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Africa - Released June 19, 2009 | Honest Jon's Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Tony Allen, drummer for Fela Kuti's band Africa 70 and one of the innovators of Afro-beat, has spent much of his solo career exploring other genres, melding them with his distinct percussion style and showing its, and therefore his, diversity. In Lagos No Shaking, however, Allen returns -- literally and musically -- to where he first started. Recorded during ten days in June 2005 in Nigeria's largest city and Allen's hometown, the album is pure Afro-beat, drawing from Kuti's sax players Baba Ani and Show Boy and local singers Fatai Rolling Dollar and Yinka Davies, among others, to complete his band. And what results is a good -- even great at moments -- album, and while it might not take you back completely to the days of Kuti's dominance, it's a lot closer to it that any other contemporary recording. The two guitars, one on rhythm and one on choppy, tinny riffs, and a bass -- probably the actual funkiest instrument on the album -- work in and out of the polyrhythms that Allen and percussionist Yinka Ogunye create as the foundation of the songs. The horns -- sharp and brassy yet slightly muted, just like they should be -- fill in when necessary, generating movement while everything else stays relatively mellow and controlled. Not that Lagos No Shaking is a relaxed record: there's still plenty of punch and swing in the arrangements, but it doesn't have the biting sarcasm and provocativeness that Kuti's music had, focusing more on feeling and continuity instead. Still, it moves, and it moves well. The band is always tight, with thoughtful, interesting grooves, and when Rolling Dollar adds his world-weary vocals, it's almost impossible not to be transported to a hot, bustling Nigerian street. "Ise Nla," the album's opener, is fun and busy, while in "Aye Le," despite its rolling horns, there's a melancholy in the scratchy vocals as he sings about the hardships of life, and the percussion and voice version of the traditional "Awa Na Re" is stunningly profound in its simplicity, the two sounds working together to bring the best out of the others without compromising their own importance. There's a genuine warmth to everything in Lagos No Shaking that comes from Allen's dexterous hands, a sincerity, and soul that can't be faked or duplicated, proving very much why he is such an important figure in Afro-beat, and why his albums should absolutely be listened to. ~ Marisa Brown

Afrobeat - Released June 8, 2009 | World Circuit

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects
It's no surprise that Tony Allen's new album does nothing to dim his reputation as one of the world's greatest drummers. He's the personification of subtlety, leading from the back and carefully pushing and prodding the music, but doing this so cleverly that half the time people don't even notice he's there. He's certainly a man whose four limbs operate independently, setting up cross- and counter-rhythms that add extra levels of texture and complexity to the music. On Secret Agent, recorded in his native Lagos, he's joined by a number of guests (including five different vocalists), but the core musicians working with him are producer Fixi, who contributes several instruments, and Cameroonian guitarist Claude Dibongue, who works well in this framework. It's largely Afrocentric, and definitely political, in the best tradition of Allen's late employer, Fela Kuti. Allen himself contributes vocals to the opening and closing tracks, showing he's more than a drummer, even if his voice is low-key. That he plays so well is remarkable. That he does it like this when he's almost 70 is amazing. ~ Chris Nickson

Afrobeat - Released March 4, 1979 | Comet Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Afrobeat - Released November 15, 2004 | Comet Records


Afrobeat - Released May 31, 2010 | Comet Records

Black Voices is Afro-beat drum groove originator Tony Allen's return to action after leaving Nigeria, settling in Paris in 1985, and dropping off the map as far as making records goes. It's a remix project of tracks from singles more than an LP per se, a largely two-person affair with Allen manning the drums and keyboards and Doctor L supplying the modern dub mixology. While it's hard to imagine a minimalist or trip-hop take on a sound as big-band maximalist as Afro-beat and related rhythm forms, that's pretty much what these two have come up with here. "Asiko" is an effective opener with updated Fela electric piano lines -- Allen's drums are the lead instrument and central to mix with the melodic shards darting in and out around the rhythms. "Get Together" is alternately sunny and weird with nice closing horns, and "Black Voices (We Are What We Play Mix)" is minimalist dub Afro-beat with a bass spine blended to spooky keyboard burbles, stabbing clavinet explosions, and whispered head-trip lyrics. Those misterioso internal musings sorta recall some Lee Perry dub or Tricky trip-hop. The fragmentary "The Same Blood" (is that a sample from Allen's "Discrimination" in there?) ebbs and flows around a single guitar riff for too long and the minimal drums, voice, and occasional percussion of "Asiko (In a Silent Mix)" isn't worth nine and a half minutes. The original mix of "Black Voices" is too low-key to sustain interest, but the fuller "Ariya (Psychejujumix)" does, with Allen's drums complemented by guitar, bass, and vocal chants. Black Voices was obviously designed to connect Allen with the international electronica dancefloor crew, and it works fairly well on that level. But it also sounds like a strong EP -- "Asiko," "Black Voices (We Are What We Play Mix)," "Ariya (Psychejujumix)," and "Get Together" -- padded with filler to make it a 50-minute, full-list-price CD. Since those four songs are now available in some form on Allen's solo career best-of Eager Hands and Restless Feet, Black Voices is a long way from essential. ~ Don Snowden

R&B - Released October 21, 2013 | Comet Records


Africa - Released May 29, 2009 | Comet Records


Electro - Released October 15, 2012 | Comet Records


Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Blue Note

Hi-Res Booklet
A great drummer for a great label. 77 years ago, Tony Allen signed with Blue Note for his first record. But if the boundaries of the blues brand established in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis are very clear, Allen, for his part has established a most unique playing style, taking on jazz and rhythm'n'blues and African music. The drummer who invented afrobeat has his own distinctive touch, a very personal style (the articulation/disarticulation of elements in his drum kit, his focus on the hi-hat and the ride cymbal allowing him to hit out at the other drums), which comes from his African and Nigerian sources, as well as rhythmic boppers like Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and Art Blakey. They, too, could each have signed his statement: "When I play, it's like an orchestra in itself; I try to make my playing orchestral". The twelfth work in his discography, The Source takes us, as the name suggests, to the source of Tony Allen's musical art, which is to say the Nigeria of the second half of the 20th Century, to set out on an internal journey, both musical and spiritual, between Africa and America. He calls on Yann Jankielewicz, to co-write and handle the arrangements, with whom he has been working since 2009's Secret Agent. The eleven titles are also the fruit of a work that started when the two men started listening to and swapping certain records. Records by Lester Bowie, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey or Gil Evans serve as a compass... Around Tony have gathered artists like trombonist Daniel Zimmermann, saxophonist Rémi Sciuto, double-bassist Mathias Allamane or keyboard player Vincent Taurelle and Cameroonian guitarist Indy Dibongue. As the cherry on the cake, Damon Albarn from Blur is also on the keyboards on Cool Cats... All these great artists take their cues from the master as he obsessively weaves his tapestry of jazz and afrobeat This is a no-man's-land like no other. Here, and no-where else, Tony Allen deploys tasty melodies and daring improvisations which are all his own. © MD/Qobuz

Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Blue Note


Jazz - Released May 19, 2017 | Blue Note


Jazz - Released May 19, 2017 | Blue Note


Jazz - Released April 21, 2017 | Blue Note


Pop - Released July 13, 2010 | Classic Music International


Africa - Released May 29, 2009 | Comet


Tony Allen in the magazine
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