The lion in winter

tl;dr:  This is really good.

Bobby Timmons was a 23-year-old pianist and Blue Note Records sideman who played with the likes of Lee Morgan, Hank Mobely, and Chet Baker.  In 1957, he joined the drummer Art Blakey's hard-bop band the Jazz Messengers, and he brought the band a tune he'd written called "Moanin'."  It became the title track on the Jazz Messengers' first LP in 1958, and swiftly became a standard.

A "standard" is a tune that all jazz musicians learn to play, and are ready to go on when someone calls it at a jam session.  "All The Things You Are" is a standard, as is Miles Davis's "Milestones."  "Stella By Starlight."  "On Green Dolphin Street."  These songs are the common parlance of jazz music.  They're often songs, but not always - "Moanin'" didn't have any lyrics when Timmons wrote it; the lyrics that Nina Simone sang were written years later by Jon Hendricks when he set the tune for Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross.

Tony Allen is a Nigerian-born drummer who was one of the founders of Afrobeat, a genre that fused the traditional African music like Yoruban Juju, the organ-heavy pop music played in Lagos nightclubs called highlife, and American jazz.  He was one of the founding members (and musical director) of Fela Kuti's Africa '70, which is arguably the most influential group of African musicians to record music in the 20th century.  At some point or another in his life, he has played drums for everyone that matters.

Allen grew up listening to Art Blakey and Max Roach.  Two years ago, at 77 years old, he decided to pay tribute to Blakey with an EP that included "Moanin," the song Bobby Timmons had brought to a session in 1958.

The reason that I've gone through this history of this particular song is that it's all relevant to what you're going to hear here.  It's a jazz tune written by a pianist for a band fronted by a drummer, that's been passed through all of the major talents in American jazz.  An African drummer whose entire career has been fusing disparate genres of African and American music has heard all of that, and everything else, and in his tribute to the Art Blakey records he grew up with, he's recorded something that both sounds nothing like Art Blakey and owes everything to him.  


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