Art Blakey and the Afro-Drum Ensemble: The African Beat
Bridging cultures, Art Blakey combined powerful African rhythms and American jazz melodies on a session that Blue Note reissued recently because the album explores roots common to all of jazz. Blakey’s ensemble for this 1962 project included artists from both worlds: Solomon G. Ilori and James Ola. Folami are from Nigeria, Chief Bey is from Senegal, and Montego Joe is from Jamaica.
Man, does Art Blakey play loud on this session! Gentle melodic instruments are served with severe punctuation as Blakey attempts to add his drum set in contrast to the more natural sounds. Strong bass work from Ahmed Abdul-Malik holds it all together. Native drums and smaller percussion instruments set up hypnotic rhythms that form a seamless foundation. Yusef Lateef provides aural images of Northern African dancing women on "Obirin African" through an exotic flute arrangement. "Ayiko, Ayiko" serves to demonstrate a thorough combination of the two cultures as Lateef pours out spirited tenor saxophone jive alongside a relaxed folksong tune. The longest piece on the album, "Love, the Mystery of," places oboe in the featured role in front of various chants, hypnotic percussion and a strong syncopated bass. Art Blakey brought together an ideal membership for his searching project, but laid it on much too harshly each time he decided to add his own drum kit participation.
Track Listing: Prayer by Solomon G. Ilori; Ife L
Personnel: Art Blakey- drums, tympani, gong, telegraph drum; Solomon G. Ilori- vocal, pennywhistle, talking drum; Chief Bey- conga, telegraph drum, double gong; Montego Joe- bambara drum, double gong, corboro drum, log drum; Garvin Masseaux- chekere, African maracas, conga; James Ola. Folami- conga; Robert Crowder- bata drum, conga; Curtis Fuller- tympani; Yusef Lateef- oboe, flute, tenor saxophone, cow horn, thumb piano on "Tobi Ilu;" Ahmed Abdul-Malik- bass.