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date: 13 November 2019

Chancler, (Leon) Ndugu [Ndugu]free

  • Chuck Braman
  • , revised by Barry Kernfeld

(b Shreveport, LA, July 1, 1952; d Los Angeles, Feb 3, 2018). Drummer and percussionist. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1960 and he began drumming when he was 12 or 13. He studied music in high school, and at the same time performed with Willie Bobo and Gerald Wilson; he then attended the Dominquez Hills campus of California State College for two years, studying music education, and played with Wilson, Hugh Masekela, Herbie Hancock (1970–71), Eddie Harris, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis (both 1971), and Freddie Hubbard before joining George Duke, with whom he worked intermittently from 1972 through the 1990s. From 1974 to 1976 he toured with Carlos Santana. He spent a further period with Hancock (1977–80) and led his own group, Chocolate Jam Company (1979–81), but during the 1980s worked mostly as a record producer for several pop musicians, including Kenny Rogers and Michael Jackson, and as a session musician. In addition to his continuing association with Duke, Chancler was a member of The Meeting, which was formed in 1982 as a trio consisting of Ernie Watts and Patrice Rushen. With the addition of Alphonso Johnson, The Meeting became a quartet the following year, when it participated in the touring Kool Jazz Festival; around 1996 Johnson was replaced by the electric bass guitarist Freddie Washington. Chancler also worked with the Crusaders (1984–7), formed the duo 1 + One with Rushen (1989), and appeared in more conventional jazz settings in the documentary film Sinatra: Portrait of an Album (1986) and in “Echoes of Ellington,” pts i–ii, from the television series “Jazzvisions” (1988). He rejoined Santana (1988) and Hancock (1989), led a new version of the Chocolate Jam Company (1988–90), and recorded with the rhythm-and-blues alto saxophonist Gerald Albright (1991). He taught at the University of Southern California.

Selected recordings

As sideman

E. Harris: Excursions (1973, Atl. 2-311)

J. Priester: Love, Love (1973, ECM 1044)

Weather Report: Tale Spinnin’ (c1975, Col. PC33417)

G. Duke: Reach for it (c1977, Epic 34883)

The Meeting: The Meeting (c1990, GRP 9620)

Update (c mid-1990s, Hip Bop 8008)


  • R. Tolleson: “Ndugu Leon Chancler,” Modern Drummer, 7/11 (1983), 14
  • D. Snowden: “Ndugu Chancler: Triple Threat,” Musician, no.68 (1984), 74
L. Feather and I. Gitler: The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies (New York, 1976/R1987)