For both the man and the music, it's a story of three continents.
Bronx native drummer Steve Reid has been everywhere and played for nearly everyone. He grew up across the street from Thelonius Monk and three blocks from John Coltrane. As a teenager he drummed for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas — that's his distinctive backbeat on "Dancing In The Street" --- and eventually worked with a staggering array of artists ranging from Fats Domino to James Brown to Miles Davis to Henry Threadgill, and everyone in between.
To escape the draft and the Vietnam War in the late sixties, Reid hopped on a cargo ship to Africa and lived there for three years. Upon returning to the States, he was tried and convicted of draft evasion and was sentenced to four years in a federal pen. Even then, he made music connections, meeting jazz legend Jimmy Heath while in the clink. At some point after his release, Reid moved to Switzerland.
Except for a spurt of activity in the mid-seventies, it's only recently in his long and colorful career that Reid had earnestly begun to record his own albums. Even more recently, Reid has taken on electronica guru Four Tet (aka Kieren Hebden) as his collaborator (Spirit Walk (2005), The Exchange Session, Vols. 1 & 2 (2006) and Tongues (2007).
Now, Reid has come full circle in a sense by going back to Africa, a continent he hadn't set foot in for decades, and recording a set of tracks in the city in Senegal called Dakar, that was formally spelled Daxaar. The product of these Janaury, 2007 sessions was released this past February 5th.
Reid took Hebden with him to be the producer as well as his Russian keyboardist Boris Netsvetaev, and they hooked up with African musicians Jimi Mbaye (guitar), Dembel Diop (bass), Roger Ongolo (cornet/trumpet) and Khadim Badji (percussion). His ensemble for this release is truly a multi-continental one. And the music?
Well, the first track "Welcome" is decidedly African. Isa Kouyate guests on it and the piece features his kora (West Africa harp) as well as his vocals sung in a local language. It's a pleasant, fairly short tune but isn't indicative at all of the rest of the album.