Drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen returns to his jazz roots for his first full-length Blue Note album, following the EP A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The Art Blakey arrangements married hard bop with an Afrobeat rhythmic sensibility: here the same approach is taken with original material (most of it composed and arranged by Allen and saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz). It's a big sound: a rhythm section with drums, bass, keyboards and guitar joined by five horns.
There's a bit more Afrobeat feel to these arrangements, especially on the tracks with Cameroonian guitarist Indy Dibongue playing rhythm guitar. "Cruising" demonstrates this approach: it begins with a bass riff, joined by guitar, then piano (and of course the full drum kit). The horns come in full force, followed by the winds and brass playing a call and response pattern. It has the sound of a little big band. "On Fire" is built on a walking bass riff (again rock-solid playing by bassist Mathias Allamane), with a hard bop head. It's definitely a jazz tune, and elicits a jagged piano solo from Jean-Philippe Dary and a strong trumpet solo from Nicolas Giraud.
Dibongue gets a guitar solo on "Tony's Blues" (although it's still pretty rhythmic). "Push and Pull" has a contrapuntal horn introduction, showing that the horns are more than just an afterthought to the grooves. The closer "Life Is Beautiful" functions as the ballad of the set. It features Remi Sciuto's flute, and a guest clavinet solo from producer Vincent Taurelle (notable for using the instrument for something other than funk). African and French musicians playing American jazz, recorded on analog tape: this is fusion of a special kind.
1-Moody Boy 6:34
2-Bad Roads 5:48
4-On Fire 6:17
5-Woro Dance 6:38
6-Tony's Blues 5:00
7-Wolf Eats Wolf 5:36
8-Cool Cats 4:23
9-Push and Pull 5:56
11-Life Is Beautiful 6:26
Tony Allen : Drums
Mathias Allamane : Bass
Indy Dibongue : Guitar
Jean-Philippe Dary : Piano and Organ
Yann Jankielewicz : Soprano Sax
Nicolas Giraud : Trumpet and Flugelhorn
Jean-Jacques Elangue : Tenor Sax
Remi Sciuto : Baritone Sax, Alto Sax and Flute
Daniel Zimmermann : Trombone and Tuba
Damon Albarn : Piano on « Cool Cats »
Vincent Taurelle : Clavinet on « Life is Beautifull »
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