Explorations in Rhythmatism
When I picked up the latest issue of Wax Poetics, my head was overloaded with new musical ideas for this blog. For those of you who have never heard of Wax Poetics, it's one of the most artistically creative and entertaining zines focusing on jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop from the past and present. Previous covers of Wax Poetics have featured such heavy hitters as James Brown, Isaac Hayes, The Meters and David Axelrod. The April/May issue of Wax Poetics features an engaging interview with Steve Reid, one of the most trailblazing drummers/percussionsists in the musical pantheon.
Reid got his start in music at age seventeen when Martha and the Vandellas came to play at his high school. Their drummer was a no-show, so Reid sat in and eventually became a member of their touring band, even playing on a couple of Martha and the Vandella's hit songs "Dancing In the Street" and "Love Is Like a Heat Wave". After a year of touring and recording with Martha and the Vandellas, Reid earned a gig working with the Apollo Theater house band under the tutelage of Quincy Jones.
Reid was inspired to rediscover his heritage since black activism in America was flourishing, so he headed to Africa on a spiritual quest for enlightenment. During his travels through Africa, he had the honor of playing with masters such as Fela Kuti, Randy Weston and Guy Warren. Unfortunately, there is little recorded evidence of Steve's spiritual trek through Africa. He mentions some Decca sessions with Fela Kuti that were gathered over a seven month period. However, they have never seen the light of day. He does say that the highlight for him, while in Africa, was playing with a nine-piece group called the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars. I was unable to find much information on this band, let alone any sessions that Steve played on.
After he returned to New York, Steve began doing sessions with a diverse array of musicians such as Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Jackie McLean, James Brown , John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman. The list of musicians that Reid has played with spans the entire musical spectrum. In the early 70's, Reid started an independent free jazz label named Mustevic Sound and released three defining albums in the spiritual free jazz vein.
Recently, the U.K. label Soul Jazz contacted Reid because they were interested in reissuing Rhythmatism, hereby reintroducing this spiritual soul jazz classic to the entire world. Shortly after Rhythmatism was reissued, Reid started collaborating with Keiran Hebden, the jazzy folktronica mastermind behind Four Tet and Fridge. This collaboration with Hebden has produced The Exchange Sessions Vol.1 and Vol.2, along with this year's avant electronic jazz masterpiece, Tongues. Currently, Nova and Raw are only available as expensive imports, but let's keep the faith that they too will be reissued soon. It seems that Reid is only gaining momentum as he gracefully enters a new stage in his musical life. By constantly evolving and playing creatively inspirational music, he continues to be a vital force in this ever challenging musical universe.
I am featuring a couple tracks from each record for your listening enjoyment.
Your comments are always appreciated!
From: Rhythmatism [Soul Jazz, 2003]
From: Nova [Mustevic, 1976]
From: Spirit Walk [Soul Jazz, 2005]
Steve Reid and Kieran Hebden- Electricity and Drum Will Change You
From: Exchange Sessions Vol.1 [Domino, 2006]
Steve Reid and Kieran Hebden- Hold Down the Rhythms, Hold Down the Machines
From: Exchange Sessions Vol.2- [Domino, 2006]
From: Tongues [Domino, 2007]