Niagara’s Afire: Drums in a Dream

19th February 2017

Title: Afire

Label: Wah Wah

Klauss Weiss is the man behind the group, a drummer who was widely admired by many an American musician and who actually appeared onstage with the lies of Cecil Bridgewater, Johnny Griffin ad Herbie Mann. Unlike many other jazz drummers, and the reason he is of such interest to krautrock fans, is that Weiss was anything but a conserveative in his musical pathways and his creative explorations. World music was an attraction to him as was rock, although the latter was a genre that grew more important because it was sign posted by his hero, Miles Davis.

Niagara was a percussion project delving into rock, jazz and world rhythms that was also known to have a revolving door policy in terms of the band line-up. Every album seemed to feature an almost new band set up.

This release was the band’s third and final album. Released in 1973, it featured George Brown, Sabu Rex and Norman Tolbert – all percussionists – plus Dave King (he of Embryo and Toto Blanke). King adds flavour but the core of the album, composed and arranged by Weiss, is the percussion which projects a complex interplay between pure beats and content. At times, sounding like it has been sliced from a Santana arrangement, the band can sit deep into a funky groove and work the rhythms from there, on longer pieces. Moving a little to the left, a little to the right the group can introduce an almost hypnotic thread into their work which plugs right into the krautrock aspect of their approach.

A track like Terpsichore has a layered conglomeration of beats and rhythms that almost seems to move ahead of its own accord after a while as the group introduces elements of variation that doesn’t build into any false crescendo. It just…is. And becomes more wonderful because of that.

An energetic and, at times, mesmeric album.