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Steve Reid Ensemble

Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh - Wed 19 March 2008
4 stars

Veteran drummer Steve Reid’s ongoing collaboration with folktronicist Kieran Hebden, aka Fourtet, put Reid squarely back in the front-line with three appealingly meandering sets of 21st century fusion. This has given Reid’s own ensemble a higher profile, and a chance with last year’s Daxaar album, recorded in Senegal, to get back into the groove on a much wider platform. Only Reid, Hebden and Russian keyboardist and Daxaar’s musical director Boris Netsvetaev survive the album in this thrilling show, which exposes an even fresher line-up that’s not just pan-global, but pan-generational too.

Reid’s introduction references Vietnam and Iraq before he launches into the album’s title track, its crisp, organ dominated Afro-Beat here veering off on all sorts of tangents the album version barely touches. This sets the tone for a set of glorious reinventions, with Joe Rigby’s lead saxes and flute more than making up for the absence of Roger Ongolo’s trumpet flourishes and Jimmy Mbaye’s guitar. Also central is Senegales percussionist Mamadou Sarr, whose sparring with Reid adds euphoric bounce. Dominic Lash’s bass similarly colours a rhythm dominated affair that never gets too wiggy for its own good. Hebden takes a back seat, lobbing in an array of tastefully nuanced squiggles which underscore things rather than dominate. His contribution demonstrates how the now ubiquitous laptop can be incorporated as one more piece of kit rather than just add novelty value.

Reid himself cuts a beatific dash, merrily mixing up elements of 1970s jazz-funk with what used to be called World music. The end result of all this is an infectious and irresistible musical stew, delivered with fresh panache, at the heart of which is pure joy.

The Herald - Fri 21 March 2008

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