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Steve Reid Ensemble: Daxaar

Chris May By

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At age 62, most people are slowing down a little, taking fewer risks and carefully pre-planning their activities. Not so Steve Reid. The Bronx-born drummer, whose recording debut, aged 19, was on Martha & The Vandellas' iconic "Dancing In The Street," and who went on to work with many of the "new thing" movers and shakers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, still lives by the freewheeling, devil-may-care zeitgeist which prevailed during his formative years. He trusts his instincts and goes where the vibe takes him.



For Daxaar, the vibe took Reid to Senegal. Accompanied by two of his regular collaborators—keyboardist Boris Netsvetaev and electronicist Kieran Hebden—he auditioned some local musicians, had the bare minimum of rehearsals, and went into Dakar's Studio Dogo to lay down another chapter in his quintessential, outernational, saga of the groove.



Reid's rolling and tumbling career has taken him to Africa before. He spent time in Nigeria and Morocco during the late 1960s, gigging with singer and bandleader Fela Kuti in Lagos and expatriate American pianist Randy Weston in Tangier. Returning to the US (where he was jailed for draft dodging), he worked with Sun Ra's Science Myth Solar Arkestra and in groups led by saxophonists Sam Rivers, Archie Shepp and David Murray, and trumpeter Lester Bowie, among many others. Despite playing percussion on trumpeter Miles Davis' Tutu (Warner Bros, 1986), Reid's profile dropped during the 1980s and 1990s, but he has enjoyed something of a renaissance since he relocated to Switzerland a few years ago.



Daxaar is a continuation of Reid's first collaboration with Netsvetaev and Hebden, the groove-centric master blaster Spirit Walk (Soul Jazz Records, 2005), without the saxophone section but featuring the same head-on collision of jazz and funk. This time, of course, there are some explicit Africanisms in the music, provided by percussionist Khadim Badji, bass guitarist Dembel Diop, kora player Isa Kouyate and guitarist Jimi Mbaye (whose Santana-like lines singer Youssou N'Dour has featured on disc).



The album is also reminiscent of San Francisco band Mushroom's outstanding Joint Happening (Hyena Records, 2007), made with veteran soul/jazz trumpeter Eddie Gale—a similarly rough edged, get on the good foot mash-up, which may well have been inspired, in part, by Spirit Walk.



Improvisation is key—with the exception of the kora and voice-only opener "Welcome" all the tracks are modal jams around sketchily arranged riffs and ostinatos—but it is melodic and rhythmic, rather than harmonic, in emphasis. Netsvetaev, Mbaye and trumpeter Roger Ongolo take most of the solos, behind which drums, percussion and bass lay down heavy, urgent grooves. Hebden takes more of a backseat role than he did on his recent duo sets with Reid—The Exchange Session Vol. 1 (Domino Records, 2005) and Vol. 2 (Domino Records, 2006)—coloring rather than shaping the music.



Another great, get down for the upstroke, free your ass and your mind will follow outing from the Peter Pan of rhythmatism.


Track Listing: Welcome; Daxaar; Jiggy Jiggy; Dabronxxar; Big G's Family; Don't Look Back.

Personnel: Steve Reid: drums; Khadim Badji: percussion; Dembel Diop: bass; Kieran Hebden: electronics; Isa Kouyate: kora and vocals (1); Roger Ongolo: trumpet; Jimi Mbaye: guitar; Bors Netsvetaev: keyboards.

Title: Daxaar | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Domino Records (UK)


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