Omar Hakim – We Are One (2014)

It’s not just that the do-anything Omar Hakim rarely puts out his own albums. That’s perhaps understandable, considering his over-stuffed career as a sideman alongside the likes of Sting, Weather Report, Dire Straits, David Bowie, Miles Davis and Daft Punk. What was strange was how little, well, drumming there seemed to be on his solo efforts.

Rhythm Deep, Hakim’s 1989 debut, found him taking a turn at the mic. The belated follow up, 2000’s Groovesmith, again offered a canny blending of jazz, pop and R&B — but could hardly be called a showcase for Hakim’s unique blend of power and world-fused finesse. We Are One, just out on OZmosis Records, looked like it would make the same mistakes, considering the news that Hakim was to be featured on guitar, keyboards, bass and again on vocals.

The epic opening track “Transmigration” puts those fears to rest. Or rather, it beats them into submission. Hakim also offers moments of ferocious intellect on the brilliantly metallic “Walk the Walk,” and the grease-popping, Weather Report-inspired “Listen Up!” — three highlights of a 10-song cycle of originals that moves with an old-pro’s ease through funky fills, pushy rock grooves and loose-limbed jazz swing.

And yet, We Are One — as the title suggests — has a deeper spirituality running just beneath the surface. For all of the moments where Hakim asserts his place as one of today’s most well-rounded practitioners of the drum arts, there are times here when he’s just as sensitive, just as coiled, just as committed to talking in a quiet but insistent way about the things that connect us. Tracks like “Forever Friend” and the title song, which close out We Are One, serve as clarion calls for unity, no matter your faith.

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.