May 10th, 1975. University of Florida quad. Saturday afternoon. Free concert with Return to Forever and The Eleventh House. Warm day, packed quad, huge energy.
The Eleventh House opened. Partway through their set, it began to rain. It wasn’t a downpour, but there was no covering to the stage. Larry Coryell, Mike Mandell, Michael Lawrence and John Lee all headed for cover. Meanwhile, back at the drum kit, Alphonse Mouzon, already playing shirtless, began a drum solo as roadies held a huge tarp overtop of him. He played until the rain stopped; it was awesome! There were many ladies in the crowd wishing they could meet Mr. Mouzon later.
That was my one and only time seeing the brilliant drummer who passed away today at the age of 68. He had a remarkable career.
He first came to prominence as the drummer for Weather Report in 1971. He recorded several albums with McCoy Tyner and became a Blue Note artists, releasing his first solo record, The Essence of Mystery, in 1972. He recorded more than 25 solo albums during his career and more than that as a co-leader or sideman. His last solo album was 2011’s Angel Face.
Of greatest significance was his addition to Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House from 1973 to 1975. They would reunite occasionally after that, leading finally to an excellent new Eleventh House album, Seven Secrets, with Coryell, his son Julian (also on guitar), John Lee (bass), and Randy Brecker (trumpet).
Just last spring, during a phone interview I did with Larry Coryell, the guitarist talked about the new Eleventh House recording with Mouzon, at the time schedule for an August release. He was so excited about the project:
“Mike Mandel (original keyboard player) has been in poor health, although he is getting better, so my youngest son (Julian) will fill in the role of the keyboard player. He has five solos on the record, and they’re killing. I think this is the best jazz record ever made.”
You can hear portions of each of those tracks on this link.
Over the course of his career he would record with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Bobbi Humphreys, John Klemmer, Doug Carn, Al di Meola, Les McCann and more. He performed on stage with even more great jazz and fusion artists.
In 1992, he founded Tenacious Records, which produced many of his albums. He also appeared in four movies, including That Thing You Do as the nightclub bandleader.
Mouzon was a titan, a true drum stud in a category with Billy Cobham and few others. He succumbed to neuroendocrine carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, early this morning, December 26th, 2016.
2016 could stop any old time.