Interview- Ndugu Chancler (Part I)

Michael Jackson.  Miles Davis.  Santana.  Herbie Hancock. Patrice Rushen.  George Duke.  Frank Sinatra.  Quincy Jones.  John Lee Hooker.  James Ingram.

These are just some of the legends that this man, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler has worked with.

Ndugu Chancler has essentially worked with the people who have laid the foundation of what music is today. The artists that many producers have sampled or cited as inspirations were his colleagues and band-mates.

On the 1st of every year Ndugu has an all day celebration at his home where he cooks for everyone. I was lucky enough to attend with some friends.  Let me tell you, Ndugu Chancler makes a serious plate of greens!  I’m not just saying that.

When I walked into the kitchen to talk to him, the whole room got silent.  I asked if I could interview him for the site.  He grilled me a little bit to see if I was serious, but said he was willing; but, before I did, he said I needed to go to allmusic.com and do my research.

I said “Oh no, I definitely know who you are.” (I’m a drummer myself, it’s only right to know his name).  He responded jokingly “Yeah yeah…a lot of people say they know who I am, but they don’t reeeaaally know who I am.”

Well he was pretty right.  I knew his resume was serious, but just how serious?  Extremely serious.

I present to you a two-part series on Ndugu.  He said so many things that I felt were so necessary to hear that I did very minimal editing.

Part 1

– Michael Jackson vs Miles Davis

– His story of how he fell in love with music

– Miles Davis’ role in music history

Part 2

-Lessons he learned through Miles

Part 3

Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien, and working on Thriller

Part II we talk about the current state of music and his thoughts on: radio, record labels, technology, & the loss of music programs.

Here are some tracks Ndugu has played on.  Sound familiar?!

George Duke- Reach For It (Ndugu is doing the rap or “Narration” as he told me they used to call it!)

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Dazz Band- Let It Whip (Co-Written by Ndugu)

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And of course…one of the best compositions in history… Michael Jackson- Billie Jean

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4 comments

  • Wow… just wow… I can’t wait for part 2. And the artists that Miles told him to listen to… It reminds me of that scene in white men can’t jump where Wesley Snipes’ character talks about the difference between listing to Jimi and hearing him… I need to revisit immediately..

  • 04/07/2010 at 11:09 am //

    First of all, drummers are awesome! (I plan on learning how to play someday.) I can’t say that I’m up on my musicians like that, but I know I’ve seen “Ndugu”‘s name in credits frequently in my crate-digging sessions. Second, it’s always a pleasure to hear the stories and wisdom from a living legend who has worked with other legends. For anyone who creates music, the insight he shares can help put one’s musical journey in perspective. Definitely looking forward to part II!

  • Wow, this was just an awesome interview. It provided a person with the history of music and a lesson in “universal principals” that I have never heard articulate as it relates to music, but can be applied to life in general.

    I would love to sit “At Ndugu’s Feet” and listen to the wisdom he has gathered. I can’t wait for part 2

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