He played drums on Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean”, “P.Y.T.” and “Baby Be Mine” and on a thousand more sessions. An album with Leon “Ndugu” Chancler on the drums was always worth checking out. In his early career, he played with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock, Willie Bobo, Miles Davis, and Freddie Hubbard. He was very much in-demand as a session drummer for diverse projects as those from Tina Turner to Donna Summer, Peter Gabriel to Thelonious Monk, Frank Sinatra to Carlos Santana.
He also recorded some records under his own name. As composer and writer, he formed the Chocolate Jam Co. and the group recorded two albums: “The Spread Of The Future” (1979) and “Do I Make You Feel Better?” (1980). Both albums are worth checking out if you’re a late 70s/early 80s soul music lover. The former album features Maxi Anderson on vocals plus Ronnie Foster, David T. Walker, Ernie Watts, some of the Earth, Wind & Fire horns and George Duke and the latter had The Jones Girls, Hubert Laws, Josie James and the O’Jays on the Bee Gees hit “Shadow Dancing”. Also included is the heavenly mellow soul swayer “Take Some Time”. Ndugu was also part of the supergroup Fuse One which was founded by producer Creed Taylor. They recorded two albums for the CTI label (“Fuse One”, 1980 and “Silk”, 1981), had a sold-out tour in Japan and sold over 150.000 copies of their first album there. He later recorded simply as Ndugu (“Old Friends New Friends”, 1988), a trio album with modern jazz standards with Patrice Rushen and Stanley Clarke in 2000 (“Jazz Straight Up”) and another one with John Beasley and Darryl Jones as 3 Brave Souls in 2012. Ndugu also joined George Duke in the early 70s and toured and recorded with him on and off until 1980. He was really a drummer’s drummer with a lot of energy and vitality and could play just about everything. He was only 65 when he died of cancer yesterday.