Shake Keane

Reel Keen Reggae Into Jazz

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For the first release on his LKJ label, celebrated dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson arranged for Jamaican jazz trumpeter Shake Keane to go into the studio with British reggae producer Dennis Bovell (who has regularly produced for Johnson himself) and a handful of ace session players, including drummer Jah Bunny and guitarist John Kpiaye. Under Bovell's and Johnson's direction, the band delivers rhythms that range from pretty good ("The Rumbler," "Perestroika") to great ("Credentials"), over which Keane blows sprawling solos that range from adequate ("Perestroika") to pretty good ("Timisora"). While most of these tracks are straight-ahead reggae, "Tiananmen Square" leans more towards West African highlife, which makes a nice change. The strangely political tune titles -- "Gorby Gets Them Going," "Yankee Invasion," "Prague 89," -- are apparently the contribution of Johnson, who gets half the writing credits and clearly isn't used to keeping his mouth shut in the studio. The only lyrical content of the album is on "Credentials," in which Keane tells about his upbringing and musical background. Overall, this is a rather disappointing album; Keane's solos are too slapdash and Bovell's rhythms too pedestrian to make it truly noteworthy.