Don Alias Day

December 25, 1939 – March 28, 2006

Interview with a Percussionist

Percussionist Charles “Don” Alias was born on December 25, 1939 in New York City.

The son of Caribbean immigrants, Alias grew up in Harlem, where he learned drums from Cuban and Puerto Rican hand drummers.

Although he attended Boston’s Carnegie Intstitute for Biochemistry, Alias left school to pursue a career in music.

Alias played drums for Nina Simone, Miles Davis, and Joni Mitchell, to name a few.

Instead of music, we found this fascinating interview with Don that reveals where the opening from Miles Davis’s “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” came from.

Well worth a listen for anyone interested in percussion in general and electric Miles in particular.

A segment from a fantastic interview with percussionist Don Alias.

Alias recalls his experience on Miles’ “Bitches Brew” session.

One of my favorite tracks on that album – and I love the whole thing – is “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down.”

If you’ve ever wondered where that amazing opening came from, now you know.

For a while he stepped away from music and pursued a promising career in medical science, but the pull of the art was too strong. Thank goodness for all of us.

A strangely unheralded artist, he played and recorded with Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Roberta Flack, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Nina Simone, Dave Liebman, Chick Corea, Carla Bley, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich, James Taylor, and many Latin artists as well.