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African High Life (1963)

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Donald Byrd

It seems strange that Blue Note, a label generally associated with bop, hard bop, and the early avant-garde, would have released an album like African High Life. It didn't really fit in with Blue Note's back catalog and -- perhaps as a result -- the label didn't tread these waters again for a number of years. Regardless, this is a very enjoyable if not essential album of traditional African highlife music set to dance tempos. Fans of Count Ossie (or other Pan-African musics that predate an outright American R&B influence) should know what to expect here. In other words, it doesn't sound as modern as Fela Kuti, so it won't supply the kinds of grooves expected on most dancefloors. This is a more traditional music and, despite its Blue Note affiliation, it should be appreciated on its own terms. ~ Brandon Burke