By John Murph | Published June 2020
No-brainer collaborations between titans such as these become all the more notable when it takes decades for them to actually happen.
The late South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela met Nigerian drummer Tony Allen back in the 1970s, when Masekela was in exile from his home country and was visiting Fela Kuti in Lagos. It wasn’t until 2010 that Allen and Masekela actually recorded together, and then it took another decade for those songs to be released as Rejoice. What initially was captured were mere skeletal arrangements, suggesting a loose jam session, and before the music could completed, Masekela passed away in 2018. But with the blessing of his estate, Allen recruited dynamic, young jazz players to finish the album.
Luckily, the séance-like stitching didn’t yield patchy results. There’s a cozy nonchalance pervading the album, particularly on the laid-back “Slow Bones” and the percolating “Coconut Jam.” On both, Allen lays down protean Afro-beat clave rhythms alongside jutting bass lines, while Masekala’s flugelhorn spits darting motifs. “Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same),” a tribute to Kuti, is a standout, featuring Masekela alternating between horn and vocals. The other marvel here is “Obama Shuffle Strut Blues,” which charges on a militant groove that’s gradually underscored by Elliot Galvin’s thick, gooey keyboard bass figures. Those two cuts alone elevate Rejoice to landmark status.
Rejoice: Robbers, Thugs And Muggers (O’Galajani); Agbada Bougou; Coconut Jam; Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same); Slow Bones; Jabulani (Rejoice, Here Comes Tony); Obama Shuffle Strut Blues; We’ve Landed. (38:13)
Personnel: Tony Allen, drums, percussion, vocals (8); Hugh Masekela, flugelhorn, vocals (1, 4, 6); Steve Williamson, trumpet, saxophone; Lewis Wright, vibraphone; Joe Armon-Jones, Elliot Galvin (7), keyboards; Tom Herbert, Mutale Chashi (4, 5), bass; Lekan Babalola, percussion.