The Afrobeat master salutes Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers’ 3 Blind Mice. “HE HAD THE DYNAMIC TENSION OF SIX DRUMMERS.”
It was ’63, ’64, ’65. I was living in Lagos, working as a technical guy for the radio station, maintaining teleprinters. I was listening to Gene Krupa, he was supposed to be the best drummer. I liked Max Roach, he was cool. Philly Joe Jones, Tony Williams, all them guys, they played standard jazz. American drummers, I think at the time, there was something missing there, something in the combination. Nobody was playing it the right way. I’d seen many drummers that cannot use their four limbs – this was where I had to look, for how to make the four limbs work in a creative way I have to do my own homework. I didn’t want to play like anybody else – that was my problem. Art Blakey, though, he was playing it the right way. He was the one that appealed to me most fully, to follow up this style. The first record that I had by him was 3 Blind Mice. He was a guy that sounded like six drummers, sometimes, he had the dynamic tension of six drummers. So I said, “I’d like to be like that.” Here is a guy who travelled the world and he accumulated and assimilated drumming from Ghana, from Nigeria, everywhere, doing his homework. He was an African-American guy, making that mix; he was very special. I don’t know how he was so good. He wanted to be a drummer of his own calibre, in his own style. There are thousands of drummers, but they don’t have their own styles, they don’t create a way of playing that everybody looks at, and that’s the most important thing. So I created my own style. I don’t like to repeat myself. I’m not fussy. I admire simplicity. I cannot be strictly jazz, I like to create patterns, and I like grooves, I don’t want to make music to be disturbing. I met him in ’85 at Ronnie Scott’s. I went backstage and talked to him, and told him he was my idol, blah blah blah! He didn’t know me, he didn’t even know anything about Fela [Kuti, Allen’s long-time bandleader], he was there with some young students from the States. But he was OK. I can’t say, really, which is the best album of Art Blakey that I like. Whatever he does, it’s OK for me. My EP (of four Blakey covers), I didn’t play it the same way as Art Blakey, there’s no point. It’s a complimentary card, you know?