Don McKenzie is an American musician and composer from New York City. This world-class drummer and highly skilled beat-smith has been called a “powerhouse” and a “master of deep-pocket hip hop, funk, jazz and rock”; according to Vernon Reid (Living Color), McKenzie is among the best in the industry. McKenzie began his musical training at the age of ten and was quickly recognized for his virtuosic talent and finesse. Under the tutelage of Everett Collins (Isley Brothers) and world-renowned drumming teacher, Dom Famularo, McKenzie has steadily evolved into a truly great musician with a firm basis in theory. McKenzie has travelled extensively throughout Europe, North America, Australia, South America and Africa playing sold out shows at the finest venues in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Carthage, São Paulo and New York among many others. His illustrious career has led him to tour and record with an impressive list of avant-garde artists such as multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharpe, celebrated American guitarist Marc Ribot, and Grammy nominated jazz composer, Roswell Rudd, on BBC recordings in the MALIcool project. McKenzie’s work in hip hop and R&B includes backing prolific artists such as Pharoahe Monch, P.Diddy, Grave Diggaz, New Kingdom, DJ Spinna, Mr. Complex, Martin Luther, Cody ChesnuTT, Polyrhythm Addicts and R&B legends, Sweetback, and The Persuaders. McKenzie also serves as musical director for Kat DeLuna and teaches master classes at the Brooklyn Music School when he’s not touring the globe.
Don McKenzie is best known however, for his longstanding tenure with Vernon Reid as a member of the band Masque. An accomplished composer who is constantly seeking to push boundaries, his composition, Kizzy, which has been called “dreamy”, “atmospheric” and “powerfully evocative”, is featured Masque’s third album, Other True Self.
As a bandleader McKenzie is skillful and generous, never overplaying but instead leading with agility and polished sophistication while creating a solid foundation for other musicians to express themselves creatively. Elliott Sharp explains that his firm sense of pocket, “hard hitting asymmetrical jazz flavors and light-fingered sonic abstractions” are what make McKenzie truly great. However, in spite of his accolades, McKenzie’s humility is clearly reflected in his philosophy, “A good drummer needs to be the foundation for the melodic and harmonic instruments while leading the way, it’s a dichotomy but it’s a necessary one…the older I get the less I want to lead and the more I want to support.” It is exactly this remarkable prowess and matching subtlety that have won him the respect and admiration of famed artists such as friend and mentor, iconic jazz composer Cecil Taylor. And it is these qualities which have led him to become one of the most highly sought after musicians in the industry.
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