ferguson

Published: January 27, 2006

Sherman Ferguson, a jazz drummer and a member of the faculty in the UCLA Jazz Studies Program, died from complications of diabetes on Jan. 22 at his home in La Crescenta, Calif. He was 61. Ferguson joined the UCLA faculty as a lecturer in January 2001 and taught a jazz ensemble class and private drum lessons.

“Sherman Ferguson was an extraordinary talent and a major figure in the Los Angeles music scene,” said Kenny Burrell, founder and director of the UCLA Jazz Studies Program and a distinguished jazz guitarist. “He was a vital and well-loved member of the jazz faculty here at UCLA. Sherman represented the best of what a jazz musician should be. He was a master drummer whose talent and versatility allowed him to work with a large variety of musical artists. His passion for music and his deep interest in helping others made him one of the most respected teachers in the UCLA Jazz Studies Program. Sherman loved teaching, he loved performing and he loved people. He will be sorely missed.”

Born in Philadelphia, Ferguson was a serious musician from a young age. His early influences were Max Roach and Roy Haynes. He studied privately and performed on the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles in 1976. He performed and recorded with a virtual who’s who of jazz musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell, Benny Carter, Horace Silver, Ahmad Jamal, Freddie Hubbard, Bud Shank, Eddie Harris, Jimmy Smith, Buddy Collette, Joe Williams, Joe Henderson, Tommy Flanagan, Pharoah Sanders, Gabor Szabo, Sonny Stitt and George Shearing. He toured extensively throughout the United States as well as Europe, Japan, Brazil, Martinique, Malta and Greece. He performed on various TV shows, including “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.”

His discography numbers more than 80 recordings. In 1999, Catalyst, a Philadelphia group he co-directed, re-released four 1970s LPs in a two-CD set called “Catalyst, the Funkiest Band You Never Heard.” He collaborated in a group with John Heard and Tom Ranier on the LP “Hear, Ranier and Ferguson.” With his band, JazzUnion, he released the CD “Welcome to My Vision” on his own label, Jazz-a-zance Records.

In addition to UCLA, Ferguson taught at the University of California, Irvine; the California Institute of the Arts; Long Beach Community College; the Los Angeles Music Academy; and Jackson State University in Mississippi. He taught privately in his home studio, and performed at many schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District under the auspices of “Jazz America.” He also wrote liner notes and articles for jazz magazines such as Bird and L.A. Jazz Scene.

Ferguson is survived by his wife, Anni, and his sister, Dolores.

Carolyn Campbell,
UCLA News