Taking The Reins
Donald Sturge Anthony McKenzie II Silenced One drummer’s unique and bold statement on topical events.
On Silenced, accomplished drummer/composer Donald Sturge Anthony McKenzie II and an impressive cast of collaborators (including Nels Cline) navigate a series of chaotic improvisations to call awareness to the trend of unarmed citizens killed by police. The resulting listening experience is appropriately disquieting, with many tracks resisting conventional song structures. Within this framework, McKenzie picks ideal moments to pierce the chaos with oppressive industrial grooves and frantic jazz accents, careening off his collaborators’ noisy accompaniment to propulsive effect. In fact, one of Silenced’s accomplishments is that even in its most transgressive or mournful improvisations, it never loses a sense of momentum, keeping listeners confident that each sonic simulation of tragedy has been crafted with narrative intention. (577 Records) Keaton Lamle (Amazon)
Dan Weiss Starebaby Noah Preminger Genuinity
Drummer DAN WEISS applied Konnakol rhythms and the fast-talking Fed Ex guy’s chatter to drumset; he reveals more from his bulging trick bag on two recent releases.
Dan Weiss plays Max Roach to Noah Preminger’s Sonny Rollins on the latter’s Genuinity, (Amazon) a jazz-blowing fest of massive proportions. Clomping his hi-hats, madly dissecting the rhythms, and swinging as if his life depended on it, Weiss burns like a manic fireball.
Weiss’s own Starebaby is a progressive funhouse with so many left turns it will challenge your practice schedule and massively entertain your ears. Weiss’s drumming is explicit in every sense of the word; his compositions are brain-bending and fresh. He seems to compose from the drumset, his angular rhythms punching malevolent keyboards and growling bass. Like incandescent blasts from a smelt furnace, Starebaby (Amazon) melds thoughtful iron ore stratagems to progressive rock intent. (Pi Recordings)
Cross & Jackson Another Day
What do legendary players from legendary bands need for their new music? The right drummer, of course.
Fans of 1970s-era King Crimson and Van der Graaf Generator will rejoice in the meeting of two of those classic bands’ alumni getting together to make a sweet noise, with help from an able rhythm section featuring Craig Blundell on drums. KC violinist David Cross and VdG Generator saxophonist David Jackson are certainly longer in the tooth in 2018, but their writing here is a nice vehicle for their melodic tendencies and still-effective soloing. Progressive rock, even the modern kind, isn’t always about technical prowess, though there’s certainly plenty of that throughout this disc. But while Blundell can blaze with the best of them (see his flashy hi-hat work in opener “Predator”), it’s his inventive ideas and attention to quasi- funky patterns that give this material an extra push. Dig how the drummer moves from the straighter rock beat in “Come Again” to spacious breaks that he fills in with thunderous rolls and syncopated ride-bell hits. Music that pushes the boundaries is still alive and well. (crossandjackson.com) Ilya Stemkovsky (Amazon )
Stefon Harris & Blackout Sonic Creed
A vanguard jazz mallet man strides onward.
From a purely percussion- oriented standpoint, here’s a triple treasure: leader/ vibraphonist/marimba player Stefon Harris animates marvelous arrangements with his stellar jazz and classical chops, kitman Terreon Gully brilliantly fuels the mix of jazz, funk, R&B, and occasional shades of hip-hop, and guest conguero Pedrito Martinez catalyzes the groove. But this disc amounts to far more than instrumental prowess. Harris’s septet, Blackout, and guests deliver a thrilling, melodic, and thoroughly heartfelt standout. There’s complexity, yet always at the service of storytelling, passion, and often good fun. Gully paints diverse canvases. On “Dat Dere,” he generates a Latin/funk vibe by mixing up the syncopation with a cracking snare. In contrast, the irresistible “Chasin’ Kendall,” inspired by ’70s R&B, finds him nodding to that era with restrained fours on a deep snare, while on “Throw It Away” he craftily weaves a foundation from brief suggestive fragments. Every minute is fresh air. (Motéma) Jeff Potter (Amazon)
Yellowjackets Raising Our Voice
WILL KENNEDY’s drumming is an indispensable force.
We’re well past the point of needing to expound on Will Kennedy’s technical virtuosity. But what truly places this drummer on a lofty pedestal is his skill for interpreting, creating parts, and interacting in an integral way; in essence, he is invariably a “co- composer.” In a departure for the Yellowjackets, this release includes singer Luciana Souza, who enhances the gorgeous ensemble sound via wordless and worded vocals. Keyboardist Russell Ferrante and saxophonist Bob Mintzer are superb, as always, as is relative newcomer and bassist Dane Alderson, who makes a terrific pairing with Kennedy. On compositions mixing jazz, funk, and plentiful Brazilian shadings, Kennedy transports the trickily syncopated, tight arrangements with micro hills and valleys of dynamics, creating a slipstream groove. Kennedy helmed the Yellowjackets from 1987 to 2000 and returned following a ten-year hiatus. Those deep ties are felt here. No place like home. (Mack Avenue) Jeff Potter (Amazon)
Rob Dixon Trio Coast to Crossroads
A soulful trio rides the MIKE CLARK groove train.
