Jimi Tenor/Tony Allen Inspiration Information Volume 4 Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

The most engaging and fully realised album in the series.

Jon Lusk 2009

Inspiration Information is an ongoing experimental project that mixes and matches artists from quite different backgrounds – but with certain things in common – for a limited amount of studio time to see what they can come up with. This fourth offering is perhaps the most unlikely pairing yet, but one of the most engaging and fully realised albums in the series so far.

Tony Allen is among the world’s most acclaimed kit drummers, famed for having co-created afrobeat with Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti during the 1970s and currently enjoying a late-flowering renaissance in his seventh decade. Although he knew nothing of Jimi Tenor beforehand, Allen was one of five artists Tenor told Strut he would most like to work with when they approached him.

Tenor is best known for his 1994 electro hit Take Me Baby, but has lately been increasingly drawn to 60s and 70s jazz, psychedelic soul and African funk. So the idea of underpinning these styles with afrobeat (which recombines many of the same African-American sources with their African roots) makes sense.

Tenor plays most of the melodic instruments (including tenor sax, keyboards, bass, kalimba, zither, koto and marimba) and sings on Selfish Gene and Darker Side of Night in a strangulated falsetto, vaguely suggestive of Sly Stone. His Berlin-based band Kabu Kabu includes Cuban trumpeter Daniel Allen Ortiz and percussionists Ekow Alabi Savage and Akinola Famson, from Ghana and Nigeria respectively. Their broken English banter on Mama England satirises the problems non-EU musicians face when trying to get into the UK, drawing on their own bitter experience.

Path to Wisdom features MC Allonymous, whose coolly intoned performance poetry recalls Gil Scott-Heron at his least angry. Other highlights include the jazzy, dream-like instrumental Cella’s Walk, which hints at various TV theme tunes, and the epic Three Continents, a long humid jam that gets wiggier as it progresses.

Sinuhe and Got My Egusi are the most obviously afrobeat-based pieces, but Allen’s trademark double kick (‘B-boom’) on the bass drum is ubiquitous, as are his subtle interlocking polyrhythms – never obvious, but as indispensable as salt in cooking.

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