Lis­ten to ori­gins of Afrobeat from Pax Ni­cholas’ 1973 record­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360BETS - — Pa­trick Cald­well

Wel­come to our mu­sic picks, where once a week we talk to an Austin mu­si­cian and find out what’s been burn­ing up their CD player, turntable or iPod lately. Look­ing for a good mu­si­cal rec­om­men­da­tion? Take some ad­vice from some­one in the lo­cal mu­sic trenches who knows their stuff. Rec­om­men­da­tions can be lo­cal, na­tional or in­ter­na­tional, new or old.

They need to fit only two cri­te­ria: 1) the mu­si­cian in ques­tion needs to have just dis­cov­ered them, and 2) it has to be fan­tas­tic.

This week: We talk with Ja­son Frey, tenor sax­o­phone jockey for Hard Proof Afrobeat, the supremely funky nine-piece that keeps Austin bump­ing with its cock­tail of retro-soul style and Femi and Fela Kuti-de­rived African grooves. You might rec­og­nize Frey and the rest of the Hard Proof Afrobeat horn sec­tion from their work with lo­cal soul man Black Joe Lewis — they took over as the of­fi­cial horns of the Honey­bears last year. Hard Proof Afrobeat head­lines at the mid­night tonight at the Ghost Room, 304 W. Fourth St. Fo­cus Group and DJ Busi­ness­men open.

Ja­son Frey rec­om­mends: “Na Teef Know De Road of Teef,” a 1973 al­bum from Ghana mu­si­cian Pax Ni­cholas, who played conga drums and sang back­ground vo­cals in Fela Kuti’s renowned Africa 70 band. The al­bum was re-re­leased in Septem­ber 2009 by Daptone Records.

Ja­son Frey says: “Pax Ni­cholas played in Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band for seven or eight years, and when he recorded this al­bum with a bunch of the other guys from the band they kept it se­cret from Fela be­cause they knew he wouldn’t like that the guys in his band were do­ing an­other project. So af­ter he heard the record he got it shelved and it wasn’t re­ally prop­erly re­leased or any­thing. Even­tu­ally this col­lec­tor got a hold of a copy and brought it to the at­ten­tion of Daptone. It’s just a gold-mine of a record. It’s re­ally heavy Afrobeat from the early stages of its devel­op­ment. It’s only 30 min­utes or so, but it’s just fan­tas­tic. Kind of a rare lit­tle gem that I stum­bled into. I searched the ex­pres­sion to find out what the ti­tle means, and it ba­si­cally means ‘A thief knows a thief when he sees one.’ It’s kind of funny be­ing that they were all sneaky about get­ting away from Fela. Pax has been up in Ger­many do­ing his thing for the last 30 years in rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity, but the Daptones thing has got­ten his mu­sic out to a much wider au­di­ence.”

Lis­ten to Pax Ni­cholas’ “Atta Onukpa” in our blog @ austin360.com/mu­sic­source.

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