Ebo Taylor, Life Stories

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 03.09.11 in Reviews

It tells you something about the kind of groove Ghanaian guitarist and bandleader Ebo Taylor could generate in his '70s prime that the most hypnotically perfect thing on this leisurely overview of his work (in a variety of settings, both solo and with groups) is also the longest — by a full five minutes, in fact. "Aba Yaa" achieves a pulse that's positively humid: clean guitars and bass playing over minimal traps plus extra percussion and simple Stax-gone-Caribbean horns with frayed edges, in loopy patterns that positively drag behind the beat. Yet everything jumps; it's all human-sized, like walking down a road on a hot day. Taylor's solos are not much cop in the development-of-theme department, but they're much more aptly heard as decoration — accoutrements to the main line, like tiki furniture. Instead, you breathe in the atmosphere. You can get lost in it, like diving through the holes of a sponge for a quarter-hour.

A leisurely overview of his work

As the subtitle of this summation indicates, Taylor began playing highlife but moved into Afrobeat in Fela Kuti's short wake. But Taylor's groove is more lissome, less heavy; it means that while Fela's music seems to grow in expanse with every passing minute (of many, many minutes), most of the cuts on Life Stories stay trim even when they sprawl, which isn't all that often: Subtract "Aba Yaa" and boisterous the 10-minute closer "Egya Edu," and the other tracks average five-and-a-half minutes. Not always so hypnotically, either: The slick blaxploitation-soundtrack ambience of "Ene Nyame 'A' Mensuro," with Pat Thomas, eventually seems to tire down, for example, and the horns can be pretty Vegas, as on "Yes Indeed." Still, that groove seldom quits.