Article by Robin Tolleson | Photo by Alex Solca On 30th May 2018
“I’m an orchestrator,” Ndugu Chancler told me when we spoke for his first Modern Drummer feature, in 1983. “The drums are just the instrument I use to orchestrate and paint the picture.” Chancler, who passed away on February 3 at the age of sixty-five, “orchestrated” not only the music of top jazz artists, he backed pop stars, country legends, funksters, and rock icons alike. He was a man of many hyphens: a producer-composer-arranger-drummer-percussionist-vocalist. He studied the business side of the industry, and started a production company. He raised his cymbals high to set himself apart visually. He played drums on the biggest-selling album of all time. And he spent the last twenty-three years sharing his knowledge in the Popular Music program at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.