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Afrobeat - Released March 4, 1979 | Comet Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released March 20, 2020 | World Circuit

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Jazz - Released May 19, 2017 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Afrique - Released June 8, 2009 | World Circuit

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Afrique - Released May 29, 2009 | Comet

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 /TiVo
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Afrique - Released June 19, 2009 | Honest Jon's Records

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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Best known as the drummer for Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, Tony Allen is an icon in his own right, an innovator, and a vital architect of Kuti's percussively funky, jazz- and R&B-soaked sound. On his full-length Blue Note debut, 2017's The Source, Allen expands upon those contributions with new compositions inspired by the jazz that shaped his early years. 77 years old at the time of this recording, Allen grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, where he soaked up Juju and other traditional West African music styles. Initially, however, it was American jazz that caught his imagination, specifically bop artists like Max Roach and Art Blakey -- the latter of whom he paid homage to on his 2017 EP, Tribute to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. On The Source, he balances both his jazz and Afrobeat sides, delivering buoyant songs that are equal parts funky jams, harmonic engagements, and modal workouts. Helping him achieve this synergistic combination is Paris-based saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz, who previously appeared on Allen's 2009 effort, Secret Agent. Here, Allen and Jankielewicz have crafted songs that showcase the drummer's muscular, kinetic style and ability to lead a robust ensemble. Making up that ensemble are an adventurous cadre of Jankielewicz's fellow Parisians including bassist Mathias Allamane, guitarist Indy Dibongue, pianist Jean Phi Dary, trumpeter Nicolas Giraud, trombonist and tuba player Daniel Zimmermann, saxophonists Jean Jacques Elangue and Remi Sciuto, and organist Vincent Taurelle. Also making an appearance is Allen's the Good, the Bad & the Queen bandmate Damon Albarn, who slips in for some piano hijinks. The opening "Moody Boy" starts dramatically with a bluesy rubato tuba statement from Zimmermann, played with a soulful urgency that improbably brings to mind John Coltrane, and then leaps headlong into a crisp, funky groove marked by Vincent Taurelle's juicy organ. Also engaging are cuts like the celebratory "Push and Pull," which impossibly marries Preservation Hall-style group improvisation with a bouncy highlife-jazz energy. Yet other cuts, like "Tony's Blues" and "Ewajo," sound like something Charles Mingus might have written for Fela Kuti. One of the most satisfying aspects of The Source is just how nuanced and harmonically varied these arrangements are. There's a real chamber jazz aspect to many of the songs as the band swells and vibrates against Allen's intense drum tumult until the entire ensemble erupts into a cacophony of soulful, winding skronk. If Allen felt the impulse to celebrate his idol Art Blakey on his previous EP, with The Source, he offers an open-ended coda to that influence; an earthy, majestic, endlessly inventive album that caps both his own storied career and points the way toward the future. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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Afrobeat - Released May 31, 2010 | Comet Records

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Afrobeat - Released November 15, 2004 | Comet Records

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Jazz - Released March 20, 2020 | World Circuit

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Jazz - Released September 8, 2017 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Jazz - Released January 22, 2020 | World Circuit

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Afrobeat - Released January 1, 1985 | Comet Records

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Jazz - Released May 19, 2017 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Jazz - Released August 25, 2017 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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

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Jazz - Released February 26, 2020 | World Circuit

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House - Released June 30, 2018 | Comet Records

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Jazz - Released April 21, 2017 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Jazz - Released January 22, 2020 | World Circuit

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Tony Allen in the magazine
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