STEVE REID ENSEMBLE

 

Steve Reid: Dakar 2007 - Getting Jiggy…"I knew how much Trane wanted to go to Africa and he inspired me to go. Art Blakey, my first inspiration, also spent a lot of time in Africa because it was the root. So, I went on a freight liner, it was carrying diesel engines, it only cost 75 dollars. I took my drum set… it was really strange, we got to the Canary Islands and changed to another boat, I remember it was called African Moon on Pharaoh Lines. This guy came running up to me and said, "Are you the drummer?"… as they were unloading my drums had fallen in to the sea and I was like 'Oh no…' but then, to me, it was like a baptism. I thought, this is heavy 'cause to me I was like recreating the slave journey backwards. I was reversing history." Steve Reid is never short of a good story. The man has lived life and the reminiscence above, lifted from a Straight No Chaser interview, illuminates the spiritual and political dimensions that define his life in music. In the hope of capturing just a smidgeon of his immense spirit I feel honored to write a few notes about this brand new collection of rhythmic ideas captured during his first visit to Africa in over four decades.

 

I first came across Steve whilst delving through the lesser fingered racks of the jazz avant garde. You see, as well as having accompanied the greatest of the greats, from James Brown to Chaka Khan via Miles Davis and Sun Ra, Steve has also remained one of the true independent innovators. His 'Nova' and 'Rhythmatism' LPs on the Mustevic label have long been essentials for the beat purveyor - and of course with renewed fandom came the Soul Jazz reissues plus the 'Spirit Walk' album, so thankfully his music can now be found more widely!

 

Today, it is from Lugano, Switzerland that he usually embarks on his travels in a constant quest to 'keep in the rhythm'! Determined to get his music over to a new generation, he has sought out like minded musical souls and his recent collaborations, live and recorded, with electronica wiz, Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet, have won them both critical acclaim and alerted a new audience to Steve's innovative back catalogue. So, for Steve Reid to return to the home of the drums in January 2007 was a natural trip. What is it with drummers, Tony Allen, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones... so much energy! It¹s fitting that the drummer should choose Dakar, the rhythm capital of Africa, to document his return but don¹t expect this album, 'Daxaar', to be a drum fest where traps meet the rattling polyrhythmic, sabar and tama drums that underpin Senegalese Mbalax. This is one groove based, funky affair with touches of 'Bitches Brew' and Ra, that connects the Bronx to Dakar (check: 'Dabronxaar'). He's enlisted Kieran's skills on electronics and as album producer. He's also given sonic keys-man, Boris Netsvetaev, the job of musical director.

Gilles Peterson - May 2007