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Michael Blake: Afro Blake


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Africa seems to have been a special source of inspiration for Michael Blake, as compositions like "Addis Abeba" (Elevated), "Malagasy" (Combobulate), "Mauritania" (Buzz), "Road to Lusaka" (In the Grand Scheme of Things), "Africa Used to Be Home" (More Like Us) or "Surfing Sahara" (Elevated ) attest. They are all characterized by memorable themes and an instantly recognizable sound, but there's one song that is like a "first among equals" and leaves a deep mark every time I listen to it, "Afro-Blake" (Drift, Intuition Records, 2000), his take on Afrobeat and Fela Kuti, a world he was first exposed to in the ranks of John Lurie's Lounge Lizards.

The hooky signature bass lines of Ben Allison and afrobeat guitar of Tony Scherr ignite Matt Wilson's and Mauro Refosco's propulsion of a horn section (including Steven Bernstein, Ron Horton and Peck Allmond) which manages to combine the torrid sounds from Fela Kuti's legendary Shrine with Duke Ellington's jungle sound. Then Marcus Rojas lifts off and—to use Blake's own words—him and Briggan Krauss sandstorm the village, while the brass section continues to act like a tour guide to post-modern jazz. Then Allison and Scherr co-pilot this groove airliner back from Lagos to JFK.

Ludovico Granvassu Contact Ludovico Granvassu on All About Jazz.
I'm the Editor-in-Chief of All About Jazz Italia, host of Mondo Jazz on Radio Free Brooklyn and was once visited by Frank Zappa's ghost.... he was funny too

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