New music from the late master of Afrobeat, drummer Tony Allen
Recorded five years ago, the late drummer Tony Allen has a new album out this year. The then-77-year-old master of Afrobeat was in fine form on a session with modern soul composer and producer Adrian Younge.
Called Tony Allen JID018, the title references its place as the latest in a series from Younge's Jazz Is Dead label. Naming their label to provoke a reaction, Younge and label co-founder Ali Shaheed Muhammad have championed jazz fusion, presented collaborations with vibraphonist Roy Ayers and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
This latest entry in the series features Allen's iconic rhythms. He is best known for drumming in Fela Kuti's legendary groups but also with hip-hop and pop stars later in his career.
The album has a classic Afrobeat vibe, down to the dusty production quality. Younge plays bass, guitar and keyboards including a vintage Ace Tone Electric Organ.
Allen's funky rhythms, always pulsing with emphasis "on the one", are decorated with subtly complex patterns on high hat cymbals and snare drum. Mostly, though, his drumming on Tony Allen JID018 is hypnotic and lifts each song into the realm of the spiritual.
Younge brings his own skillful soul style. The distorted wah-wah guitar and soulful horn arrangements on "Steady Tremble" and "Makoko" recall his soundtrack to Black Dynamite, while a head-bobbing hip-hop bounce colors the swaggering "Don't Believe the Dancers" and "Lagos."
There's also a big band jazz influence apparent in album opener "Ebun" and "No Beginning" which features a tasty trumpet solo by Emile Martinez.
Tony Allen JID018 shows Younge enjoying the traditional Afrobeat setting without dramatically reinterpreting it.
Despite the album's brief 28-minute running time, Allen's fans will love this thrilling collection of his final recordings.
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