TAKING THE REINS


Johnathan Blake Trion

Energetic, brave playing from this sax-bass-drums trio.

Johnathan Blake continues to demonstrate his abilities as an exciting, creative drummer on his third album as a leader. While he notably holds the drum throne for jazz masters like Tom Harrell and Kenny Barron, Blake’s inventive, driving style is on full display in this spare setting. Working in a bold tenor/bass/drums trio featuring Chris Potter and Linda May Han Oh, his drums share equal footing with his bandmates. Offering grooves filled with dynamics, color, and inventiveness, Blake navigates forays that often top the ten-minute mark, all the while maintaining flow and a sense of storytelling. (Check out the group’s take on the Police classic “Synchronicity,” which opens the album.) “Good Hope” features Blake’s fluid drive, pushing Potter’s improvisations before engaging in playful dialog. Recorded live at New York’s Jazz Gallery, a hub for musicians developing new projects, the generous two-CD offering showcases Johnathan Blake’s exemplary abilities. (Giant Step Arts) Martin Patmos

 


Matt Slocum Sanctuary

A former student of Peter Erskine shows fast reflexes and swift movements that pack more wallop than a punch to the head.

Considering his prior albums—Portraits, After the Storm, Black Elk’s Dream, and Trio Pacific, Vol. 1—Wisconsin native Matt Slocum could easily be considered a “thinking person’s” drummer. Slocum’s cerebrally flowing Sanctuary gathers two of the finest musicians in jazz, pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Larry Grenadier, for an adventurous outing that absolutely glistens. Slocum’s music builds steam slowly, almost blowing its top but never resulting in meltdown. Sanctuary is a contained but lushly swinging vehicle, beginning with opener “Romulus,” which recalls the carefree groove of Vince Guaraldi off set by dancelike marching snare drum figures. “Consolation Prize” is upbeat and glimmering, while “Anselmo” traces a moody Afro-Cuban spell. (Sunnyside)

Ken Micallef

 


Barrett Martin Group Songs of the Firebird

The former Screaming Trees band member and globetrotting rhythmatist offers yet another idiosyncratic addition to his evergrowing list of releases.

Barrett Martin is a polymath, a shaman of music, and Songs of the Firebird is the soundtrack to his latest book, The Way of the Zen Cowboy. A decentralized collection of moods more than an album focused on technical prowess, Songs rambles along like an old truck coursing over bumpy terrain, with instruments plotting jazz-oriented solos as Martin’s drums bump and grind with relaxed motion. Songs’ press release intimates that listeners will be transported through “the American West, as far south as the Amazon Rainforest, and as far north as the Alaskan Arctic.” That immense span is more felt than heard, but Songs certainly creates its own world. (Sunyata)

Ken Micallef

 


Myele Manzanza A Love Requited

The New Zealand drummer/composer balances beauty and intensity here—imagine the Brian Blade Fellowship meets the Gil Evans Orchestra.

Myele Manzanza defines his own role on kit, driving this music with passion, but also highlighting and prodding the talented cast on a collection of complex, melodic compositions. “Family Dynamics” displays a range of influences, from a Dilla-esque sense of broken time to a breathtaking jazz romp behind Matthew Sheen’s piano solo, followed by a gorgeous, understated solo. His interpretive comping shines again under James Macaulay’s trombone solo on “Itaru’s Phone Booth,” gracious and progressive. A feathery touch on “Mortality” yields to a rim-rattling double-time, before falling to nothing with a lovely

buzz roll. Manzanza plays at once like he has nothing to prove and nothing to lose. His ability to amplify and enforce the music is inspiring. He lifts it. He’s a player you can hear once and find yourself thinking and playing differently, more musically, on your own next gig. It certainly happened to me. (First Word U.K.) Robin Tolleson


 Other Drummer-Leds to Check Out

Vince Ector Theme for Ms. P /// Chinchano (Juan Pastor) El Regreso /// Poncho Sanchez Trane’s Delight /// Jerome Jennings Solidarity /// Luis Muñoz The Infinite Dream /// Dor Herskovits Flying Elephants /// Dave Schoepke Drums on Low


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