Perhaps the only musician to play with James Brown, Miles Davis, Sun Ra and Fela Kuti and on Motown sessions, drummer Steve Reid is a Rhodes Scholar of rhythm. His Ensemble's a lively, heraldic octet, appropriately recording for England's impeccable Soul Jazz. Spirit Walk harks back to the revolutionary passion and feisty soulfulness of late-'60s/early-'70s jazz. The opening track, "Lugano," transports Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" to the inner city, spiraling into a rousingly affirmative clamor thanks to the sax quartet of Chuck Henderson, Neil Kleiner, Nathaniel Catchpole and Tony Bevan and John Edwards' Hadenesque resonant bass sorties. The nearly 15-minute "Drum Story" allows Reid to spontaneously spout blunt pensees as he slugs out a travelogue of rhythm idioms.
Also on hand are Kieran Hebden (Four Tet), who generates myriad discombobulated electronic tones a la Ilhan Mimaroglu's on Freddie Hubbard's Sing Me a Song of Songmy, and Boris Netsvetaev, whose keyboards whorl, pump and purr with Larry Young-like fervor. Elsewhere, the Steve Reid Ensemble forge lithe, humid, fusionoid grooves in the vein of Joe Henderson's The Elements and Young's Lawrence of Newark.
After 40 years in the biz, Reid hasn't mellowed a bit; in fact, Spirit Walk radiates a robust energy that ought to inspire musicians half his age.