Dan Pugach Nonet Plus One
Playful throwback jazz nudged beyond nostalgia by its drummer/leader.
The primary factor that seems to separate the Dan Pugach Nonet (“nonet” in this context refers to a nine-piece collective) from so much contemporary jazz is Pugach’s grasp that jazz—and its various subgenres—should be fun. This principle permeates every track of the drummer/composer’s debut album, Plus One, which is populated with energetic throwback jazz numbers in which Pugach’s capable, understated drumming bubbles with an indefinable modern quality that keeps even the most self-consciously retro moments (like the sultry vocal rearrangement of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”) from feeling like a purely nostalgic exercise. Having emigrated from Israel to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2006, Pugach displays a knack for navigating a century’s worth of American music in the space of a single album, leading his ensemble effortlessly between pop standards, big band confections, and New Orleans second-line struts. While the versatile band certainly deserves kudos, it’s Pugach’s dynamic drumming that allows so many seemingly disparate styles to cohere into a warm, singular sound. (danpugach.com) Keaton Lamle
Tomas FujiwaraTriple Double
The drummer/leader gets a lot of unique music out of his bass-less sextet, providing a lesson in texture and tone.
For some musicians, one of something is never enough. Drummer Tomas Fujiwara makes that clear on TripleDouble, using two guitarists, a similar-sounding trumpet and cornet, and drummer Gerald Cleaver to augment his own sticks-manship. It’s an exhilarating ride. The material is composed, but creative improvisation is the modus operandi. The 8th-note semi-ballad “Diving for Quarters” is lent a semblance of order by Fujiwara and Cleaver, bashing drumsets in near unison, while tremulous groover “Blueberry Eyes” takes a freer approach, as the cornet and bracing guitar are pilloried by combustible double drumming. The solo-drums-and-spoken-word piece “For Alan” blends sticks rattling rims and rolling on toms, followed by a gentle double drumset passage that ripples like a mountain stream. (Roadhouse 12) Ken Micallef
Jeff Hamilton TrioLive from San Pedro
The drummer’s working trio is pure class.
Jeff Hamilton can’t “shred.” He “can’t” because he simply has too much taste. Make no mistake, the master drummer delivers ample solo passages of dazzling technique. But it’s all in the service of musicality and arrangements. Consider the must-hear vehicle for his famed brush prowess, “Brush This.” Rather than being the typical setup for an open-ended blaze-fest, this arrangement skillfully slots drum soloing space between ensemble lines, which Hamilton navigates with compositional flair. Another highlight is the delightful roller-coaster take on Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” with its shifting keys and time signatures. The trio, featuring pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty, elegantly handles originals and standards framed in tight, imaginative arrangements. Along the way, Hamilton schools us with killer up-tempo shuffles (“Gina’s Groove”), gorgeous colorations (“I Have Dreamed”), driving swing (“Bennissimo”), and his reinterpretation of the classic, lilting groove of “Poinciana.” “Gary Indiana” in a Brazilian groove? Trust me, it works. (Capri) Jeff Potter
Clovis NicolasFreedom Suite Ensuite (Featuring Kenny Washington)
A jazz bassist/leader enlists the absolute right drummer to update a vintage approach.
Assimilating the piano-less trio of Sonny Rollins’ 1958 classic, Freedom Suite, bassist Clovis Nicolas features a trumpet-tenor-bass-drums lineup on his Freedom Suite Ensuite. Kenny Washington gets a prominent shout on the CD cover, befitting his status as today’s greatest proponent of “spang-a-lang,” Philly Joe Jones–meets–Max Roach styled drumming. This music is cool, direct, and swinging, like a missile soaring through a clear blue sky. Kenny kicks off “The 5:30 p.m.…” with one of his patented tumbling tom/bass drum figures, leveling out into medium-tempo swing. “Freedom Suite 1” dances, as Kenny rolls on cymbal bells then pops the cut-up rhythms—hard. “Freedom Suite Part III” picks up the pace, with Kenny alternately executing flashy flams and piston-like hi-hat figures, all the while slamming the group—gracefully. “You and Me” is another showcase, Kenny’s perfect reading of the upbeat chart complete with scorching ride cymbal and beautiful fours trading. Sublime. (Sunnyside) Ken Micallef
Gleb KolyadinGleb Kolyadin
GAVIN HARRISON provides light, shade, and his usual otherworldly chops to a brilliant pianist’s debut.
