Basic Background Info

Birth: December 25, 1939
Location: New York City, New York
Band: Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Weather Report, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Jaco Pastorius
Genres: Jazz
Instruments: Percussion, Drums, Bass
Occupation: Musician


Don Alias was born Charles David Alias on Christmas Day in 1939. His parents were Caribbean immigrants who lived in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. Don Alias grew up listening to Calypso music and closely observed the Cuban and Puerto Rican hand drummers of his neighborhood.

Don Alias said of his childhood, "We were all diversified, as far as music was concerned. I grew up liking just about everything. So I tried to incorporate that into my playing, although the original school I came from was Afro-Cuban music." Don Alias and his brother enjoyed the Cuban and Puerto Rican cultures and sought them out musically. As kids, they played "the rhythm of the streets" and "real ethnic, folkloric music thatís indigenous to African music" in subway stations for money. In high school, Don Alias played congas for the YMCA Eartha Kitt Dance Foundation and accompanied a vocalist at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island.

Taking a step away from music, Don Alias studied biology at Gannon College in Erie, Pennsylvania and at the Carnegie Institute for Biochemistry in Boston. While studying in Boston, Don Alias often played at local clubs with students from the Berklee College of Music. These students included Bill Fitch, Gene Perla, Chick Corea, and Tony Williams. Along with several of his Berklee pals, Don Alias created the salsa band Los Muchachos and played with them for nearly two and a half years.

Don Alias's excellent rapport with Gene Perla landed him a job with Nina Simone. After Perla joined Simone, he persuaded Simone to invite Don Alias to join them as well. Don eventually served as Simone's musical director. Nina Simone often shared the stage with Miles Davis. Before long the jazz luminary recognized Don's impeccable skill. Davis hired Don Alias as an auxiliary percussionist in 1969 to record Bitches Brew. The loose, syncopated rhythm of "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" can only be attributed to Don Alias. Following the album's completion, Don went on tour with Davis.

After recording and touring with Miles Davis, Don Alias again joined forces with Tony Williams on the album Ego. Don also found studio work with increasing frequency and recorded with Weather Report and Jaco Pastorius.

Don Alias returned to New York City and rejoined Gene Perla. Together they created Stone Alliance, an Afro-Cuban fusion arrangement that included Steve Grossman on saxophone. In 1977 Don began working with soloist Joni Mitchell. Joining forces on her albums Mingus and Shadows and Light, he infused her music with jazz rhythms.

In the 1980s Don Alias moved to Montreal where he led the ten-piece fusion ensemble Kebekwa. He spent a few years in Canada before he returned to New York City and resumed his demanding studio schedule. Don Alias has recorded with Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Micahel Brecker.

In 1996 he collaborated with Gene Perla yet again. Don Alias unexpectedly passed away on March 28, 2006, in his Manhattan home. At the time, he and Perla were cooperating on a tandem memoir.

