Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Drummer's Debut + The Father of the Drummer + The Pianist as Blogger

Drummer Adam Cruz, who has worked with many of the finest contemporary jazz artists (from Tom Harrell to Chris Potter to Charlie Hunter to his long stint with pianist Danilo Perez), is now 40 years old and just got around to issuing his first CD as a leader.  "Milestone" (Sunnyside Records) has been worth waiting for. With an all-star cast, including the afore-mentioned Potter (tenor sax), Edward Simon (piano, Fender Rhodes), Ben Street (bass), Steve Cardenas (electric guitar) as well as occasional appearances from Miguel Zenon ((alto saxophone on 4 tracks) and Steve Wilson (soprano saxophone), Cruz created 8 pieces that reflect his influences yet actually display his maturity as a player, arranger and composer.  It's a long program (just under 76 minutes) with 3 tracks over 10 minutes long and none under 6:55.  That writ, there is so much to enjoy in this music. The blend of Simon's keyboards with Cardenas' guitar, the active drumming which, at times, takes on a melodic feel, the fire of Chris Potter juxtaposed with the playfulness of Miguel Zenon (however, on the ballad "Resonance", both saxophonists are subdued and supportive), the solid support of Street and the classy contributions of Wilson (the way he winds his sound around Potter's on "Crepuscular" is mighty attractive), all adds up to great listening. Steve Cardenas takes several solos, flying high on "Outer Reaches" with Wilson's soprano adding handsome colors - then, Wilson's soaring solo over the active stick and snare drum work of Cruz takes the piece in a new direction. Cruz, like Eric Harland
 and Brian Blade, rarely play how you expect them to - that does not mean they are showing off but illustrating the music, pushing the music forward in exciting and, often, unique ways.
Highlights include the rhythmically exciting "Emjé" with fine solos from Simon (such great articulated lines) and Potter as well as the funky "The Gadfly" with long, exciting, solos from Cardenas and Wilson with Potter (very Wayne Shorter-like attack from the former).

"Milestone" is definitely worth your time, awash with intelligent melodies and fine solos.  The arrangements allow for longer solos so there are tracks where not everyone has his turn yet still contributes harmonies.  The work of the rhythm section is exemplary (you'd expect that from a drummer-led session) and very entertaining.  However, it's the creativity of the musicians and the confidence of Adam Cruz that shines throughout this program.  For more information, go to

Every time I play "Free For All" (Tapestry Records), the new CD by saxophonist Jim Stranahan, a smile breaks out across my face.  Not because the Colorado resident and father of drummer Colin (my review of his new CD is here) is doing anything particularly "new" - no, it's because the music created by the little "big" band  exudes so much joy.  Besides the father and son, one hears the contributions of Pete Olstad (lead trumpet on 7 tracks, jazz trumpet on 1), Brian Chaley (jazz trumpet), Lucas Pino (tenor saxophone), Wade Sander (trombone), Glenn Zaleski (piano, electric piano) and Chris Smith (bass) with Mike Abbott (electric guitar on 2 tracks.)  The cuts range from thr Latin-flavored "Loco" that opens the CD to the be-bop fire of "I've Got No Rhythm in My Feet" to the smooth jazz/funk of "Habib's Groove." Then, there's the Crescent City jump blues of "Big Easy Bump"; Colin's drums make one want to get up and "strut" while Dad's soprano saxophone gaily dances atop the rhythm.  Zaleski's piano solo starts way down on the low notes than dances its way up leading to the funky trumpet spot.

While the playing is top-notch, a sameness creeps into the melody lines.  "Leaves Must Fall", a boppish tune based on "Autumn Leaves", has a similar melodic approach as  "I've Got No Rhythm.." and "Upside Down and All Around." The arrangements, uncredited, are smart and it certainly sounds like the band is having a great time.  Melodic issues aside, "Free For All" sounds really nice blasting out of the sound system.  For more information, go to

Try out a cut from the CD by clicking on the link below (courtesy of Tapestry Records/Capri and IODA Promonet):
Loco (mp3)

 Pianist/composer George Colligan (pictured left) recently began to blog (August 2010) and, like fellow keyboard man Ethan Iverson (, has illustrated his talent as an in-depth interviewer. His most recent interview is with bassist Dwayne Burno and should be required reading for anyone wanting to be a jazz musician.  He also does a fine job at parsing solos and explaining how they work.  Colligan recently finished a European tour with Jack DeJohnette and he wrote several posts talking about what it means to be a touring creative musician (he also posted some fine photos.) Check out his writing at

1 comment:

  1. Nice work as always, Richard.

    Richard's readers, here's Adam Cruz on The Jazz Session: