Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reviews: Tony Allen, Quantic Soul Orchestra

here's a coupla reviews i wrote awhile back that were intended for "The Valley Advocate" but published here instead...

Tony Allen
Afro Disco Beat (Vampisoul 2007)
Nigerian-born afro-jazz pioneer Tony Allen is a drummer, composer, bandleader, and, along with Fela Kuti (for whom he was musical director for most of the 1970s), the co-creator of that hypnotic and militant groove we call afrobeat. After hooking up with Fela and associates, as well as King Sunny Ade among others, Allen made a major comeback late in the 90s with the incredible dub-drenched Black Voices album on Comet Records, before going on to work with many progressive projects to forward music into the 21st Century. Tony currently beats the drums with British supergroup The Good, The Bad, and The Queen. But here with Afro Disco Beat we have the first four albums Tony recorded under his own leadership, the first of which featured Fela’s Afrika ‘70 band (Fela produced and played on these sides). Originally released in Nigeria, the first three records contained a song per side that allowed a lot of space for Tony’s drum breakdowns. Fela played some mean sax and keys on these tunes, while Candido Obajimi sings about injustice in Lagos. The fourth album (No Discrimination) is independent from Fela yet returns Candido and baritone sax man Lekan Animashaun. It is also my favorite of the bunch, with shorter songs (a whopping four cuts on this album!), funky four-limbed skin-bashing, and a slightly less militant feel. “Road Safety,” with some heavy bari blowing, teaches a tale not just of notoriously maniacal Lagos car traffic but also of life’s journeys everywhere in the world. These remastered albums are given the finest package I’ve seen to date from Spain’s Vampisoul label, with a gorgeous retro sleeve and a hefty booklet that brings to light many unheard stories. It would be hard to imagine afrobeat, afro-house, broken beat, and increasingly more contemporary hip-hop and jazz without Tony Allen’s original drum patterns. This is as good a place as any to tune yourself in to a major influence on contemporary groove music.

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Quantic Soul Orchestra
Tropidelico (TruThoughts 2007)
Will “Quantic” Holland, while still in his mid 20’s, is already one of the great producers of funk music. The UK-born multi-instrumentalist is currently based in Cali, Colombia so an increasing Latin feel to his music is understandable. Jet-setting from UK to Cali, USA to Turkey, Ethiopia to Puerto Rico, Ghana to Panama, it’s no surprise to hear such a natural diversity in his work: from the opening Eastern-influenced title cut featuring legendary Peruvian pianist Alfedo Linares and England’s champion funky drummer Malcom Catto, to the tricky rap/descarga * throwdown by one of NYC’s greatest MCs, J-Live, on “She Said What?”. The supremely groovy “Lead Us To The End” teams Catto and Noelle Scaggs’ soul vocals with Holland’s JB’s style guitar and a nice marimba solo. The cumbia of “Los Olvidados” features gorgeous sax/flute/trumpet from veteran salsa bandleader Roberto Roena’s sidemen. The album also gives us thub-piano-driven instrumental soul, nu-blues featuring a smooth Panamanian vocalist singing in English and hard and dusty analog r&b. Perhaps the album’s tastiest cut is “Melodious Wayfarer” in which Linares nails it with a killer montuno * groove and feel-good vibes all around. And with album design by Western Mass. homeboy DJ Bongohead, you can’t go wrong on this spirited jam. Quantic turns up golden yet again.
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* a descarga, literally a ‘discharge’ (as in of electricity), is a term that is loosely defined as a Latin ‘jam session’ where the instruments take solos; a montuno is a section in Latin music much like a repetitive ‘vamp’ or rhythmic figure, played by the piano.

 Andujar is a longtime WMUA (91.1 F.M.) deejay where he hosts the show "Clandestino" every Monday, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. He appreciates funk, jazz, salsa and roots reggae, as well as baseball, fine beer, and the Latin American move towards socialism. He contributes to the diversity of opinion in the streets of Greenfield, MA.

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