This article by Giovanni Russonello originally appeared in The New York Times.
Tony Allen puts a lot of respect into each drum stroke. He’s not a quick or flashy player; with him, your ear zooms out slowly: The full structure of a beat comes into view only after you’ve appreciated its components. Mr. Allen, who was the de facto musical director of Fela Kuti’s band, now lives in Paris, but lately he’s been working in the United States more than usual. So let’s zoom in.
This month includes the release of two American projects with Mr. Allen in the driver’s seat. On “The Source,” his first full-length album for Blue Note Records, out on Friday, he plays a special blend of postbop, rock and Afrobeat. Hear how he starts moving his patterns across the entire drum kit about a minute into “Wolf Eats Wolf.” Later in September, the Chicago Afrobeat Project will release “What Goes Up,” an album on which Mr. Allen is a guest on every track. On “No Bad News,” a work of fearless diagnostics and badly needed affirmation, Mr. Allen coaxes the snare drum in a lateral sway, and pushes things ahead with the kick and high-hat.