Taking the Reins
Phil Collins Serious Hits… Live!
A Hot Night In Paris
Plays Well With Others
A look back at Phil Collins’ masterful work onstage, as well as studio collaborations with famous friends.
Phil Collins continues his reissue campaign with a pair of live albums now freshly remastered. Serious Hits… Live! (Atlantic) documents Collins’ 1990 tour supporting his …But Seriously album and is a tight greatest-hits compilation with a crackshot band executing nearly note-perfect renditions of the superstar’s best-loved songs. Since Genesis’s mid-’70s musical chairs shuffle, Chester Thompson was Collins’ choice for live drummer for virtually everything he did, and here he lays down some serious four-on-the-floor pocket on “Who Said I Would” and spacious, syncopated smoothness on “Don’t Lose My Number.” But it’s on ballads like “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” where you can hear Thompson’s metronomic yet nuanced timekeeping. Collins briefly gets behind the kit for “In the Air Tonight,” but check out the under-heralded written parts he wrote on tunes like “Take Me Home,” where Thompson drives those huge toms like a freight train.
A Hot Night In Paris (Atlantic) is a whole different affair, this time with only Collins behind the kit, supporting a big band doing hip rearrangements of his solo material, some Genesis tunes, and select covers. Recorded in 1998, with nary a vocal to be heard, the album is a nice showcase for all the things that have interested Collins from a drumming perspective throughout the decades. There’s an R&B groove workout of “Sussudio” and a convincing swing reading of “That’s All” containing some driving ride cymbal and all the requisite Buddy Rich–style hits and bombs that make big band music exciting. Percussionist Luis Conte solos with dexterity over a Latin vamp in “Chips & Salsa,” and Collins sets off fi reworks on the multipart “The Los Endos Suite.” But it’s on the greasy “Pick Up the Pieces,” featuring solos by jazz and R&B greats Gerald Albright, George Duke, and James Carter, where things get majorly funky, the drummer grooving with the tough, unwavering downbeat that is all his own. All-instrumental fare like this and his recordings with fusion band Brand X have been all-too-rare in Collins’ history.
As appealing as both of these releases are, they do feel like a bit of a missed opportunity, as neither features a single bonus track or any extra cuts from the sourced concerts. As opposed to the recent deluxe-edition studio records, which contain additional CDs of live material, B sides, and demos, these new offerings are exactly the same as the originals, albeit with slightly beefier sound. That aside, each album has something for the generally curious or newer Collins converts, showing the eclectic nature of the material and the killer drumming featured at his shows.
Perhaps the most intriguing release of the trio, Plays Well with Others (Rhino) is a four-disc, career-spanning collection of Collins’ appearances with other artists that will appeal most to hardcore Phil fans and general listeners with varied musical tastes, as these tunes are all over the map. Three of the discs are dedicated to Collins’ brilliant sideman stylings, from the kinetic drums on Robert Plant’s “Pledge Pin” to the big beats on Adam Ant’s “Puss ’n Boots.” There’s the familiar (Collins’ hooky fills on Howard Jones’ “No One Is to Blame”) and the slightly overlooked (that feel good shuffle on Stephen Bishop’s “Walking on Air”), but the drummer’s fingerprints unify the music conceptually. The fourth disc is all live, with Collins bringing the lumber to everyone from Eric Clapton to Annie Lennox. Did this man ever sleep?
Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop Abundance
This Canadian drummer/leader’s latest manages to swing convincingly between both the manic and somber poles of jazz, leaving listeners with a fresh, energetic expression of a classic form.
Ernesto Cervini’s drumming impresses throughout Abundance, with tight, precise ride patterns augmented by a unique, spastic approach to hi-hat accents. On album opener “The Queen,” Cervini manages a tasty middle ground between traditional swing, cross-stick intensive bossa nova, and other hints at Afro-Cuban rhythms. Likewise, the rimclicks that initially anchor “Abundance Overture” exemplify the kind of atypical approaches that make this set of tunes such an enjoyable listen. While the execution of these pieces may in fact require quite a bit of technical prowess—there are moments when the drumming scans as an acrobatic take on Art Blakey—Abundance never feels the least bit labored, and the sense of joy expressed throughout the album is contagious. (Anzic) Keaton Lamle
Andrew Cyrille Lebroba
As he approaches his eightieth birthday, the leader and longtime McCoy Tyner and Oliver Lake collaborator proves he’s still remarkably vital on all fronts.
