Friday, April 20, 2012
Devin Gray - Dirigo Rataplan (Skirl, 2012) ****½
Imagine you're 28 years old and you can make an album with jazz veterans like Ellery Eskelin on sax, Dave Ballou on trumpet and Michael Formanek on bass, three artists with incredible span and depth, and come out as one of them, no ... actually offering them some great music to play around with, to improvise from?
Well, that's what young drummer Devin Gray achieved with this fantastic album. From the very first notes, you can hear that this is a percussion-led quartet, with the rhythms setting the scene for musical complexities and arrangements that are an absolute treat. The rhythms, themes and melodies are not easy to get into, but that only increases the fun, making them elusive, and once patterns start getting formed, they get broken down again, only to re-emerge.
Building on the heritage of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, Gray takes the concepts into a more modern context, intelligent without becoming intellectual or cerebral: this music is all about soul, with technical skills and finesse fully at the service of the end result, full of surprises, emotion and a deep-rooted sense of pulse.
Possibly one of the best debut albums in years, and by an artist with strong musical vision and maturity despite his young age, and with a musical quality that is consistent throughout the album.