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Jae Sinnett: It’s Telling … A Drummer’s Perspective

All the elements for disaster are here: a drummer-leader who’s been told he “should bring the drums more out front”; a program of tunes by that leader written and arranged in a variety of time signatures and tempos, all with “the drums shaping the direction of each composition and certainly more out front”; and all produced by and released on that drummer’s own label. Yes, this has all the makings of I am drummer, hear me roar-style wretched excess. Except it’s not.

Jae Sinnett has more than a couple of things going for him here that make this a fine jazz outing, and not merely a drummer’s showcase. First, he’s created engaging tunes, strong enough melodically and harmonically so that they don’t sound like exercises in odd time, even when in a combination of 9/8 and 5/8 (the surprisingly hard and snappy “Truth Be Told”). Then he’s had the foresight and communal instinct to integrate his solos into the tunes and ensembles, instead of just breaking out into unaccompanied long solos. But most importantly, he’s assembled a quartet featuring two musicians-alto and soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson and pianist Allen Farnham-who are both forceful and distinctive enough to assert their personalities as soloists, and a strong anchor in bassist/bass guitarist Terry Burrell.

Sinnett and his cohorts are particularly good at bringing a drive and momentum akin to swing to such atypical swing times as the 7/8 “Cliffhanger,” the funkified 5/4 “Locus” and the hard-charging 6/8 title track. And when they do delve right into 4/4 swing, as on the brushes feature “Simple Pleasures” or the Afro-Latin feel “Bum’s Rush,” they’re right in the pocket. And for infectious rhythms, the effervescent buoyancy of “Crescent City Undercurrents,” with its raffish second-line beat, can’t be beat.

Originally Published