Born: October 3, 1943 Primary Instrument: Drums
Rashid Bakr was born in Chicago, and his family moved to the Bronx when he was four. He became a musician because of the profound influence John Coltrane had on him, and because Rashid’s uncle was the great “Papa” Jo Jones, the father of modern drumming. As a child, Rashid remembers that Art Blakey and Max Roach visited the family, and the former gave him his first set of sticks; one of his early playing memories is sitting in with his uncle in a Dixieland band at the World’s Fair. Later drum heroes for Rashid included Andrew Cyrille, Elvin Jones, Sunny Murray, and Milford Graves (who also gave him other mystical healing arts besides music, including acupuncture and herbology). But Rashid also loved to immerse himself in the playing of Kenny Clarke (wanting to “get some of those fine chops”), and his present favorite is Tony Williams (“for playing up top a lot”). Rashid went to Queens College to study chemistry and psychology, and to graduate school for clinical psychology at Brooklyn College. As a fan in college, he went to every John Coltrane and Miles Davis concert, and his father bought him his first drum set.
After college and an Army stint, it was saxophonist Bobby Zankel who took Rashid Bakr to audition for the Cecil Taylor big band in ‘73, and he played two concerts with Cecil Taylor at the time, one at Columbia University and the other at Carnegie Hall. William Parker was also in that band and told him about Jemeel Moondoc, who had moved to New York in ‘76, and Rashid joined Jemeel’s Ensemble Muntu from 1975 to 1981; one of the great legendary loft~era bands, Muntu recorded five albums & toured extensively. By the early ‘8O’s, Rashid Bakr was also playing with Billy Bang, Roy Campbell, Jr., Raphé Malik, David Murray, David S. Ware, Frank Wright, and others. In ‘81 Rashid rejoined Cecil Taylor for three more years, playing mostly in Europe in a quartet setting with Jimmy Lyons and William Parker.
Back in New York again from ‘83~’9O, Mr. Bakr continued working in particular with many powerhouse saxophonists, including Peter Brötzmann, Arthur Doyle, Charles Gayle, and Glenn Spearman. Rashid credits Charles Gayle with getting him into playing tunes and helping him realize the time side of his playing. In this period Rashid Bakr also became a member of the seminal quartet Other Dimensions in Music, along w/ Roy Campbell, Jr., Daniel Carter, and William Parker. Another stretch with Cecil Taylor from ‘9O to ‘95 took Rashid all over Europe “and everywhere,” also bringing him opportunities to play with special guests in the band including Lester Bowie, David Murray, and James Newton.
A devoted family man, Rashid Bakr works at the Lighthouse helping find employment for the blind when he’s not playing music. He says that at this point in his life as a musician, he wants to “sharpen what I have.” - Margaret Davis (with Rashid Bakr)
“Time Out New York” (1O/O2) declares Rashid Bakr “among the best avant~garde drummers, a timekeeper whose pulse is so subtle, supple and steady that he makes expressionism sound positively swinging.” And according to Byron Coley & Michael Ehlers’ ‘98 Fire in the Valley Festival program notes, Rashid Bakr is “one of improvising music’s most consistently questing drummers. Using his full kit in a manner that seems to have been forgotten by many of his contemporaries, Mr. Bakr’s playing seems to gush from a deep emotional well.... His rumbles will be felt to the core of your being. Hold on tight.”