Skyharbor Sunshine Dust

Indian progressive metal titans release a gripping new album on
the heels of successful tours with Babymetal, the Contortionist,
and Deftones.

Equal parts ethereal atmospherics, thick and chugging grooves, and soaring vocals, Skyharbor offer some of their finest work to date on their third full-length release. Expertly anchored by Mumbai drummer Aditya Ashok, who is also the creative force behind diverse electronic project OX7GEN, Skyharbor ably showcase their knack for blending lush synth/programming textures with thick, syncopated metal. Their expansive compositions serve as the perfect vessel for American vocalist Eric Emery’s substantial contributions, as well as those of Ashok. The drummer’s clever beat displacement on “Ethos,” textured groove on “Disengage/Evacuate,” and slippery triple-meter playing on “Menace” stand out, though his playing is dynamic, musical, and muscular throughout the album’s thirteen tracks. (eOne Music/Good Fight Music) Ben Meyer

Dave Holland Uncharted Territories

A return to free expression for the legendary bassist, with a willing and able drummer as copilot.

“He has a great sense of moment in the music,” says Dave Holland about drummer Ches Smith in the promotional materials for Uncharted Territories. “He seems to know just when to end a piece.” As a two-CD/three-LP collection of what Holland terms “open form improvisation,” the music is a perfect vehicle for saxophonist Evan Parker, keyboardist Craig Taborn, and the rhythm section to find countless moments to say something—either imposing on the proceedings with urgent, traditionally “out” playing, or breaking off into duos and trios for sounds alternately sublime and jarring. And before Smith finds exciting ways to conclude collective statements from the group, he offers lots of sensitive work on vibes and timpani in addition to normal kit sounds. Check out the drummer’s jagged swing on “QT12” and the spacious groove he invents for “Bass—Percussion T2.” The listener hears these players’ minds at work, but where the music comes from and where it’s going is still a glorious mystery. ( Ilya Stemkovsky


Creative Quest by Questlove

Questlove and his writing partner Ben Greenman have written an excellent new book that drummers interested in creating their own music should pick up right away.

Slipping in perfectly next to the classics of the genre, like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Creative Quest is a book full of practical ways to unmoor us from the blocks and mental baggage that tend to clog our creativity. It’s not explicitly about drums, but Questlove drafts this book like a drummer; he expands on multiple patterns of creativity operating in concert with each other. This book’s mode feels very much in harmony with Questlove’s searching and catholic taste. It’s casual and conversational at times, but the overall effect is transformative.

Our prescribed role behind the kit is usually to serve music that someone else has written, but for those of us trying to carve our own path, Questlove acts as a powerful mentor here. There are great anecdotes related directly to creating drum beats, but this is mostly a book about inventing things out of whole cloth and how to assemble the tools that can point you towards making your own music (or following any creative pursuit).

Questlove is working at the crossroads of art and commerce, and from the outside it seems as if he can do no wrong—that his path has been one success after another. We get some enlightened humility within these pages. Questlove’s fallible, but he never stops trying.

Democracy and plurality are the prescription in Creative Quest, a platonic idea that our culture seems to be forgetting these days. This book is a great antidote. (Ecco/HarperCollins) John Colpitts

Developing Melodic Language on the Drums by Wayne Salzmann II

A thorough, step-by-step method for playing time and improvising based on melodies.

Many would say that one of the marks of a great jazz soloist is not losing sight of the melody. This concept applies to comping as well, as those in the rhythm section frame the song and feed the soloist. In Wayne Salzmann’s new book, the idea is to help drummers learn to keep the melody in mind as they comp and solo.

Salzmann teaches drumset at the University of Texas, and the material used is strongly in the jazz tradition. The author opens with five steps to comping around a melody, thinking about the voicing on the drums and the use of space. Theme and Variation, and Call and Response ideas follow.

While this might seem like a collection of exercises found elsewhere, digging in to the book reveals that this is not the case, and brings rewards. Salzmann’s goal is to take a melodic phrase, relate everything to that rhythmically, and then build on that. The old “sing it before you play it” idea is at the core of this approach. The real strength of this book is found further in, where there is a breakdown of jazz standards based on form (blues, AABA, etc.) and several pages of rhythmic outlines to use for jazz standards.

For the aspiring jazz drummer looking for a resource guide to learning standards, those looking to understand comping better, or those nervous about soloing, this has some valuable info. ( Martin Patmos