Steve Reid: Flow Master

Steve Reid

(February 2009 Issue)
Steve Reid has performed and recorded with more artists than most drummers have shed sticks. From James Brown and Miles Davis to Jackie McLean, Four Tet, Fela Ransome Kuti, Chaka Khan, and the Barnam & Bailey Circus, Reid is a hypno-groove master. He does it again on Daxaar, the new album by his Steve Reid Ensemble. Recorded in Senegal with African musicians, Daxaar finds Reid laying down intense voodoo drumming based in Yoruban religious music. A former Black Panther, Reid’s music–and his commentary–speaks for itself.

“A lot of drummers use drums that don’t sound like drums,” Reid believes. “For thirty years drums have been manufactured more for recording than for drum sound. They put mufflers in the heads, which cut down on the actual drum sound. Guys never hear an open drum with a ring, or learn how to control that ring to their advantage.”

Playing a hybrid set of 1950s-era drums and cymbals, Reid often holds the groove for an entire song’s length without drum fills, crashes, or even a simple roll. “I got that from playing behind James Brown,” Reid explains. “There it was imperative that you hold the groove. I set up a trance, like hypnosis. So even when I’m not doing it, you think I’m doing it.”

Ken Micallef