Tag Archives: Drummer

Jay Lawrence: Sonic Paragon

CD-Cover-for-Sonic-768x768

An album that was released in August 2018 from drummer Jay Lawrence caught recently my attention. The major reason for that was the line-up of this album:

  • Jay Lawrence – drums
  • John Patituci – bass
  • Renee Rosnes – piano
  • Harry Allen – saxophone
  • Terell Stafford – trumpet
  • Anthony Wilson – guitar
  • Yotam Silberstein – guitar
  • Romero Lubambo – guitar

Three excellent guitar players, one of the best bass players on the scene and a great saxophonist for an album of a drummer: a very interesting  combination that works perfectly. The result is an album that contains a combination of originals, standards and a cover version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”.  The same variety is equally found in the arrangements. You find easy grooves, swing tunes, different latin styles, straight jazz and ballads.

The album starts with “Full Moon in Havanna”, a soft and relaxed song, dominated by the saxophone and Romero Lubambo on acoustic guitar.

“What ‘ll I do” is an old Irving Berlin tune in an fantastic new arrangement featuring Jay Lawrence in the syncopated played melody. The solos are accompanied by a straight swinging band.

“Vamonos” comes with a samba groove and features Terell Stafford on trumpet and Yotam Silberstein on guitar. Jay Lawrence gets another chance to shine soloing over an extended montuno.

“Slide” is in contrast a very slow blues. We hear solos by John Patituci on bass, Renee Rosnes on piano and a outstanding plunger muted trumpet solo by Terell Stafford.

“Maria” from the musical “West Side Story” in a fantastic new latin version comes next. Nice grooving band again with Roberto Lubambo on acoustic guitar.

“Dayspring” is a soft ballad featuring Harry Allen on saxophone and Renee Rosnes on piano in two great solos.

“From Nadir to Zenith” is a heavy grooving tune with Terell Stafford on muted trumpet in an alternating solo with Anthony Wilson on guitar.

The title song “Sonic Paragon” comes next. This is a straight-ahead jazz song with impressive solos by Harry Allen on saxophone and Anthony Wilson on guitar.

“Tchoupitoulas” is a song with a special groove and sound, dominated by the trumpet and very much inspired by New Orleans brass band sound.

“Golden Ratio” is a modern jazz tune with sax and Yotam Silberstein on guitar playing the melody interrupted by an interlude in a Reggae groove, very sophisticated.

“Crosstown Traffic” by Jimi Hendrix in a modern jazz-style  up-tempo arrangement is the next song. Solos go to saxophone and Yotam Silberstein on guitar and their playing fits perfectly into this song. A drum solo tops this tune off.

The album closes with a easy swinging “My Winsome Consort” with a Monk-inspired piano solo by Renee Rosnes. Harry Allen plays a smooth saxophone solo and shows his versatility to adapt to different styles. An alternating bass and drum solo guarantee that this song gets it’s special touch.

Overall “Sonic Paragon” is a great album that captivated me with it’s perfect playing, it’s versatility and it’s surprising elements in every song. So take your time to listen to the songs carefully and you will detect the excellence of the material and the musicians.

Listen to the whole album with this playlist on Spotify:

Kobie Watkins: Movement

Movement

Drummer Kobie Watkins, born and raised in Chicago, has toured and recorded with a number of well-known musicians like Sonny RollinsBobby Broom (he plays on the three Bobby Broom albums which I have in my collection)Kurt EllingBranford Marsalis and Joe Lovano. He presents here his first album with his Grouptet.

The Kobie Watkins Grouptet includes:

  • Kobie Watkins – drums
  • Justin Nielsen - piano
  • Ryan Nielsen - trumpet
  • Jonathan Armstrong – saxophone
  • Aaron Miller - bass

The album was released on May 15 and contains nine originals, along with a great new arrangement of ‘Manteca.’

