Taking the Reins
Reggie Quinerly Words to Love
An ascending drummer delivers a welcome surprise.
Reggie Quinerly proved himself as a strong, swinging, fluent, and sensitive drummer accompanying the likes of Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, and Greg Osby, as well as on his first two discs as a leader. Taking a left turn, this brief (thirty-seven minutes), perfectly balanced, self-produced third album highlights Quinerly as a songwriter. Eight songs feature vocalists Milton Suggs and Melanie Charles on alternating tracks hitting homers, and there are some great tunes here. Quinerly leans to strong melodies, kinetic energy, and poetic lyrics, from the irresistible soul jazz of “Until I Met You” to the spare, aching beauty of the 3/4 ballad “Times We’ve Yet to See.” Ably joined by pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Ben Wolfe, and alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, Quinerly shows drum mastery in his accompanying and interaction, whether in service of crisp, up-tempo swing (“Love’s Ferris Wheel”) or gentle colorations (“Still Frames”). A strong, personal stamp of leadership from this captivating drummer/composer. (reggiequinerly.com)
Steve Gadd Steve Gadd Band
The drum maestro returns with his band of like-minded partners for more groovy goodness.
Steve Gadd has always played the so-called “spaces between the notes,” and hearing him lay down the funky brilliance on these new studio tracks featuring his band of killers is the gift that keeps on giving. The simple lilt of “Where’s Earth?” is how you keep time but command the flow; Gadd stays with a sidestick long after a mere mortal would bring in a heavier backbeat. The drummer plays a cool, light-as-a-feather half-time shuffle on “Foameopathy” and the perfect combination of slightly opened hats and snare ghosting on the chugging “Skulk.” On “One Point Five,” Gadd works his cowbell magic and engages in a little duo conversation with his son Duke, who adds percussion; and caresses his ride gently on “Timpanogos.” Notably, drum solos were not on the menu for this record. Four albums in, this group is feeling each other more deeply, playing with the restraint encouraged by its sage leader, and showing no signs of creative malaise. (www.drstevegadd.com)
Joe Satriani What Happens Next
CHAD SMITH brings serious attitude and tough beats on this guitar hero’s date.
Joe Satriani has employed excellent drummers on his records over the years, but teaming up here with his Chickenfoot bandmate and longtime Chili Pepper Chad Smith seems to be a special occasion for each. Opener “Energy” is pure drive, Smith sloshing his open hats with fervor before opening up on a ride with some hip bell accenting. Smith isn’t shy about tossing off big flams in the half-time breakdowns and bringing it all home with a hammering snare ending before you’re aware of what hit ya. Featuring legendary bassist Glenn Hughes, this is a power trio to the max, and the rest of the album is more of the same uncompromising rock ’n’ (drum) roll, with Smith doing his take on a double-time “Satch Boogie” on “Headrush” and laying down a slinky, kick syncopation groove on “Super Funky Badass.” Smith is the quintessential “play-for-the-song” guy, but with a welcome wildness and healthy disregard for sounding too perfect. It’s our loss that he doesn’t do more one-off sessions. (www.satriani.com)
Wess Meets West A Light Within the Fracture
On its third full-length, the Connecticut band offers strong compositions, ambient programming, and a very solid performance from ANDY PORTA.
“Defiant Optimism,” the longest track here at over ten minutes, may best express an underlying sentiment of Wess Meets West, a band that respectfully nods toward its post-rock antecedents while boasting a voice of its own. In the song’s bigger moments, drummer Andy Porta proves that he knows how to play with understated authority in support of a triumphant riff. And while marching beats can come off as post-rock cliché on “Temporary Galaxies,” Porta refreshingly orchestrates them around the entire kit; eventually they’re bathed in post-production delay, making for a highly satisfying conclusion to the song. Elsewhere his choices are equally powerful, whether employing a simple tom figure with lots of space on “Foghorns on the Baltic,” or really going for it and achieving a huge payoff for the last two minutes of “Direct Experience.” With A Light Within the Fracture, Porta and Wess Meets West make a commendable addition to the post-rock canon. (Hassle)
Here Lies Man You Will Know Nothing
The L.A.–based band,featuring the former drummer of Brooklyn Afrobeat pioneers Antibalas, exists to answer one simple question: What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat?
On the eleven gritty and hard-grooving tracks of You Will Know Nothing, the follow-up to Here Lies Man’s self-titled 2017 debut album, GEOFF MANN filters his knowledge of Afrobeat legend Tony Allen through the playing of original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward, and vice versa. While Richard Panta and Reinaldo DeJesus cover congas and percussion, Geoff, the son of famed jazz flautist Herbie Mann, provides multiple layers of drumset, resulting in some pleasingly dry and crunchy textures. “Although something might sound like one instrument,” Mann tells MD, “there are subtle layers shifting through. It’s definitely a headphones album.” Opener “Animal Noises” marches along with a Tony Allen–like snare/kick conversation, but imagine Tony playing with bats in place of sticks and the horn section parts being covered by a pair of overdriven guitars. Meanwhile, “Taking the Blame” features an opening riff that would fit perfectly on a stoner rock record, a more traditional Afrobeat rhythm in the second section, and a bashy chorus that moves into a dreamy electric piano in the outro. An intriguing and enjoyable listen for riff-rock fans and Afrobeat heads alike. (RidingEasy)
Camp Duty Update by Claus Hessler
A well-researched and thorough study of the history and background of modern rudimental drumming.
With the recently released English translation of Camp Duty Update, the German drummer, author, and clinician Claus Hessler presents a comprehensive historical review of international rudimental drumming and how the art evolved to its current state as it relates to the United States’ military repertoire.
Hessler traces drumming’s European development from the 14th to 17th centuries before shifting focus to rudimental growth in the New World from the Revolutionary War era onward. The drummer cites his ample research and provides illustrations and notation when needed. And when addressing early, somewhat ambiguous European drumming notation that doesn’t necessarily define such aspects as meter, sticking, or feel, Hessler’s informed interpretations succinctly explain the era’s drumming notation evolution from indeterminate to determinate.
The bulk of the book then focuses on the United States Camp and Garrison Duty—the collection of tunes that 19th century American military drummers played to signal soldiers’ typical daily routines—and “quicksteps,” which Hessler defines as standard military songs that didn’t have an organizational function in the army. For each piece, Hessler provides notation, historical background, and, if applicable, its function in soldiers’ daily routines.
Hessler also traces the notational and interpretive differences present among previously published versions of traditional songs such as “The Three Camps” or “The Downfall of Paris” while explaining how he’s chosen to notate each piece’s present form in the book. And an MP3 CD includes recordings of each piece that Hessler plays with the piccolo fifer Matthias Dörsam, as well as fast and slow play-along versions of the tunes.
Even if you don’t read music or have an interest in rudimental drumming or history, you’d be missing out on a special, well-done work if you didn’t check this one out. ($19.99 [book and CD], Alfred)