Tony Allen & Psyco On Da Bus | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Tony Allen & Psyco On Da Bus

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Drummer Tony Allen was widely acknowledged as Fela Kuti's right-hand man, and by extension that makes him the cocreator of Afrobeat, the hypnotic fusion of American R & B and Nigerian music Fela pioneered in the 70s. But while his work from the last few years still courses with Afrobeat's frenetic intensity, Allen has increasingly distanced himself from the past. On Black Voices (Comet) in 1999, he joined forces with French hip-hop producer Doctor L and made fascinating connections between his spare version of Afrobeat and dub and electronica; the resultant ebb and flow over an imperturbable beat recalled nothing so much as fusion-era Miles Davis. The music grew even more expansive during a U.S. tour in the spring of 2000, and Allen and his quintet--which also includes guitarist Jeff Kellner, bassist Cesar Anot, and keyboardist Jean Phi Dary--got half an album's worth down on tape during studio stops in Toronto and New Jersey. The document, Psyco on da Bus (Platform), suggests that what started as a solo project morphed into a genuine group effort--on several tracks Allen doesn't even play. There's a strong North African trance feel to "Many Questions," a mellow Gil-Scott Heron vibe to "Never Satisfied," and a spacey jazz-tinged wanderlust to the sprawling "Time to Take a Rest." But despite these stylistic variations, the music never surrenders its irresistible polyrhythmic pulse. Saturday, January 19, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

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