Taking the Reins
Ignacio Berroa Trio Straight Ahead From Havana
Berroa blends the best of both worlds.
A key architect in the fusion of Afro-Cuban and modern jazz styles for the drumset, Ignacio Berroa takes a different tack from his previous discs here, offering jazz takes on classic Cuban popular songs. On some tunes, the straight-ahead element is literal in its 4/4 swing. On others that are framed by Cuban rhythms, the straight-ahead is implied by Berroa’s looser, open jazz sensibility. The entire session sizzles.
Berroa’s young sidemen, pianist Martin Bejerano and bassist Josh Allen, are keenly attuned to his concepts. Rubén Blades (a former employer) cameos on the humorous swinger “Negro de Sociedad,” while guest conguero CONRADO “COKY” GARCIA is a fiercely grooving partner with Berroa on “Los Tres Golpes.” It’s an overdue pleasure to have the fiery, grooving drummer back in the leader’s seat, as this is only the third solo disc of his long, prolific career. More, por favor. (Codes Drum Music) Jeff Potter
Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet King of Xhosa
A drummer-led group with a fresh take on a classic sound.
Jeff “Siege” Siegel has worked with his quartet for some time, but now, after developing a bond with South African trumpeter Feya Faku, he’s added a fresh dimension. With that beautiful trumpet voice intertwining with sax and a driving rhythm section, King of Xhosa took shape. Siegel’s drumming supports, prods, and moves the group expertly—clean ride cymbals shimmer, while crisp snare accents push the soloists to the next level. It’s that ability to build levels of energy that makes Siegel’s playing stand out. And on the tunes where he opens into a drum break or short solo, his execution is inventive and to the point. A solid and well-played album. (Artists Recording Collective) Martin Patmos
Harris Eisenstadt Recent Developments
Thoughtful, fun, creative music from a unique voice.
Drummers can hear things differently from the way other musicians do, and Harris Eisenstadt proves the point. After a series of albums with his Canada Day project, on Recent Developments he breaks new ground as a writer and player. Eisenstadt’s adventurous compositions are challenging, humorous, catchy, and atmospheric, and they draw on contemporary chamber music, jazz, improv, and avant-garde techniques. Serving his vision, Eisenstadt’s drumming provides pulse and color while displaying judicious chops. Yet perhaps most exciting is the combination of instruments joining him here—flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, cello, bass, banjo, tuba—and his ability to break these instruments out of traditional roles and blend them. As a composer and improviser of creative music, Eisenstadt is one to watch. (Songlines) Martin Patmos
Other Drummer-Leds to Check Out
Han Bennink Trio Adelante /// Amandla (Claude Coleman Jr.) Laughing Hearts /// Billy Jones 3’s a Crowd /// Chris Blondal Quartet Alone or Not /// Günter Baby Sommer Le Piccole Cose /// Pierre van der Linden Drum Poetry /// Luis Muñoz The Dead Man /// Mika Kallio Impulsion /// Tina Raymond Left Right Left
The Conga and Bongo Drum in Jazz by Trevor Salloum with Bobby Sanabria
A well-researched and comprehensive guide sheds light on two arguably overlooked voices in modern jazz education.
With The Conga and Bongo Drum in Jazz, percussionist, author, and educator Trevor Salloum presents history, techniques, stylistic approaches, and plenty of additional resources for playing congas and bongos in contemporary jazz settings. The book opens with a fairly thorough historical retrospective on the drums’ uses in jazz and the pioneers of the instruments, such as Candido Camero and Chano Pozo. Salloum also discusses bongo and conga drumming’s current state, or lack thereof, in modern jazz music-education programs.
Notation, instrument descriptions, posture, and proper tuning are discussed and accompanied by photos where needed, and diagrams illustrate exactly which part of your hand plays each stroke. Swing patterns, as well as suggested grooves for Latin jazz tunes, are notated for both congas and bongos. Proper clave technique and patterns are also covered.
Be sure to dig into the book’s extras, which include an interview with veteran jazz guitarist and UCLA professor Kenny Burrell, plus video demos and a helpful glossary. Salloum also presents a comprehensive discography with additional percussionist information, and each suggested tune is annotated with specific insight that relates to material covered earlier in the book.
The method has a few minor organizational hiccups—for instance, a martillo rhythm is referred to a few times at the beginning of the bongo chapter yet remains undefined until the chapter’s final section. But ultimately Salloum’s work succeeds in addressing the clear need for more educational resources on the role of conga and bongo drums in jazz. (Mel Bay, $19.99) Willie Rose
Dead Cross Dead Cross
Pummeling, satisfying, and fresh from the first note, the debut album by this quartet is exactly what DAVE LOMBARDO fans will hope it is.
Dave Lombardo’s playing with Dead Cross combines his signature double kick, ride bursts, and furious tom fills with punk-inspired savagery that serves both the structure and bombast of the music. Lombardo’s breathless blast beats on opening track “Seizure and Desist” and classic thrash attack on “Obedience School” and “Shillelagh” show that he hasn’t lost a step since his fabled years with Slayer. Produced by Dead Cross and Ross Robinson, the project features distinct vocal contributions from Lombardo’s Fantômas bandmate Mike Patton as well as guitarist Michael Crain (Retox) and bassist Justin Pearson (Retox, the Locust). Dead Cross should please fans of any of its members’ projects and new ones alike. (Ipecac) Ben Meyer
The Contortionist Clairvoyant
The Indianapolis sextet’s highly anticipated fourth full-length finds drummer JOEY BACA and band branching out but keeping their roots firmly in the soil.
On the strength of its 2014 breakthrough album, Language (reissued in 2015 with several live, semi-acoustic tracks), the Contortionist has toured the States and Europe, sharing stages with heavy tech bands like Periphery, Norma Jean, Between the Buried and Me, Good Tiger, Dance Gavin Dance, and Toothgrinder. Drummer Joey Baca’s signature precision, grace, and power are on full display on Clairvoyant, with big, natural drum tones thanks in no small measure to the band’s choice, once again, of producer/engineer/mixer Jamie King (the Basement Recording NC). Featuring rich, ambient sonic explorations, clean vocals, and more prominent, glassy synth textures, Clairvoyant is the next logical step in the band’s move toward ambient prog territory and away from the angular technical death metal of its first two releases. Fans of the group’s heavier material won’t be disappointed here, though, as the album’s opener and title track feature the Contortionist’s signature grinding heft. Drumming highlights include Baca’s slick metric modulations on “Godspeed” and “Absolve” and his deeply textured playing on the album’s nine-and-a-half-minute 5/4 closer, “Monochrome (Pensive).” (Good Fight Music) Ben Meyer