Famous for his leadership of the Paris Reunion Band and the neo soul group The Roots. He was also notable for his work in the hard-bop sub-genre of jazz music.
After earning his doctorate in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he began heading the jazz studies program at the University of Pittsburgh.
In 2004, he wrote an opera titled Just Above My Head.
He spent his youth in Kansas City, Kansas, and later lived and worked in Paris, France.