NYC – Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid
Damn. Steve Reid. Have you heard this cat’s story? Originally from New York, the drummer, now 64, was with James Brown (he plays on “The Popcorn”), Miles Davis (he appears on one song from the unlistenable Tutu album, circa 1986), Sun Ra, Fela Kuti and Quincy Jones. Plus, he hung out with Jimmy Heath in prison. And Monk’s wife was his babysitter.
Oh yeah, and he was with Martha Reeves. Yes, that Martha Reeves. He’s the drummer on “Heat Wave,” and “Dancing In The Street.” “Dancing In The Street”! Now that’s important.
These days, however, Reid’s main gig is not with a jazz musician, but with a British dude who really likes jazz. And that dude is 28-year-old electronic musician Kieran Hebden, who works under the name Four Tet. Since 2006, the paired performers have recorded four albums together, and their latest, NYC, is an homage to (you guessed it!) New York City. But, to these ears, it doesn’t sound a whole lot like New York.
What it does sound like is a series of conversations centering around atmospheric, and highly repetitive electronic grooves augmented by live drums. Which is cool; it works. But the pieces here just don’t change. There’s not a whole lot to them. Each tune is comprised of a drone of some sort, plus some blips and bleeps, and Reid improvises a little bit over all that. But the funky drummer is turned way down in the mix; you often don’t even notice he’s there! This stuff is cool, but I’d much rather listen to James Brown. Or Fela. Or Sun Ra.