Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Devin Gray - Dirigo Rataplan II (Rataplan Records, 2018)

The Brooklyn-based drummer Devin Gray made his debut album as a leader in 2012 on Skirl Records with Dirigo Rataplan, and this sequel reunites that band with Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone, Michael Formanek on bass and Dave Ballou on trumpet. "Congruently" opens the album with a nice mellow collective groove with thick bass and interesting drumming which creates rhythms that are pleasing to the ear and serve as a foundation for the performance as a whole. Fine sounding and well articulated saxophone and trumpet are in step, developing the medium tempo performance as a multiple layered improvisation of full group playing and short spaces for individual solos. As the percussion becomes more insistent, the interplay between the saxophone and trumpet becomes stronger, and they joust and parry appealingly as the rhythm section percolates underneath. The following track, "Rollin' Through Town" has a choppy feeling at the beginning of the performance, allowing more space for the music to develop, with buttery sounding trumpet and softer toned saxophone threading their improvisation through the interesting rhythmic foundation. As the speed of the drumming and bass playing gradually increases, the overall forcefulness of the music waxes and wanes, kneading the time and space of the music in a dynamic fashion, as the bass grounds the performance in a steady foundation and allows the drums and horns to develop interesting turns of phrase in their improvisations. "Trends of Trending" encourages as lightness of bass and purity of rhythm, setting the stage for the horns to glide in, soaring overhead with grace and subtlety, releasing short arcs of unbridled trumpet playing. The music is bass focused and Formanek's playing is stellar, creating strong patterns of movement and sound, allowing the music to evolve and move forward without constraints, lashing out unpredictably and getting quite intense, incorporating thrashing drums and percussion with pulsating saxophone and trumpet. There is a disjointed or wavelike quality to "Texicate" with percussion and saxophone trading short little phrases that provide the forward momentum for the track, and quiet measured movements from the bass which provide stability and confidence in an uncertain improvising situation, leading to the creation a longer performance that has all four musicians coming together with a an intricate performance. This was a very good album from a group of established and powerful musicians who have evolved consistently during the intervening years, and the music is fluid and melodic while still retaining its penchant for memorable improvisation. Dirigo Rataplan II - amazon.com

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