Don Alias is remembered for his ability to cull his skill in a variety of musical genres and for his adeptness on the congas and hand drums. Within the jazz community, Don's proficiency with Afro-Cuban and Latin rhythms is legendary.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1956 Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985 Miles Davis
1963 More Adventures Various Artists
1968 Complete Blue Note Elvin Jones Sessions Elvin Jones
1969 Bitches Brew Miles Davis
1969 Complete Bitches Brew Sessions Miles Davis
1969 Spectrum: The Anthology Tony Williams Lifetime
1969 Very Rare Evening Nina Simone
1970 Ego The Tony Williams Lifetime
1970 Wayfaring Stranger Jeremy Steig
1971 Merry-Go-Round Elvin Jones
1971 This Is Jazz, Vol. 10 Weather Report
1972 Love Devotion Surrender Carlos Santana
1972 On the Corner Miles Davis
1973 Lookout Farm Dave Liebman
1973 McLaughlin & Santana Mahavishnu John McLaughlin/Carlos Santan
1973 Penny Arcade Joe Farrell
1973 Some Shapes to Come Steve Grossman
1975 Brecker Bros. Collection, Vol. 2 Brecker Bros.
1975 Sweet Hands David Liebman
1975 Triumphant Sax! Various Artists
1976 After the Rain Frank Strazzeri
1976 All American Alien Boy Ian Hunter
1976 Black Market Weather Report
1976 Black Widow Lalo Schifrin
1976 In Concert Blood, Sweat & Tears
1976 Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius
1976 Miroslav Miroslav Vitous
1976 More than Ever Blood, Sweat & Tears
1976 My Spanish Heart Chick Corea
1977 Brand New Day Blood, Sweat & Tears
1977 Don Juan's Reckless Daughter Joni Mitchell
1977 You Are My Starship Norman Connors
1978 Con Amigos Stone Alliance
1978 Stone Alliance Stone Alliance
1978 Tap Step Chick Corea
1979 Crystal Bells Charlie Mariano
1979 Future Street Pages
1979 Mingus Joni Mitchell
1979 Ya Yo Me Cure Jerry Gonzalez
1980 Concord Jazz Heritage Series T‚nia Maria
1980 Marcio Montarroyos/Stone Alliance Marcio Montarroyos/Stone Alliance
1980 Shadows and Light Joni Mitchell
1980 Straphangin' The Brecker Bros.
1980 What It Is Dave Liebman
1981 Birthday Concert Jaco Pastorius
1981 Double Rainbow Terumasa Hino
1981 Innocent Age Dan Fogelberg
1981 Word of Mouth Jaco Pastorius
1982 Again and Again Chick Corea
1982 Heads Up Stone Alliance
1982 Peter Erskine Peter Erskine
1982 Touchstone Chick Corea
1983 Invitation Jaco Pastorius
1983 Ivanhoe Bunny Brunel
1985 Between the Lines Uzeb
1985 Dream Patrol Mister Spats
1986 Aqui Se Puede Airto
1986 Blue Matter John Scofield
1986 Carla Steve Swallow
1986 Sextet Carla Bley
1987 Give It What U Got Hiram Bullock
1987 Loud Jazz John Scofield
1987 Story of Moses Bob Moses
1988 Close-Up David Sanborn
1988 Fleur Carnivore Carla Bley
1988 Oasis Roberta Flack
1988 Secrets Leni Stern
1988 So Far So Close Eliane Elias
1988 Time in Place Mike Stern
1988 Valerian Philippe Saisse
1989 Amandla Miles Davis
1989 Best of John Scofield John Scofield
1989 City of Dreams Gil Goldstein
1989 Closer to the Light Leni Stern
1989 Inventor Bobby Watson
1989 Rhythm Deep Omar Hakim
1989 Samba de Flora Airto Moreira
1989 Watt Works Family Album Various Artists
1990 Beyond Words Mark Egan
1990 Blazing Away (Video) Marianne Faithfull
1990 Blazing Away Marianne Faithfull
1990 Deliverance Jonathan Butler
1990 Dream Keeper Charlie Haden & The Liberation Music Orc
1990 Gramavision 10th Anniversary Sampler Various Artists
1990 Heal Our Land Jonathan Butler
1990 Nelson Rangell Nelson Rangell
