Derf Reklaw was a Chicago born, multi-instrumentalist who mastered the flute, percussion,
saxophone, djembe, congas and piano. One of his signature instruments was a water jug that he
repurposed to create unique, melodic sounds.
After releasing two albums as an original member of The Pharaohs, a 70s jazz-funk band, Derf
joined Ramsey Lewis’s band as a musician, vocalist, and song writer. Derf recorded five albums
with Ramsey, which includes the RIAA gold certified, “Sun Goddess” album.
Derf went on to perform with countless artists such as Herbie Hancock, Jerry Butler, Natalie
Cole, Freda Payne, and Donny Hathaway. Derf’s discography boasts of over 85 albums
including his self-released debut album “Ship of the Desert”, and his follow up album “From the
Nile” on Ubiquity Records.
As a proud resident and fixture in Leimert Park, Derf’s band headlined at Lucy Florence, 5th
Street Dicks, and Kaos Network. He was a regular performer at Barbara Morrison’s Performing
Arts Center and The World Stage. Derf’s talent would take him to Brazil, Japan, and throughout
Europe, but he fulfilled his dream of performing in Africa when he accompanied jazz singer
Dwight Trible at The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival in Johannesburg.
Derf solidified his place in the African and Modern dance world as an instrumentalist to many dance teachers and choreographers including Katherine Dunham, Nzingha Camara, Pat Taylor,
Lula Washington, Karen McDonald and any many more. Prior to becoming the lead
instrumentalist for the dance department at Santa Monica College, Derf provided instrumentation to African and Modern dance classes at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
Derf gave back to his community by sharing his talents with young students at his drum workshop at The World Stage. In 2016, he was recognized by the Duke Ellington Society as a living jazz legend.