Tony Allen – The Source
(Blue Note. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Tony Allen is perhaps best known as the driving force behind Fela Kuti for over a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, helping define “Afrobeat”. But he had studied jazz drummers such as Art Blakey and Max Roach. This, his first full length CD for Blue Note, has elements from Allen’s many influences, but it is 100% jazz.
Now based in Paris, Allen wrote the music for The Source with tenor saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz, who also arranged most of the material. The arrangements are central to the success of the album, balancing the various elements with great subtlety.
Several tunes exhibit the influence of Gil Evans, not least the opening moments of the first track, Moody Boy, which is surely a homage to Evans’ call-and-response arrangement of Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus) for Miles Davis on Porgy & Bess. Over Jean-Philippe Dary‘s rumbling piano, Daniel Zimmermann‘s low, moaning trombone solo is punctuated by brass and saxophones, before leading into the main body of the tune. Jankielewicz’s arrangements are hugely effective throughout: the music is full but uncluttered, leaving lots of space for soloists.
Allen’s drums and Mathias Allamane‘s acoustic bass riffs lock together: it is hard to listen to The Source and not want to move. It doesn’t so much swing as stroll, with a compulsive, rolling gait. The effect is compounded with some choppy guitar patterns from Indy Dibongue.
But it is a collegiate effort. The horns – there are three saxes, a trumpet and trombone – fit superbly. The occasional keyboards from Vincent Taurelle, who also co-produced the album, and pianist Jean-Philippe Dary are used well for emphasis, providing accentuation to great effect. There’s even a cameo on piano from Damon Albarn on Cool Cats – but don’t let that put you off.