Forty years have passed since drummer Steve Reid journeyed for three years in Africa, learning the roots of rhythm with master percussionist Guy Warren and in the band of Fela Kuti. For Steve Reid, returning to the continent of rhythm to record Daxaar
in Senegal is no mere nostalgia trip: "The first time I went to learn and this time I was just going to give and enjoy, and find out what new thing we could discover together. The result is a brew of potent Afro funk-jazz grooves where rhythm is king and where groove trumps soloing.
Kora player Isa Kouyate plays and sings "Welcome unaccompanied to open the album. Stylistically somewhat incongruous with the music which follows, it is nevertheless a beautiful song and forms a kind of time-line from the past with Jimi Mbaye's electric guitar which follows; two styles, two Africans, one well.
On "Daxaar Steve Reid keeps up a pacey hi-hat and bass drum rhythm over a slow-building wave of Khadim Badji's infectious percussion, electronic punctuation, a swirling keyboard riff and flickering guitar lines. Five minutes later, Reid comes crashing down on his snare drum in a cracking, explosive moment which releases Boris Netsvetaev on an expressive keyboard solo full of personality.
"Jiggy Jiggy is a delightful, hand-clapping, Sly and the Family Stone-type groove on which Jimi Mbaye weaves his blues-edged guitar lines. Roger Ongolo's breezy trumpet wafts lazily by, picking up a little steam but not too much. Netsvetaev again shines on keyboard and Kieran Hebden's subtle use of electronics adds much to the ambience of the tune, his touches sounding almost flute-like.
The Bronx comes to Dakar on "Dabronxar, or more specifically the spirit of Miles Davis does. Minimalist guitar-lines, keyboard and floating trumpet are carried on a cymbal-driven rhythm recalling Davis' classic In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), only warmer and groovier.
There are no real pyrotechnics from Reid; rhythm is the thing. The ensemble get into a groove, lock it down and from there are free to explore the possibilities of group dialogue.
The journey which Steve Reid began two-score years ago continues. Daxaar affirms that Reid and Ensemble is a band to be reckoned with, drawing inspiration from the traditions and waves of the past, the trends of the present, and with one eye, one suspects, very much on the future.
Welcome; Daxaar; Jiggy Jiggy; Dabronxxar; Big G's Family; Don't Look Back.
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.