Steve Reid Ensemble | DNO165
Steve Reid made his recording debut in 1964, aged 19, playing on Martha and the Vandellas' classic "Dancing in the Street". He went on to accompany the greatest of the jazz greats - legendary figures such as Miles Davis, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra and David Murray; and also soul legends such as James Brown, Dionne Warwick and Chaka Khan. Throughout Steve Reid has remained one of the true independent innovators. His new album Daxaar is a brand new collection of rhythmic ideas captured during his first visit to Africa in over four decades. Reid, Kieran Hebden (AKA Four Tet), and keyboardist Boris Netsvetaev showed up in Africa January 2007 without too much planning. "I write the pieces after I play them," says Reid with a pause and then his signature burst of laughter. Although he speaks earnestly about writing the pieces down and sending them to performance rights organizations after DJ Shadow lifted the drums and bass from Reid's "Kara Suite" without credit or payment.
Reid likes to tackle life spontaneously and he took that spirit into this project. "Jazz is just like the newspaper of the music world," laughs Reid. "A carnival of the shit that goes on at a particular moment. When you can improvise on the rhythms you can't go wrong. People need some regular happy music right now. This is what I wanted to bring from Africa, just regular groovy, happy music."
The album takes its name from an earlier spelling of Dakar, the Senegalese city where the record was made. Joining the session are Jimi Mbaye, who has played with Youssou N'Dour's Super Etoile since 1979, and who is known for making his Fender Stratocaster mimic the sounds of local Senegalese instruments. On electric bass is Dembel Diop, who is known for his work with Senegal's Omar Pene and Super Diamono. Rounding out the session are trumpeter Roger Ongolo and percussionist Khadim Badji. The players gathered and wanted to know what Reid wanted them to play. He said, "Just play." After they played the first tune, everyone became comfortable with this concept. They played a couple of gigs, performing at night and recording during the day.
To set the African context the album opens with kora (West African harp) and vocals by Isa Kouyate on "Welcome." On the title track, "Daxaar," Reid was envisioning the Senegalese runners he saw sprinting on the beach, one of his first sights when arriving from the airport. Reid was going for something very accessible on "Jiggy Jiggy." He says, "We wanted to make some happy music. It's like love." "Dabronxaar," which brings Da Bronx to Daxaar, gets some flavor from the era of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and Weather Report. "That one reminded me of the train going up to the Bronx," comments Reid. "Big G stands for God," says Reid about the song titled "'Big G Family.'" "We are all in Big G's family," says Reid with a big laugh, "although some of us are fighting each other. The curse of the planet is selfishness. That's the stuff we gotta work on. People gotta work on the love. It's the most powerful thing on the planet."
The album closes with "Don't Look Back," a rhythmical anthem that always swings back to the center. The track ties the album altogether in Reid's own brand of rhythm as philosophy. "It's a rhythm thing! Stay in the rhythms!" says Reid, who comes from a line of preachers. "When you go out of the rhythms, you get into a whole lot of problems. This record is a balancing thing. Put it on once a day and it will keep your life balanced." But not letting his joy be overshadowed from his philosophy, Reid closes with "That's from the doctor!" and bursts out laughing one more time.