Bright Dog Red How’s by You?
Jazz that draws on psychedelic, electronic soundscapes, improvised hip-hop, funk, and more.
On their second album, the Albany, New York, collective Bright Dog Red presents a seamless blend of seemingly disparate influences, creating a post-modern melange that ranges from the familiar to the surprising. Cool bass and drums swing a groove that morphs into a lazy backbeat with an MC over the top, while trumpet smears lead toward exploratory synth sounds. And that’s just one song. It may sound like a lot, but throughout the album the group holds together and is consistently interesting with their thought-provoking, toe-tapping, boundary-defying music. Key to the group’s inner workings and flow is drummer/manager Joe Pignato, who studied with the legendary Max Roach, among others. Displaying taste, groove, and sensitivity, Pignato provides an admirable foundation for this inspired music, adding drama, abstraction, and color when necessary. (Ropeadope) Martin Patmos
The sixth album by the Norwegian progressive band not only exhibits outside-the-box thinking, it questions the very definition of the box.
The shifting moods and anguished lyrical themes of Leprous’s latest studio entry stem from vocalist/keyboardist Einar Solberg’s struggles with anxiety and depression. Such emotional depth and musical diversity demands rhythmic facility and articulation, and drummer Baard Kolstad, a former street musician and the 2012 winner of Roland V-Drums World Championship competition, is up to the task. Kolstad performs dance-y hi-hat-centric patterns in “I Lose Hope,” commands various percussive textures via two snares in “Alleviate,” whips the music into a fine frenzy on “At the Bottom” and “Distant Bells,” powers through odd-time synth and guitar lines in “By My Throne,” and performs with jaw-dropping flourishes on “Foreigner.” Hardcore Leprous fans might be flummoxed by the lack of unmitigated metal here, but ultimately the combination of symphonic rock, electronica, Eastern modalities, pop balladry, and what seems like mathematically designed grooves delivers a satisfying payoff . (Inside Out) Will Romano
TAKING THE REINS
Gold Dime My House
ANDRYA AMBRO’s new album with her post-punk trio is the first tour de force of the drummer/vocalist’s fifteen-year career.
My House (Fire Talk) is deeply inhabited, strange, and clearly the result of sustained attention and inspiration. The album shares space with the ’80s work of Sonic Youth, Laurie Anderson, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but unlike some of those predecessors, Ambro’s drums are presented without effects or processing. While each song has its own sonic blueprint, her toms (with a few exceptions) are tuned low with limited resonance, and her snare rattles like a dry gourd husk. The result is a driving rumble that dovetails seamlessly with Ian Douglas-Moore’s bass and John Bohannon’s guitar. Ambro’s experience with African drumming inform her compositional process. We spoke to the drummer about the recording.
MD: You once said, “For me, singing and drumming are one and the same. The singing informs the drumming and vice versa.”
Andrya: I studied West African music in my early twenties. I went to Ghana for a month and studied drumming along with taking private lessons in New York City. Within that specific West African drumming culture, all beats are taught with an accompanying song. I’m using the word “accompany,” but the song is more integral to the beat than just a supported melody. This really opened things up for me. The voice is just another rhythmic appendage within the grander dance the rest of your limbs are expressing.
MD: Were any concepts related to West African–style singing/ drumming at play significantly in any particular songs on the new album?
Andrya: Consciously, no; unconsciously, definitely. I start most songs with some swung rhythm, then I sing with it, and then the two intertwine. I did this with “Hindsight II,” “La Isla de Vaso,” “ABC Wendy,” and “Boomerang,” although “ABC Wendy,” “La Isla,” and “Boomerang” are more straight 16ths, less swung grooves.
MD: Tell me a bit more about the song “Hindsight II.”
Andrya: Sonically I had the Velvet Underground’s “Hey Mr. Rain” rattling around in my head. Regarding the drums, I wanted something simple. Perhaps I was channeling [VU drummer] Moe Tucker, but I wanted it to swing and drive a bit more. John Colpitts
The Buddy Rich Show (2 DVDs)
A welcome surprise among the glut of posthumous Buddy releases.
In February of 1982, three pilot episodes of The Buddy Rich Show were taped in the hopes of launching a TV series. Like many an aspiring pilot, it was shelved and forgotten. Now released for the first time, these episodes capture Rich’s fifteen-piece band blazing through choice arrangements from his repertoire.
What makes the videos exceptional are the band’s team-ups with iconic guest artists: Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Tormé, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, and Ray Charles. Highlights include tenor giant Getz’s take on “The Dolphin” and Uncle Ray injecting a soulful flavor into the festivities. And intermittently, Buddy chats it up with his guests.
This is late-era Buddy, at age sixty-four, five years prior to his death. But he’s swinging hard, attacking the kit with youthful defiance, spraying sweat all over his oyster pearl Ludwigs. There are ample Buddy spotlight moments, including his snare-punishing solo in “Dancing Men” and, of course, his astounding signature West Side Story solo feature.
Ultimately, the tapes are a testament to Buddy’s tireless professionalism. Audiences were always guaranteed an electrifying set helmed by an ageless leader who gave his all. ($35, DrumChannel) Jeff Potter
The Art of Phrasing on the Drumset Volume II: 4/4 Sixteenth Notes by Alex Cid
The author tackles the hidden engine of improvisational creativity: variation in phrasing.
While speed and limb independence command more attention from young drummers, there is perhaps no single skill that enables players to embellish rhythms more than facility in phrasing. Operating under the assumption that musicians cannot deploy ideas in real time that they have not explored in practice, Cid fills this book with variations on 16th-note combinations in order to help learners diversify their fills, enhance their accentuation, and retain patterns that will allow them to improvise in a variety of musical situations.
Walking players first through basic 16th-note fills, gradually implementing flams and 32nd notes, and finally adding more complicated triplet, slur, and buzz-note exercises, The Art of Phrasing on the Drumset Volume II successfully spans a wide range of difficulty. While some drummers might balk at the notion of working through an entire book devoted to what essentially amounts to increasingly complicated exercises in phrase variation, this book holds a key for those drummers who feel they’ve plateaued in terms of expanding their musical vocabulary. ($18.53, alex-cid.com. Price includes 46 downloadable audio files.) Keaton Lamle