There’s more going on in the first thirty seconds of Russian pianist Gleb Kolyadin’s debut solo release than there is on most full albums, but the complexity and thickness of the compositions still make for an enjoyable listen. It helps that the musicians assembled for the mostly instrumental tunes here are a who’s who of prog masters, including Porcupine Tree/King Crimson virtuoso Gavin Harrison. On opener “Insight,” Harrison locks in with Kolyadin’s acoustic piano with beautifully dynamic and precise snare work, followed by a smooth 6/8 pattern where the drummer throws in tons of fills that take the music into serious dramatic territory. Harrison never sounds like he’s not in complete command of what he wants to lay down, and he revels in the structure Kolyadin provides with changing time signatures and thematic surprises. “Kaleidoscope” is reminiscent of pianist Hiromi’s exceptional work, and Harrison eats the tune alive, with amazing linear hi-hat work and defined tom placement. By now, it’s common knowledge that Harrison’s presence on these types of dates elevates a record into the must-hear category. (kscope.com) Ilya Stemkovsky
Bauhaus Undead: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus by Kevin Haskins
All great bands deserve publications as bold and exhaustive as this one, and so do their fans. Step right up.
The musical era and style known as post-punk refers to the years immediately following the 1976 ascendance of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols—the ground-zero bands who tore rock ’n’ roll back down to its basic elements in response to what they felt was the over-sophistication and selling out of its biggest acts. In no time, Joy Division, Television, Wire, Cabaret Voltaire, and others began building rock back up in new and fascinating ways.
Northampton, England’s Bauhaus, featuring singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash, bassist David J, and his brother, drummer Kevin Haskins, filled the new blank canvas of rock with reverb-drenched guitars and vocals, “tribal” tom-driven beats, spacious dub-like passages, and high drama. Haskins avoided cliché at every turn, steering clear of unnecessarily florid commentary, and instead fully committing to the hypnotic power of repetition and subtle variation. Listening to tracks like “Double Dare,” from the group’s 1980 debut album, In the Flat Field, or “She’s in Parties,” from ’83’s Burning from the Inside, you hear a drummer who squeezes the most out of simple mechanisms like offbeat cymbal crashes, faux-delay snare hits, and four-on-the-floor steppers beats.
For four years or so, to many Bauhaus was the coolest band on the planet. Without warning, though, they broke up in 1983, with Murphy starting a solo run and the others playing under the Love and Rockets banner for more than a decade. Haskins then began a successful career as a soundtrack composer, and he’s recently been working with Ash in the group Poptone, which also features Kevin’s daughter Diva on bass. But Bauhaus’s subsequent reputation as the forefathers of “goth-rock” has only increased their following, and now Haskins has released Bauhaus Undead, a coffee-table book that its army of followers will surely covet as the ultimate publication about the band. The hardcover, oversized, 300-plus-page book presents photos and memorabilia from throughout the group’s history, as well as Haskins’ reminiscences of its final ’83 and 2004 Coachella reunion shows, run-ins with rock icons David Bowie, Nico, and Iggy Pop, and various famous and infamous gigs played over the years.
While it’s clearly aimed at the super-fan, the treasure-trove of materials presented in Bauhaus Undead make it recommended to anyone interested in learning more about the post-punk scene, and the elements that go into the making of a truly beloved rock ’n’ roll band. (Cleopatra Press, $69.98) Adam Budofsky