Jeff Tamarkin | January 18, 2018
Jazz, of course, had its origins in Africa and we often tend to think of the music’s journey as a one-way trip. It wasn’t, and isn’t now—for all of the inspiration Americans have drawn from African culture, musicians on the African continent have long found plenty from this side to push their own creative instincts in different directions. Nigerian drummer Tony Allen is best known as a key member of Fela Kuti’s ensembles during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Allen was there at the dawn of Afrobeat music and was one of its architects, but even then, he was listening closely to American jazz, inspired by the likes of drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach. On The Source, Allen and 10 stellar musicians (heavy on the horns and keys) fuse Afrobeat with the hard-bop style that moved the now 77 year old when he was coming up. Each of the 11 tracks bears an Allen writing credit and most were co-composed by Yann Jankielewicz, one of the saxophonists on the set, and recorded on analog equipment in France. It’s a steamy, danceable collection—all of it groove-centric, polyrhythms upon polyrhythms, stacked horns and fiery solos. Even at its most chill, as on “Woro Dance,” there’s a churning beat under the hood, something going on here, something else there and rarely a rest stop or traffic light in sight. “Cool Cats” recalls James Brown at his funkiest and, on “Bad Roads,” Allen tricks out a rhythm that seems to defy time rather than conform to it.
Artist: Tony Allen
Album: The Source
Label: BLUE NOTE