Blue Note is pleased to announce the release of legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen's new EP: A Tribute to Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. The 4 titles featured exclusively in the EP provide a preview of his forthcoming album for Blue Note on which Tony Allen pays tribute to his longstanding idol, American jazz drummer Art Blakey. The EP's four titles and the other tracks that make up the album were recorded over three days in Paris at the Midilive studios, the former facility of the Vogue label. The sessions were done in live conditions that saw Tony Allen and his 8-piece band together in the same room, with the sound channeled through 12 separate mikes onto 2" tape via a Sony MCI-JH24 analogue multi-track recorder.
Tony Allen and Art Blakey have so much in common that this project came into being almost naturally. For one thing, growing up in Lagos, if Tony hadn't listened to Art Blakey's recordings he might never have taken up drumming: Blakey's type of kit was much rarer than the traditional Nigerian percussion instruments played during that period. Another quality shared by the two musicians is the fact that both Art and Tony were sidemen before they were leaders of their own groups: Art Blakey founded his Jazz Messengers after playing alongside Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon or Thelonious Monk, and Tony Allen also only moved on to leading his own ensembles after playing in other bands, notably the Africa 70 orchestra founded by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. And both Allen and Blakey contributed to the birth of a brand-new music style: bebop and then hard bop in the case of Art Blakey, and the afro-beat style of Allen. Paris is also a link where the two musicians converge: Art Blakey recorded some of his best albums there (his live recordings at the Club St. Germain and the Théâtre des Champs Elysées for example), while Paris has been home to Tony Allen for some twenty years, and he still lives there with his family.
But perhaps the most significant link between Blakey and Allen is Africa. Many consider Art Blakey to be the most African of the jazz drummers, and he made many long visits to that continent where he earned a new name — Blakey became known as Buhaina, an African resonance that would become part of his approach to drumming. Blakey was an inspired metronome, a musician with no interest in idle chitchat who avoided special effects in order to concentrate on the profound dynamics of rhythm. But he could create alchemy with his groups. You could say the same of Tony Allen, whose powerful sense of rhythm goes hand in hand with a taste for economy that resembles the "sublime elegance" found in the art of the haiku: behind the Nigerian's "stripped to the essentials" approach, there lies the will to encourage each musician to raise his playing to exceptional levels.
Here, in the company of some of the finest instrumentalists in France (supervised by Vincent Taurelle of the A.L.B.E.R.T. trio, whose production credits include Tony's previous album Film of Life), Tony Allen handsomely comes full circle with his Tribute To Art Blakey, a fine demonstration of the bond between Africa and America.