1990 Now You See It...Now You Don't Michael Brecker
1990 Rituals Michael Colina
1990 Signals Wayne Krantz
1990 Slo Sco: The Best of Ballads John Scofield
1990 Song of the Sun Jim Beard
1990 Very Big Carla Bley Band Carla Bley
1990 Wishbone Ray Anderson
1991 Another Hand David Sanborn
1991 In the Door Joey Calderazzo
1991 Kenny Kirkland Kenny Kirkland
1991 Live and Improvised Blood, Sweat & Tears
1991 Marc Cohn Marc Cohn
1991 New Moon Shine James Taylor
1991 Odds or Evens Mike Stern
1991 One Music Bob Mintzer
1991 Smile Blue Ricky Peterson
1991 Swallo1w Steve Swallow
1991 T.K. Takeshi Itoh
1991 Ten Songs Leni Stern
1992 2 B Named Later Barry Finnerty
1992 Black and Blue Wolfgang Muthspiel Sextet
1992 Black Hope Kenny Garrett
1992 Enja 20th Anniversary Sampler Various Artists
1992 Family Portrait Victor Lewis
1992 GRP 10th Anniversary Collection Various Artists
1992 Lethal Weapon 3 Michael Kamen
1992 Meltdown: The Birth of Fusion Various Artists
1992 Return of the Brecker Brothers The Brecker Brothers
1992 Upfront David Sanborn
1992 Way Kool Hiram Bullock
1992 Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus Various Artists
1993 Compact Jazz: The Seventies Chick Corea
1993 Hand Jive John Scofield
1993 Outrageous T‚nia Maria
1993 Spin Fernando Saunders
1993 Sun Don't Lie Marcus Miller
1993 Tenor Legacy Joe Lovano
1993 Travelin' Light Gabrielle Goodman
1993 What It Was Steve Masakowski
1993 World of Contemporary Jazz Groups Various Artists
1994 Blue Note Now! Various Artists
1994 Carnegie Hall Salutes the Jazz Masters: Verve at 50 Various Artists
1994 Cole Porter in Concert: Just One of Those Live Things Various Artists
1994 Doldinger in New York: Street of Dreams Klaus Doldinger
1994 Equinost Partners in Time
1994 Hearsay David Sanborn
1994 Liquid Fire: The Best of John Scofield John Scofield
1994 Reincarnation of a Love Bird, Vol. 71-81 Paul Motian & the Electric Bebop Band
1994 Spark Terumasa Hino
1994 Tenderness Al Jarreau
1994 Until We Love Gabrielle Goodman
1994 Verve Jazz Masters 3 Chick Corea
1995 Abandoned Garden Michael Franks
1995 Alive & Cooking T‚nia Maria & Nouvelle Vague
1995 Ancestors Renee Rosnes
1995 Groove Elation John Scofield
1995 Jump Airto
1995 Just Before the Dawn Marty Ehrlich's Dark Woods Ensemble
1995 Loaded, Like New Wolfgang Muthspiel
1995 Medianoche Don Grolnick
1995 New Standard Herbie Hancock
1995 No Comment T‚nia Maria
1995 Pearls David Sanborn
1995 Promise John McLaughlin
1995 Take Off! Barbara Dennerlein
1995 What Goes Up: The Best of Blood, Sweat & Tears Blood, Sweat & Tears
1996 Back to the Basics, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1996 Basse Contre Basse Alain Caron & Michel Donato
1996 Blue Note Rare Grooves Various Artists
1996 Got My Mental Steve Khan
1996 Jazz Masters (Audioquest) Various Artists
1996 Junkanoo Barbara Dennerlein
1996 Misses Joni Mitchell
1996 Music Forever and Beyond: The Selected Works of Chick Chick Corea
1996 NBA at 50: A Musical Celebration Various Artists
1996 Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City Various Artists
1996 Oneness Jack DeJohnette
1996 People Make the World Go 'round (Mojazz) Various Artists
1996 Sanctuary: 20 Years of Windham Hill Various Artists
1996 Something Else Jeremy Steig
1996 Songs from the Night Before David Sanborn
1996 Tales from the Hudson Michael Brecker
1996 This Is Jazz, Vol. 17 John McLaughlin
1996 Toys Uri Caine
