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Artist biography Pheeroan Aklaff
Born in Detroit on January 27, 1955, Pheeroan akLaff grew up listening to recordings by such talents as Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Thelonious Monk and the Modern Jazz Quartet. He studied speech and drama at Eastern Michigan University, then spent several months during 1975 interacting with and learning from drummers in Cote D’Ivoire West Africa. Eventually he settled in New York, where his technical facility and his finely tuned musical taste quickly won him numerous admirers particularly among the city's more creative, adventuresome and forward-looking jazz composers.
Audiences around the world have marveled firsthand at Pheeroan's exciting percussion work, from a number of overseas tours with his ensembles and those of his peers. Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, Pheeroan has performed and recorded with many of today's leading musical lights: Geri Allen, Anthony Braxton, Anthony Davis, Andrew Hill, Oliver Lake, David Murray, Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor, Henry Threadgill, Mal Waldron, Yosuke Yamashita and a host of others.
As part of a Jay Hoggard group, Pheeroan performed in India, Syria, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco under U.S. Information Agency sponsorship. Another USIA-sponsored tour with Oliver Lake's Jump Up band took him to Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Swaziland and Malawi. Pheeroan also backed the Marie Rose Guiraud Dance Company at performances in four Ivorian cities in and was a member of the Henry Threadgill ensemble featured at India's Jazz Yatra festival.
He's been a headliner with his ensemble at festivals, concerts and clubs in New York, and at such major overseas events as the Sju Festival in the Netherlands, the Willisau Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Nurnberg East-West Festival and the Moers New Jazz Festival in Germany, and the Montsalvat Festival in Australia.
Early on he played musical roles in dramatic productions staged by the Manhattan Theater Company, the Yale Repertory Theater and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He performed the percussion work of the premiere performance of Anthony Davis' widely acclaimed opera "The Life and Times of Malcolm X." at New York City Opera.
In mid-1996, Pheeroan presented "Frederick Douglass Chronicles," a work-in-progress, at the Carver Cultural Center in San Antonio.
In 2000 he received a New York Foundation of the Arts award.
Sharing his musical skills and sensitivity with young people has long been important to Pheeroan. For example, he offered a History of Jazz courses at Brooklyn's Youth Development Council in 1981. He held master classes at the New School Jazz program and since 1993, he's been involved with students of drumming at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
Pheeroan has been profiled by publications in the United States, Canada, Germany, Finland, India, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Japan and Australia. He's also been the subject of feature articles in Coda, Musician, Drums Magazine and Modern Drummer.