Narada Michael Walden

Narada Michael Walden (born April 23, 1952) is an American jazz-funk/soul musician and producer who drummed in the second lineup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, playing on the 1974/75 albums Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. In 1976, he played on jazz-rock albums by Weather Report, Jaco Pastorius, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, and Nova.

As a solo artist, Walden debuted with the 1976 Atlantic release Garden of Love Light, followed by the 1977–79 albums I Cry, I Smile, Awakening, and The Dance of Life. During the 1980s, he issued three further Atlantic albums, followed by titles on Warner and Reprise.

He was born Michael Walden on April 23, 1952, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and later moved to Miami, where he played in bands and attended college. His nickname, Narada, came from Indian spiritual leader Sri Chimnoy, whose teachings also attracted singer Roberta Flack and guitarists Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin.

McLaughlin led the jazz-rock supergroup Mahavishnu Orchestra, which had splintered after the 1973 departures of drummer Billy Cobham, keyboardist Jerry Goodman, keyboardist Jan Hammer, and bassist Rick Laird.

In early 1974, McLaughlin recruited 21-year-old Walden as Cobham’s replacement for the Mahavishnu release Apocalypse, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and produced by George Martin. Along with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, keyboardist Gayle Moran, and bassist Ralphe Armstrong, Walden comprised the mark II Mahavishnu lineup that also recorded the 1975 release Visions of the Emerald Beyond.  After Ponty left to focus on his solo career, Walden and Armstrong stayed for the 1976 Mahavishnu wrap-up Inner Worlds.

Meanwhile, Walden fielded invites from multiple artists. His first non-Mahavishnu credit is on the track “Marching Powder,” included on the 1975 Nemperor Records release Teaser by guitarist Tommy Bolin (who’d played on Cobham’s solo debut, Spectrum).

In 1976, Walden played on two tracks (“Black Market,” “Cannon Ball”) on Black Market, the fifth studio album by Weather Report. That album features two bassists, the outgoing Alphonso Johnson and the incoming Jaco Pastorius, who each released solo debuts that year. Walden drums on six of the eight tracks on Johnson’s Moonshadows, composing the album-closer “Unto Thine Own Self Be True.” On Jaco Pastorius, Walden drums on the track “Come On, Come Over,” which also features Herbie Hancock and the Brecker Brothers.

Also in 1976, Walden drummed on one track (“Armando’s Rhumba“) on the album My Spanish Heart by Chick Corea; three tracks (“Led Boots,” “Come Dancing,” and “Sophie“) on Wired by Jeff Beck; and the entirety of Velvet Darkness, the debut solo album by Soft Machine guitarist Allan Holdsworth. That summer, Walden joined the London-based Italian jazz-rock band Nova for their second album, Vimana.

Amid these activities, Walden secured a solo deal. He recorded his first album at Atlantic Recording Studios, NYC, between August 23 and September 4, 1976.



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