First off to only call this a drummer for Michael Jackson doesn’t even touch the massive brush of his long career.
He played with Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard among others.
He was born Leon “Ndugu” Chancler in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 1, 1952. He picked up the drums at 13, first just perfecting a style on the snare drum and learning notation.
He was big fans of working in different genre’s but once you were playing in a type of music you had to totally immerse yourself in that style, as he put it in a YouTube drummer’s resource interview, “Not play at ’em but get into them.” He strived to be able to work with anybody on anything. In that “Drummer’s Resource” interview he said that, “when your thinking your learning to play one genre you’re also learning another but you might not know it like if you’re learning to play Jazz you’re also learning to play early pop music or with Be-pop you’re learning early Afro Cuban music and if you learn shuffles your automatically learning to play Motown and you’re learning Jazz shuffles at the same time.”
As for working on “Thriller” he points out that, “everyone only talks about Michael but that was a team, that was Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien (Engineer) and Michael Jackson. That’s what made that whole thing the phenomenal success it was. It was an innovative production style and innovative musical performance style and innovative engineering style that made that the big record it was. What I was really a part of, without even knowing it, was the pioneering of what was going to become a new standard of how records were made.”
He also played with George Benson, Stanley Clarke, The Crusaders, George Duke, Herbie Hancock, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Laws, Thelonious Monk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Patrice Rushen, Carlos Santana, Frank Sinatra, Donna Summer, The Temptations and Tina Turner. Chancler was on Weather Report’s ‘Tale Spinnin’ from 1975.
In 2006 Chancler became an Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern California. He also had a yearly three week workshop every summer in California. – by John Beaudin
A link to the full interview at YouTube’s Drummer’s Resource https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbuRNNsV-u4