Percussionist Don Alias passed away on March 28th, 2006 at 66 years old.
He was not always intent on becoming a professional musician. Born on Christmas Day in 1939, he studied medicine and biochemistry in college but began focusing more on performance when he met Tony Williams and Chick Corea whose influences would certainly shade his long career. His musical education took place on the streets and in clubs of New York. He served as the musical director for Nina Simone's band in the mid-/late '60s before joining Miles Davis, who gave him his start in the late '60s/early '70s, performing on his seminal Bitches Brew in 1969.
A talent equally adept in modern jazz, fusion and Latin idioms, Alias's drum work was always musical, passionate and perfectly complementary to anyone he accompanied. He was a skillful trap set player as well as a first-call percussionist. Heard on well over 200 albums (though having led none under his own name), he has graced the recordings of artists as diverse as Carla Bley, Chick Corea, Weather Report, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Michael Brecker, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and David Sanborn.
Check out this video of Alias soloing with the Nils Landgren Funk Unit from DrummerWorld.
His website has information on his wake and funeral service on April 5th and 6th as well as where to send donations. There will probably be a tribute to Don Alias on Sunday evening, April 2nd on NPR's "All Things Considered."