05/18/13 By Kimberly Chmura
KCC Productions presents the Premiere of Will Calhoun's "Life in this World"
At the Blue Note this weekend
Before he became famous as a member of the groundbreaking hard rock group Living Colour, Will Calhoun was an aspiring jazz drummer raised on a steady diet of his father's bebop records. Calhoun goes back to his roots on his latest album, Life In This World but to get there he takes a circuitous route through a wealth of musical experience around the globe. From studies with master
musicians in Africa to experiments with electronic music in his home studio, Calhoun's adventurous
sonic imagination couldn't help but expand the horizons of a stellar jazz recording which pairs the drummer with greats including Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison, Charnett Moffett, Marc Cary,
Doug Wimbish, John Benitez and legendary bassist Ron Carter.
Jazz was the first music that Calhoun heard while growing up: "Before rock, before hip-hop, before funk," he recalls. "In my family, African-American history was very important, whether it was Muhammad Ali or Jim Brown, Coltrane, Miles, Duke Ellington It wasn't just listening to the music in my house, the life styles of these men and other women were laid down as history lessons on the music and culture."
Living in the Bronx, however, it wasn't long before Calhoun was exposed to myriad styles and cultures, from rock and funk to the burgeoning style of hip-hop. It actually came as a shock to the young drummer when he discovered that for most people genres were defined by hard boundaries a
lesson he learned first at Berklee College of Music and later while on the road with Living Colour.
That band's success afforded Calhoun the opportunity to begin traveling to Africa in the mid-1990s for stays that could last as long as six or eight months at a time. He's continued those treks for
nearly twenty years, studying mainly in Mali but also in Morocco and Senegal. "I felt like I didn't know the history of my instrument," Calhoun says. "I began to ask myself what's the narrative of the
rhythms and patterns we play in the U.S. and Europe? I went over there and felt out of place. It was a culture shock in the best way. Little children would walk by and clap out the patterns to show me what I was doing wrong."
In 2005, Calhoun created Native Lands, a multimedia fusion of jazz and world music with ambient electronica and another passion, photography. Life In This World is Calhoun's most jazz-oriented
recording since his GRAMMY® nominated 2000 release, Live at the Blue Note, but those diverse interests remain evident.
Calhoun, who like many artists have been urged by industry members to focus on one particular area, has found a happy home in the maverick Motéma imprint, (also home to Marc Cary and Charnett Moffett and now celebrating it's 10th year) because the label especially focuses on virtuosic creative music that crosses genres and international borders. Calhoun compares playing so many different styles of music to speaking several languages, stressing that "to keep a language sharp, you have to speak it with people." There's no doubt from Life In This World and his entire body of work that Calhoun is a fluent and soulful communicator in many diverse tongues.
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