Taking the Reins

Photo by Elisa Caldana

Antonio Sanchez Channels of Energy

The innovative musician veers in yet another direction.

Following on the heels of his Grammy-nominated drums-meets-electronics tour de force, Bad Hombre, the amazing Antonio Sanchez takes a left turn into a big band setting. Early in his career, Sanchez toured with Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra, and always hoped to further explore that format. On this thrilling double disc, he richly fulfills that wish in a modern way, teaming up with one of Europe’s jazz jewels, the WDR Big Band, along with esteemed arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza. The eight Sanchez compositions are culled from his previous six discs as leader. Mendoza’s arrangements brilliantly expand the harmonic sophistication of the drummer’s music and add drama to the bold rhythmic explorations. Sanchez’s drumming is driving, yet at one with the ensemble due to his “orchestrating” dynamics and musicality. Although dazzling, his intriguing soloing—often employing challenging subdivisions and beat displacements—is never mere bombast; each one builds as a mini composition interlocked with the ensemble. A drumming event. (Cam Jazz) Jeff Potter

McClenty Hunter Jr.The Groove Hunter

Hunter leads the way with authority.

Best known for his tenures with jazz notables Kenny Garrett and Dave Stryker, McClenty Hunter Jr. steps out for his winning debut as a leader. His strong swing pulse, infused with a bluesy pocket born of gospel roots, informs this inspired set featuring a crack quartet supplemented with special guests. Hunter also contributes four originals that favor lyricism, including the lovely “I Remember When.” Kicking off with “Blue Chopsticks,” Hunter shows his unflagging command of breakneck swing tempos and exchanges crisp, fiery fours with pianist Eric Reed. Also hyper-tempo is the Coltrane chops buster, “Countdown,” on which Hunter unleashes an explosive duet passage with guest altoist Donald Harrison. In contrast, he lends a gentle R&B pocket to “Sack Full of Dreams” and plays pensive mallets-on-toms accompaniment on “Give Thanks.” And of course, Hunter delivers his trademark killer shuffle on the rousing “That Girl,” featuring guest guitarist Stryker. As a “Groove Hunter,” this drummer always captures his prey. (Strikezone) Jeff Potter

Duduka da Fonseca Trio Plays Dom Salvador

Duduka pays tribute to a musical mentor.

As a teen growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Duduka da Fonseca endlessly played along with pianist/composer Dom Salvador’s Rio 65 Trio, a watershed LP that heavily influenced his future innovations in “samba jazz” drumming. Later, Duduka fulfilled a dream when he joined Salvador’s ’80s quartet. Here, the drummer’s superlative trio, featuring pianist David Feldman and bassist Guto Wirtti, cover eleven Salvador compositions with fresh arrangements. “Farjuto” is a choice example of Duduka’s samba jazz concepts, straddling a feel between the two elements, while on “Transition,” he percolates a snare-driven groove framed by northeastern Brazilian influences. “Antes da Chuva” showcases his sensitive touch with airy yet commanding interplay. In contrast, “Samba do Malandrinho” is fueled by his infectious, popping brushwork. On the blazing finale, “Meu Fraco é Café Forte,” Duduka proves touch also facilitates power, pushing the tune to a tidal surge, then unleashing a ripping solo that ramps the trio to a fireworks finale. Spirited and intimate. (Sunnyside) Jeff Potter

Other Drummer-Leds to Check Out

Rogério Boccato Quarteto No Old Rain /// Fran Vielma and his Venezuelan Jazz Collective Tendencias /// Sean Noonan The Aqua Diva /// Jeff Williams Lifelike /// Bob Holz Vision: Coast to Coast Connection /// John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble All Can Work /// Akira Tana Jazzanova /// Buddy Rich The Lost Tapes /// Diego Pinera Despertando


Dan Siegel Origins

Brian Eisenberg Jazz Orchestra Life Changes

Mili Written in the Stars

Taken together, a trio of vastly different releases shows why Vinnie Colaiuta is still a first-call studio powerhouse.

