Babatunde Lea is a Bay Area percussionist, and an established session musician. He has worked alongside Pharaoh Sanders, Van Morrison, McCoy Tyner, Leon Thomas, Joe Henderson, John Tchicai, and Bobby Hutcherson, before recording an album for Ubiquity Jazz that will remind listeners that he is a skilled band leader, too.
For his debut Ubiquity Jazz album, "March of The Jazz Guerrillas", Babatunde Lea assembled a heavyweight list of guests to make his point. Hilton Ruiz plays piano--Ruiz appeared on Babatunde's 1996 recording, "Level of Intent". Alex Blake is on bass--Babatunde and Blake play together in Pharaoh Sanders' band. Two master percussionists, Bill Summers and Munyungo Jackson, join Babatunde to add rhythmic layers to the mix; and talented West Coast saxophonist and vocalist Richard Howell rounds out the sound.
Babatunde Lea was born in Danville, Virginia. His family moved northward up the Eastern Seaboard when he was only six months old and came to settle in Englewood, New Jersey. It was there that he was first inspired by his aunts and cousins and by stories of his drum playing Aunt Gloria (first woman in Virginia playing drums in a marching band) to begin playing drums himself.
In the sixth grade, Babatunde Lea began drumming with various marching groups. In 1959, at age 11, he attended a concert of African drumming and dance performed by Babatunde Olatunji and his Drums of Passion which left an indelible impression on this young drummer and permanently set his direction in life. In the ninth grade he began playing conga drums and was playing on a professional level by his junior year in high school when, at 16, he played on his first professional recording session for producer Ed Townsend.
In the early 1970s Babatunde Lea hit his stride in New York City performing regularly with such high profile artists as Leon Thomas, Oscar Brown Jr., Lonnie Liston Smith, Kenny Kirkland, John Purcell, Buddy Williams and Eddie "Gua Gua" Rivera. It was in 1977 that Babatunde migrated to the West Coast where he settled in the culturally fertile San Francisco Bay Area. It was not long before Babatunde became a vital figure in the Bay Areas music scene as well, becoming known for his versatility and ability to fit into several music genres. Since then, Babatunde has been the first call drummer for musicians seeking a dynamic and spirited drumming that he brings to the music.
Babatunde Lea currently resides in Menomonie, Wisconsin with his wife, Virginia, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.