A Different Drummer: Ronnie Burrage

Although not as well-known as other Free Music percussionists, Brooklyn-based drummer and educator Ronnie Burrage has been involved with many landmark activities, reports The Wire’s John Pietaro. They range from his membership in the Black Artists Group (BAG) in his hometown of St. Louis, to his current stint as house drummer at Brooklyn’s Sistas’ Place, with music director trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah. From a musical family, Burrage was playing with seminal BAG members such as saxophonists Hamiet Bluiett and JD Parran by his early teens. A subsequent New York move had him working in trombonist Joe Bowie’s Defunkt band and in various ensembles with genre-breakers like violinist Billy Bang, pianist McCoy Tyner and saxophonists Arthur Blythe and Archie Shepp. After an interregnum in Florida and Pennsylvania, he returned to New York to teach music at the graduate level, renew his outstanding playing career and record. Read about Burrage’s consciousness-raising experience in St. Louis and New York’s Lower East Side; what he’s now trying to do to ease racial tensions; his friendship with and mentoring by poet Amiri Baraka; and how he nearly became a member of Weather Report.