Glen Velez: Breathing Rhythms

Just to look at it, the accomplished hand percussionist Glen Velez’s new one, Breathing Rhythms, reeks of new-age drivel, the stuff that music lovers steer clear of. But it would be a shame if it went by the wayside because of appearances, with its pastel packaging and scary marketing phrases like “drumming meditations for energy and balance.” The fact is that this is a fascinating bit of music-making, taking into account Velez’s long-standing intimacy with sundry ethnic drumming traditions, and presents a set of calmly compelling polyrhythmic etudes. Yes, in fact, this music is meditative by virtue of its avoidance of solos, but the construction of intriguing grooves and tastefully interlocking parts by cellist Eugene Friesen and the virtuoso panpipe player Damian Draghici (who wisely keeps his virtuosity at bay on this session), engages the head even at it soothes.