After work one evening last week I went to his place in Egbeda, another district of Lagos. On the map it was not far from where I work in Ikeja, but in the nightmarish Lagos traffic it took almost two hours of sheer punishment to get there. It was worth it, though. When I arrived at his house there was a full studio in semi-open air, with drum set, keyboards, and amplifiers. His guitarist Kazzy and bassist Mike were there too, set up and jamming. We had never played together before and didn't have a chance to discuss tunes. I pulled out Blues March based on our earlier phone conversation and we jumped straight into it in unison, Biodun showcasing his fluegelhorn. Really nice sound. He then went into Equinox on keyboards (without asking, how did he know it is one of my faves?) and switched to drums when I started my solo – his drumming is as impressive as his horn playing. We continued through a set mostly of my choosing since I had my book with me – stuff I am comfortable with like Watermelon Man, Night In Tunisia, Moanin’. We ended with Blue Train. I recorded the night on my Zoom and you can hear some of the tracks by clicking on the track names that are highlighted. I even had a go on the drums which is a blast and got me thinking I should buy a kit, which I’m sure the neighbors would appreciate (…not).
The next day I googled Biodun Batik and came to find out that he is one of Nigeria’s most famous and well traveled brass players. He spent two years in Fela’s Egypt 80 (alongside Showboy on bari), from 1989 to 1991, and has played and recorded with a virtual Who’s Who of Nigerian old-school stars including Sunny Okosuns and Tony Allen. Here is a long article in Nigerian Compass profiling him. Probably the best trumpeter I've had the pleasure of playing alongside. Hopefully more jams and some gigs to come. Again, unfortunately, he bemoaned the current state of the Nigerian live music scene and doesn't gig with his own band, Batik, as often as he would like. But he made his name in the heyday of Nigerian music and earned his stripes from the demanding master, Fela, who only selected the best sidemen.