New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
8, Afrobeat legend Tony Allen will release The Source, the Nigerian-born Paris-based drummer's debut full-length album for Blue Note Records, following the tantalizing 4-track EP release A Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The album pre-order launched today along with the release of the lead single "Wolf Eats Wolf," which is available now to stream or download.
The Source is the next step in Allen's musical and spiritual voyage, and a further exploration of his early jazz influences. To share writing tasks and take care of the arrangements, he called on saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz, with whom he has worked since 2009 and the album Secret Agent. They began by getting together to listen to and exchange their favorite jazz records: Lester Bowie, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Gil Evans… albums that served as a compass to guide them on their way.
"Tony has never played drums as well as this," says Jankielewicz. "He's never had as much freedom, never had as much power as he does today."
Surrounding Allen are some of the best musicians on a Paris scene that is difficult to call "jazz" due to its highly changeable nature: Jankielewicz alongside saxophonists Rémi Sciuto and Jean-Jacques Elangue, trumpeter Nicolas Giraud, trombonist Daniel
Zimmermann, bassist Mathias Allamane, pianist Jean-Philippe Dary, and keyboardist Vincent
Taurelle, who produced the album with Bertrand Fresel… a French cast to begin with, but with the addition of guitarist Indy Dibongue from Cameroon who, like Allen, contributes an indispensable African sound to this palette. 11 excellent players in total would finally deliver The Source, including one notable guest: Damon Albarn, who adds an ethereal piano part to "Cool Cats."
The album sparkles in the variety of its timbres and the diversity of its colors. Each of the 11 instrumental tracks—all new originals co-written by Allen and Jankielewicz—bring forward a particular instrument: Giraud's trumpet on "Bad Roads"; the bass of Allamane on "Crusin'"; Dary's piano inside "On Fire," and Sciuto's bari sax on "Woro Dance." With "Cool Cats," it's the turn of Elangue and his tenor, while Zimmerman's trombone is featured on "Wolf Eats Wolf." And throughout, Tony's indelible signature, a unique way of hitting skins or a cymbal, its main characteristics a caressing, almost ethereal energy, and a formidable efficiency.
Tony Oladipo Allen, who was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1940, never played a traditional instrument: right from the beginning, his interest was for a distant relative of the ancestral percussion family, namely, the drum kit. He taught himself, serving his apprenticeship while working as a technician for Nigerian national radio, all the time listening to records by American masters such as Art Blakey, Max Roach and Kenny Clarke, the eminent drummers of the bebop and hard bop eras.
His life changed totally in 1964 when he made the acquaintance of Fela Kuti, whom he would accompany for the next 15 years, first with Fela's Koola Lobitos, an emblematic highlife band that was a model for all modern African music groups, and then when Fela led Africa 70, for which he developed a new music language: Afrobeat, which combined Yoruba rhythms and funk instruments with themes of revolution. Alongside Fela, Tony recorded some 20 albums and put his rhythm-signature to each of them. From then on, Afrobeat would propel a career that saw him pursue his own projects while collaborating with everyone from Oumou Sangare to Damon Albarn (in The Good, The Bad & The Queen).