Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CD Reviews: Andrew Drury - Content Provider & The Drum

Andrew Drury
Content Provider

Andrew Drury
The Drum
(S&S) www.andrewdrury.com

Drummer Andrew Drury's two self-released albums display vastly different sides to his approach to the kit. Content Provider features a quartet of two saxophones, guitar and drums playing Drury's compositions (and a completely reimagined Clifford Brown tune). The Drum is just how it sounds: Drury and a floor tom, with a few accessories. But both of those descriptions barely scratch the surface of what appears on each disc.

It helps to know that Drury studied with the late Ed Blackwell, leaving his home in Seattle at 18 and heading to Connecticut to meet the one-time Ornette Coleman sideman. Blackwell's liberated approach to the kit affected Drury, opening him up to infinite possibilities. He went on to play with Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai and Brad Mehldau, to name just a few. His current projects include 10³²K, a sort of repertory group who pay homage to people like Albert Ayler, Charles Mingus and Roswell Rudd. They released the solid That Which Is Planted last year, and they're about to perform a commissioned suite at the Lincoln Center Rubenstein Atrium.

The jagged riff under pinning "Keep the Fool" makes a great opening for Content Provider, and sounds like a drum line transcribed to guitar. Hearing it delivered by skronk-and-burn guitarist Brandon Seabrook only adds to the execution. On top of him, tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss alternate between countermelodies and combining with Seabrook.

The title track, after a red herring intro that could have been "Also Sprach Zarathustra," introduces a brief long-toned theme that connects passages of free blowing from the quartet, resulting in 14 minutes that fly by quickly. Drury's fills and rolls, not only on this track but throughout the whole album, bolster the theme and offer foundation that his companions use as a springboard for their own furious solo work. Seabrook reinforces why he keeps showing up in rock and jazz situations, since he balances melody and noise (in "The Commune of Brooklyn" he sounds like he's imitating a truck's back-up warning). If the six Drury originals weren't enough, they take Clifford Brown's upbeat bop classic "Daahoud" and slow it down, turning it into something closer to "Harlem Nocturne," making the chord changes more prominent in the process. Much like Ches Smith's These Arches, this band highlights a drummer with a personal approach to the kit, an engaging melodic mind and skill at band leading. If this album doesn't start getting a buzz soon, something's wrong.

And speaking of buzz, that's part of what can be found on The Drum.

Albums devoted to one instrument are nothing new in creative music. In fact Count Basie drummer Papa Jo Jones even made a solo album (The Drums) as far back as 1973. That album had an impact on Drury, but what he creates with just a floor tom, abetted by an aluminum sheet, bell and faucet escutcheon, frequently doesn't even sound percussive.

The Drum is not for the faint of heart. While Drury could have parlayed his teachings from Blackwell into rhythmic excursions on the skin, he instead employs the ol' artillery of extended techniques: scraping textures on the drum head that sometimes squeal, sometimes rumble and often do both. "Hidden Voices" could be mistaken for wild brass notes that Peter Evans or Wadada Leo Smith might emit. "Aluminum Donkey Dance" sounds like his Content Provider compadre Seabrook, or Jimi Hendrix, imitating UFOs in "EXP."

Once the mind is freed from any preconceived ideas about this performance, parts of The Drum sounds pretty fascinating.  "Control and Let Go" sounds like a squeal sustained for four minutes, and gets a little old. And the whole disc might appeal more to fans of Merzbow than to jazz. But the ways in which Drury produces these noises - both the abrasive and the hypnotic - give this album staying power.

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