Brian Eno considered Tony Allen to be “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived,” and Allen’s claim to the “drum throne” differs from many other renowned drummers in that there’s no ego in his playing. Tony Allen always ensured his beats were “behind” the other musicians, which is not to say that his beats could ever be relegated to the background. His rhythms provided stable pavement for other musicians to stand on, but zoom in and you’ll find plenty of tricky cymbal and hi-hat patterns that support rather than overwhelm the contributions of his fellow players. Perhaps this explains why Allen drummed for so many other musicians: he was less interested in showing off than in championing others.
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