Several different drummers helped put jazz fusion on the map in the '70s. The one who seems to get most of the credit is Billy Cobham, but Alphonse Mouzon contributed quite a bit to the cause as well. Born on November 21, 1948, in Charleston, South Carolina, Mouzon got serious with his drumming in high school, where he studied with both a saxophonist and a drummer. Relocating to New York City in the late '60s to attend college, Mouzon had a hard time deciding between a career in music, drama, or medicine. Music wound up getting the nod by the dawn of the '70s, when Mouzon served as a session drummer on recordings by Tim Hardin (Bird on a Wire), Gil Evans (Gil Evans), Weather Report (Weather Report), Norman Connors (Dance of Magic), John Klemmer (Magic and Movement), and Teruo Nakamura (Unicorn).
Mouzon wasn't limited to just fusion, however, as he proved his versatility by either recording with or performing alongside the likes of Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Carlos Santana, Patrick Moraz, Tommy Bolin, and Chubby Checker. Additionally, Mouzon returned sporadically to his other love, acting, including a part alongside Tom Hanks in the 1996 film That Thing You Do!, and also served as chairman/CEO for his own record label, Tenacious Records. Mouzon continued to issue albums, and also toured Europe and the U.S. on a regular basis — leading his own trio, quartet, or quintet. Diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer in September of 2016, Mouzon struggled with the disease for several months — and benefited from a crowdfunding effort to pay for treatment — but finally succumbed to a heart attack on Christmas Day of that year. ~ Greg Prato