Sunday, January 6, 2008

Fela Kuti and Roy Ayers - 1980 - Music of Many Colours



This meeting of the minds and bands of Afro-funk creator Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and American vibist and R&B/jazz innovator Roy Ayers is a collaboration that shouldn't work on the surface. Fela's music was raw, in your face politically and socially, and musically driven by the same spirit as James Brown's JBs. At the time of this recording in 1979, Ayers had moved out of jazz entirely and become an R&B superstar firmly entrenched in the disco world. Ayers' social concerns -- on record -- were primarily cosmological in nature. So how did these guys pull off one of the most badass jam gigs of all time, with one track led by each man and each taking a full side of a vinyl album? On hand were Fela's 14-piece orchestra and an outrageous chorus made up of seven of his wives and five male voices. For his part, Ayers played vibes, and saxophonist Harold Land blew like the soul master he is. The rest of the Ayers septet performed on his tune only, the funk fest "2,000 Blacks Got to Be Free," an open-ended soul groove overdriven into Afro-funk by Fela's orchestra. Ayers is down on the quick changes, and his band leads the orchestra in pulling down the funk into a hypnotic sway and groove. On Fela's "Africa -- Centre of the World," everything starts out dark and slow with a chant from the master and then the chorus and Fela's trademark tenor honk. The horn section kicks in and Ayers starts playing all around the mix like a restless spirit. He darts in and out of the changes and sometimes hovers above them. The effect is as mesmerizing as it is driving. This is a sure bet for any bash where you want 'em to dance until they drop. For the purpose of musical history, this was a meeting that panned out in all the right ways and left listeners with a stellar gift of a recorded souvenir. ~ Thom Jurek, All Music Guide