Rob Dixon was determined to record on his own terms: he wanted to play with friends, and it had to be funky. The expressive jazz tenor/alto saxophonist scores on both counts with Coast to Crossroads, on which he sports a robust sound with R&B and soul influences. Dixon is a veteran of three tours with Charlie Hunter, and he invited the innovative guitarist onboard, along with guest trombonist Ernest Stuart. This unit has a wide jazz vocabulary and chops aplenty, but keeps the grits and gravy intact. The session is strongly defined by drummer Mike Clark. Putting his bop facet aside, Clark reaches back to the classic “Oakland sound” he helped develop, fuelling several tracks with his funky, super-tight, super- syncopated 16th-note grooves. Hunter locks up, playing pumping bass lines and stabbing organ-like comps on his hybrid seven-string guitar. Clark also un-holsters his killer Texas shuffle on three cuts. A spontaneous in-the-room vibe makes for a funky good time. (Rob Dixon Music) Jeff Potter (Amazon)
Woody Shaw Tokyo 1981 A jazz gem from the vaults.
In 1980, drummer Tony Reedus left college to join his first pro jazz band. And what a band it was. Led by the late great Woody Shaw, this quintet was hailed as one of the groundbreaking trumpeter’s finest. Reedus made his startling recording debut with Shaw’s United (1981), which was followed by three more LPs. This previously unreleased Tokyo concert captures Shaw during his later years playing in top form alongside Reedus, pianist Mulgrew Miller, trombonist Steve Turre, and bassist Stafford James. It’s a treat hearing Reedus burning bright on an early live date. Pushing the tight quintet, the young, eager Reedus is on fire throughout, swinging with authority and goading soloists forward, as on the uptempo cooker “Apex.”The drummer would go on to a stellar career. Like Shaw, Reedus also passed early (at age forty-nine), making this new release an even more welcome addition to his impressive legacy. Note: A second Woody Shaw Quartet archival collection, Live in Bremen 1983, also featuring Tony Reedus, has been released as well. (Elemental Music) Jeff Potter Amazon
Other Drummer-Leds to Check Out
Devin Gray Dirigo Rataplan /// Larry Crockett Drum Love /// Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet London Live /// Jae Sinnett The Americana Groove Project /// Henry Conerway III With Pride for Dignity /// Mike Spinrad Horns /// Carlos Ezequiel Circular
Trap Style Drumming for the Acoustic & Hybrid Drum Set by Gregory “Torch” Sgrulloni
Dive into the intricate beats and unique sounds of a modern hip-hop subgenre.
You’ve heard trap music before—think of that spooky rap with the 808 sub bass and super complex hi-hat programming— but applying it to an acoustic kit will require some serious work. Gregory Sgrulloni, aka Torch, has been studying and playing drum ’n’ bass and other electronic dance music for years, and here he breaks down this contemporary style with detailed attention. From creating a modified snare drum for all those buzz rolls, to tuning your kick drum, to explaining the application of the 16th-note, 32nd-note, and triplet rhythms of the music, Torch lays down his concepts in a clear and digestible way. But this stuff is not easy. The “fragments” he presents have endless permutations and combination possibilities, and your hands should be at near marching band drum line levels if you want this material to sound clean and feel authentic. But go at your own pace, and the open- ended nature of the book should yield some surprises, regardless of what genre you normally work in. (Hudson Music)
Concepts: A Guide to Essential Drumset Processes for the Modern Drummer by Nick Schlesinger
Apply these fresh approaches to advance your drumming and musicality.
U.K.-based drummer Nick Schlesinger isn’t out to reinvent the wheel with his new book, but the exercises contained in Concepts: A Guide to Essential Drumset Processes for the Modern Drummer lend themselves to further exploration when taken as individual ideas or when combined for advanced study. The author tackles topics including accents, melodic playing, linear phrasing, and displacement. He adds a “process” chapter and notated examples for each, helping readers to understand his suggestions but allowing room to find their own path. A “Where to Look for More” section points in the direction of pertinent music and books while a longer recommended listening list has an in-depth assortment of legendary tracks from drumming greats—though it’s more of a collection of stuff that influenced Schlesinger as opposed to music exemplifying his concepts. Still, spending some time with the book’s various challenges will open up your phrasing and overall rhythmic vocabulary. (drummingconcepts.com)