Rashied Ali walked the earth with a powerful and passionate presence. All his endeavors, his family, his music, and his friends, received his passionate dedication. As his drumming was multidirectional and rhythmical, so was his life.He walked many paths as a father, son, husband, mentor, and innovator. Ali was unique with the agility and grace to fill all of these roles with love. Ali developed the style known as "free jazz" drumming, which liberates the percussionist from the role of human metronome. As Ali said, "I never really thought of ... being an innovator, I was always just trying to move the music, you know, play something different from what I hear all the time." His effort in this direction is what came to define him as a musician. In his music and life he always strove to higher levels of freedom, forever questioning rigid traditions and with that vision, defining his life for himself and his loved ones.
Philadelphia born, Ali began his musical career as a child, raised in a family of musicians. He discovered his passion for drumming in the U.S. Army and started gigging in Germany where he was stationed. He defined himself as a percussionist, able to play any kind of music. His love for free jazz above all, did not stop him from playing bebop, rock ' roll, funk, blues, straight ahead, and all styles that the musical scene offered.
Ali made New York City his home in the early 1960's. As a drummer he fiercely played his way through the avant-garde scene, leaving his mark on musical free spirits such as Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Paul Bley, Archie Shepp, Bill Dixon and Albert Ayler. Ali had grown up listening to one of his musical gurus, John Coltrane. Ali said, "I learned from Coltrane that I don't care how much you think you know, there's always some more stuff you can learn, so you just have to be humble with this stuff man and just try to learn as much as you can, cause the minute you think you got it all, that's when it all closes down, you ain't got nothing else to learn any more, you're dead, you can just shovel some dirt in your face." Ali and Trane generated many musical gems that continue to move the listener through all phases of human emotion. Ali died in the prime of his career, always learning more, challenging himself, moving the music until the end.
His independent and innovative thinking led Ali to open the loft-jazz club, Ali's Alley, in 1973, and to establish his own label, Survival Records. Ali's Alley began as a musical outlet for the New York Avant-Garde, but soon became a melting pot of music, people, food, and good times. Rashied mentored many young musicians, whom he welcomed into his family. He cultivated independent free thinking in his young musicians and fostered that same spirit in his family. Throughout his life Ali was a devoted and loving father and husband to his wife, Patricia, and his children. He was always present and supportive of his family. He taught everyone around him to follow their hearts and minds despite obstacles from the outside world. His contagious spirit and passion inspired all those around him and through these relationships he will always be remembered, loved and cherished.
By Akeela Ali Azcuy