk-pop group, the Chocolate Jam Co., which made two albums before disbanding, along with became a first-call studio player in Los Angeles. The producer Quincy Jones hired Mr. Chancler for three songs on “Thriller,” Michael Jackson’s record-shattering 1982 album: “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” “Baby Be Mine” along with “Billie Jean.”

“ ‘Billie Jean,’ for me, was a lesson in musical discipline,” Mr. Chancler told Modern Drummer magazine in 1983. “A very simple rhythm in which anybody can play who can play drums, however the whole discipline of the idea was just playing in which, along with being consistent at the idea.”

In an Instagram post, Questlove, the Roots’ drummer along with bandleader, wrote in which Mr. Chancler’s drumming on “Billie Jean” was “timeless like a tuxedo” along with “literally gives MJ his DNA.”

Mr. Chancler also appeared on Mr. Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” along with on another early 1980s blockbuster album, Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” (1984). He embraced electronic drums along with drum machines, learning to work with along with alongside them, however also maintained his jazz virtuosity.

In recent decades, Mr. Chancler had mixed performing along with teaching. He was a professor of jazz studies at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, where he created the drum curriculum. Since 1997 he had taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, a summer program held at Stanford University. He also performed at drum clinics presented by musical instrument companies.

“He sponsored along with funded kids for percussion along with education trips, offering his own home,” his son, Rashon Chancler, said in a statement. In addition to his son, he is actually survived by his companion, Brenda Curry.

Mr. Chancler learned he had prostate cancer in 2003, however he continued to teach, perform along with record until recently. He published a book of musical along with career advice, “Pocket Change,” in 2013.

“The player has to do much more listening than the listener coming to enjoy the music,” he told Drummer’s Resource. “along with if in which player is actually doing in which listening, he will become a great player.”

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