1997 Black Guitar (Bonus Tracks) Leni Stern
1997 Christmas Album Roberta Flack
1997 Eeeyyess!! Victor Lewis
1997 Give and Take Mike Stern
1997 Imaginary Day Pat Metheny
1997 Operanoia Pork Pie
1997 Searcher Bob Malach
1997 Selected Signs, Vol. 1: An ECM Anthology (#1) Various Artists
1997 Selected Signs, Vol. 1: An ECM Anthology (#2) Various Artists
1997 Side by Side Michael White
1997 Swingin' Jazz for Hipsters, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1997 Time and Love: The Music of Laura Nyro Various Artists
1997 Two Blocks from the Edge Michael Brecker
1998 Adama Avishai Cohen
1998 Best of Michael Franks: A Backward Glance Michael Franks
1998 Best of Smooth Jazz, Vol. 4 Various Artists
1998 Birth of Cool Funk Vintage Jams (Box) Various Artists
1998 Blues for the Bad Man John Ellis
1998 Colors of Christmas Various Artists
1998 Endless Miles: A Tribute to Miles Davis Various Artists
1998 In a New York Minute Sanne Salomonsen with Chris Minh Doky Qu
1998 One on One Phyllis Hyman
1998 Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969-1974 Miles Davis/Bill Laswell
1998 Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology Marianne Faithfull
1998 Recollection Leni Stern
1998 San Bonan Bakithi Kumalo
1998 Who Loves You: Jaco Pastorius Tribute Various Artists
1999 Blues After Hours (#1) Various Artists
1999 Blues After Hours (#2) Various Artists
1999 Future Jazz Howard Mandel
1999 Inside David Sanborn
1999 Mongo's Way/Up from the Roots Mongo Santamaria
1999 Priceless Jazz The Brecker Brothers
1999 Work in Progress 89-98 Wolfgang Muthspiel
1999 Caminho Zanella
2000 Batucada Por Favor Various Artists
2000 Charlie Brown Christmas Cyrus Chestnut & Friends
2000 Ecstasy Lou Reed
2000 Gershwin: Island to Island Kathleen Landis
2000 Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of America's Music Various Artists
2000 Ken Burns Jazz Miles Davis
2000 Ken Burns Jazz Herbie Hancock
2000 London Concert Don Grolnick Group
2000 My Spanish Heart Chick Corea
2000 New Moon Shine/Never Die Young/That's Why I'm Here James Taylor
2000 Organ-Ized: All-Star Tribute to the Hammond B3 Organ Various Artists
2000 Outhipped Barbara Dennerlein
2000 Rare Collection Jaco Pastorius
2000 Smooth and Straight Various Artists
2000 Steady Groovin' John Scofield
2000 Tutu/Amandla/Doo-Bop Miles Davis
2000 Twins Live in Japan 1982 (2 CD) Jaco Pastorius Big Band
2000 Two Blocks from the Edge Michael Brecker
2000 Who Loves You: Tribute to Jaco Pastorius Various Artists
2000 World of Drums And Percussion, Vol. 2 Various Artists
2001 Best of Eliane Elias, Vol. 1: Originals Eliane Elias
2001 Charlie Brown Christmas Cyrus Chestnut Trio
2001 Color Me Hiram Bullock
2001 Divine Light: Reconstructions & Mix Translation - Bill Laswell Carlos Santana & Bill Laswell
2001 Essential Miles Davis Miles Davis
2001 Hanging in the City Randy Brecker
2001 Here Dean Brown
2001 Mr. Funk Herbie Hancock
2001 Soul Insider Bill Evans
2001 Telarc Sampler Various Artists
2001 With a Little Help From My Friends Renee Rosnes
2001 Works & Passion Klaus Doldinger
2002 Best of Miles Davis Miles Davis
2002 Best of Weather Report Weather Report
2002 Happiness T‚nia Maria
2002 In the Sun Jane Monheit
2002 Ken Burns Jazz, Vol. 2 Various Artists
2002 Montreal Jazz Festival Various Artists
2002 Pride & Joy Kevin Mahogany
2002 Soul on Jazz Philip Bailey
2002 Tribute to Jaco Pastoruis Various Artists
