Friday, August 9, 2013

Devin Gray - Dirigo Rataplan [Skirl]

Ellery Eskelin - tenor saxophone
Dave Ballou - trumpet
Michael Formanek - double bass
Devin Gray - drums

Skirl Records 2012

Devin Gray's debut release (as a leader) sports a mighty line-up with Ellery Eskelin, Dave Ballou and Michael Formanek. If you're not familiar yet with Devin, I think the fact those players trust him to lead them in a band should be an  encouragement enough.

You're all familair (I hope) with Ellery Eskelin's sax warm tone, Dave Ballou's joyfull trumpet or the Fomanek's anchoring bass but the true identity of this quartet is forged by the original compositions, all penned by Devin Gray. Thanks to the leader's vision the Quartet has its own unique sound. Gray's compositions make sax and trumpet swirl around each other in melodic lines, as the rhythm provides swinging drive to push the group effortlessly forward.

It's hard to play favourites because it's all consistently excellent but I'd say the funky "Katahdin" makes the list - a groovy track that will put a smile on anyone's face. The music throughout remains very melodic but never too obvious. Devin Gray complex and subtle, polirhythmic playing leads the way, he keeps the pulse but does not force himself on the central spot - modesty and finesse in leadership. 

The quartet draws on the tradition of Ornette's quartet with Don Cherry but the language is modern, the emotions stay the same - joyfull, cerebral or pensieve.

"Dirigo Rataplan" succeds on all level - interplay, composition, leadership, instrumental prowess. Beatifull jazz record that should please fans of both free and mainstream. A brilliant effort.

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