Art Blakey & the Afro-Drum Ensemble – The African Beat (1962)

As one of the earlier Jazz Fusion albums, and one if the earliest jazz albums to incorporate the african instruments, Jazz drumming legend Art Blakey teams up with the Afro-Drum Ensemble as they produce this Blue Note release entitled African Beat. If you’re expecting a 50/50 split on the fusion end of things, this album reflects far more of a traditional African sound, as it features a percussion-heavy ensemble, along with minimal instruments, at times just a flute and a stand-up bass. Yusef Lateef, who was responsible for most of the wind instruments, displays his well travelled musical talents as his playing style is an excellent compliment to the album.

Art Blakey has always been one to push the envelope when it comes to jazz, where in the 70’s, he and the Art Messengers recorded many projects that were a different skew on straight ahead jazz. This album recorded in 1962 was a far reach from the realm of the typical Blue Note catalog, and it makes you wonder how this album was received amongst Blue Note devotees and Blakey’s contemporaries. As you can see the credits for this album, you will notice the abundance of African percussion, making this one of Blue Note’s more unorthodox releases.
Bambara Drum, Double Gong, Corboro Drum, Log Drum – Montego Joe
Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Bata Drum, Conga – Robert Crowder
Chekere, African Maracas, Conga – Garvin Masseaux
Conga – James Ola Folami
Conga, Telegraph Drum, Double Gong – Chief Bey
Drums, Tympani, Gong, Telegraph Drum – Art Blakey
Oboe, Flute, Tenor Sax, Cow Horn, Thumb Piano – Yusef Lateef
Producer – Alfred Lion
Tympani – Curtis Fuller
Vocal, Penny Whistle, Talking Drum – Solomon G. Ilori
Enjoy this classic recording, as it is a unique album by jazz standards, and it is a precursor to the constant usage of Afrobeat in the popular music of the 70’s and 80’s.
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