Sherman Ferguson, 61; Drummer Played With Top Names in Jazz

From a Times Staff Writer

Sherman Ferguson, a jazz drummer whose versatility and innovative spirit made him a sought-after session player during a more than four-decade career, has died. He was 61.

Ferguson, a member of the jazz studies faculty at UCLA, died Jan. 22 at his home in La Crescenta of complications from diabetes.

Ferguson's early musical influences were drummers Max Roach and Roy Haynes. He studied privately and began performing with organist and saxophonist Charles Earland in the 1960s.

Over the years, he was recorded on more than 80 albums and played with a virtual who's who of top players, including Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson and George Shearing.

The great jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, founder and director of UCLA's jazz studies program, called Ferguson "an extraordinary talent and a major figure in the Los Angeles jazz scene."

"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," Burrell said.

Ferguson, a native of Philadelphia, moved to Los Angeles in 1976.

In addition to his session work, he taught at UC Irvine, the California Institute of the Arts and the Los Angeles Music Academy.

He also was a frequent participant in a program sponsored by Jazz America to bring performances by professional musicians into the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"When people ask me what I do, I don't tell them I'm a musician; I say I'm a jazz musician," he told critic Zan Stewart some years ago.

"I'm proud of it. I'd wear it as a statement on my forehead if I could."

He is survived by his wife, Anni, and sister, Delores.

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