Music News

Steve Reid Ensemble

Jazz drummer Steve Reid (not to be confused with same-named New Age percussionist/composer) has a résumé that would make most musicians wince with envy. How many can lay claim to having played on Martha & the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street" and having performed or recorded with Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, David Murray, and listing John Coltrane as a personal mentor? Probably just Reid, and although he disappeared for several decades musically, his latest album, Daxaar, announces in grand form that he's back and even more creative than before. Reid spent considerable time in West Africa in the 1960s (avoiding the draft), and the compositions on Daxaar find him returning to Senegal for a session of deep grooves. Using local musicians and Kieran Hebden (AKA electronica wiz Four Tet) as the lead producer, Daxaar is a succession of immediately engaging old-school (i.e., early-'70s) funk compositions interlaced with highlife and Afrobeat. The rhythms are deep enough to captivate and loose enough to elicit impressive solos from trumpeter Roger Ongolo (think Miles) and Jimi Mbaye (sizzling like Abraxas-era Carlos Santana). Hebden adds some nifty atmospheric frills 'n' whatnot. It's easy to discern Art Blakey's influence here, as Reid often sounds like more than one drummer juggling polyrhythms effortlessly with all of his limbs. Reid ebulliently gooses his ensemble along, but there are no solos — which is a bit of a shame. Everybody plays with such tantalizing restraint, however, that it's easy to set the controls to "repeat" and float on, fellow humans, float on.

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Mark Keresman