2003 5,000 Miles Nils Landgren Funk Unit
2003 Complete Geffen Recordings Joni Mitchell
2003 Flying Funk Various Artists
2003 Heads Up Sampler Various Artists
2003 Holiday Roberta Flack
2003 Looking for America Carla Bley
2003 Love Devotion Surrender Santana
2003 Outrageously Wild T‚nia Maria
2003 Playtime, Vol. 1: Pure 70's Jazz-Funk Tracks Various Artists
2003 Punk Jazz: The Jaco Pastorius Anthology Jaco Pastorius
2003 Talk of the Town Cheryl Bentyne
2003 Time Again David Sanborn
2003 Under the Hat Ada Rovatti
2003 Windham Hill Chill: Ambient Acoustic Various Artists
2004 Dreamland Joni Mitchell
2004 Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter Wayne Shorter
2004 Guitar & Bass Alphonso Johnson
2004 Guitar & Bass Jaco Pastorius
2004 Homage James Moody
2004 Keep It Solid Steel Mr. Scruff
2004 Live in Amsterdam Stone Alliance
2004 Rarum, Vol. 12: Selected Recordings Jack DeJohnette
2004 Rarum, Vol. 15: Selected Recordings Carla Bley
2004 Someone to Watch Over Me: The Definitive Little Jimmy Scott
2004 These Times Mike Stern
2004 Unspeakable Bill Frisell
2005 Concord Picante 25th Anniversary Collection Various Artists
2005 Essential Plus (CD & DVD) Miles Davis
2005 In the Sun Jane Monheit
2005 Live in Bremen Stone Alliance
2005 Live in Japan Jaco Pastorius Big Band
2005 Mysterious Voyages: A Tribute to Weather Report Various Artists
2005 Playin' with Carlos Various Artists
2005 Songs of a Prairie Girl Joni Mitchell
2005 Soul of Nina Simone Nina Simone
2005 Very Rare Evening Nina Simone
2006 Airbop Ada Rovatti
2006 All American Alien Boy Ian Hunter
2006 Bible Steve Grossman
2006 Book of Love Cheryl Bentyne
2006 Brazil Marcio Montarroyos & Stone Alliance
2006 Forecast: Tomorrow Weather Report
2006 Forever Young, Gifted & Black: Songs of Freedom and S Nina Simone
2006 Greatest Hits Marc Cohn
2006 Introducing: Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius
2006 Live in Buenos Aires Stone Alliance
2006 Under Rousseau's Moon Gil Goldstein
2007 Can You Dig It? Various Artists
2007 Complete On the Corner Sessions Miles Davis
2007 Essential John McLaughlin John McLaughlin
2007 Just Like a Woman: Sings Classic Songs of the 1960s Nina Simone
2007 Live and Outrageous Jaco Pastorius
2007 Ultimate Jaco Pastorius Jaco Pastorius
2007 Very Best of the Warner Bros. Sessions 1985-1991 Miles Davis
2008 All American Alien Boy/Overnight Angels Ian Hunter
2008 Droppin' Science: Greatest Samples from the Blue Note Various Artists
TBA 2 Kathy Smith
TBA Energy Jeremy Steig
TBA Fusion Jeremy Steig


  • "When I was going to college, and I wanted a way to supplement my money... I wanted to get a little bit more money, and this guy had a bass. I had been fooling around with it. When I moved to Boston, I played in a trio with Chick Corea. The drummer was Tony Williams. I think he was about 15--and Chick was about 18 or 20. We had this trio, and I played bass in it." -Don Alias
  • During an interview, Don was asked, "You've said that the conga drum is a "masochistic" instrument? What do you mean by that?" Don responded, "If you're really digging in—soul to soul, skin on skin—you're going to do damage to your hands. It's an occupational hazard. You're going to be playing, and it's going to hurt. You're really going to have to love to play in order for you to do this kind of work, because it's going to hurt you."

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