Rarely have drums been played more melodically, tastefully, or expressively than on free jazz legend Andrew Cyrille’s Lebroba, featuring trumpeter Wadada
Leo Smith and guitarist Bill Frisell. Smith carries the melody on Frisell’s “Worried Woman,” but the guitarist is echoing him so closely, and the drummer is shaping the landscape so colorfully, it’s often hard to tell who is leading and who’s following. Cyrille is constantly building on his bandmates’ musical ideas, lifting the action, and his frisky solo highlights the trumpeter’s complex “Turiya.” “Lebroba” is a gorgeous Cyrille composition that comes closest to a steady pulse, though much of it is implied, not played. Think free jazz has to sound the way a Jackson Pollock canvas looks? Nope. Cyrille plays everything with purpose and commitment. Flam cross-sticks, tom rolls, tumbling triplets—this is sublime music making, with a premium on each note. Obvious chops aside, the ears on these fellows are huge. (ECM) Robin Tolleson
Carlos Ezequiel, Circular
The Brazilian drummer leads a capable five-piece band through eight percussive jazz originals.
Carlos Ezequiel, in his third decade as a working drummer, plays with a nimble touch, adding contagious energy to the tunes here. Album opener “Quando Não Houver Saudade” displays his unique ability to pepper his often chaotic solos with enough strategic accents that even inexperienced listeners can detect a predictable pulse beneath the spasticity. Likewise, “Você Me Colcheia” finds the drummer elaborating on traditional jazz ride patterns, spreading the timekeeping around the kit to bring unique, polytonal voicing to age-old grooves. On the title track, the band melds jazz with bossa nova to create a hypnotic, swirling groove that shows off Ezequiel’s penchant for communicating both urgency and relaxation in his playing, sometimes within the space of a single bar. (carlosezequiel.com)
Lisa Schonberg, UAU: Music for Percussion
The Portland drummer and Revival Drum Shop instructor has a background in environmental studies with fieldwork in entomology. All her interests come together on her latest work.
Portland, Oregon, musician Lisa Schonberg’s percussion ensemble, Secret Drum Band, creates soundscapes in an effort to draw attention to environmental issues. The EP UAU: Music for Percussion is not only inspired by ant populations in the Brazilian Amazon, the works are based around Schonberg’s own field recordings of actual ants. Opener “Surface of Abyss at Ducke” runs through a gamut of textures, beginning with a low synth note over a bed of ant samples, leading into a pulsing buzz roll, a Taiko-like figure on a high tom, and on. “Multispecies (Ants) with Percussion” hums with layered ant samples, interrupted by a conga ostinato and a gritty drum machine improvisation; different samples of ants and feverish drumset improvisation are layered, and the vibe becomes frantic. “Terra Firme” is a live percussion trio piece reminiscent of a Jonny Greenwood film score, with its use of wooden percussion, congas, and overlapping ostinatos on toms and vibraphone. Overall, the release is as curious a listen as the concept itself, and would be of interest to fans of film music and ambient genres. (lisaschonberg.com)
Other Drummer-Leds to Check Out
Kendrick Scott Oracle A Wall Becomes a Bridge /// Carmine Appice Guitar Zeus /// Dominic Egli’s Pluralism Azania in Mind /// Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint /// Kevin Lawlor Last Days of Summer /// Sean Noonan’s Pavees Dance Tan Man’s Hat /// Marilyn Mazur Shamania /// Herlin Riley Perpetual Optimism /// Rich Mangicaro Travels /// Bob Holz Silverthorne /// Peter Kogan The Green Album /// Johnathan Blake Trion /// Dali Mraz Level 25
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