Portraits (Chandra Records)
Time to give some drummers some love. Debut recordings by two musicians illustrate the joys of leading with your drums, so to speak. Both are new to me – Matt Slocum, active as a sideman and involved with film scoring, is based in New York and his band features some of the most innovative players on the scene. Chicago based drummer, Dana Hall, is a more established musician with an impressive list of credits as a sidemen for 20 years and, while both dates make a statement, these two resourceful musicians take different approaches.
Matt Slocum is neither showy nor flashy – he excels with mallets and brushes -- his restraint with big beat pyrotechnics is the album’s greatest asset. Slocum’s modern tunes and arrangements have a warm patina and they nourish the ears, due in part to pianist Gerald Clayton (Roy Hargrove) and guest saxophonists Jaleel Shaw, Walter Smith III and Dayna Stephens. Eight tunes are by Slocum and they’re solid pleasures especially his sax-bass-drum feature, “Homage,” and “Seven Stars,” arranged for quintet. The lyrical title tune, “Portraits” swings superbly with a particularly expressive Clayton. The liner notes are by veteran drummer, Peter Erskine, who obviously appreciates Slocum’s compelling talent. “Portraits” is an understated gem and Slocum a genuine discovery.
Into The Light (Origin Records)
Entitling his album “Into The Light,” Dana Hall could be suggesting a bonfire because this guy sets the music ablaze, especially on Herbie Hancock’s “I Have A Dream” (from “The Prisoner”) as well the title track, an inspired explosion of electrified derangement that elicits an immediate “wow.” Hall speaks loud and clearly, actively engaging his drum set on a vigorous showcase for his technique and band – Bruce Barth on piano and fender Rhodes, Terrell Stafford on trumpet, saxophonist Tim Warfield, Jr and Rodney Whitaker on bass. Hall’s own tunes, notably “Conversation Song” and “The Path To Love” exemplify the drummer’s penchant for modern bop-oriented tunes with a healthy dose of swing. Art Blakey, Roy Haynes and, more currently, Jeff “Tain” Watts sound like they’ve all influenced Hall – the fact that this outfit is so tight is a testament to Hall’s impressive technique and leadership. “Into The Light” is a grand effort from Hall, enriched by superior musicianship and exemplary group interplay.
Labels: Chandra Records, Dana Hall, Drummers, Matt Slocum, Origin Records