Home Read Albums Of The Week: Tony Allen | Jazz Is Dead 18

Albums Of The Week: Tony Allen | Jazz Is Dead 18

Recalling the Afrobeat master's work with Fela Kuti, these instrumental tracks put his hypnotic, circular polyrhythms at the heart of the action — right where they belong.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “With each subsequent release, the Jazz Is Dead series continues to exalt the legacies of iconic musicians who have shaped the fabric of Jazz across generations, genres, and continents. For their latest installment, the label connected with the late great Tony Allen, best known for his foundational work as the drummer for Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 (and later Egypt 80). Over the course of Allen’s recording career, he defined the Afrobeat sound, meshing funk and jazz influences with Nigerian Highlife to create a cross-cultural dialogue that has gone global.

On album opener Ebun, guitars and horns build off of Allen’s instantly recognizable drum patterns, stretching and warping time signatures as they cross paths. It instantly recalls the seminal Africa 70 recordings which Allen was a driving force on. Psychedelic keyboards and percussion clash on Steady Tremble, a heavy stomper tailor-made for dancefloors in every corner of the world. Just as funky is the kinetic and expressive Oladipo. Built between a tense call and response between the horns, the track is filled with drama, and Allen steadily keeps each element in balance.

As soon as the flute struts in alongside fiery horns and guitar on Don’t Believe The Dancers, the groove plunges further, propelled by an acerbic saxophone solo that animates Allen’s percussion. Makoko is a moody, mid-tempo jam that evokes classic Kuti recordings such as Open & Close and Gentleman, slowly constructing an elaborate orchestra of polyrhythm, all keeping step with Allen’s rhythm. Lagos points towards the spiritual and literal home of Allen and Afrobeat, the capital of Nigeria, and homes in on a yearning keyboard.

Allen is a revelatory jazz drummer, as heard on No Beginning, a mid-tempo tune that sits at the nexus of spiritual jazz and Afrobeat, which perfectly transitions into album closer, the aptly titled No End, a poignant number that combines all of the passion and precision of the previous tracks, and lets Allen guide listeners yet again as only he so effortlessly could.

Despite the finite time that Allen had on this planet, as do all of us, his contributions to music are timeless and untouchable, and will continue to inform and inspire generations to come. Allen was an unparalleled genius who shifted the music world’s conception of rhythm — a magician who alchemized the past with the future and influenced countless listeners, currently and to come.”


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