Keyboardist Dan Siegel’s music on Origins is a chill set that features Vinnie Colaiuta laying down subtle rimclick grooves (“When One Door Closes”) and oh-so-smooth brushes (“Moon and Stars”) with plenty of space for Lenny Castro to fill in with perfect percussion. There’s lots of understated fire on the mostly piano-driven material here, even if the notes aren’t flying by fast and furious. (

Though he’s working within the confines of involved big band charts, Colaiuta loosens his tie on the latest release by the Brian Eisenberg Jazz Orchestra. On the opening title track, Vinnie takes a few breaks featuring tight singles around the kit before settling in and kicking the band with propulsive swing. Check out his clever fills on the hip-hop flavored “Savvy Man Blues” for an example of how Colaiuta can show irreverence for traditional norms while still comping behind horn solos with all the right reference points and licks. (

Vocalist Mili’s music is intelligent pop featuring slick studio execution, but in Colaiuta’s hands it’s transformed into a showcase for his varied grooves and solid support. The drummer’s 7/8 flow in “Had to Be You” is the work of a musician who’s breathed odd time signatures for decades, and the title track features tasty rimclicks and tom fills woven within the verse pattern. This is radio fare, but Colaiuta is really playing here. ( Ilya Stemkovsky

Wayne EscofferyVortex

An impressive set of progressive jazz tunes anchored by RALPH PETERSON JR.

Building off a successful stint in Tom Harrell’s band, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery has emerged as a capable bandleader himself, and his latest release, Vortex, is an impressive set of progressive jazz tunes, most of which are anchored by the perennially impressive drumming of Ralph Peterson Jr. Escoffery’s band displays a remarkable adeptness at moving strategically between chaos and serenity. Likewise, Peterson’s playing on Vortex reinforces his reputation as a master craftsman within modern jazz. Whether he’s laying back to provide a relaxed feel to the deceptively syncopated 15/4 pulse of “Judgment” or taking center stage as the featured soloist on the album’s opener and title track, Peterson has a knack for knowing when to emerge as the primary instrumentalist and when to allow his bandmates to shine. (Sunnyside) Keaton Lamle

GodsmackWhen Legends Rise

Hard rock vet SHANNON LARKIN lays it down on Godsmack’s decidedly mainstream seventh studio album.

The first album in Godsmack’s lengthy career to employ co-writers, When Legends Rise drips with drummer Shannon Larkin’s signature smackdown despite its slick pop/rock production treatment. While Larkin’s penetrating signature ride cymbal sound, the band’s occasional use of percussion-infused textures, and vocalist Sully Erna’s guttural growl are absent here, the drummer spares none of his usual aggression. Shannon’s verse tom groove and driving chorus smash on the album-opening title track, tasty double bass parts and hand/foot combo fills on “Every Part of Me,” clever shifting backbeats on “Someday,” and song-serving precision on lead single “Bulletproof” stand out among the album’s eleven tracks, ensuring that it represents yet another arena-worthy statement. (BMG) Ben Meyer


Drums by Five (A Quintuplet Method for Drum Set) by Hubert Bründlmayer

Discover the wonders of quintuplet phrasing using this informative and challenging book.

Drummers looking for some advanced-level challenges will have a taxing but rewarding time with this book focusing on application of the quintuplet into rhythmic language. The warm-up suggestions alone are enough to open up the way you think about your pre-gig ritual or just getting your hands loose, especially when the author suggests accenting different notes in the groupings. The meat here, though, is the focus on five-note phrases and how to make them sound good in the music you’re playing. There are building blocks for hands and feet with foot ostinatos, the author’s thoughts on reading and playing along with loops, and his own rudiment mutations with names like “Pataraflafla” and “Draga-Di-Diddle,” so say goodbye to your weekend plans. When you feel like you’re getting the hang of things, Bründlmayer introduces “Wilcoxonish Quintuplet Rudimental Etudes,” offering, “Here’s some harder stuff to work on.” Also included are some Bill Stewart and Marcus Gilmore transcriptions to see how jazz greats employ fives on record. Use this book to move beyond the beyond. (20€, Ilya Stemkovsky