Jazz Drummer’s Workshop

Antonio Sanchez

The Meridian Suite

by Terry Branam

Contemporary drumming giant Antonio Sanchez’s The Meridian Suite takes the listener on a spectacular journey through a nearly hour-long composition that’s divided into five parts. This epic long-form piece features some of Sanchez’s most refined yet most adventurous playing to date. In this article we’ll put some of the many exciting moments from the album under the microscope and take a close look at the masterful drumming.

“Grids and Patterns”

The aptly titled “Grids and Patterns” starts with an angular 5/8 piano intro that leads into syncopated ensemble figures. Sanchez sets it all up with some well-placed fills. (0:11)


This transitions to a quarter-note override pattern with the hi-hats opening and closing as the 5/8 beat is established with the kick and snare. Antonio catches the band figures in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the groove. (0:32)


“Imaginary Lines”

Sanchez’s lyrical approach to this ballad uses space and dynamics to create atmosphere behind the wide-open piano chords. The very subtle and deliberate spacing between the hi-hat and snare notes adds dimension and interest to the backbeats. Check out the fadeout effect of the decrescendo flams at the end of the phrase, in bar 7. (0:37)


“Channels of Energy”

“Channels of Energy” is the fiery drum feature of The Meridian Suite. Sanchez’s unexpected snare shots in the opening measures give the impression of an accelerando, before morphing into quick rolls down the toms. Antonio then uses double bass ruffs between the over-the-barline snare accents to connect the next phrase to an explosive conclusion to the intro. As the band transitions into a funky riff in 6/4, the drummer dances around the rhythms with some crackling snare and hi-hat accents. (0:00)


Later in the track, Sanchez lets it rip with an extended solo that begins over the 6/4 riff. He switches up the subdivisions to evoke a 12/8 feel before launching into a dazzling four-over-three passage. (4:43)


“Pathways of the Mind”

The closer of the album is this twenty-one-minute epic. Near the end is a section that revolves around groupings of five that the band cycles through a fifteen-beat phrase. We’ve chosen to notate it as three bars of 4/4 and one bar of 3/4. Sanchez suddenly evens out the odd accents from the five-note groupings and metrically shifts with the band into a laid-back 6/4 feel. Note the subtle swing in the 16th notes when they reach the new tempo (measure 9). There’s a tasteful cymbal-swell overdub added to the mix that crescendos through the 3/4 measure. (13:27)


After an extended fadeout and a subsequent fade back in, the band makes another astonishing gear shift back to the original feel. Sanchez patiently introduces one element at a time, first by breaking the straight 8th notes of the ride cymbal into a lopsided quintuplet feel. Next he fleshes out the quintuplet groove with more subdivisions (measure 5). Eventually he pulls the band back through the time portal into the original 4/4 feel with the five-note pattern cycling through the bars (measure 7). Check it out! (16:38)