Pitch perfect for taste and spirit Billy Drummond consummately seals the deal with the snap, crackle and pop of stick, cymbal and drum as he urges his fine band on. How they respond is so meaningful it is nothing short of a style evolution beyond the evident achievement of retro revelation.
So, quartet album Valse Sinistre makes it into our top albums of 2022 thus far high up for quite a few reasons. First off is the curated choice of material that remains true to its overriding philosophy - which is hard bop and beyond and the timelessness of 1950s and 60s African-American rooted hard bop that has influenced a global community of fans and musicians of all races, genders and identities who love the music of among many others, Jackie McLean, Horace Silver, Tony Williams and Carla Bley to this day.
Bley is significant given that the title track is her composition 'Valse Sinistre'. Produced by the greatest hard bop trumpeter on the planet Jeremy Pelt, drummer Billy Drummond hasn't made an album of his own in many years and recruits some players here from a different generation who match his stellar chops and connoisseur sensibility without being at all pretentious.
The album has some glorious saxophone work from Dayna Stephens and ensemble integrity exhibited exhilaratingly throughout. The Bley composition is one that appeared on the pianist-composer's 1981 album Social Studies.
Drummond had appeared with Bley on such 2003-8 released albums as Looking for America, The Lost Chords, The Lost Chords find Paolo Fresu and Appearing Nightly.
Not since 1996 album Dubai has Drummond had an album out under his own name although as a side player he has been busy in the last few years, for instance recording on dates led by Charles McPherson and appearing on the Elan Mehler-curated Kimbrough.
On Valse Sinistre Drummond has pianist Micah Thomas with him and who contributes the tune 'Never Ends'. The much-appreciated Dezron Douglas is on bass.
To wrap, Valse Sinistre - recorded in Englewood Cliffs, the recording studio of the late Rudy Van Gelder where John Coltrane recorded A Love Supreme, the greatest jazz album ever made, is issued on a Canadian label of ever growing clout - has among its delights a graceful version of Tony Williams classic 'Lawra' also known as 'There Comes a Time' and Jackie McLean’s Jazz Messengers-beloved 'Little Melonae' from Hard Bop (1957) which is a tone setting way to open the album.
Let's shine one last spotlight on mention of a version of the late Grachan Moncur III's 'Frankenstein' that alto sax icon McLean covered on the 1964-released One Step Beyond. A monster of a record in any sense that you care choose. SG
Out on 5 August
Billy Drummond, top. Photo via Cellar Live