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07/16/14

The Omar Hakim Experience
We Are One
Ozmosis

We Are One is state-of-the-art fusion, suggesting the ’80s never ended. A recording of style, sonics, intermittent tenderness and virtuosity, it’s a smooth, if at times hollow showcase for drummer Omar Hakim, a veteran session man who has played with everyone from Weather Report to Dire Straits.

The 10 overly polished tracks, by Hakim solely or co-written with keyboardist Scott Tibbs or bassist Jerry Brooks, effectively demonstrate his unusual style, simultaneously busy and nimble. Try “So There,” a cut weighted with a descending, repetitive riff Hakim keeps interesting through his circular, ever-shifting drumming. A similar strategy informs “Walk the Walk,” a frenetic strut with Hakim in hyper-drive, guitarist Chieli Minucci in Jeff Beck mode and Tibbs stirring the synthesizer pot. Like too many other tunes here, however, “Walk” is schematic, its drama dependent on Hakim’s touch—his solo midway through startles like a gunshot—rather than a melody. Fortunately, a few cuts, such as the pretty “With Every Breath” and the more sentimental, less successful title track, stress shapeliness more than style. We Are One is expertly played—it features fellow fusion authorities like Hakim’s wife, Rachel Z, on keys and guitarists Minucci and Jimi Tunnell—but it’s rarely distinctive or memorable.

When Hakim experiments with harmony and texture, We Are One takes off emotionally, largely on the slower tunes. The best is the hypnotic “Remember to Remember,” its circular riff tantalizing, its textures shimmering. This keeper suggests Hakim and Tibbs should venture into trance and jazz-infused soul more, rather than defaulting to pyrotechnics. The longest track here, “Remember” is provocative, not merely impressive.

Originally published in June 2014
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