A group that’s greater than the sum of their top-notch parts.
Spin Cycle is led by drummer Scott Neumann and sax player Tom Christensen, and features guitarist Pete McCann and bassist Phil Palombi. Each has extensive sideman credits, but here they join together to focus on their own thing. Spin Cycle’s second album is grounded in straight-ahead jazz, yet it is exploratory, moody, and an overall solid listen. Check out “Possum Dark,” with its laid-back jazz feel, in which Neumann peppers the beat and prods the soloists to greater heights. Then there are the ways he builds off the bass pulse on “Roots” and brings in brushes or subtle funk as needed. While there’s variety in the songs, a cohesive group sound emerges through the solid tenor playing of Christensen and McCann’s notable support and solo forays. Neumann’s melodic playing involves just the right amount of color and drive where it counts. (spincyclemusic.org) Martin Patmos
Benito Gonzalez, Gerry Gibbs, Essiet Okon Essiet
Passion Reverence Transcendence
A heartfelt, burning pays homage to a piano hero.
While his peers were still stumbling through garage riffs, a thirteen-year-old Gerry Gibbs organized a “McCoy Tyner cover band” with bassist buddy Essiet Okon Essiet. Fast forward four decades, and the two—now jazz notables—have reunited to pay tribute to the piano icon once again, aided by dynamic pianist Benito Gonzalez. Nine McCoy compositions are featured, in addition to Coltrane’s “Naima” and three originals, one each contributed by the trio members. Out of the gate, Gibbs drives hard to the edge on “Fly with the Wind,” setting the tone for this high-octane affair. Gonzalez channels McCoy with crashing, broad chords and staccato machine-gun runs while Essiet’s commanding upright sound pumps support. Gibbs lends “Just Feelin’” a funky edge and spearheads a sweaty, up-tempo swing on “Rotunda.” “Festival in Bahia” offers the drummer some spotlight; he launches a fierce solo over a vamp in seven with sharp, articulated speed. No coasting here: Gibbs and company give their all. (Whaling City Sound)
Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart
Modern greats redefine a classic format.
“Organ trio” routinely implies a bebop/blues-rooted sound. But organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and drummer Bill Stewart have sculpted this format into a modern organism all their own. Performing intermittently since 1989, the trio is the longest collaboration in Stewart’s storied jazz (and soul) career. That intimacy is evident in the unit’s twelfth disc. Stewart possesses astonishing touch, musicality, swing, and clarity. It’s also true of his bandmates; it’s a breathing, conversational trio of the highest order. The phrasing and dynamic symbiosis is truly exquisite. Stewart contributes two originals: “Don’t Ever Call Me Again,” a fun, deceptively tricky number driven by his layered bouncing groove, and the contemplative ballad “Calm,” bolstered by his whispering brushes. On “Fagen,” he’s exploratory yet unifying. The cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Toy Tune” is transported by Stewart’s relaxed swing feel and tremendous, expressive solo over the outro. A fully mature and never complacent collective. (Pirouet)
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 http://robdixonmusic.com) Jeff Potter
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. (Elemental Music http://www.elemental-music.com) Jeff Potter
Cross & Jackson
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 https://www.crossandjackson.com) Ilya Stemkovsky
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, 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. (Criss Cross https://www.crisscrossjazz.com/album/1397.html)
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 melds thoughtful iron ore stratagems to progressive rock intent. (Pi Recordings https://pirecordings.com) Ken Micallef
Drum Highway Book 1: Straight Eighth by Josh Quirk
A progressive, strategic approach to learning the basics of popular drumming.
If Drum Highway Book 1: Straight Eighth is any indication, then twenty-five-year industry veteran Josh Quirk (Viktor Krauss, Eddie Shaw) intends to present a comprehensive course in modern popular drumming. As the title here implies, this first entry focuses on a meticulous approach to mastering the basic 8th/16th feel that serves as a foundation for most pop. What makes Quirk’s approach to this subject attractive for beginners and experienced drummers alike, however, is the presentation: patterns are built in strategic increments, requiring readers to master the building blocks of a groove before adding more difficult frills and finally seguing into syncopated variations on the original theme. This organizing principle quells that age-old woodshed frustration of discovering that basic structural problems in a complicated beat are causing it to lag or slur. Drummers who learn the instrument through the lens of Drum Highway will benefit from Quirk’s methodical approach. (drumhighway.com) Keaton Lamle
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