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November 2006

Dave Burrell/Billy Martin
Consequences
Amulet Records

There is little meter, in the conventional sense, in most of these free-form explorations, but there is definitely swing. Pianist Burrell and percussionist Martin generate a powerful sense of directionality, infused with that ineffable combination of ease and thrusting impetus that at least partially defines the term. In Martin’s case it’s largely created by the textural and rhythmic tensions between his cymbal swashes and his mostly deep-hued skinwork. His is a highly melodic conception of drumming—cymbals as melody line, the darker sonorities of the toms and bass drum as harmonic structure.

Burrell’s piano technique is, in some ways, analogous—he also often eschews the middle regions, instead juxtaposing upper-register splays and flurries against resonant prods and punctuations from the mid-lower range of his instrument. In more tumultuous passages, where both he and Martin invoke splintered, terror-infused dreamscapes, their attack becomes fiercer; but Martin’s percussion, providing the ground on which Burrell twists and writhes, nonetheless sounds oddly reassuring: a dark earth, even one rent with fissures and tectonic turmoil, may yet bring forth life. One piece, an island-tinged caper on which Martin sounds like a steel drummer in a Trinidadian Toyland, is even titled “New Species.”

These compositions conclude mostly without resolution, heightening the urgency (as if all statements ultimately end in a question mark) and leading us to ponder the “Consequences” of the CD’s title. That they’re never realized (or at least never articulated) here only makes the journey more rewarding.

Originally published in November 2006
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