Ginger Baker

Horses & Trees

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Bill Laswell's musical career has been a highly collaborative one. Almost every new release from solo excursions to a variety of mercurial group projects finds him engaged with a notable instrumentalist from the arenas of jazz, electronica, funk, hip-hop, reggae, and world music. It's not that he seems dominating as a musician per se, but the results do typically bare the producer's singular aural stamp. Horses & Trees is no exception. Persuaded by Laswell to continue working throughout the second half of 1980s, drummer Ginger Baker produced some of his most stimulating collections, not least of which were the Laswell produced Middle Passage and this 1986 set. The drummer is rock-solid throughout, which means that most of the compositions become a showcase for an impressive lineup of guest musicians that reads like a list of the Bill Laswell all-stars. Even when pared down to an all-rhythm trio on "Mountain Time," Baker, though undeniably effective, remains the big beat behind Daniel Ponce and Aiyb Dieng's percussion display. That does little to change the fact that this is one of the most enjoyable albums Baker (or Laswell) has been involved in. "Uncut" finds the likes of Bernie Worrell, Shankar and Laswell in fine form, taking solos like a jazz combo. "Dust to Dust" is the only piece composed solely by Baker (he shares credits everywhere else) and is the most stunning of the set with a repeated section that sounds like an alien hoe-down with world music undertones. Laswell alumni and hip-hop pioneer Grandmixer D.ST (of "Rock It" fame) returns, delivering slashes from his turntable that provide the sort of genre-bending texture Laswell is so fond of. Baker, while never caught stealing the show on any track, looms large. On Horses & Trees, his big beat pulls the greatest weight.

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