The first song on the album is called “Catch This” and starts with an easy latin groove with a clear focus on the percussive playing of Kobie. The first solo goes to the trumpet followed by the bass with nice kicks from the horns, all very easy and laid-back. Dynamics increase a little with the piano and saxophone solo. Then at around 5:00 min an extensive latin outro starts and the jazz band sounds now like a salsa band. Kobie told me that “… the end section and the overall energy is from a place I grew up as an upcoming professional in and throughout Chicago. The latin late nights in the latin clubs where music, dance and language never slept. “

The album continues with “The City”. This is my first highlight of the album. A pushing groove by Kobie, a beautiful melody perfectly arranged in two voices and great modal solos, especially by Justin Nielsen on piano leave no doubt that we have here a band of true masters at work. Kobie explained me that this song is about his adventurous feelings when traveling and coming into The City.
“T
he groove is something I created, working on a Sonny Rollins tune. Playing with him when I created this tune inspired how I arranged the song.”
He also told me this song could last for hours, the modal form leaves plenty of space for the musicians to improvise extensively. On the album unfortunately the fun is over after 7:20 mins.

The next song is called “Movement” and it is the title song of the album. This song is composed around a bass line Kobie wrote in 2007. It starts polyrhythmic, as Kobie said in an “afrocentric feeling” and then after 2 mins it changes to an elegiac unaccompanied piano solo that gets more and more intensive, drums, bass and later the whole band steps in and plays again briefly the theme. The next solo part is a duet between saxophone and Ryan Nielsen on flugelhorn. The outro of the tune is a perfect drum solo with kicks form the band.

“Six Moods”, the next tune is a ballad in 6/8 that changes to 5/4. A great melody and nice harmonic changes. Beautiful solos by piano, saxophone and flugelhorn. Kobie wrote this song in 2012 and he started it “… with me singing into my phone while driving a long distance. This was a song created from a somber mood swing… I tend to have from time to time…nothing serious.” But no somberness from my point of view, just a great melody and excellent solos.

The album continues with “Ga-Rum-Ban” a fast and furios tune with solos from saxophone, trumpet and a breathtaking piano in dialog with the drums.

“Inner Motion” is the next song and as before, the bass line was the starting point of the composition. A soft song with a complex bass line and a simple melody above. Justin Nielsen plays very tastefully on a Rhodes. Great dynamics in the trumpet and saxophone solos, this song is another highlight of the album.

The album continues with the tune “Rivet”.  The bass is again the origin of the tune. Kobie told me that this song was created in 2016 during a long drive. And this tune feels like a long drive, very steady even a little bit monotonic, “flowing sound” as Kobie explained.

“MBDC” comes next and unfortunately neither me nor Kobie are able to explain to you what this acronym stands for. The song was written in 2008 while Kobie was in Zimbabwe. It has a very energetic rhythm with a simple melody and eloquent drum fills. Quite remarkable is the saxophone solo in this song where Jonathan Armstrong and Kobie push each other and create great dynamics and incredible energy.

“Falling Upward” is the last original from Kobie Watkins on this album. This tune is based on a pushing groove and it is one more time Jonathan Armstrong who soaks up this energy and plays another astonishing solo. The song closes with soft piano chords and you have the impression of a show coming to an end.

However, there is the encore: “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie returns to where we started, to the dancers in the latin clubs where music never sleeps This famous jazz standard starts with a long groove intro. The head is played as a dialog between piano and saxophone, the B part is split between saxophone and trumpet similar to the original version. Great dynamic solos come from piano, saxophone and trumpet before the band returns to the steady groove from the beginning.

And if that is not enough there is another song available on bandcamp. It is called “Prayer for Peace” and was composed by Justin Nielsen. A beautiful and noble ballad with great harmonies and an incredible solo by Ryan Nielsen on flugelhorn.
https://kobiewatkinsgrouptet.bandcamp.com/

Not much to say anymore about this album: there is an extraordinary drummer who found congenial musicians and the result is an outstanding album full of energy and positive vibrations.

Here is a nice video from Kobie Watkins with some more information about this album:

And finally a playlist on Spotify: